By Ron Cheong
WITH the CoI into the 2020 elections announced, the there will be innumerable red herrings thrown around to obfuscate what was an outright attempt to steal the election. The attempt involved multi-faceted planning and implementation, which has not yet received much public attention. It’s downfall was in the execution phase, when everything came crashing down from ineptitude followed by desperation – caused by robust local and international monitoring that stymied and exposed the scheme on live video feed. But in spite of the very public outing, the country still had to endure another five months of denying, deception and stonewalling which continues to be promulgated to this date by individuals who know better.
There is a lot of ground to cover. How far and deep the Commission goes depends on its Terms of Reference. Indeed, the groundwork for the 2020 rigging started being laid much earlier. In fact, the preparations pre-dated the 2018 Local Government Elections when 14 LGAs were Gerrymandered, resulting in a steal of 29 local government seats.
In that dry run, LGA’s boundaries were re-drawn in Pack, Crack & Pack and Hatch-a-Seat operations. There were a number of cases where larger constituencies were amalgamated while smaller constituencies were split in operations that had nothing to do with balancing the sizes of the LGAs.
An easy-to-understand example, which provides some insight is the Gerrymandering of Evergreen-Paradise. Here, PPP/C districts two and three with 441 voters were amalgamated into a single constituency, as were PPP/C districts eight and nine with 605 voters. Whereas APNU districts six and seven with only 265 voters were split into three separate constituencies
The above was rammed through in the dark of night, so to speak. Following this and in the lead- up to the 2020 General Elections, a number of other telltale signs began to show. GECOM’s reporting to the public and its transparency started becoming more and more opaque. Content and historical information provided for previous elections began to disappear from their website. And the gazetting of polling station locations was not seen. All of this of course was pre-staged by the abandonment of the Carter Formula.
WHY REGION FOUR VERIFICATION WAS ABRUPTLY SABOTAGED
But in spite of the schemes that were being deployed, even as the first results began rolling in, things were not looking well for APNU+AFC. This became clearer when verified and tabulated results in from the nine other regions showed the PPP/C’s lead over APNU+AFC was an insurmountable lead of 51,438 votes.
The AFC vote, which helped bring APNU to power by a thin margin in 2015, had cratered throughout the country, and was contributing very little in 2020. This is reflected in Region Six where APNU+AFC’s share declined 4.1 per cent with small parties taking up 0.7 per cent. And in Region Seven, the APNU+AFC’s share declined 8.9 per cent with the smaller parties clawing 8.3 per cent. Even in Region 10, the most unassailable APNU stronghold, their share of the verified vote was down 0.8 per cent. Their slip in popular support was widespread across regions.
And their own internal analysis would have told them, that at best, the most they could hope for in Region Four was to make up maybe 36,000 votes (about four seats) of the 51,000 vote deficit (about six seats) from the other regions combined. With the Region Four count well underway, the smaller schemes wouldn’t be enough. Something bigger had to be done. There was literally no time to spare. The rigour that the robust local and international observation brought had forced some schemes to be abandoned or scaled back. Others began to cave in on themselves and further deteriorated into a cascade of failures.
In a desperate attempt to curtail the verification and seize the ballots, the riggers tried to intimidate the international observers into leaving the verification site — and they did all this in the view of TV cameras. In addition, out came the bedsheet. Ultimately, Mingo declared two different results on March 5th and March 13th, and when this crumpled, Lowenfield declared three different results on June 13th, June 23rd and July 11th. In one of Lowenfield’s infamous declarations, he attempted to disenfranchise over 100,000 electors.
When eventually the tortured verification of Region Four was finally completed, the smaller parties had taken a 1.7 per cent bite out of APNU and the PPP/C made inroads of 2.1 per cent.
Overall, the PPP/C won 33 seats, the APNU 31 and the Joinders — one. These are the indisputable facts.
The attempt to rig the elections failed. The whole world witnessed the attempt, including observers from the Commonwealth and CARICOM – a team David Granger himself called the most legitimate interlocutor in the Guyana situation. In spite of the universal condemnation of this assault on the country’s democracy, there are those who shamelessly continue their attempt to mislead people with baseless aspersions and outright lies. The announcement of the CoI calls their bluff.
The SoPs farce attempts to divert from the embarrassment that in Georgetown itself, the same dissatisfaction in APNU+AFC reflected in the vote in the rest of the country also manifested in the capital. The ballots have been counted and recounted. We know what the numbers are.
The country now awaits the setting of the Terms of Reference and the commencement of the inquiry itself. For all those who placed themselves at risk to defend the country’s democracy, this is a welcomed development. Even for the naysayers, this is an opportunity to clear the air. It is an opportunity for clear-thinking members of the opposition to avail themselves and to make a contribution. The country as a whole will benefit and GECOM processes should emerge strengthened through the benefit of the collective knowledge and experience of the CoI panel. There should also be learnings from what went wrong at GECOM and perhaps elsewhere.
And what of the foot soldiers presently implicated in the rigging. Will this be a case of the lords throwing their dealers under the bus? This must surely be on their minds as they weigh their options.