Elections were not a sham, recount figures cannot be set aside – Ralph Gonsalves

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By Ravin Singh

The incoming Chairman of the CARICOM Ralph Gonsalves has stood by reports that Guyana’s March 2 elections were properly conducted and figures from the national vote recount should be used to declare the winner.

The national recount, which ended on Monday, shows a victory for the opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) by more than 15,000 votes.

With the recount having been supervised by a CARICOM high-level team, Gonsalves contended that the regional bloc “will not stand by idly and watch the recount… results be set aside.”

“Nobody said it was a sham elections or that irregularities were as such so as to undermine the efficacy of the poll,” said the St Vincent and Grenadines Prime Minister on a radio programme on his island Wednesday.

He said that CARICOM expected that the recount figures would be honoured and that the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) will accordingly and declare the winner.

“…you have to declare the winner in accordance with the recount,” he stressed.

The Organisation of American States (OAS) – one of the international Elections Observer Missions (EOM) – along with other local observer groups have said that the recount results are credible and should be used to declare the winner.

In justifying his position, Gonsalves outlined three separate but connected elements to an election: events and activities prior to Election Day; Election Day activities and the counting of the ballots.

He explained that the first element involves the process of registration and putting the machinery in place for free and fair elections, while the second involves Election Day activities such as voting.

“There have been no complaints about those two processes,” he stated.

However, he hinted at the irregularities in the counting of the votes which triggered a national recount.

Nine of the country’s 10 Administrative Regions had been tabulated credibly. But in District 4, the Returning Officer Clairmont Mingo deviated from the legally prescribed mode of tabulation and introduced a spreadsheet with inflated and deflated numbers thereby manipulating the results.

The fraudulent figures on Mingo’s spreadsheet handed a victory to the APNU+AFC and several legal battles ensued, culminating in a national recount.

“That’s why as in the statement that Mia Mottley made as Chair of CARICOM, she said that each vote must be counted. Each vote has to be counted. Well, this is where you had the basis for the recount. And the reason why it is an election and not a selection, is because you have to count the votes and you have to count them honestly,” PM Gonsalves said.

That CARICOM high-level team which scrutinised the recount comprised: Senior Lecturer in the Department of Government at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Ms Cynthia Barrow-Giles; Commissioner of the Antigua and Barbuda Electoral Commission, Mr John Jarvis; and SVG Deputy Supervisor of Elections, Mr Sylvester King.

As Prime Minister of St Vincent, Gonsalves said his country “stands firmly for democracy and reflecting the will of the people…”

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