Guyana | Bruce Golding, Observador Electoral de la OEA: “Nunca vi un esfuerzo más transparente para alterar los resultados de una elección”
“I have never seen a more transparent effort to alter the results of an election” – OAS EOM
Head of the Electoral Observation Mission of the Organisation of American States (OAS) in Guyana, Bruce Golding says he has never seen such a “transparent effort to alter the results of an election”.
Presentación del Jefe de la Misión de Observación Electoral de #OASinGuyana, Bruce Golding, ante el Consejo Permanente de la #OEA, del Informe Preliminar sobre las #GuyanaElections del 2 de marzo de 2020 (1/2) pic.twitter.com/5iwq8vMTpw
— OEA (@OEA_oficial) May 13, 2020
Golding, former Prime Minister of Jamaica, made the remark this morning during a live audio broadcast where he gave an overview of the Electoral Observation Mission’s findings on the 2020 General and Regional Elections in Guyana.
Presentación del Jefe de la Misión de Observación Electoral de #OASinGuyana, Bruce Golding, ante el Consejo Permanente de la #OEA, del Informe Preliminar sobre las #GuyanaElections del 2 de marzo de 2020 (2/2) pic.twitter.com/gry4hyaG4S
— OEA (@OEA_oficial) May 13, 2020
“I have never seen a more transparent effort to alter the results of an election…It takes an extraordinarily courageous mind to present fictitious numbers when such a sturdy paper trail exists,” Golding stated.
He explained that upon the completion of voting on elections day, Statements of Poll (SOPs) are produced and presented to each party representatives. Those SOPs indicate how many votes are allotted to each political party for each polling station.
Golding explained, however, that the Returning Officer for Region Four, Clairmont Mingo significantly altered the votes recorded on the SOPs when he was declaring the results for that district – the largest electoral district in Guyana.
For example, in ballot box 4062, Golding pointed out that the SOP indicated 182 votes for the APNU/AFC coalition and 43 votes for the PPP/C.
“The Returning Officer reported those results as 292 votes for APNU/AFC and 32 for PPP/C,” Golding stated, noting that when that ballot box was recounted, the numbers were 182 for APNU/AFC and 43 for PPP/C, the exact figures that appeared on the SOPs.
Golding went on the give several examples of where such instances occurred, noting that for another ballot box, the SOPs indicated 15 votes for APNU/AFC and 276 votes for the PPP/C.
“The Returning Officer declared the results as 85 votes for APNU/AFC and 246 votes for the PPP/C,” Golding stated.
He noted too that when the ballot box was recounted, the votes allotted to each party was “exactly as appeared on the original SOPs.”
According to the Head of the EOM, elections were free, fair and transparent throughout the country for all electoral districts except District Four.
“The final tabulation of results in region four were marred by several issues, which regrettably, came to taint the overall process and have led to the protracted delay in the declaration of results,” Golding expressed.
He noted that principal among these issues “were the actions of the Returning Officer in abandoning the use of the SOPs in the presence of the authorised party representatives and to rely instead of a spreadsheet of unknown origin which provided results that are significantly different than on the SOPs…”
Parties that claim victory should not fear recount – Caricom Ambassador to OAS
Chair of the Group of Caricom Ambassadors to the Organisation of American States (OAS), Noel Lynch on Wednesday said that political parties in Guyana that are claiming victory in the March 2 polls should not fear the ongoing recount process.
Both the Opposition – the People’s Progressive Party/Civic – and the caretaker A Partnership for national Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Government have said that they won the March 2 elections, which were held more than two months ago, but credible results were yet to be declared. The Opposition, however, was the only party to released its Statements of Poll to the public for scrutiny.
Currently, the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) has undertaken a national recount of all the votes cast on March 2 and the exercise is being scrutinised by a special high-level Caribbean Community (Caricom) team. However, the APNU/AFC has made allegations of irregularities on polling day (March 2) including that dead people voted as well as those who have migrated. Not only did the coalition failed to provide evidence to support these allegations of irregularities, but these were being made just over a week after caretaker President David Granger said in a statement that the elections were “free, fair and orderly”.
The PPP/C has since argued that these were attempts by the incumbent coalition to “derail” and “undermine” the recount process.
But according to Ambassador Lynch, “if each of the political parties genuinely believe it has won, then they should have no fear of the current recount, and they should all support it.”
Lynch, who is also Barbados’ Ambassador to the OAS, was at the time speaking at the virtual OAS Meeting of the Permanent Council on Wednesday morning, where Head of the OAS Elections Observation Mission (EOM), former Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding, presented a preliminary report on Guyana’s elections.
The Caricom Ambassador pointed out explicitly that the only irregularities that have been unearthed in Guyana’s electoral process were during the counting process and not polling day as was being claimed by the incumbent Administration.
“We are mindful, Mr Chairman, that irregularities occurred not in the system by which the Guyanese electorate cast their votes on March 2nd, but in the presentation of the count afterwards,” he posited.
Ambassador Lynch went on to recognise that the role that the international observers such as the OAS, the Commonwealth, European Union and Caricom teams played as controversy arose over the counting and tabulation of the votes in the days following polling day.
