CARICOM will not tolerate the setting aside of recount results – Incoming Chair
Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines, Ralph Gonsalves – who is also the incoming Chair of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) – has made it clear that the regional bloc will not tolerate the setting aside of the recount results.
“I am satisfied that CARICOM will not stand by idly and watch the recount which was properly done for the results to be set aside,” Mr Gonsalves said during an NBC Radio Programme on Wednesday.
“We expect the CARICOM observer mission to deliver its report and we expect that what is the recount would be honoured and that the Guyana Elections Commission will honour that and declare a winner in accordance with this recount,” he added.
A three-member delegation from CARICOM was on the ground during the 34-days recount exercise and they are expected to compile a report of its observations.
The recount exercise shows that the Peoples Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C) won the elections, garnering a total of 233,336 votes – a difference of 15,416 over its main political rival, the incumbent A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Coalition.
“When you take part in an election, there is always a chance that you will lose, and if you lose, like sir Arthur [Lewis] said: ‘Take your licks like a man’,” the incoming CARICOM Chair remarked.
Gonsalves is expected to assume chairmanship of CARICOM next month. The current Chair, Mia Mottley has already taken a firm stance against any undemocratic government. The Barbadian Prime Minister had expressed that “any government which is sworn in without a credible and fully transparent vote count process would lack legitimacy”.
Gonsalves expressed similar sentiments, noting that “CARICOM is not going to tolerate anybody stealing an election.”
He further posited that St Vincent and the Grenadines “stands firmly for democracy and reflecting the will of the people.”
APNU+AFC accuses incoming CARICOM Chair of ‘prejudicial’ stance on elections
The incumbent APNU+AFC has now taken aim at incoming Chairman of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Ralph Gonsalves, and has accused him of taking a “prejudicial” stance on Guyana’s elections.
The party’s position was made known by way of a statement posted to its official Facebook page, and that of its Campaign Manager, Joseph Harmon, on Thursday.
On Wednesday, Gonsalves, who also serves as the Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) urged the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to declare the winner Guyana’s March 2 General and Regional Elections based on the figures from the recently-concluded national recount.
The Organisation of American States (OAS) – one of the International Elections Observer Missions (EOM) – has also urged CARICOM to use the data numbers from its recount to declare a winner since the process satisfied international standards for transparency and credibility.
The incoming CARICOM Chairman also issued a stern warning that the 15-member regional bloc would not tolerate the hijacking of an election in any of its member-states.
The APNU+AFC has been accused of attempting to rig the 2020 elections after two fraudulent declarations handed them a victory in early March. But the national recount has shown that the PPP won the elections by more than 15,000 votes.
With Gonsalves urging GECOM to use that data to declare a winner on the basis that the recount was credible, APNU+AFC took aim at him by highlighting that he is currently “embroiled” in an elections petition matter in his country.
The party contended too that Gonsalves “has taken a public position that is prejudicial to the integrity of the process and its eventual outcome”.
This, according to the Coalition, is because the recount process is only in its second of four stages, and therefore any pronouncement on the on it would be premature.
“The APNU+AFC is therefore concerned that as the incoming Chair of CARICOM, Dr. Gonsalves has chosen to pronounce on a process that is still ongoing, and proposes to direct a constitutional body in another CARICOM member-state, in the execution of its duties,” the statement read.
The party sought to remind Gonsalves that the current stage requires the Chief Election Officer (CEO) compiling a report to be submitted to the Elections Commission for deliberation.
A three-member CARICOM scrutineering team, which came to Guyana to oversee the recount is expected to deliver its report in the coming days.
And according to the APNU+AFC, the ongoing recount process is significant and important not only for democracy in Guyana but the wider CARICOM.
As such, the party believes that: “It is to be expected that CARICOM leaders would refrain from any actions or utterances that could undermine the legitimacy of the process and its credible conclusion”.
Last month the APNU+AFC had issued strong statements of condemnation against Head of the OAS Observer Mission, former Prime Minister of Jamaica, Bruce Golding who highlighted in an OAS report that “transparent” efforts were made to manipulate the elections results in favour of the APNU+AFC.
