GECOM Chair to give decisions on recount Friday

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The head of the country’s elections body, Justice (rt’d) Claudette Singh, has been left to make the crucial decisions surrounding a national recount of votes cast on March 02; she will communicate her decision by email to the six Commissioners of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) on Friday.

The main issues are how many workstations would be used for the recount and how long it should take to count a single ballot box. There are 2, 339 boxes which need to be counted. There was no vote when Justice Singh and the six commissioners of GECOM met on Thursday. The meeting ended just after 12 noon.

Sase Gunraj, Commissioner for the PPP, has suggested 60 minutes to count one box; APNU+AFC Commissioner Vincent Alexander has suggested 90 minutes. The Chief Elections Officer, Keith Lowenfield, has suggested 120 minutes.

Commissioner Gunraj has suggested there be 20 workstations. Alexander has suggested eight workstations. Lowenfield has suggested five workstations.

In making her decision, Justice Singh also has to take into consideration proposals she has received from the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), which is the team GECOM has decided on to be the main observer of the process. It has to be decided if GECOM will stream the recount to the CARICOM High-Level team in the countries where they are.

Justice Singh also must take into account measures in place to guard against the spread of COVID-19.

Commonwealth Senior Technical Adviser Dr. Afari Gyan, a Ghanaian academic, political scientist and election administrator, is still in Guyana and he is expected to help guide Justice Singh in making her decisions.

Guyana went to the polls on March 2, 2020.

The tabulation of votes in nine of the ten electoral districts went smoothly and results in those districts were announced. The PPP had won six of those districts and was ahead by 52,000 votes.

The entire process was thrown into disarray when the Returning Officer for District Four abandoned the legal process of tabulating the votes from Statements of Poll in his region.

A Statement of Poll, showing how many votes were made for each party, is prepared at every polling station. Those Statements are then used to add up all the votes cast in the District.

What was done in District Four is that only half of the Statements were used in the tabulation. A spreadsheet, purporting to have been prepared using the Statements, was then used to call out numbers.

Political parties objected vociferously; local and international observers deemed the process fraudulent. But the Returning Officer made a declaration anyhow, putting the APNU+AFC in the lead and on course to take the seat of Government.

The High Court later ruled that that declaration breached the country’s electoral laws and ordered the Returning Officer to follow the law – to use the Statements of Poll and display it so party agents and observers could see.

But parties and observers say that the Returning Officer did not obey the order of the Court and they also deemed the second declaration he made as fraudulent.

The international community adopted a similar view and said that if a government were to be sworn in on the basis of those results, the government would be illegitimate.

The Chair then committed to a recount and gave that undertaking to the Court. President David Granger and the Opposition Leader along with the CARICOM Secretariat then agreed that a CARICOM team would supervise the process.

The Court of Appeal then ruled GECOM alone can supervise the process. GECOM has said it still wants CARICOM to pay a pivotal role in the recount.

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