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APNU+AFC calls on GECOM to reject some ballots; PPP says only High Court can do so

(left) Chief Elections Officer, Keith Lowenfield and Elections Commissioner, Sase Gunraj.

The national recount of votes cast in  Guyana’s March 2, 2020 general elections wrapped up on Sunday with A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) calling for thousands of ballots countrywide to be invalidated and prompting the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) to insist that only a successful High Court petition can do that.

“The votes which cannot be validated on the lower East Coast Demerara alone, amount to tens of thousands. These votes are bogus, fraudulent and cannot withstand scrutiny. There is no option but for GECOM to reject all ballots, in all 10 districts, that cannot be validated,” APNU+AFC said in a statement at the end of the recount,” the coalition said.

The coalition did not telegraph its next move, but coalition insiders said APNU+AFC was contemplating going to court this week to challenge the legality of the recount or the number of votes that have been deemed valid and recounted.

At the end of the recount and tabulation on Sunday evening, a mere 4,179 votes were listed as rejected and 456,628 as valid.  However, APNU+AFC said it “uncovered evidence of massive electoral fraud affecting over 84,000 votes.” A PPP Elections Commissioner, Sase Gunraj said “absolutely no evidence” from the Observation Reports was  taken to the Tabulation Room and the Commission to support allegations of fraud. He said after GECOM declares the results, the party can file an elections petition.

A legal expert sympathetic to APNU+AFC as well as  Gunraj referred to the Representation of the People  Act which lists the requirements for a valid ballot. None of them lists the need for supporting documents to validate ballots in ballot boxes. “Nowhere in those bits of legislation and the Constitution to which I have referred have I seen an ability or a power or the power or the wherewithal presented to the Guyana Elections Commission to do so. GECOM, in all of its powers, is still limited by the law and the law states the specific instances by which a ballot can be invalidated,” he said.

Section 98 (2) of the Representation of the People Act states that in counting the votes, the Returning Officer shall reject as invalid and not count any ballot paper which does not have the official mark (the six digit stamp), not marked for any list of candidates or void for uncertainty, votes have been given for more than one list of candidates or any writing or mark  by which the elector can be identified.

Earlier Sunday, GECOM Chairman, Retired Justice Claudette Singh supported the tabulation of ballots that were in 29 boxes from East Coast Demerara. But APNU+AFC maintained that the recount on Thursday June 4th, Friday June 5th, Saturday June 6th and Sunday June 7th “nakedly exposed the smoking gun of the obscene People’s Progressive Party illegality on the East Coast of Demerara which is ‘the nest’ in perpetuating fraud on the March 2, 2020 General and Regional Elections.”

“Numerous sealed ballots boxes, exclusively in PPP stronghold areas, when opened, were missing all relevant documents legally required to legitimise the process,” the coalition said.

Saying that the pattern is clear – where the APNU+AFC won, the documents are in the boxes, but where the PPP “won”, the documents are missing- the coalition said any result declared from those recount votes would not be accepted. “GECOM is put on notice that it cannot use illegal and fraudulent votes to produce a valid and acceptable result. Fraud cannot produce credibility,” the coalition said.