Recount results credible, enable declaration – Caricom team
The high-level Caribbean Community (Caricom) Electoral Observer Team, deemed “the most legitimate interlocutors” in Guyana’s elections standoff, has concluded that the results emanating from the National Recount of the March 02 polls are credible, acceptable, and should be the basis from which the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) declares the final results.
The report was handed over to GECOM on Monday, ahead of the meeting to deliberate on the report presented by Chief Elections Officer Keith Lowenfield.
The Caricom team comprised Sylvester King, Deputy Supervisor of Elections of St. Vincent and the Grenadines; Cynthia Barrow-Giles, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Government at the University of the West Indies (UWI); and John Jarvis, Commissioner of the Antigua and Barbuda Electoral Commission.
Barrow-Giles led the team, and in her report to the Cariom Secretary-General, she wrote as follows:
“Overall, while we acknowledge that there were some defects in the recount of the March 02, 2020 votes cast for the General and Regional Elections in Guyana, the team did not witness anything which would render the recount, and by extension the casting of the ballot on March 02, so grievously deficient procedurally or technically, (despite some irregularities), or sufficiently deficient to have thwarted the will of the people and consequently preventing the election results and its declaration by GECOM from reflecting the will of the voters. The actual count of the vote was indeed transparent.”
This report now further places CEO Lowenfield in the proverbial pickle, since he has been accused of parroting the incumbent A Partnership For National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) narrative of dead and migrated people voting. In his report, submitted on Saturday to GECOM Chair, Retired Justice Claudette Singh, the CEO opined that the March 02 polls were not credible, and revised the figures to show the APNU/AFC winning the General and Regional Elections with a 2/3 Parliamentary majority.
However, the seasoned Caricom Team concluded that despite some administrative failings and the disastrous tabulation by District Four Returning Officer Clairmont Mingo, the March 2 polls were credible, and attempts to say otherwise were outrightly rejected. Though having some concerns, the team noted that it had witnessed no situation where the acceptability of results could be challenged.
“…the recount results are acceptable and should constitute the basis of the declaration of results of the March 02, 2020 elections,” the report authored by Barrow-Giles concluded.
Audit, not recount
The Caricom team detailed in its observations that the process that GECOM set out to do was in fact an audit of the polls, and not a mere recount of the ballots as agreed to by the leaders.
It is important to note that there are stark differences between an audit and recount of the polls. The mere recount would involve, as on elections night, the counting of the votes cast and tabulating them accordingly. Whereas, the audit requires a more in-depth process.
According to the GECOM-gazetted Order, each ballot box was to be scrutinised to ascertain whether the seals were intact, and that was to be followed by examination of the contents inside using a Ballot Box Checklist. This, the CARICOM Team noted, was not in keeping with a recount process, since it fits the criteria of an audit.
By going on an audit disguised as a recount, GECOM contributed to prolonging of the exercise, which went way beyond the initial 25 days.
“Where there were some minor issues, the Team did not view these as sinister. Nothing we saw up to the closing days of the recount suggested that the poll workers on March 02, 2020, conducted themselves in a manner which would indicate illegality or a deliberate intent to benefit a particular list of candidates over another,” the Caricom report stated.
Each workstation was manned by four GECOM employees, and according to the team, their conduct was commendable. They noted that, for the most part, the staffers were properly trained in the execution of their basic functions, but had some time finding their footing. This, coupled with the long list of elaborate and unnecessary steps before the actual counting began, was one of the major reasons for the extended amount of time spent on counting one box.
Throughout its report, the Caricom team maintained that the recount figures are acceptable, and should form the basis for the declaration of results.
Will of the people
At every election, people go to the polls to express their choice. This activity is coined as expressing one’s will, and what was clear on March 02, 2020 was that thousands of Guyanese went to the polls to express their will.
The will of the people, according to the figures coming out of the recount, shows an overwhelming victory for the People’s Progressive Party/Civic. The PPP/C secured a victory with 233,336 votes cast in its favour, while the incumbent APNU/AFC scraped 217,920 votes. For the new parties, the numbers are as follows: A New and United Guyana – 2,313; Change Guyana – 1,953; Liberty and Justice Party – 2,657; People’s Republic Party – 889; The Citizen’s Initiative – 680; The New Movement – 244; and the United Republican Party – 360.
Those numbers are reflective of the will of the people, and the Caricom Team endorses this as being the figures to proceed with. The report added that there are obvious lessons to be learnt from this experience which, going forward, the Government and the people of Guyana must make every effort to rectify in the best interest of democratic governance.
“Many of the instances of irregularities that we witnessed can be explained by either the incompetence of some of the Presiding Officers at the polling stations on March 02, 2020 and/or the failure to give adequate training by GECOM to its staff on the varied possibilities which may have arisen at the level of the individual stations,” the report concluded.
