APNU+AFC accused of slowing down tabulation of recounted votes
New parties which contested the March 2 elections, along with the People’s Progressive Party (PPP), have accused APNU+AFC of slowing down the tabulation of the votes which are being recounted by insisting on additional materials to be transmitted through the live audio/video stream.
At the end of Day Four of the recount process, a total 156 ballot boxes were recounted. There are 2, 339 boxes which must be counted.
The parties – Liberty and Justice Party, The New Movement, A New And United Guyana, Change Guyana, the United Republican Party and The Citizenship Initiative – have written to Justice (rt’d) Claudette Singh, the Chair of GECOM, the country’s elections body, asking for a meeting to address their issues.
The legal order which provides for the recount stipulates that the Statements of Recount (SORs), which are produced after every ballot box is counted, should be displayed when the different statements are being added up during what is called the tabulation process.
Once a box is completed, whatever issues arise are recorded on an Observation Report, but the Order does not provide for that report to be displayed or read.
But the parties say APNU+AFC have insisted on the Observation Report being displayed and then read out and that significantly drags out the process.
APNU+AFC nominated Commissioner Vincent Alexander said GECOM must consider provisions for the blind and the deaf, and so the provision for reading out the Observation Report and the Recount caters for the blind and the Sign Language is being considered for the deaf.
Alexander told reporters Saturday night that Sign Language is done simultaneously, so it wouldn’t add any extra time while the votes tallied are being read out, and from his estimation reading the Statements doesn’t take much time.
He said those who have clamoured for the transparency of the process must understand that a transparent process needs to be equitable for all segments of the population.
Yolanda Ward, Public Relations Officer of GECOM, said the technical staff have found that reading out the Observation Report takes faster than having it displayed because when it is displayed, sometimes what is written is not easily discernible and so stakeholders observing the process may take a while to figure out what is on the report.
She said one of the objectives of the recount exercise is to establish the credibility of the elections and therefore that Observation Report will say a lot about the process and so it is important that persons be able to understand it.
Lenox Shuman, leader of the Liberty and Justice Party pointed to another insistence by APNU+AFC that delays the tabulation.
He pointed out that the Order Gazetted for the Recount made provision for an Observation Report to be produced of the recount process and for it to be handed to every party after each box is recounted.
He said APNU+AFC subsequently wanted the Observation Report to be displayed.
“We objected because it would stall the process,” he stated in a Facebook post.
“APNU got the decision in their favour and thus it was being displayed for 10 seconds.
“APNU said it was not being displayed long enough.
“We objected on the grounds that is impedes the process of Tabulation.
“The time moved from 10 seconds to 15 seconds. We objected on consistent grounds.
“APNU wanted more time and it was moved to 20 seconds. We objected as it was a moving goalpost, stalling the process and not contained in the order,” Shuman stated.
Regarding this measure to display the Observation Report and to read out the Statements of Recount, Shuman said the only party that is undertaking to stall the Tabulation process is the APNU.
“They are claiming that it is in the interest of transparency, yet the ONLY Party that objected to ‘every’ transparent measure we recommended was APNU,” Shuman stated.
Sase Gunraj, another Commissioner of GECOM, charged that the Observation Reports are being used as a propaganda tool because it seeks to include information which cannot be challenged; this information he said includes claims of dead persons voting and of persons who were not in the country voting.
He said there is no mechanism for those claims to be questioned, such as, if someone who it is claimed is dead is actually alive, there is no provision for him to present himself.
Gunraj argued that while he does not have a problem with provisions to cater for the differently-abled, he is concerned that matters not catered for in the order are being included as the process moves along.
“I don’t know what they will come up with tomorrow, I don’t know when the goalposts will stop moving,” Gunraj stated.
Irfaan Ali, the presidential candidate of the PPP, said the process needs to be completed in a timely manner.