The Guyana Elections Commission (Gecom) Chief Elections Officer, Keith Lowenfield, was out of order in his filed report on the vote recount exercise. The CEO was only required by law to give the results of the recount and a brief summary of what transpired. He must not submit his personal opinions on the recount or allegations made about irregularities on election day. Yet he violated his duty and give his views as well as made reference to anomalies raised by the incumbent party. The chair must reject this report. It cannot form the basis for a declaration of the results of the election.
The Caricom Scrutineers Team (CST) report is expected to be made public on June 15. It is doubtful that the CST would inject its opinion on allegations made during the recount. The CST report would be professional and probably contradict CEO report. The CST comprises of professionals. It will use the recount and ignore the allegations.
Gecom will examine both reports on June 15 and decide on a way forward. The Chair must decide on the reports. Lowenfield report cannot be the basis for the declaration of the March 2, 2020 elections. As scholars indicate, his report his highly opinionated and repeated the allegations of election day issues that were never voiced before the recount. Gecom, in its discussion on the reports, must not entertain any side issues – only look at numbers and make a declaration. Any matter other than numbers must be via an election petition in court. After a declaration, parties can proceed to the court if they have issue with the results.
Gecom must use the Statements of Recount (SORs) to declare the outcome of the elections as agreed upon by both sides in an aide memoire with Caricom and with the blessings of Gecom as well as sanctified by the court. That is the overwhelming view of voters in Guyana as per interviews conducted by this writer.
Guyanese say it is imperative that Gecom uses the SOR tabulation and declare the results in order to consolidate electoral democratic gains since 1992. Some 76% hold this view.Also, in conversations with Guyanese, this writer concludes that almost the entire nation want an expeditious declaration of the results that the recount and tabulation of the ballots have been completed. The final tabulation shows the opposition PPP defeating the incumbent by some 15,416 votes. In terms of seats, it translates into 33 for PPP, 30 for APNU, 1 for a small party and one undecided based on the largest remaining fraction. A parliamentary majority is 33 seats. An opinion poll I conducted before election day gave the PPP 34 seats and 30 to APNU with 1 for the minority parties combined.
The Guyanese I interacted with are showering lavish praises on the elections commission (Gecom) Chair Claudette Singh for facilitating the completion of the recount exercise and the certification (tabulation) of the SORs. While initially praising the conduct of the elections, President David Granger and a small band of hardliners in the ruling APNU-led coalition complain about anomalies in the voting. But the recount had no issues. Every AFC supporter and even most AFC MPs have supported the recount process and the outcome. Some APNUites seek to void the election now claiming anomalies. But Gecom has no power to void an election. The law says Gecom must make a declaration. Everyone is now looking forward for the finale – declaration although this could be delayed in a court challenge.
The Chair faced insurmountable challenges in undertaking and concluding the recount. She withstood the pressure. Voters were on edge on whether the recount process would be completed; efforts were made to disrupt it. But the Chair was determined to see its completion. She has received overwhelming support for the position adopted on the recount. And people are also praiseworthy of the statements by the President that he would accept the declaration of the Chair. Claudette Singh must now take the next courageous next and make an expeditious declaration.
Regrettably, however, I read of a push back against the results of the recount by the President and a few in his inner circle. The Chair should not entertain that position. They are seen as sore losers. Three months ago they claimed victory; now they claim fraud and incredible results. The tabulation of SORs is almost identical with the original SOPS in the hands of agents of parties and observers and as posted on the walls of the places of polling.
Talk of anomalies or fraud about the election process and voting has no basis or grounding at this time. Anomalies should have been voiced before the voting to correct them. They belong in a petition after a declaration. Political actors must stop fooling supporters, accept the inevitable, bring healing, and start rebuilding party. Information in the rumor mill is that renegades are clandestinely engaging in acts to derail the closure of the process. The chair must move expeditiously to bring closure and swear in the President as required by the constitution.
Guyanese at home and in the diaspora want to move on from this election exercise. They look forward to the Chair bringing the election process to a quick closure. And they have faith in the Chair’s declaration of a winner based on the SOR.
The Chair has a legacy to preserve. Having presided over what observers say is perhaps “the fairest and freest” election in post-independent Guyana, the Chair would go down in history as person who helped to consolidate democracy.