…Alexander says as he heads into today’s GECOM meeting
By Svetlana Marshall
AHEAD of today’s meeting of the Elections Commission, longstanding GECOM Commissioner, Vincent Alexander, has vowed to make his voice heard, saying that there will be no silence on the push by a faction of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to dishonour the Recount Order, which was birthed from a commitment to determine a “final credible count” of the votes cast at the General and Regional Elections held five months ago.
“I will continue to let my voice be heard and call it as I see it. There will be no void or silence in the face of GECOM’s frolic and attempt to misuse the output of the Order,” Alexander told the Guyana Chronicle on Saturday.
Today’s meeting, which is scheduled to commence at 10:00hrs, comes three days after the Court of Appeal upheld Order 60 and by extension the 33-day National Recount, on the grounds that any challenge to the legality of the process employed by GECOM or allegations of electoral fraud or irregularities must be done in the form of an Elections Petition following the official declaration of the results of the elections.
The Appellate Court had ruled on the Misenga Jones Case approximately three weeks after the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) had handed down a judgment in the Irfaan Ali and Bharrat Jagdeo v Eslyn David and others case. In its ruling on July 8, the CCJ, while ‘endorsing’ the National Recount, ruled that there no order could result in a new electoral regime but most importantly, that then the election of the president and members of the National Assembly must be done based on information supplied by the Returning Officers in accordance with the Representation of the People Act.
“The Presidential candidate on the list for which more votes have been cast than any other list is deemed to be elected as President, and the Chairman of GECOM must so declare. Both the allocation of seats in the National Assembly and the identification of the successful Presidential candidate are determined on the sole basis of votes counted and information furnished by returning officers under the Representation of the People Act,” the CCJ had ruled.
Notably, the procedure for determining valid votes during the national recount varied from the guidelines outlined in the Act, and added to that, there were no Returning Officers during the recount exercise. According to Alexander, the CCJ’s judgment was inconsistent.
“There were internal inconsistencies in the last CCJ ruling and the subsequent cases of stood on and replicated those inconsistencies. There is no basis for the half use of the Order. I maintain that GECOM could have called the elections for what it was and refuse to declare,” Alexander explained.
The National Recount, conducted at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre (ACCC), unearthed massive irregularities and cases of voter impersonation. According to the Chief Elections Officer, Keith Lowenfield there were well over 2,000 irregularities that were unearthed during the recount from missing List of Electors to missing Oaths of Identity and Certificates of Employment. Additionally, there over 4,000 cases of voter impersonation – as a result of this, persons voted on behalf of the dead and Guyanese residing overseas. It was against this background that the Chief Elections Officer had indicated that he could not have determined a final credible count but the Chairman of the Elections Commission, Justice (Ret’d) Claudette Singh, while describing the irregularities and allegations of voter impersonation as grave, said there was little that the commission could do, and as such, she has insisted that an Elections Report be produced based on the Certificates of Recount generated during the National Recount. It is unclear whether the Chief Elections Officer will be submitting his report today, with the Courts having ruled but Alexander is adamant that there be no declaration.
While making a case for non-declaration last month, Alexander had said while Article 162 does not confer the specific power of annulment, it empowers GECOM “to take such action as appear necessary or expedient to ensure impartiality and fairness.” He said the degree of corruption unearthed during the national recount is so grave that it is “impossible” for the commission to declare a result.
“I posited then that only a new election could ensure the enfranchisement of the eligible voters, and the determination of the result based on the value of the individual eligible votes cast. Since then many pundits, home and abroad, have expressed their views on the need for a Declaration; and what should be declared etc. I am therefore, herein, rearticulating my pre, peri and post elections positions in an effort to separate myself from the ‘wannabe knowledgeables’, since my articulation would be facts-based and dismissive of the contentions of many of the pundits,” Alexander said.
In doing so, he pointed to five primary facts – that the Official List of Electors is significantly bloated having a voting population of 660,998 persons when the country’s population is 750,000; the bloated list is as a result of the thousands of Guyanese who died or migrated but were not removed from the National Register of Registrants Database (NRRDB); and the national recount confirmed that unscrupulous people voted in the place dead and persons, who were out of the jurisdiction.
On basis of his initial position that no voter should be disenfranchised and only valid votes should be counted, Alexander said the solution to the challenges currently before the commission is for a non-declaration, and a for a new process to be initiated that reaffirms the enfranchisement of all and negates the impact of fraudulent votes.