President David Granger’s indecisive style rather than a bloated list appeared to have cost his incumbent A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) the recent general elections, if the recount results are anything to go by, according to Political Scientist and Caribbean pollster, Peter Wickham.
Wickham, who heads the Caribbean Development Research Services (CADRES), believed that the coalition should have called the election shortly after the December, 2018 no-confidence motion instead of worrying unnecessarily about a bloated voters’ list. He recalled that soon after the passage of that motion, a poll shown that the Granger-led administration had enjoyed a 2 percent advantage and should have called the election immediately.
“You had a year of dithering where you are arguing over your right to do house-to-house registration, your right to this, your right to that, you are challenging the outcome of the vote of no-confidence,” he said.
Wickham said APNU+AFC should have used its advantage and called the election at a time when the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) had not even named a presidential candidate. “We had months and months of dithering and I have said again that I feel one of the challenges that Guyanese have with this current president is the fact that he does not seem to make decisions quickly and effectively and that’s half of the reason why in the year that we saw the advantage that they had, small as it is, has disappeared so I honestly believe that based on my poll data, the outcome that is being projected based on the results is consistent with what have happened in the space of time which is a year , suggesting that Guyanese saw things in President Granger that they were uncomfortable with,” he said.
Wickham noted that in several other Caribbean countries the voters lists are quite large when compared to the actual sizes of populations. He said that with several built-in safeguards such as indelible ink on voters’ index fingers and the deployment of political party representatives at polling stations in Guyana’s electoral system, it was almost impossible for people to cheat. “There is no necessary relationship between a bloated list and for you to assume that all the people who were dead voted. You have scrutineers in every electoral office. Those scrutineers should have a familiarity with the neighbourhood and the district,” he said. Citing the fact that APNU+AFC personnel had turned up suddenly with death certificates after the elections, he questioned how was it that they did not use that information to query people’s legitimacy.
Wickham cited an example in Barbados where the number of listed voters is almost the same as the population. Figures show that Barbados’ registered voters in the 2018 elections totalled 255,833 but only 153,745 valid votes were cast. The official population is estimated at 280,000.
In Guyana, 460,352 valid votes were cast in the March 2, 2020 general and regional elections out of 661,378 registered votes and a total estimated population of 750,000 persons. At the 2015 polls, 411,970 valid votes were cast from a register of 583,444 persons and a total population of 750,000 persons. He noted that Guyana has a very “itinerant” population and there was no way of removing people who have died overseas.
Wickham recommended that Caribbean countries implement a list management facility that allows for people to be removed from the list if they are overseas for an extended period, citing the United Kingdom where people are required by law and punishable by a fine if they do not officially notify authorities that they are alive.
Wickham said if anyone had to be blamed for irregularities, it would have to be GECOM rather than the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) which does not have its hands on the levers of the election machinery. “I don’t know how in this conversation we can assume that it is the responsibility of the PPP-Civic that there was rigging. If there was rigging, it was GECOM’s fault and GECOM ought to be investigated,” he said.
The recounted and tabulated results show that the PPPC won 230,328 votes, and APNU+AFC 217,259 votes , and three small political parties- A New and United Guyana, Liberty and Justice Party and The New Movement – that contested the polls separately won a total of 5,190 votes which entitle them to one seat in the 65-seat National Assembly.
GECOM is yet to officially declare the results, but the Organisation of American States (OAS), which includes the 14 Caribbean Community (CARICOM) member-states, has already said the recount results could be used to declare a credible result and install a government on the basis of the will of the people. Government has said the CARICOM election scrutineers report would be among those to be considered by GECOM before it declares the results.
But APNU+AFC has said more than 89,000 votes have been infected by PPPC’s alleged rigging and that the Commission should declare a result based on valid votes cast. The recount shows that 4,211 of the 464,563 votes cast have been rejected.