…Alexander says elections results will not be declared based on ballots recounted
…insists observation report will be examined to determine credibility of polls
WHILE in principle the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) is leaning towards June 13 as the new deadline for the completion of the national recount as proposed by the Elections Secretariat, it remains deeply divided on the time needed to consider the report of the Chief Elections Officer (CEO) before the results of the General and Regional Elections are declared.
Moments after exiting a meeting of the Elections Commission at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre (ACCC) on Thursday, Commissioner Vincent Alexander, in an interview with reporters, said while there was no objection to the new timeline proposed, difficulties arose when there was an attempt to insert in the Order, a timeline for the declaration of the results upon completion of the report by the Chief Elections Officer, Keith Lowenfield.
“For all intents and purposes, in principle we seem to be saying that we would conclude the exercise here on the June 13. In principle that is where we are at,” Alexander told reporters, while adding that there are now attempts to insert a date for the declaration of the results into the order, though it does not provide for such.
The order, he emphasised, only provides for a review of the initial 25-day timeline, and nothing else. The push for the new insertion into the order is being done by People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C) aligned commissioners, who have been resolute in their position that the recount is numerical in nature, and as such have been dismissive of the Observation Reports. But Alexander made it clear that the recount is not merely numerical and sufficient time must be given to the Elections Commission to consider the observations that will form part of the Chief Elections Officer’s report upon the completion of the recount of the ballots cast at the March 2 General and Regional Elections. He reminded that upon the completion of the recount, the CEO will compile a report containing the tabulation of the results of the elections and a report on the observations cited during the process.
“We are going to have in addition to 10 tabulations, which have to be brought together into one tabulation, we are going to have 10 observation reports, and those 10 observation reports have got to be discussed, and it takes time,” Alexander made clear.
He said due to the volume of information in the reports, the consideration of them is likely to take some time, and as such the Elections Commission should not be rushed into declaring the results of the elections without thoroughly analysing the observation reports, which are catered for in the Order gazetted on May 4.
“What people are attempting to do, is to get us to write into the Order a conclusion date that would obviously interfere with a thorough and conclusive discussion of what is in the Observation Report, and so that is the problem that we are presently faced with,” Alexander said.
He reasoned that while there are attempts to force the hands of the Elections Commission to declare the results of the elections based ballots recounted, such would not determine the credibility of the elections. “We have collectively made an Order that provides for a credible determination of the results, and the credibility has to do with much of what will be in the observation report, and so we cannot arrive at that credibility without a determination of how we treat what is in the observation report. And what some people are trying to do is to avoid that treatment of what is in the observation report,” the commissioner submitted.
While iterating the importance of considering the observation report, Alexander said that instead of setting a deadline for the declaration of results, the commission should agree to work as quickly as possible to conclude electoral process – warning that the quality of work could be affected if a deadline is imposed upon the commission.
“It is being suggested that in a process where the Chief Elections Officer bring a report, we discuss that report, and only after that discussion he is advised to prepare a report under the Representation of the People Act to bring to us for final sign off, that that entire process, of the first discussion, his presentation and the second intervention, should take three days, in my humble opinion, three days are grossly inadequate if we are to give serious consideration to what is in the observation report,” Alexander told reporters.
According to him, the observation reports have a plethora of issues that ought to be addressed. “We have to deal with issues of the stubs that are found in a particular ballot box not corresponding with the number of ballots – that’s the reality. We have to deal with issues where, significant number of ballots found themselves unstamped with a six digit stamp, now in a sense we took a position on the matter but you have situations where in a box, half of the ballot representing the General Elections are stamped and the other half not stamped,” he pointed out.
The commissioner emphasised that there are fundamental issues that ought to be determined in the consideration of the observation reports and as such, maintained the position that the commission must be given sufficient time to consider them.
But PPP/C Executive Member, Anil Nandlall told reporters that a clear timeline should be set for the declaration of the results by the Elections Commission. “We want them to tell us how much time, it cannot be for the rest of the year, they are not fixing a time, this country is on hold, people’s lives are on hold,” he posited.
Today, the Elections Commission will meet for a third consecutive day to finalise the extension of the recount, and determine whether or not a timeline will be set for the declaration of the results.