by Zena Henry and Denis Chabrol
The incumbent People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) and A Partnership for National Unity+ Alliance For Change coalition (APNU+ AFC) were Thursday on a collision course over the need for a total recount of all votes cast in the Monday, May 11 general and regional elections.
Former President Bharrat Jagdeo said his PPPC would be willing to accept the results and concede defeat if a recount proves that it has lost fairly. “At the end of the day, whoever wins these elections will have to live with the results but the PPP is not going to just roll over because APNU is threatening violence if the election is not declared in their favour because it means that this country will not have had a change in government because of free and fair elections because of fear of the threat of violence,” he told a news conference.
Preliminary results show that the coalition attained 206,817 votes while the Peoples Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C) secured 201,457 votes. A total of 410, 391 votes were cast in these elections
Arguing that there appeared to have been collusion between APNU+AFC and persons in the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to have fake Statements of Poll submitted with results that favoured the opposition, Jagdeo vowed that his party would not allow itself to be cheated out of office. “It means there has been a systematic plot to change results in GECOM itself and to tabulate those results in favour of APNU,” he said
Asked specifically whether the PPPC would do everything to remain in power until the issue is resolved, Jagdeo bluntly refused to answer the question in the manner it was framed. “I have absolutely no comment on that,” but he opted to say that “we will pursue all of the remedies that are available to us at this point in time to ensure that we are not cheated.”
On the issue of whether the PPPC would move to the Court to block the official declaration of the results which would include the identification of a winner, he said that was premature.
Jagdeo, who recently headed a Commonwealth Elections Observer Mission to Sri Lanka, contended that the integrity and credibility of international observers were at stake if they merely blessed the elections based on polling day. “Ultimately, they have to understand if they certify an election that is not free and fair and that the results were determined by fraud- because whether we get the remedy now or in the post-election period through a petition- and we provide our case, the credibility of the international community is at risk here too,” he said.
To bolster his party’s case, he presented to the media a comparison of Statements of Poll between those in the PPPC’s possession and others by GECOM showing a total discrepancy of 340 for seven boxes. He suggested that there could be a larger number of bogus Statements of Poll in Georgetown and from Buxton to Mahaica, East Coast Demerara.
Earlier Thursday President Donald Ramotar first stated that his party was demanding total recount of the more than 400,000 votes cast at the 2,229 polling stations countrywide. “We should have a total recount of votes; it won’t take a long time.” He opined that a total manual recount would not take more than eight hours. “To recount the whole election process to give this election credibility and integrity we think that it is essential to have a total recount of the votes,” he said.
Jagdeo wants GECOM to probe how the bogus Statements of Poll entered GECOM and how many were used to tabulate the results. “That question has to be answered and not brushed under the carpet,” he said. “This calls for a full-fledged investigation because GECOM is using tons of fake Statements of Poll,” he said.
GECOM’s Chief Elections Officer, Keith Lowenfield earlier Thursday said he uncovered about 35 fake Statements of Poll that had accounted for 310 votes. He said those were not included in the preliminary results that were announced Thursday.
APNU+AFC leader , David Granger labeled the PPPC’s desire for a recount as “unwarranted,” saying that it could create difficulty in the existing political progress.
Taking time out from the celebration on going at the party’s Crown Street, Queenstown-based campaign headquarters, Granger told Demerara Waves that the PPP is aware that it has lost the election and should concede.
Responding to charges of fake votes and unusually high voter turnout in some areas, Granger accused the PPPC of attempting to induce unreasonable delays on the declaration of the elections.
He said the delay caused great distress to the entire country, business has slowed down, school attendance shrunk and people were living on the edge with uncertainty. He declared that it is very unfair for people living in this Western Hemisphere to be living under those conditions. “The PPP is very well aware that it has lost the election and they should concede so GECOM can make a declaration so we can get on with the business of rebuilding Guyana.”
Granger said the request for a total recount of votes is unwarranted since they (PPP) have not cited any grounds for a recount, and it is likely to create a dangerous precedent, “In that, persons of other parties can simply demand a recount. If you don’t need grounds, if you didn’ t need reason, then anybody can do it.”
He suggested that it could likely take weeks before the results of that recount are announced.
The APNU Chairman said that once the Elections are conducted, the Statement of Polls (SOPs) are calculated at the end of the day and signed off, “I can’t imagine what else could be required. Most of the polling stations are fewer than 400 persons so this is one of the simplest electoral systems we ever had,” the Leader opined.