…as last-minute talks with leaders failed to hold-up declaration
PRIOR to a declaration by the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), then President, David Granger, accepted that a declaration must be made in keeping with the decision of the Court with regards to the use of the National Recount data but vowed that his party would fire back by way of an Elections Petition.
His remarks came by way of a statement through the Ministry of the Presidency (MOTP) on Sunday. It followed phone call interaction between Granger and former Leader of the Opposition, Bharrat Jagdeo. The two leaders had spoken after GECOM Chair, Justice (Ret’d) Claudette Singh reached out to them suggesting that they engage in discussions on the matter of the declaration of the results due to the controversy surrounding it. She did so after it was recommended by Government-nominated Commissioner Charles Corbin that the leaders first speak on the meeting’s agenda before the Commissioners deliberate on the same. Outside the Commission’s High and Cowan Streets office while the engagement of the two leaders was expected, Corbin explained that the National Recount was set into motion by an agreement between Granger and Jagdeo and it was only fitting that they converse on the matter of the declaration which remains controversial.
“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 on the way forward since that was the agenda item,” Commissioner, Vincent Alexander told the media. He added: “The Chairman acceded to that request and has since spoken to both Mr. Jagdeo and Mr. Granger and we have been asked to stay until 2 o’clock after the two of them would have had some conversation.”
TALKS ONLY AFTERWARDS
However, long before 14:00 hours, speaking to the Newsroom, Jagdeo confirmed that he spoke with Granger about the suggestion by the Chair but they both agreed that they “do not support it”. “He [Mr Granger] called me and we spoke and he said to me there was a proposal for an interlocutor, a broker and he does not support that and I do not support it too. So, I reiterated my position to him and he said he will communicate back to me,” he said. He also told the Newsroom that the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) is prepared to discuss, in the future, a governance model which was included in its manifesto.
Meanwhile, a statement subsequently from the MOTP stated: “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 had a legal obligation as a result of the recent ruling of the Court of Appeal, to proceed with a declaration. 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.”
NOT IN SUPPORT
After the meeting reconvened at 14:00hours, only about 20 minutes later, GECOM’s Public Relations Officer (PRO), Yolanda Ward announced that the Chief Elections Officer (CEO), Keith Lowenfield, had submitted his Elections Report in keeping with the Recount data.
However, in the report, he made it clear: “In accordance with Article 177 (2)(b), it is worth restating that Order 60 of 2020 revealed that the numerical count of the ballots cast for each list of candidates does not reflect the true will of the electors. The evidence provided with respect to voter impersonation has been verified by the relevant authorities by way of immigration records and deceased reports.”
In earlier reports rejected by the GECOM Chair, the CEO had noted that the National Recount uncovered massive irregularities and cases of voter impersonation. A previous report of his stated that 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.
It coincided with the position of the APNU+AFC which worked to uncover these cases. However, following a string of court battles on matters related to the elections and National Recount, on July 30, Guyana’s Court of Appeal upheld Order No.60. By extension, the Court upheld 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.
As a result, and in respect of the directive to provide the said report by the GECOM Chair, he presented the Election Report which showed 33 seats for the PPP/C; 31 seats for the APNU+AFC and 1 seat for the joiner parties. When the matter of the declaration based on the recount data was put to a vote, the three Government-nominated Commissioners made known their non-support of a declaration on the said basis by leaving the meeting.
Around 14:30 hours they met with the media outside the Commission’s office with a written statement signed by Commissioners Vincent Alexander, Charles Corbin and Desmond Trotman. They stated that since the passing of the no-confidence motion against the government in 2018 they have objected to the Court’s decision that the Elections Commission cannot compile a new Registrar of Registrants; the quashing of the house-to-house registration exercise; the misuse of Order No.60 and the use of corrupted figures to declare a result.
“We feel that every vote should be counted and no invalid vote should be allowed to impact the results. Any other approach will lead to another political saga in our country’s short but turbulent political History. We are therefore distancing ourselves from any declaration other than a non-declaration and fresh elections,” they stated. The APNU+AFC has vowed that they will challenge the election result by way of an election petition as it cannot endorse a “flawed report”. However, the rest of the day was followed quickly with signing of the declaration of the results by the GECOM Chair; a letter to the Chancellor of the Judiciary, Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards requesting that she facilitate the swearing-in of President-elect, Irfaan Ali and the subsequent swearing-in of Ali as President of Guyana at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre (ACCC) by 16:30 hours.