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International, local pressure intensifies on GECOM to verify results before declaration

Last Updated on Friday, 6 March 2020, 13:15 by Denis Chabrol

The Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) is coming under intensified pressure to verify the results of Region Four — Demerara-Mahaica — before a declaration is made, as fears grow that there are plans to swear in the incumbent David Granger as President.

United States Ambassador Sarah-Ann Lynch, United Kingdom High Commissioner Greg Quinn, Canadian High Commissioner Lilian Chatterjee, and the Ambassador of the European Union Fernando Ponz Canto on Wednesday called on GECOM and all relevant stakeholders to complete the tabulation based on Statements of Poll.

“Based on our observation of today’s GECOM proceedings at their Region 4 office, and the fact that the full count was not completed, we question the credibility of the Region 4 results published by GECOM today,” they said in a joint statement.

The European Union (EU) Election Observation Mission said the the Returning Officer declared results before “the legally required tabulation process was completed.” “We therefore urge the Guyana Elections Commission to resume the tabulation of results for Region
4 in compliance with Section 84 of the Representation of the People Act,” the EU mission said.

The Commonwealth Observer Group also noted that the final election results have not yet been completed and verified according to the established procedures and relevant legal and statutory provisions. “We strongly urge the Guyana Elections Commission and all parties involved to ensure the process properly follows the legal steps dictated by the laws of Guyana and is in line with the country’s international commitments,” the Commonwealth said.

The Head of the Carter Center’s Observation Mission, Jason Carter said due to the failure to verify the results of Region Four, the are questionable. “The results that were announced today means that those results lack credibility. We don’t know and no one else can verify that the results that were announced are correct or not,” he said.

Carter said “we saw a lack of credibility, a lack of transparency” at a time when both major parties have claimed victory. “If that’s true, then what they want is to win in a credible transparent way and so we urge GECOM and we urge the political parties to come together and to pay close attention to how these results are going to be verified in a transparent way and thus far we have not seen that transparency,” Carter said.

The next steps to do so will include the Chief Elections Officer declaring the general results and for the seven-member commission to meet to ratify those results before a declaration of results for the 65-seat National Assembly and the presidency is made.

It is almost impossible that the three pro-People’s Progressive Party election commissioners — Sase Gunraj, Robeson Benn and Bibi Shadick — will vote for the certified declaration to be made. That will leave the Chairman, Retired Justice Claudette Singh and the three pro-government election commissioners — Vincent Alexander, Charles Corbin and Desmond Trotman — to vote for the declaration of certified results.

With the High Court on Friday issuing orders compelling GECOM to verify the results for Region Four, it is unclear whether Justice Singh would vote with the three other commissioners to declare certified results and pave the way for Granger to be sworn in for a second straight term.

The first injunction precludes the Region Four Returning Officer from making any disclosure of the Region Four results “until and unless he complies with the statutory procedures set out in Section 84 of the Representation of the People’s Act,” PPP executive member and attorney at law, Anil Nandlall told reporters. “…that procedure is the verification process which was aborted and was never completed. That process is a condition precedent to any declaration. What you are declaring essentially is what was verified and reconciled by all the parties examining their respective statements of poll. That process was never completed so how can you have a declaration without your declaring what you have verified. But you never verified anything or you never completed the verification of anything. So an order was granted failing the declaration until that procedure is complied with.”

The second injunction, Nandlall says, compels the Returning Officer to comply with Section 84 of the Representation of the People’s Act and “to conduct and complete that verification exercise and then make the declaration as the law requires it to be done.”

He said the third injunction restrains the Chief Elections Officer (CEO) and GECOM from making any declarations of the results of the March 2 general elections “unless and until the Returning Officer complies with the statutory code of verification enunciated in section 84.”

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