Granger says will live by elections declaration but backs Lowenfield’s false report
President David Granger on Monday night said he was prepared to “live by” the elections results when it is declared by the Chair of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) and though he continued his mantra of not interfering in the work of GECOM he said the Commission is “bound” by the report it is given by Chief Elections Officer Keith Lowenfield.
The report submitted by Lowenfield last Tuesday showed that he failed to obey the instructions of the GECOM Chair, Justice (rt’d) Claudette Singh, and had dumped 115,000 votes to give Granger’s APNU+AFC Coalition a victory.
But the results of a national vote recount showed that the Opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) won the elections and Dr Irfaan Ali should be sworn in as President.
Granger, speaking on a radio programme with his supporter Mark Benschop, said that Lowenfield was obligated to include in his report the anomalies and irregularities which arose during the recount and GECOM was bound to consider them.
Granger’s Coalition agents, during the recount, made wild speculations that the names of the dead and migrated were marked off as having voting but they provided no evidence.
A CARICOM high-level team which scrutinised the recount described the actions of Granger’s Coalition agents as a fishing expedition.
While Granger pointed to the team’s recommendations that irregularities such as missing documents from some ballot boxes be investigated, he ignored the team’s conclusion regarding the winner of the elections.
The CARICOM team stated in their report: “We are…of the unshakeable belief that the people of Guyana expressed their will at the ballot box and as a result, the 3 person CARICOM Observer Group concludes that the recount results are completely acceptable.”
The valid and certified results of the recount show the PPP beat APNU+AFC by 15, 416 votes.
Granger accused the PPP of “meticulously and methodically tampering” with the electoral process to secure a win and urged that the entire CARICOM report be read as he criticized those who are looking at just the “numbers.”
A reading of the report shows that the CARICOM high-level team found no proof of electoral fraud.
The team said that APNU+AFC peddled those allegations so much so as to make them seem factual but they had “absolutely no evidence to substantiate the allegations.”
“This (the allegations) invariably and unfortunately led to a false narrative in the public domain that the elections were not credible and that massive electoral fraud occurred on pol day,” the CARICOM Team stated.
“But perhaps this was precisely the political objective,” the Team concluded.
Despite reading the conclusion of the CARICOM team, the President still said the Chief Elections Officer was “quite in order” to include those allegations again in his report and that GECOM was bound to consider them.
However, it is the Chief Elections Officer who is bound by GECOM as he is subject to their control. This is according to the Elections Law (Amendment) Act of 2000.
That law states that: “The Chief Election Officer and the Commissioner of Registration shall notwithstanding anything in any written law be subject to the direction and control of the Commission.”
Granger said the Chief Elections Officer is the authority and “there is no authority to prepare such a report.”
He said if the observation shows corruption, Lowenfield was obligated to make such a report.
When Lowenfield did make his report, it was not accepted by the Chair of the Elections Commission, Justice Singh. She said that the allegations could not be investigated and there was no way the Commission could accept Lowenfield’s allegations and use them, recognising that all the allegations came from Granger’s APNU+AFC.
“If GECOM is to embark on this credibility exercise what basis should be used to determine the issues of validity and credibility? The letters from one party? The opinion of the CEO? Can GECOM just use the CEO’s opinion without giving interested parties an opportunity to be heard? Is GECOM to hold court and take evidence?” Justice Singh had asked in her written submission to the Court of Appeal.
Lowenfiedl was told to prepare with the results of the elections based on figures from the recount but he did not comply.
In response to Stabroek News’ editorial on Friday, Lowenfield sought to suggest that he was not guilty of insubordination by defying orders handed to him by the Chair of GECOM.
The recount showed the PPP secured 233,336 votes as against 217,920 for APNU+AFC.
However, Lowenfield submitted a report which showed the APNU+AFC winning the polls with 171,825 and dropped the PPP’s figure to 166,343.
Lowenfield did not provide an explanation for dumping the more than 115,000 validly certified votes, but instead informed the Chair via a letter on June 23 that he ascertained the total number of valid voted cast on March 2.
Three days later, Stabroek News wrote in its editorial that Lowenfield’s defiance after being given clear instructions from the Chair, is to be seen as an “act of insubordination”.
But the CEO rejected this claim on the basis that he acted in accordance with the Constitution.
He further went on to incorrectly state that while the Commission makes certain policy decisions and provides “guidance” to the CEO, he has his duties as a “Constitutional Officer”.
However, the position of the CEO is not a Constitutional one, but rather a statutory one, subject to the “direction and control” of the Commission in keeping with the Elections Law (Amendment) Act of 2000.
Lowenfield’s attempt to hand the APNU+AFC a victory follows two earlier attempts by Returning Officer of Region four, Clairmont Mingo, to give the coalition a victory through fraudulent means.
These attempts at electoral fraud have been strongly condemned by the regional and international community. Even local stakeholders such as the Georgetown Chambers of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) have condemned Lowenfield’s actions, describing it as “treasonous”.
A few days prior, Chair of CARICOM, Prime Minister of Barbados Mia Mottley also condemned the actions of Lowenfield and called for a declaration to be made based on the numbers from the recount.
Granger in his Monday night interview said he resented those who have spoken about sanctions and penalties and said his Coalition “deserved” a chance to win continue its work.
Granger’s Government was toppled in a No Confidence motion just three and a half years after it came to power and through a dragged out process his party initiated, Granger called elections one year after they were constitutionally due but he continues to insist he has always abided by the constitution.
Those elections were finally held on March 02 and though it is clear Granger has lost power, as confirmed by the original vote count and then a recount, he has not yet conceded defeat and Monday night said everyone should await a deceleration by the chair of GECOM.