Guyana: a cuatro días de las elecciones presidenciales no hay resultados
Crece incertidumbre en Guyana ante retraso en resultados de los comicios generales
La autoridad electoral guyanesa (GECOM) no ha concluido el conteo de los votos de la jornada de este lunes, alegando dificultades en la tabulación de los resultados en la zona de la costa este del país. En tanto, la población se mantiene alerta por la posibilidad de que se produzca un fraude.
El retraso ha causado descontento y preocupación en el pueblo, mientras que las dos fuerzas políticas en pugna por la Presidencia, la oficialista Alianza para la Unidad Nacional + Alianza para el Cambio (APNU + AFC) y el opositor Partido Progresista Popular, han publicado que están al frente de los conteos.
La noche de este miércoles la GECOM dejó de publicar los resultados parciales cuando llevaba escrutadas apenas el 18 por ciento de las boletas.
La situación en Guyana se complica. El conteo está parado desde la media noche. Hay diplomáticos en el edificio electoral que afirman estar cuidando las actas. El gobierno les alerta de retirar acreditaciones. Personal del órgano electoral evacuado por supuesta amenaza de Bomba. pic.twitter.com/IPt718TXDe
— Patricia Villegas Marin (@pvillegas_tlSUR) March 5, 2020
Observadores internacionales, embajadores de países como Reino Unido, Canadá y los Estados Unidos, así como diplomáticos guyaneses, se encuentran en el local empleado por GECOM para los conteos, al efecto de custodiar las boletas.
Sin embargo, se ha denunciado que un funcionario de GECOM se retiró la noche de este miércoles hacia un local anexo, alegando necesitar un descanso, y fue detectado manipulando en una laptop los resultados del escrutinio.
De igual forma, la policía se presentó en el lugar aludiendo que había recibido una amenaza de bomba y llamando a la evacuación del edificio, lo cual no fue acatado por los observadores, embajadores y diplomáticos, que permanecieron en custodia de las boletas.
Por su parte, el secretario general del Partido Progresista, Bharrat Jagdeo, ha anunciado que si no se publican los resultados de los comicios, publicarán sus declaraciones de votación.
En tanto, el líder de APNU + AFC, actual presidente del país y candidato a la reelección, David Granger, instó a los guyaneses a esperar con calma los resultados dados por GECOM.
Nation awaits Region 4 results
GUYANA awaits the verification of Statements of Poll (SOPs) belonging to polling stations in Region Four (Demerara-Mahaica) before the final declaration of the results of Monday’s general and regional elections, even as the process was suspended twice on Wednesday due to disagreements on how they ought to be tabulated and the unavailability of staff respectively.
There was much commotion outside the tabulation and media centre of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) on Wednesday, after discrepancies were noted in the tabulation of the region’s SOPs. The process was therefore halted at around 15:30hrs by Chief Elections Officer (CEO), Keith Lowenfield.
The matter drew the attention of leaders and representatives from all political parties; members of the diplomatic corps; international and local observers and the GECOM Commission and staff which all made their way to the centre located at the Ashmins building, downtown Georgetown.
By 17:00hrs, noticing the constant arrival of high-profile officials, a crowd began to form at the cross roads opposite the building. The media had been notified earlier by Public Relations Officer (PRO), Yolanda Ward at 15:30hrs that party agents did not agree on the verification process for the region and the CEO therefore ended the process. The media quickly made their way over to the scene and, after a lengthy wait, was able to speak with the CEO when he exited the building.
He stated that the commission was scheduled to re-commence its verification process of SOPs collected for Region Four (Demerara-Mahaica) on Wednesday, and did so smoothly until the Region’s Returning Officer (RO), Clairmont Mingo, fell ill and had cause to be hospitalised.
Mingo was seen being transported from the GECOM tabulation centre around 10:30hrs with an oxygen mask into a waiting ambulance with the assistance of medical practitioners. “So, there was an initial stoppage. We couldn’t have recommenced until much later when the clerk to the Returning Officer was advised to continue the process,” he said.
It was shortly after the process recommenced at around 14:00hrs that an alarm was raised about discrepancies noted in the SOPs being tallied. Reports are that a summarised spreadsheet was used by a GECOM Clerk who took over from Mingo and the results on the sheet did not match that of the SOPs with the number of votes appearing higher than the number of voters.
“During the process some errors were discerned. We would have completed the first eight statements and there were some errors contained in six of eight statements, for example. The representatives of the parties along with the observers spoke with me, we stopped the process, I enquired what is [and] I was advised and I advised my staff along with the [party] agents and the observers that I’ll engage Madame Chair and the Commissioners as to the way forward,” Lowenfield said.
Subsequently, Chair of the GECOM, Justice (Ret’d) Claudette Singh, deliberated with members of the commission and came to the decision that the SOPs for Region Four will be verified by “statement to statement”.
