GECOM to review vote recount deadline, handling of unproven allegations

Last Updated on Tuesday, 12 May 2020, 6:20 by Denis Chabrol

The Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) will Tuesday meet to discuss, among other things, a possible extension of the deadline for the recount of votes cast in the March 2, 2020 general and regional elections and address opposition concerns about observations that have drawn stiff objections from the private sector and the opposition.

“We are going to meet to review what has happened so far,” pro-coalition Elections Commissioner, Vincent Alexander told reporters on Monday.

Tuesday’s meeting follows one the commission held on Monday with representatives of several small political parties and another that is planned for Tuesday with the People’s Progressive Party (PPP).

The seven-member GECOM is clearly split down the middle along party lines on the issue of the observations ranging from the absence of poll books, alleged voting in the names of deceased and emigrants,  alleged multiple voting, and use of affidavits by persons who did not have accepted types of identification.

“We, of course, are going to raise frontally the unsubstantiated allegations which continue to be raised by AFC-APNU (Alliance For Change – A Partnership for National Unity) without a shred of evidence,” the People’s Progressive Party’s (PPP) Anil Nandlall said.

Already, GECOM has decided that specific words such as “alleged” and “allegedly” must be used in the observation reports that are attached to the Statements of Recount. Alexander said much depends on whether the magnitude of wrongdoings could be corrected or could affect the overall outcome of the results. “There is the issue on the one hand of magnitude. Any electoral process, even if you have wrongdoing, the precedent has always been to look at the magnitude of wrongdoing and see if that magnitude could affect the results,” he said..

Ahead of Tuesday’s commission meeting, the Private Sector Commission (PSC) wrote the GECOM Chairman, Retired Justice Claudette Singh expressing concern that the observation reports were being broadcast with unproven allegations. PSC Chairman, Gerry Gouveia called on the Commission to stop broadcasting those reports until those claims are investigated and proven.

“We consider it most unfortunate that the Observation Reports are being used to disseminate unverified information in this manner and urge that you instruct that the Observation Reports not be broadcast unless or until its contents are verified. We further urge that GECOM responds appropriately, promptly and regularly to these allegations made against GECOM’s conduct of the elections which are being placed
before the media as a matter of fact,” Gouveia said.

The PSC recommended that the tabulation exercise be conducted at various times of the day rather than from 4 PM everyday to clear the backlog of recounted votes. “Every SOR completed should be tabulated on the same day it is completed and not left incomplete for the next day,” the PSC said.

The PPP and its allied three election commissioners are likely to recommend an increase in the number of workstations from 25 to speed up the recount of the more than 400,000 votes.

GECOM on Monday counted 53 boxes , bringing the total number to 261 in six days. There are 2,339 ballot boxes containing more than 400,000 votes.