Irfaan Ali already “deemed” President of Guyana – Jagdeo
General Secretary of the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C), Bharrat Jagdeo, has stated that with his party having obtained the highest number of votes from the March 2 elections, its Presidential Candidate, Irfaan Ali, has already been “deemed” the President of Guyana.
Speaking with reporters on Wednesday, Jagdeo cited Article 177 (2) (b) of the Constitution, and maintained that the law is clear as it relates to the declaration of the elections results.
“The Presidential Candidate on the list [of candidates of the party] that has the majority vote is deemed the President of Guyana, and the (Guyana Elections Commission) Chair shall declare him as President. So, Article 177 (2) (b) of our Constitution is quite clear. It has been established now that the PPP’s list has the most votes, and therefore, Irfaan Ali is already deemed the President of Guyana,” the PPP/C General Secretary noted.
Article 177 (2) (b) states: “…where there are two or more Presidential candidates, if more votes are cast in favour of the list in which a person is designated as Presidential candidate than in favour of any other list, that Presidential candidate shall be deemed to be elected President, and shall be so declared by the Chairman of the Elections Commission…”
What the Opposition Leader was emphasizing was that this article needs “no gloss” or explanation – as the CCJ had ruled on Art 106 (6) where the Cabinet and the President should resign after a No Confidence Motion.
Jagdeo added that the PPP/C is now awaiting that section of the Constitution that says that the Chair of GECOM “shall” officially declare Ali as president, adding that this is imperative given the state of the country, particularly the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“There are tons of issues that have to be addressed… That is why we need the declaration very early, so we can address these issues…,” he stressed.
The recently concluded National Recount has shown that Ali’s PPP/C secured a landslide victory with more than 15,000 votes ahead of the caretaker APNU/AFC Coalition. The publicly tabulated figures from the exercise show the PPP/C taking 33 of the 65 seats in the Legislative Assembly while APNU/AFC will take 31 seats. The remaining one seat is expected to be held by the Joinder Alliance comprising the Liberty and Justice Party (LJP), A New and United Guyana (ANUG) and The New Movement (TNM).
According to the PPP/C General Secretary, with the law being clear in relation to the declaration of the elections results, any action outside of this would not be tolerated.
“As far as we’re concerned, all of the shenanigans that are going on now to prevent the declaration, that’s not going to work, because that’s the supreme law of Guyana,” the PPP/C General Secretary contended.
The APNU/AFC has claimed that the results from the National Recount cannot be credible because of unsubstantiated “massive electoral fraud”, and has put GECOM “on notice that it cannot use illegal and fraudulent votes to produce a valid and acceptable result”.
Among the fraud the incumbent party is claiming are: unstamped ballots, deceased and migrant voters voting, and missing poll books. In fact, caretaker President David Granger, in an address to the nation on Saturday, said these irregularities appear to have been committed intentionally, and demonstrate a pattern of manipulation of the electoral process.
However, many stakeholders have deemed the recount exercise transparent, and have noted that the only fraud that was detected was the fraud perpetrated in Region Four (Demerara-Mahaica) – Guyana’s largest voting district – by embattled Returning Officer Clairmont Mingo.
The recount has unearthed that Mingo heavily inflated figures in his contentious March 6 and 13 declarations in favour of the APNU/AFC, to fraudulently give the coalition victory.
Nevertheless, as the recount process wound down, voices from the domestic and international community – the Private Sector Commission; the US State Department; Ambassadors of the United States, European Union, United Kingdom, Caribbean Community (Caricom), and Organisation of American States (OAS) have been calling for an acceptance of the recount by all the parties, leading to a peaceful transition for the new Government that has been chosen by the people of Guyana.
With the recounting and tabulation exercise completed, the Chief Elections Officer will now have to prepare his report to submit to the seven-member Elections Commission on or before June 13. The Commission has in its Gazetted Order on or before June 16 to make a final declaration of the March 2 polls, more than three months after polling was completed on March 2, making this the single longest such hiatus in the nation’s democratic history.