Guyana is presently at a standstill, with businesses, both large and small, feeling the squeeze due to the country facing two major setbacks at the same time. In addition to the threat of the deadly coronavirus (COVID-19), the political crisis gripping the nation following the most recent national elections seems nowhere close to ending.
General and Regional Elections were held on March 2, 2020, and, to date, there has been no declaration of a winner. In fact, the electoral process has been marred by a number of irregularities, which some stakeholders argue are clear attempts at rigging. The post-elections events have been a national embarrassment, and have made this country a laughing stock in the eyes of the wider Caribbean community. It clearly shows that after more than fifty years of Independence, some of our leaders have not matured politically, and are not willing to do the right thing in the national interest.
Due to the huge negative impact this situation is having on the daily lives of citizens and on the national economy as a whole, many are becoming fed-up with the actions of the APNU/AFC Coalition in their quest to hold on to power. President David Granger has always claimed that he would abide by the Constitution, but he has done very little to convince the nation that he is a man of his words.
His firm grip on power following his government’s defeat via a no-confidence vote in December 2018, and now, more recently, his Coalition’s refusal to allow a transparent count of the votes cast in the March 2 polls raise even more questions about his commitment to what he promises he would do.
At the moment, there are a few election-related cases before the Courts, and from the way it looks, these matters would go on for some time. At the centre of contention is the declaration of questionable elections results for Region 4 by the Returning Officer. Serious objections were raised from the international community, local and international observers, and all other parties about suspicions of fraud during the declarations of the results by the RO. The Chief Justice subsequently ruled that the results were null and void, and the RO must return to the verification process using the SoPs and in the presence of persons who are legally supposed to be there. This did not happen, and, as expected, the political crisis deepened.
The Commonwealth Observer Group and others had withdrawn from the process, citing serious and persistent electoral malpractices and the failure of GECOM to stop the blatant disregard for the rule of law and electoral ethics.
In an attempt to calm the tension, Caricom Chairperson, Barbadian Prime Minister Mia Mottley, fielded a five-member high-level team to supervise a national recount of all the votes cast, which was requested by Granger himself and agreed to by Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo. The team was forced to withdraw from the process after an APNU/AFC candidate obtained an interim injunction from the High Court, blocking GECOM from conducting the recounting process. Granger has always insisted that the court action was independent and that Guyana should await the outcome of the legal process, which the country’s democracy allows interested parties to undertake.
However, what the President seems to be unaware of is that even if the court rules in favour of the APNU candidate by blocking the vote recount and directing the GECOM Chair to proceed in certifying the questionable results provided by the Chief Elections Officer in order to swear in the President, this would not remedy the situation.
President Granger could have intervened and instructed that the case seeking to block the regionally-supervised national recount be withdrawn, but instead he has allowed it to go through. To date, no one can give any plausible explanation as to the reason/s for the President and others in the APNU/AFC not wanting to have a transparent recount of the votes, moreso considering the fact that the APNU/AFC Coalition have claimed that they have won the elections.
The main contentious issue has to do with the questionable results declared for Region 4, and no government should be sworn in if the results are not certified to be a true reflection of the will of the people.
The international community has already warned that Guyana could face sanctions if a President is sworn in based on the flawed results. It seems as if the APNU/AFC officials, including President David Granger, are unconcerned about these impending sanctions.
There is only one way to bring an end to the political crisis, and that is by having the votes recounted in a transparent manner, to the satisfaction of all parties involved.