Opposition parties ask GECOM for ‘region-by-region’ recount, release of Statements of Poll

Last Updated on Saturday, 2 May 2020, 19:51 by Denis Chabrol

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

Fearing confusion at the recount of votes cast in general elections two months ago, the opposition political parties called for each region to be counted separately.

The Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) has already decided that the recount would start with Region Four where  218,927 votes were cast, while other regions would be counted simultaneously at the nine other counting stations.

GECOM is expected to issue the order, which would be published in the Official Gazette, for the recount to begin next week.

However, Chairman of A New and United Guyana (ANUG), Timothy Jonas says he and representatives of other opposition political parties earlier today asked the seven-member Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to count each region in sequential order to avoid confusion.

“It is my view that that will lead to confusion and confusion is the enemy of transparency. If you want this thing done so that everybody understands how it’s going to happen, you want it done as simply as possible with a record and a chain of custody sso you see how documents are moving back and forth. That won’t happen if you’re counting four regions at a time.  You want to count one region at a time,” Jonas told reporters shortly after meeting with GECOM at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre.

Executive Member of The New Movement, Dr. Asha Kissoon echoed  ANUG’s calls, saying that her party wants the votes to be counted in the order from Region 1 to 10 and not a combination of regions “so that the ballots can be opened in order.”

Jonas said the opposition parties also asked for the Statements of Poll to compare the results that would be declared during the recount with those that were declared  by the Returning Officers to ensure accountability. “The suggestion was made that all Statements of Poll for all ten regions that are in the possession of GECOM so that everyone can see them so that if the original count is vindicated , we are happy but if the original count is not vindicated then there needs to be some kind of accountability,” Jonas said.

But the incumbent A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) agrees with the decision already taken by GECOM for the votes cast in Region Four and several other regions to be counted simultaneously. 

Representing the APNU+AFC in the meeting with GECOM was, among others, the AFC’s David Patterson. He says there are sufficient safeguards such as the ballot boxes that have been sealed by GECOM and the political parties. He added that strict vigilance would be exercised to ensure that no more than  14 or otherwise authorised persons are at each workstation or GECOM would be asked to stop the recount. “We have instructed our agents that, if at any one time…that there are more than the prescribed persons, we will be asking our agents to stop and asking the GECOM people to stop and asking that they enforce their own rules,” he said 

Pro-coalition Elections Commissioner, Charles Corbin also refutes claims by the opposition that there will be confusion if votes from Region Four and other Regions are counted at the same time. He said the Commission has already discussed the issue and a decision has been already made. 

He explained that there was “unlikely” to be a mix among ballots at the 10 workstation. “I suppose all of this would have informed the operational guidelines,” he said. Corbin declined to tell the media what was wrong with counting the votes ‘region-by-region’ instead of counting Region Four along with others.

The Commission will be meeting  on Sunday to address that and other concerns raised by the opposition parties at today’s meetings. The opposition parties are also asking GECOM to release the Statements of Poll to the political parties to release the Statements of Poll so that they can compare those with the results of the recount. The parties also want live-streaming of the recount and scrapping of plans to go through the checklist of items in the ballot box including valid, spoilt and rejected ballots.