Most legitimate interlocutors
Ever since Permanent Representative of Barbados to the Organisation of American States (OAS), Ambassador Noel Lynch, on behalf of the CARICOM Group during a meeting of the OAS Permanent Council back in May, said CARICOM were “the most legitimate interlocutors” in Guyana’s National Recount, the APNU/AFC supporters have been parroting that statement.
It was repeated several times by caretaker President David Granger.
In a letter to United States Ambassador to Guyana, Sarah-Ann Lynch, on May 15, Granger said “The Caribbean Community remains ‘…the most legitimate interlocutors in the Guyana situation’ and that Guyana, equally, is confident in the legitimacy, credibility, and competence of the CARICOM Team to perform its task.”
That was in response to the ambassador’s request to have special arrangements for the Carter Center return to Guyana to observe the recount.
In another letter to the United States Congress, Granger again stated: “The Government of Guyana wishes to inform you that the Caribbean Community did send a new team, which is actually at work with the Elections Commission. The Caribbean Community sees itself as ‘…the most legitimate interlocutors in the Guyana situation’ and Guyana, equally, is confident in the legitimacy, credibility, and competence of the CARICOM Team to perform its task.”
The recount now proves that the David Granger-led APNU/AFC was involved in some collusion with Region 4 Returning Officer Clairmont Mingo to thwart the will of the people in favour of APNU/AFC. It is a fact that Mingo manipulated the results of his District – the largest — to give the Coalition the victory it wanted. He did so not once, but two times. Mingo inflated the Coalition’s votes by 19,116 votes, while deducting 3,689 votes from the PPP/C. Neither the caretaker President nor his party has, to date, addressed Mingo’s glaring anomalies. Ironically, the APNU/AFC has been claiming victory, and that has been based on Mingo’s concocted numbers.
Last Sunday, during an interview with a selected group of media houses, Granger reiterated that the APNU/AFC’s numbers were consistent with a victory. However, in what can be dubbed as a proverbial red light, Granger said he is yet to see the Statements of Poll (SoPs) the party collected from Elections night – 106 days after Guyanese went to the polls.
OAS Reiterates Support for the Results of the National Recount in Guyana
The decision of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), on April 3, 2020, to proceed with a national recount, and the eventual initiation of the process on May 6, were welcome developments in the ongoing electoral process in Guyana. Following the very irregular occurrences in the tabulation process for District Four, which undermined the credibility of the results for that electoral District – the largest in Guyana – a national recount of all ballots was deemed the best approach to ensure a result that was acceptable to all stakeholders.
The OAS notes that the decision to proceed with the recount had the full support of all stakeholders in the March 2 General and Regional Elections. The Official Order of the Recount, No. 60/2020, gazetted on May 4, 2020 notably states “ … the President and the Leader of the Opposition and all contesting parties agreed to a CARICOM proposal for a total recount of all electoral districts as a means of assuaging the contesting parties and determining a final credible count…” This support was reiterated in public statements by the President of Guyana and other key stakeholders as the recount proceeded.
The Order of the Recount required that “ascertained and verified” matrices of the results for each of the ten electoral districts be submitted to the Chief Elections Officer, who would then tabulate these results and submit them to GECOM, along with a summary of the observation reports prepared for each District. OAS notes that the report submitted by the Chief Elections Officer on June 13, records multiple “allegations” of irregularities by a contesting party in each District, which are then used as a basis for determining that the electoral process in each of the ten Districts was not credible. There is little evidence in the CEO’s report of efforts to investigate or otherwise address any of the alleged irregularities presented. His contention that the entire election be set aside on this basis alone is astonishing.
In its statement of April 15, 2020, prior to the commencement of the recount, the OAS had recommended the exclusion of any official who had displayed partisan behaviour during the electoral process. While the CEO’s approach to his report is therefore disappointing, it is not unexpected.
As noted in our statement of June 4, OAS observers present on each day of the national recount have reported that the process was conducted in a professional, transparent and impartial fashion, which allowed GECOM, political parties and other stakeholders to accurately determine the results for each polling station. OAS reiterates that there is no reason not to support the results of the recount process.
OAS further takes note and wholly supports the findings of the CARICOM team of scrutineers that the results of the recount were transparent and credible, and nothing prevents the Chair of the Guyana Elections Commission from now declaring the election, based on these results.
Elections are held to determine the will of the people and once the people’s wishes are clearly stated they must be upheld – not only in instances where they favour the incumbent. In this case, the results published in the report of the Chief Elections Officer himself make it clear that the opposition PPP/C has won the favour of the majority of Guyana’s eligible voters. Their will must be respected.
The OAS calls on the current administration of Guyana to begin the process of transition, which will allow the legitimately elected government to take its place.
Recount results should constitute basis of election declaration – Commonwealth SG
Commonwealth Secretary General, Baroness Patricia Scotland on Monday urged that there be acceptance of the results from national elections recount in Guyana.