If errors continue, Lowenfield said that there is a prescribed procedure and if this too fails he will be involved with his SOPs to have a resolution to the issues. “Be prepared that we’ll be working through the evening to bring closure so that we can move to the next subset which is the declarations of the results of District Four,” an internal video which later surfaced showed Lowenfield telling those authorised to be in the center.
There are 300 plus statements for the Region to be completed and the process will commence with the East Bank of Demerara (EBD) followed by the East Coast of Demerara (ECD) and any other remaining statements for the region. There are about 192 SOPs in EBD and about 170 in the ECD while the verification process for North and South Georgetown has been completed. Once this is completed, there will be a public declaration for the region. The law prescribes that once there is a declaration, any requested recounts can be done within noon of the following day.
Prior to the official report on the matter, Lowenfield, and several party members, spoke to the media giving their account of the situation. Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Basil Williams said that while the opposition has accused the A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) of being behind the discrepancies, it was a GECOM staff which presented a new spreadsheet which didn’t sit well with the party agents.
“The spread sheet was something that was inherited from their time. They used to verify with spreadsheets, now they don’t want spreadsheets they want to use Statements of Polls. We have no objection, let’s just get it over with,” he said. “It’s GECOM’s document. GECOM can, under the law, regulate its own procedure so GECOM could decide it wants to use a spreadsheet but GECOM has agreed to use the Statements of Poll.”
Speaking on behalf of the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C), Opposition General Secretary, Bharrat Jagdeo, said that all parties had agreed on a way forward. “I’m satisfied with the steps that they have taken now,” he said. He was pleased that the commission agreed to put up a screen for the visible display of the SOPs tabulated and when sub-districts are finished, the results will be printed and given to all political parties for reconciliation.
Meanwhile, The Carter Center’s Chairperson of the Board of Trustees and grandson of former US President Jimmy Carter, Jason Carter, said that the agreement made between GECOM and involved stakeholders regarding the tabulation of SOPs should see resolution soon.
“You need to be patient and you need to make sure that the count is accurate and more so to make sure that it’s quick. So, they’re in there with maximum transparency trying to ensure that everybody gets to take a look at each of the Statements of Polls to determine precisely what the actual count was,” he said. “It may take some time but we call on everyone to be patient and peaceful as we await the results.”
US Ambassador to Guyana, Sarah-Ann Lynch, and British High Commissioner to Guyana, Gregg Quinn, also notified the media that the situation was resolved and the re-tabulation process would be restarted. The crowd of persons opposite the centre had now increased and members of the public were voicing their concerns in relation to the tabulation of the region’s votes.
Asked what words of advice he would leave to the anxious public, Lowenfield said: “They should remain calm. At the moment, what the commission is striving to ensure — while we understand the anxiety on the part of the citizenship — we do not want to ensure transparency is lost in the entire process. So, at the time the whole posture is to ensure that there is transparency in the process and plead with citizens to remain calm so that we have the correct results that will be the satisfaction of, I dare say, to all.”
However, although these reports seemed positive, at around 20:00hrs that same night, the agreement fell apart. There are disagreements surrounding a decision to stop the verification process for the night although it was previously agreed that stakeholders would work through the night. Region Four, which holds the country’s largest amount of voters, is the only outstanding Region from which declarations have not been made. The Region holds 879 polling stations and 285,618 electors. It could be the deciding factor for which party wins the elections.
American Observers Threatened over Guyana Election Results
Tensions are rising in newly oil-rich Guyana with nearly 100 percent of the votes now reported from Monday’s national election. The governing APNU party appears to have lost to the opposition Peoples Progressive Party (PPP). International elections observers – mostly Americans – are now being menaced and threatened by APNU to leave or face arrest. Guyana’s election is being watched closely because the winner will be in control of a coming oil boom which will transform Guyana. In December Exxon began commercial exploitation of a huge 2016 oil discovery off the coast, and production is expected to grow from 52,000 barrels per day to over 750,000 by 2025.
Results from the official certification of 80 percent of the Statements of Poll already tallied, and counts of the official Statements of Poll published, but not yet officially tallied from the balance, show a 5 percent victory by the PPP. That translates into 34 seats for the PPP, 30 seats for the APNU, and one seat for a minor party, in Guyana’s National Assembly. Under the country’s constitution, the largest party automatically elects the President, who will be the PPP’s designate, Dr. Irfaan Ali.
However, APNU refuses to concede and the APNU-controlled Elections Commission refuses to complete the official tally of the results from the remaining 20 percent of the country’s 2,300 polling sites – each of which counted and reported the actual votes four days ago.
Instead, the APNU government is engaging in increasingly desperate attempts to void the election, and change the already-reported results.
On Wednesday, the government-appointed Elections Director, Keith Lowenfield, attempted to discard the certified results from 500 polling sites and substitute instead a self-created “spreadsheet” adding tens of thousands of votes to APNU’s actual vote. Under heavy pressure from the international community, the Elections Commission ordered Lowenfield to withdraw that brazen attempt to steal the election.
