Coalition in clumsy defence of claims that persons either dead or overseas voted
The Coalition APNU+AFC maintains it won the March 02 elections but refuses to produce the evidence to back up its claim. One week into a recount of the votes, it is presenting a mounting list of persons it said are marked as having voted but were either dead or not in the country on elections day.
Even with these claims, it maintains the elections were free, fair and credible and that it won, but again, it is holding tight the documents which could prove its victory.
It’s like winning the lottery but refusing to hand in your ticket with the winning numbers to collect the prize, one person commented under a Stabroek News story.
It’s an analogy that was shared on social media by Timothy Jonas, a rising political star since the country’s elections process was derailed on March 6 when Clairmont Mingo, the chief for District Four, breached the country’s electoral laws and made a declaration of votes for parties in the district that show the Coalition winning the elections.
On Tuesday, the Coalition made one of the clumsiest defences of its claim of victory thus far, with Leonard Craig, a senior executive, saying the foundation of its arguments about who was dead or who was not in the country on March 02 is rooted in “local knowledge,” that is, persons in the communities who would know who is dead or who was not in the country on elections day.
By that explanation, he dodged any suggestions that the Coalition parties are abusing their authority – as they are still in government – to secure private information about citizens, such as their travel information.
But just before, he had said: “if you want immigration records then it will be produced.”
But realising that his statement may get him in trouble about how he or his agents accessed that information, he said the migration information came from “research that we have done.”
Who did the research? “We have agents in every village and in every town in Guyana.”
Grilled on why this “local knowledge” did not come to light before the recount started, he said agents in the community may have reported on polling day someone with a blue shirt voting and then coming back with a pink shirt to vote, but that it is only after the elections that “every single party” sits down and review the entire elections and then try to “gather evidence.”
He said the details of who was in and out of the country could not be made available before the elections because perhaps some people left the country the very night before the elections.
Before the elections, all parties had the opportunity to raise objections so the names of deceased persons would be struck off the national register of voters and those in the villages, that “local knowledge,” would have been key in that process.
In addition, the High Court had ruled that being resident in Guyana was not a requirement for persons to vote once their name is on the Voters’ List. Several Guyanese who live overseas are known to have returned to Guyana to vote in the March 02 elections. So it is claimed persons had migrated, it has to be proven that they did not come back to vote.
In all of the claims, the Coalition is not releasing any evidence.
“We have not specifically discussed releasing that (the evidence) to the public,” Crag said.
“Because people are claiming – and I got that from some of the smaller parties – they are claiming that these are people’s private information,” Craig said when asked for evidence of dead people and migrants voting.
“…because immigration records would include your full name, your address, your date of departure, your time, your flight number, even your destination. And we can’t just go and release that to the public. So we gave it directly to the CEO or [his] Secretariat,” Craig stated.
But whatever evidence the Coalition gathered, it did not evidently pass on this to its leader, the caretaker President David Granger, who up to a week ago again proclaimed that the elections were free, fair and credible.
Craig said those words were a “general” view the Coalition has of the elections, but that the recount process is an opportunity to “test” that that is so.
During the recount exercise, there is an opportunity for parties to make claims about any anomalies they may notice. They have taken that to mean they can examine the list of persons who were eligible to vote at every particular polling station.
Once a person presents their names to vote, their names are marked off.
So wild are the Coalition’s claims that even persons whose names are NOT marked off – meaning persons who did not show up to vote – it is saying were either dead or not in the country. Those claims would obviously have no bearing on the elections results, but those claims are being made anyhow, with parties saying all that is doing is using up valuable time to count the votes.
And as the days go by, the list keeps growing.
For example, after moving to a couple of claims that persons had migrated and so could not vote, the number went up to as much as 38 for a single Polling Station – The Red Ground Polling Station in District Four.
The name of every voter carried a serial number. APNU+AFC claims persons with these serial numbers did not vote: 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 10, 23, 39, 49, 45, 46, 41, 51, 57, 79, 88, 92, 93, 95, 106, 121, 122, 132, 141, 142, 146, 158, 162, 165, 166, 202, 203, 207, 205, 336, 247 and 273.
To many, it seemed like just pulling numbers out of a hat.
The PPP objected, contending that the very APNU+AFC, had persons in the polling station, likely persons from the area, again, that local knowledge, and would have known who was in the country or not and could have objected that very day in the polling station but instead, those objections were not made, and the very agents signed off on the process once the votes were counted.
In any case, most of those serial numbers it called out were of persons who did not show up to vote – so it makes no difference at all.
Only seven of the names were marked off as having voted. And if APNU+AFC claims there were not in the country, again, it has presented no evidence. And if indeed seven persons voted but were not in the country, how did that happen? It seems impossible, at least, it would have had to be a grand scheme of persons impersonating others.
At every polling station, APNU+AFC, as well as the GECOM staff and other party agents, would have had access to a Folio, which has photographs of every person registered to vote and other personal information about them. The Agents would have known if someone was trying to impersonate someone else to vote.
Now on that question, Craig now throws his agents under the bus for missing all those ghost votes.
“…maybe be not all of them understood the training the same way and could have made mistakes.”
Further, The Citizenship Initiative contended that calling out the serial numbers identifies the elector. Also, it contended that APNU+AFC had agents at Red Ground Pavillion and made no objections to any voting.
Given all the time it takes to go through all the documents – the Folios, the electoral list and so on, instead of just counting the ballots of the votes cast – is taking up a lot of time.
At the end of week one, just 10% of the 2,339 ballot boxes were counted.
In the original process, once the votes from every polling station are counted, a Statement of Poll (SOP) is prepared, showing the number of votes cast for each party. All the SOPs for a particular district then go to a central location and are tallied up, so the overall winner of the district would be known.
It is those SOPs that have the number show the winner of the elections. At least the two big parties – the PPP and the AFC+AFC Coalition – have copies of all the SOPs, as these are handed out at the polling station to party agents.
The PPP has claimed it won the elections by over 15,000 votes and has published the copies of the SOPs it has to prove its case.
The Coalition, which in previous elections vigorously proclaimed that the SOPs are what proves the winner, does not want to show the copies of its SOPs to claim its victory.
“All parties have Statement of Polls, and our SOPs suggest that we have won. [But] we have not made that decision [to release those SOPs],” Craig told reporters.
It is the copies of the SOPs which GECOM has that are legal, Craig argued, and not the copies the parties have.
So why not just release yours? That’s the question Craig was asked. You don’t need permission to release yours, he was told by reporters.
He agreed that it was logical that if the party is claiming a victory it should release its SOPs, but the logical thing, by his indication, would not be done by the Coalition.
The District Four Returning Officer arrived at figures which all parties – except the APNU+AFC – contend were false and inflated to hand the Coalition a victory.
This triggered several legal battles which sent the process to a national recount, which is now ongoing.
If its claims are proven to be true in this recount exercise, Craig said the Coalition would have a bigger victory.
But how many votes does it claim it secured to put back Granger and APNU+AFC in office? Craig didn’t have an answer.