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GECOM Commissioner Alexander slams PPP on objections to matching votes with voters

Vincent Alexander.

Pro-coalition Elections Commissioner, Vincent Alexander on Sunday evening slammed  objections by the opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) to matching the number of votes in the ballot box with the names that have been crossed off by polling day staff at the March 2, 2020 polls.

GECOM  decided on Sunday to issue and publish an order in the Official Gazette for the recount exercise to begin on Wednesday, May 6, 2020.

In clear reference to PPP Executive Member and Attorney-at-Law, Anil Nandlall’s claim that to do so would be a violation of the Representation of the People Act, Alexander assailed that party for demanding transparency by livestreaming the recount exercise but opposing cross-matching of the voters’ list with the ballots cast.

Noting that the recount was being done under Section 22 of the Election Laws Amendment Act  (2000) and Article 162 of Guyana’s Constitution, Alexander objected strenuously to the PPP’s position that there should merely be a numerical count. “As they say that, they are streaming transparency and so the question arises: you are screaming transparency, you are using the latitude of 162 and 22 to call for streaming but then you want to take away that latitude when it comes to how we conduct the count,” Alexander said.

Alexander, who is a former executive member of the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR), the major party in the incumbent coalition, questioned what the PPP has to hide. “If you are transparent, what is it you want to hide in relation to matters such as taking the list, which was used at the place of poll on which list names were struck off – and that’s the procedure- to determine how many persons turned up to vote and then to check the actual ballots to see if there is a correlation between the number of persons recorded as having turned up to  vote and the number of ballots in the box. What’s the difficulty with that and transparency?,” he said.

Attorney-at-Law, Anil Nandlall

The GECOM Commissioner pondered why the PPP  wanted to use the Representation of the People Act to  exclude the reconciliation between votes in the ballot box and the number of votes cast. Nandlall is on record as saying that the opening of that envelope in the 2,339  ballot boxes would be in violation of the Representation of the People Act as the law clearly prohibits such a disclosure.

Nandlall said President David Granger and Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo  agreed to a recount of the votes that were cast. The former Attorney General feared that if those envelopes were opened, expected discrepancies would be used to derail the recount exercise. ““Why are we running in a collision course with the law? Why not recount the ballot? Isn’t that what we are asking for – a recount of the ballots cast by the electorate? Why are we going to examine the whole process of elections. You are bound to find irregularity. That, to me, is creating the platform for unnecessary queries to be raised because we are embarking on the scope of a process that is so wide that it was never intended,” Nandlall has said.

Pro-PPP Elections Commissioner, Sase Gunraj said there were  no changes to the commission’s position on this issue at Sunday’s meeting.

Nandlall did not want to commit himself on whether legal action would be taken to block the opening of those envelopes, based on provisions of the Representation of the People Act.

The recount is expected to take at least 25 days and would be done under scrutiny of a three-member Caribbean Community (CARICOM) team that would be free to raise queries and have discussions with relevant GECOM officials. The CARICOM team would also be expected to file a  report with GECOM.