Now the APNU government is threatening the international observers with arrest and violence.
A “bomb threat” was called-in today to Election headquarters and international observers were ordered to “clear the building.” Instead, many refused to leave – which would have left the remaining 400 packages of certified results and the actual ballots unattended in an open room.
Police have now entered the Elections offices and are threatening to arrest and deport the international observers.
APNU are also busing-in angry supporters from the slum areas of Georgetown, the nation’s capital – many of whom are intoxicated or armed – to mob the Elections Commission offices. Riot police are now deployed across the city.
Elections took place in deeply-polarised environment, EU observers
MONDAY’S General and Regional Elections took place in a deeply-polarised environment, the European Union Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) Chief, Urmas Paet, said while noting that though the election was well managed by the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), there were some inconsistencies at the level of polling stations.
“[The] voting process was well managed and the electors were able to exercise their vote freely,” Paet told journalists during a press conference at the Guyana Marriott on Wednesday. In presenting the EU EOM preliminary report on the elections, he noted that while the process was well managed, there were some procedural safeguards that were not consistently applied.
In justifying the EU EOM’s position, Paet pointed out that safeguards put in place by the Elections Commission to prevent double voting by members of the Disciplinary Services, who had voted on February 21, were not consistently applied during the March 2 Elections. It was contended that the names of voters were not systematically checked to confirm if Joint Services ranks had already voted on February 21.
The EU EOM, however, expressed satisfaction with the tabulation of the votes at the polling station but noted rooms for improvement. While scrutineers from the smaller political parties were few in numbers, the A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) and the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) had agents spread across the country observing the electoral process.
“Counting was conducted in a transparent manner, but reconciliation procedures were not always followed. In the absence of clear, written instructions, the mission noted inconsistencies in the results transmission and tabulation process,” Paet, a Member of the European Parliament, explained. It was observed that a large percentage of the envelopes containing Statements of Polls were not properly sealed, and in some cases were opened by Deputy Returning Officers (DROs) before they were submitted to the Returning Officers.
The Mission’s Chief Observer was also keen on noting that while the election was efficiently managed, limited inclusiveness, transparency and engagement with electoral stakeholders undermined confidence in the Guyana Elections Commission. There was limited access to critical decisions made by GECOM, in addition to little or no access to essential electoral data in the lead up to the March 2 General and Regional Elections.
“Whereas the full list of electors is published, key regulatory instruments and critical electoral data, notably information pertaining to the revision of the list, are not publicly available,” Paet reported, while explaining that there were often times no systematic publication of decisions made at the level of the seven-member commission. “GECOM’s lack of official communication with the media results in its messaging being essentially left to individual commissioners providing their own, often conflicting accounts of internal deliberations and decisions,” he said while adding that public confidence in the electoral administration is often weakened by the absence of regular, structured engagement with key electoral stakeholders.
Like the Organisation of American States, Electoral Observation Mission (OAS EOM), the EU Mission highlighted the challenges faced as a result of the composition of the elections commission. The commission consists of three members nominated by the President, three by the leader of the opposition and a chairperson agreeable to both.
“Introduced to assuage discontent ahead of the 1992 elections, this formula has led to strong partisanship, affecting GECOM’s ability to function as a collegiate body. Excessive polarisation results in the chairperson having to act as tiebreaker on most decisions. Furthermore, the composition of the commission reflects the political spectrum of 1992, leaving out smaller parties,” the EU Chief Observer reasoned.
Hours later, the Commonwealth Observer Group led by Rt Hon. Owen Arthur, former Prime Minister of Barbados, made similar observations during a press conference at Cara Lodge, Georgetown. Like the OAS, the Commonwealth made a case for constitutional and legislative reform that would result in a commission that would not be divided along party lines.
“A key issue repeatedly raised in our interactions was the urgent need for constitutional and electoral reform to address what stakeholders view as a complex and multi-faceted polarisation of the nation. These divisions are reflected in the composition, structure and operations of GECOM itself,” Commonwealth Chief Observer told journalists. He noted that is important for the electoral system to be fully inclusive of different stakeholders and minority groups.
The Commonwealth, European Union and OAS Observation Missions all shed light on the bloated National Register of Registrants Data Base and the Official List of Electors (OLE), with the hope that legislative reforms would lead to a new register and periodic house-to-house registrations. The OLE used in the just-concluded elections consists of 660,998 electors, which is almost the size of the country’s population.
Arthur, while noting that the decision by GECOM to create a new register had hit a stumbling block in 2019, underscored the need for comprehensive reform of the voter registration system, inclusive of legislative reform.
The International Observers have also bemoaned the fact that an election petition filed in the High Court following the 2015 General and Regional Elections is still pending.