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Recount of general election votes to take at least 25 days

The Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) on Friday decided that the recount of  votes cast in last month’s general elections would take at least 25 days, election commissioners said at the end of another marathon meeting.

Election Commissioners, Vincent Alexander and Sase Gujraj said that is expected to be reflected in the order to be published in Guyana’s Official Gazette.

The Chief Elections Officer, Keith Lowenfield had  originally proposed 156 days to recount the 2,339 ballot boxes.

In their latest counterproposal, the three People’s Progressive Party (PPP)-aligned commissioners on Friday sought to secure approval for the recount to take 14 days.  Pro-PPP Election Commissioner, Sase Gunraj said eventually the commissioners approved 25 days “subject to review by the commission.”

Alexander signaled that a start-date for the recount could become available over the weekend and would be included in the Order. He added that GECOM Chairman, Claudette Singh said Region Four Returning Officer, Clairmont Mingo would not participate in the recount. “I think the Chairman did say, though, that in her considered opinion first of all there are no persons designated ROs (Returning Officers) who are going to be engaged in this exercise, meaning the office of the RO would not be active. You may have persons who are ROs who probably would be active but I think she did say in her considered opinion it would be best for us not to involve Mr. Mingo,” he said.

Mingo has been repeatedly accused by the opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) of not sticking to the legal procedures and a High Court ruling on how would the results should be tabulated.

Commissioners indicated that it was now for the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat to indicate when the team of scrutineers would be arriving in Guyana to oversee the recount exercise at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre, Liliendaal, Greater Georgetown and issue a report. “CARICOM is primarily being asked to scrutineer the activity. Previously, the documentation had suggested a CARICOM-supervised and the documentation had suggested that this activity was pegged on the aide-memoire,” he said.

Alexander said the intended recount is now pegged on the fact that recounts had been rejected, put in abeyance and had been aborted and this was leading to “some kind of uncertainty about the way forward and so it was thought ti be good to do an overall recount to overcome this way in which various recounts were treated and the responses of the stakeholders.”

Ordinarily, Alexander acknowledged that an election petition would be used to address concerns about the elections. Asked whether that would not open the door to a legal challenge, Alexander said GECOM has to “with the law as we see it at this point in time” and the final arbiter is the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).

They said the order would also indicate that the 10 declaration of results by the Returning Officers would be suspended until they are replaced by the results of the recount.

Gunraj said by a majority of four commissioners, including the Chairman, voted against the Audit Office of Guyana or another audit firm to observe the recount,  provision of copies of the Statements of Poll for Region Four  and for the recount to be done in accordance with the Recount provisions of the Representation of the People Act.  He said the Chairman, instead, included a Section of that law to allow for what obtains at the place of poll after polling closes.