“Had these Observer Missions not persevered in Guyana, a result might have been declared that would not have commanded the acceptance of the Guyanese people or the respect and approval of the international community,” he posited.
The Barbadian diplomat noted that a national recount was finally in progress and the exercise is being scrutinised by the high-level Caricom team. As the recount enters into Day Nine today, he said it was clear that the process would go beyond its 25-day timeframe.
This was as a result of two factors: the intense scrutiny to which each ballot is being subjected for the satisfaction of all the contending political parties and each observer mission; and the physical distancing rules that have had to be applied because of COVID-19, which limit the number of persons to participate in and observe the recount.
Democracy must be the winner
Lauding the Guyanese people for their patience and commitment to maintaining democracy, Ambassador Lynch posited that this was not just important to Guyana as a nation but also to Caricom as a regional body.
It is for this reason, he noted, that Caricom regards itself as the most “legitimate interlocutors” in the current situation in Guyana.
“We have no interest in which political party wins the election… Caricom’s interest is that, at the end of the recounting process, democracy must be the winner… If democracy fails in any Caricom country, it fails in the larger Community. If it is imperilled in any part of our Community, it is imperilled everywhere in it,” he contended.
According to Ambassador Lynch, as an institution, Caricom cannot allow this to happen in any of its Member States.
“The Guyanese people deserve a credible and transparent process to put into office a legitimate government that they elected. Caricom takes its scrutineering role in this recount extremely seriously. We intend to see it through to a transparent and credible conclusion,” the Barbadian diplomat stated.
Meanwhile, several of Guyana’s bilateral partners, including Canada and the United States, as well as neighbouring Brazil have also commented on the issue.
Brazilian Ambassador to the OAS, Fernando Simas Magalhães said his country was closely watching developments here, noting that the recount was key for establishing political normalcy in Guyana and for there to be results that could be accepted by all the candidates and society at large.
Meanwhile, the Canadian Ambassador to the OAS, Hugh Adsett reiterated his country’s position that the results of Guyana’s elections were “long overdue” and that transparency of the process would be vital to ensure the legitimacy of the Government that would be sworn-in.
Additionally, Deputy US Permanent Representative to the OAS, Alexis Ludwig, described the report as “compelling and somewhat disturbing”.
Ambassador Ludwig also expressed concerns that representatives from the Carter Center and the International Republic Institute (IRI) were disallowed from returning to Guyana to observe the recount.
Sanctions “still on the table” for Guyana over electoral fraud – US Ambassador
As much as the threat of sanctions hangs over Guyana’s head over electoral fraud, it is an option the United States is hopeful it will not have to use. This is according to US Ambassador to Guyana, Sarah-Ann Lynch.
During a local radio programme on Wednesday, Lynch explained that sanctions range in seriousness from targeted measures such as individual visa restrictions to financial measures that could impact the economy.
“You’ve seen some of the statements coming out of Washington. Secretary (of State Mike) Pompeo. Assistant Secretary (Michael) Kozak. The National Security Council. They have been very strong. And Secretary Pompeo did point to serious consequences if the democratic process, the rule of law, and the principles of democracy are not followed in Guyana.
“So, sanctions are a set of tools in the toolkit that potentially can be explored. Decisions on sanctions – first of all, they range from issues of visa restrictions to issues of financial measures. So, it’s a range of things that can be discussed and looked into. And those decisions are made at the highest levels of the Government in Washington, with the inter-agency fully concurring.”
According to her, it is still too early to say whether sanctions are likely to be applied. She pointed to the fact that for now, the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) appears to be doing its job and facilitating the recount to general satisfaction.
“We are hopeful though, that we don’t have to go down that road. Even if they’re at the ready, those tools, we don’t want to go down that road. And we’re in this recount process right now. My observation is that it’s going well. GECOM is answering any issues that pop up, they’re doing their best to answer and address them.
“They’re looking into the issue of extending the (workstations). So, I think it’s too early to say whether there would be any sanctions,” she said.
Asked if there would be a timeline the US was looking at before drawing a line, she emphasised that the effort is a Guyanese-led one and the US did not have a specific timeline in mind.
It has already been over two months of controversy and a credible winner for the March 2 General and Regional Elections is yet to be declared. After two declarations from Region Four (Demerara-Mahaica) Returning Officer Clairmont Mingo, which lacked transparency, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo and caretaker President David Granger had agreed to have the Caribbean Community (Caricom) oversee the recount.
That agreement was derailed when A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) candidate Ulita Moore moved to the courts and secured an injunction against the exercise.
That injunction was discharged by the Full Court and later, the Full Court’s decision was upheld by the Appeals Court. But by then, the Caricom team had long since left. GECOM re-invited them and the recount started last week with the understanding that it would last for 25 days.
In the meantime, countries and organisations from all around the world have said that the earlier tabulation process done by the GECOM lacked credibility. This is compounded by the warnings from several Governments, including the United States’, that officials could face sanctions if President Granger is sworn in based on this questionable process.