She shared these sentiments following the submission of a report from the Caribbean Community (Caricom) high-level observer team that supervised the recount process. Scotland pointed out that it was clear that the recount results were “completely acceptable” and nothing that the Caricom observers witnessed warranted a challenge to the inescapable conclusion that the recount results were acceptable and should constitute the basis of the declaration of the results of the March 2 elections.
She added that President David Granger and Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo demonstrated “commendable leadership when they agreed to the recount and committed to respect and adhere to the recount results. This continued leadership and commitment is needed now more than ever. The people of Guyana have been patient and deserve finality as determined by the recount results.”
Scotland also commended the Caricom team members for their brave and selfless service while also thanking Senior Commonwealth Adviser, Dr Afari-Gyan, who remains faithful, steadfast and resilient in his professional and experienced support to the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM).
“The Commonwealth continues to stand with Guyana and urge the leaders and the people of Guyana to live up to the lofty aspirations set out in your constitution, your electoral laws, and the Commonwealth Charter,” Scotland stated.
Meanwhile, Guyana-born internationally-respected diplomat, Sir Ronald Sanders has asserted that the recount of votes cast in the March 2, 2020 Elections is “accurate, credible, and is the basis for a democratic Government in Guyana”.
As such, he said he fully supported the position as set out by the Organisation of American States (OAS), which he also noted is consistent with the report submitted by the Caricom team.
The OAS has called on the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) to begin the process of transition, which would allow the legitimately-elected Government to take its place. This call came hours after the Caribbean Community (Caricom) high-level observation team said in its report on the elections recount that the process was conducted in “a professional, transparent and impartial fashion”, which allowed GECOM, political parties, and other stakeholders to accurately determine the results for each polling station. As such, the OAS reiterated that there was no reason not to support the results of the recount process.
Meanwhile, the Caricom report explains that there was nothing emanating from the recount activity that thwarted the will of the people who cast their ballots at the 2020 General and Regional Elections.
On Saturday, Chief Elections Officer (CEO) Keith Lowenfield submitted to GECOM’s Chair, Retired Justice Claudette Singh his report on the recently-concluded national elections recount of the ballots cast at the March 2 General and Regional Elections.
The figures presented by Lowenfield that were garnered in the recount process show the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) won the March 2 General Election with 233,336 votes cast in its favour. The APNU/AFC secured 217,920 votes.
For the new parties, the numbers are as follows: A New and United Guyana – 2313; Change Guyana –1953; Liberty and Justice Party – 2657; People’s Republic Party – 889; The Citizen’s Initiative – 680; The New Movement – 244; and the United Republican Party – 360.
In the Regional Elections, the PPP/C also won with 233,661 votes, while APNU/AFC secured 217,055 votes. Change Guyana – 2607; Fed-Up Party – 153, Liberty and Justice Party – 2935; Organisation for the Victory of the People – 448; People’s Republic Party – 927; and the United Republican Party – 1369.
However, in his report, the CEO went outside of his ambit and sided with the APNU/AFC when he said the March 2 General and Regional Elections lacked credibility and fairness owing to the unsubstantiated allegations of dead and migrated persons voting.
However, neither Lowenfield nor the APNU/AFC produced a shred of definitive evidence to support those allegations.
Carter Center welcomes CARICOM report that recount results acceptable, winner should be declared
The Carter Center commends the Guyana Elections Commission on the completion of the recount process and welcomes the CARICOM report, which indicates that despite minor flaws in the process, the recount results are acceptable and provide the basis for a declaration of results from the March 2 election.
Although the Center is disappointed that it was not allowed to return to Guyana to directly observe the recount, it is encouraged by CARICOM’s largely positive report on the recount process.
The Carter Center has previously stated that while electoral preparations and voting and counting procedures met international standards, the March tabulation process for Region 4 generated results that were deemed by the Center and other international and domestic observers as not credible.
Going forward, The Carter Center calls on all Guyanese to prioritize efforts to strengthen Guyana’s democratic institutions and advance constitutional reforms to move beyond the winner-takes-all system.
URP urges political maturity, calls for Irfaan Ali to be sworn in as president
The leader of the United Republican Party Dr. Vishnu Bandhu is calling on the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) Chair to swear in the People Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Presidential candidate Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali as the new president of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana.
Dr. Bandhu said that in the run up to the March 2, 2020 General and Regional elections the party executive met with GECOM Commissioners, Legal Representative, the Chief Elections Officer and the Chair where it was explained by the URP that the administrative methods used by the commission did not present a level playing field to the smaller political parties contesting the elections.
Representatives of both the major political parties represented on the commission said the electoral management is solid.
Therefore, the final results should be accepted by both parties.
The URP fielded representatives at all twelve of the counting stations and had Managers, Supervisors and Tabulation Agents at the Arthur Chung Convention Center (ACCC) and we are sure that the process was credible.
Why the delay, Dr. Bandhu said: “if both parties agreed to the recount and the recount shows that the elections were credible then the results should be accepted and the winner declared.”
Dr. Bandhu is calling on the two major parties to show political maturity and accept the results.