Voters tell this reporter they are fearful that the March 2 voting recount exercise that has already crossed four weeks may not be allowed to conclude. The chair must address this fear that arose out of threats of violence.
Over 80% of the ballots have been painfully recounted. Less than 20% remain to be re-counted. The numbers in the recount don’t differ much from the original SOPs that were obtained from the close of polls. Voters say some forces don’t want the process to come to an end for it would affect their control over the public purse.
Voters narrated conspiracies and plots to derail the recount with un-peaceful actions. But they also stated that President Granger is opposed to any act that would halt the recount exercise. The President was under immense pressure from Caricom and the ABCE countries on the Mingo fraudulent declaration. He offered to do a recount of votes through Prime Minister Mia Mottley of Barbados to avoid international sanctions and foreign intervention to protect democracy. The President, according to some voters, stopped a plot to derail the recount.
Gecom chair Claudette Singh has come under a lot of fire over recent revelations that she acted ultra vires the constitution. She took actions on her own without consultation from the agency. Her act has drawn the ire of opposition parties and constitutional lawyers. Some have begun to question her impartiality and professionalism and are asking whether she is compromised. The Chair is blamed for the many problems at Gecom including the fraudulent count. One must take cognizance of the challenges facing the chair. It takes courage for a Gecom chair to stand up to some tough party figures and the six election commissioners. And it also takes significant courage for the chair to agree to a recount.
I conversed with several legal luminaries on the purpose of a recount. They note that election day improprieties do not fall within the remit of a recount. That falls within the remit of election petition.
The Chair wrote the Police Commissioner querying whether some voters were out of jurisdiction on election day. People don’t understand the rationale behind the query to the Police Commissioner. The recount is about redoing the count to ascertain the validity of the original count. It does not involve any investigation. Legal luminaries note that the chair’s decision to pursue an investigation of voters would not necessarily compromise the recount or prevent a declaration. She was forced to walk a tightrope.
There is also a claim that some 8,000 votes of disciplinary services were not stamped and or counted. There is also a claim that some dead voted in PPP strongholds and that many who voted were out of the country. It has dawned on people that these claims run counter to APNU’s original claim of a victory. Initially, APNU declaring it won the elections and that the President would be sworn in only to now contradict that position saying the election was rigged by the PPP. Is APNU preparing its supporters for non-acceptance of the results? Thus far, as revealed by the recount, some 3100 ballots were rejected; of these, less than 200 rejected ballots were not stamped. Also, of the claims made by APNU on dead voters, migrants, etc. almost all the names were certified as being alive and in Guyana. Thus, the complaints ring hollow. Apparently, the end games is election nullification; but Gecom cannot nullify an election. That can only be done by the court after a declaration of the final results by Gecom and a challenge in the court via a petition.
The Chair holding a press conference would help to clarify concerns about the letter to the police commissioner. The chair should address the voters’ concerns of potential derailment of the recount and migrants and the dead voting. She must do whatever it would take to make people have greater confidence in Gecom and in her leadership of the elections’ body. She must give an assurance that the process would come to a conclusion.
There are some political figures who do not think the chair will do anything to scuttle the recount process because her hands her tied. She signed a sworn affidavit that she would recount the ballots to avoid contempt of court charges. She must also give an assurance that the recount would be completed and nothing would derail it. This would reduce voters’ anxiety as well as political tensions.
Once the chair sees the recount to its end and makes a declaration from it, she will be remembered as the mother of democracy in Guyana. Any other action would be considered as suicidal to her judicial legacy. And she would be considered as compromised.