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Start date for national vote recount “likely” today

GECOM Commissioners and other officials inspect the Arthur Chung Conference Centre where the national vote recount is expected to be conducted.

The Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) on Wednesday afternoon indicated that a date for the start for the national recount of votes cast in March’s general elections is likely to be decided soon and that the exercise could be finished by April 30, 2020.

These indications came from GECOM Chairman, Retired Justice Claudette Singh and pro-coalition Elections Commissioner, Vincent Alexander shortly after the seven commissioners, Chief Elections Officer Keith Lowenfield, Deputy Chief Elections Officer Roxanne Myers and other officials visited the Arthur Chung Conference Centre at Liliendaal, East Coast Demerara, where the recount would be conducted.

“A decision seems to be likely today,” when GECOM would decide on a recount date. He added that the time it would take for recounting the ballots would depend on available space and manpower. He noted that the Centre was “previously deemed fit” for the now aborted recount that should have been held in March but the “conditions” such as the prevalence of the COVID-19 have now surfaced.

With Guyana’s Constitution stating that Parliament must convene within four months after its dissolution, the GECOM Chairman said once the recount starts the April 30, 2020 deadline would be met. “Of course it would. Once it starts, it would be finished,” she said, adding that she did not expect a constitutional logjam if the recount is not completed by April 30. “I do not envisage that at all,” she said.

Singh said once GECOM begins the recount, those declarations would not be material anymore. “When we would have gone into the recount stage, we will no longer come back to those declarations.”

Former House Speaker, Senior Counsel Ralph Ramkarran has said in his Conversation Tree column that the Chief Elections Officer “would be aware of article 69(1) of the Constitution which provides that Parliament must meet within four months after its dissolution. It is not known whether this fact was within his contemplation when he worked up his 156-day plan.”

The People’s Progressive Party (PPP)-aligned Elections Commissioners have proposed that the recount could be done in 10 days with 20 workstations instead of Lowenfield’s proposed three workstations.

Singh confirmed that the site visit to the Arthur Chung Conference Centre was aimed at determining how many workstations would be deployed to count the ballots. She said she was satisfied with the visit. “I am but I do not know about other commissioners,” she said.

More than 400,000 Guyanese voted in the polls to elect a President and 65 parliamentarians as well as councillors for the 10 administrative regions.

Also seen on the site inspection were Election Commissioners Desmond Trotman, Sase Gunraj and Robeson Benn, security and public relations personnel.