During his online public briefing yesterday, PPP/C Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo, stated that the Guyana Election Commission (GECOM) “is the only body that can make the decision and declaration of the results”. That position mirrors what President Granger has repeatedly said since the conclusion of the March 2 elections, when the PPP/C ‘declared’ itself the winner, and a few foreign diplomats and local organisations blindly accepted the PPP/C declaration. Had Jagdeo accepted what Granger had been saying all along, then it is possible that the elections crisis would have ended weeks ago. But, as they say, better late than never. Perhaps Jagdeo will now order the removal of those billboards declaring Irfan Ali the President-elect of Guyana.
A remaining difference of opinion between the two leaders is whether the GECOM declaration should include all votes, or only valid votes. The question seems elementary, yet here we are, months after the elections, having to ask the country’s highest court to decide that simple question. The Guyana Court of Appeal not surprisingly ruled that the word “votes” is intended to mean “valid votes”. Despite that ruling, Jagdeo and the PPP/C continue to pressure the international community to support its call that all votes, including those of people who died before elections day must be counted. It seems that Jagdeo is arguing that the dearly departed have the right to elect their leaders. Senator Marco Rubio, residing in Florida, seems to agree as he and a handful of others called on GECOM to count those dead people votes. In a normal world, ballots cast by dead people are not valid, and cannot be counted. Plain and simple!
Then we have those who seek to use the CARICOM report to justify the argument that all votes, including invalid ones must be used to declare the results. The author of the CARICOM report was careful to note that the election was “reasonably credible”. Everyone knows that an election can be credible or not credible. Just like a woman can be pregnant or not pregnant. She cannot be ‘reasonably pregnant’. The only explanation for the curious choice of words in the CARICOM report is that the author did not want CARICOM to be dragged deeper into Guyana’s internal conflict. The report was therefore written to give both parties a win, and to allow CARICOM to take a non-committal / neutral position. The report was not intended to be used as a basis for the declaration of the results, but as a guide for the Chief Elections Officer as he decides how to tabulate the votes.
The CARICOM report is indeed very instructional. Even though the CARICOM scrutineers observed less than 20 per cent of the boxes, they were able to determine that the integrity of the electoral system was compromised. At that point, they may have applied the ‘cockroach rule’ in deciding that they did not need to observe more boxes. The ‘cockroach rule’ was articulated during the OJ Simpson trial when a forensic scientist noted that “if you find a cockroach in your soup, you do not try to see how many cockroaches there are; you simply conclude that the soup is no good”. The Chief Elections Officer attempted to take that route in presenting his first report that the credibility of the elections could not be ascertained. The GECOM Chairman reportedly rejected that report. The Judicial branch was then called upon to intervene, and now that the Court of Appeal ruling instructed that only valid votes be counted, Keith Lowenfield must comply. To do otherwise would place him in contempt.
Those valid votes show that David Granger has won reelection. The Irfan Ali victory billboards must therefore be taken down! Jagdeo and the PPP/C have the option to file an election petition if they disagree with Lowenfield’s report – but they should first take down those billboards and accept that their propaganda priming was unsuccessful.