President David Granger and Leader of the Opposition, Bharrat Jagdeo will only meet after a declaration of the results of the March 2, General and Regional Elections is made.
On Sunday, Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) Chair, Justice (Ret’d) Claudette Singh reached out to the two leaders. She did so after it was suggested by Commissioner Charles Corbin that the leaders first speak on the meeting’s agenda before the Commissioners deliberate on the same.
According to a statement from the Ministry of the Presidency, President Granger received a call from the the GECOM chair who invited him to a conversation with the Opposition Leader to discuss the way forward.
“The President explained that he had no objection to speaking with Mr. Jagdeo but as far as a proposed declaration is concerned, he recognised that the Commission has a legal obligation as a result of the recent ruling of the Court of Appeal, to proceed with a declaration,” the statement read.
President Granger said that notwithstanding that declaration, the APNU+ AFC coalition maintains that the anomalies and irregularities which have been uncovered during the recount process cannot be accepted and will form the grounds for an election petition.
Reports are that Jagdeo has maintained his position that there will be no talks until after a declaration.
“Commissioner Corbin made a comment that, in the circumstance of us not accepting the recount as the basis for results, that it is useful for the two leaders to speak the way forward since that was the agenda item,” Commissioner, Vincent Alexander told the media earlier on Sunday. “The Chairman acceded to that request and his since spoken to both Mr. Jagdeo and Mr. Granger and we have asked to stay until 2 o’clock after the two of them would have had some conversation.
Meanwhile, Corbin explained that the National Recount was set into motion by an agreement between President Granger and the Opposition Leader and he made the suggestion as it is only fitting that they converse on the matter of the declaration which remains controversial.
He stated: “When we proceed to the recount, the signal motivation, was an agreement between the Leader of the Opposition and the President. Based on the evidence that that has thrown up it is evident, as I presented today, that utilising that information, notwithstanding everything that happened, could cause a lot of ripples in the society, notwithstanding that GECOM has the power to do that. What was proposed was that there be an engagement of the leaders in the same way to make a determination of the way forward.”
Today’s meeting 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.
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.
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 recounted 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 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 Justice 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.