OPINION:Another futile attempt in defence of election fraud in Guyana’s 2020 elections

Last Updated on Thursday, 13 June 2024, 21:50 by Writer

By Dr. Randy Persaud, Professor Emeritus

“…[T]here were, in fact, shockingly brazen attempts…to derail and corrupt the statutorily prescribed procedure for the counting, ascertaining and tabulation of votes of the March 2nd election…” (COI Report on the 2020 Guyana Elections).

“[W]e must ask – on what grounds and by what form of executive fiat does the Chief Elections Officer determine that he should invalidate 1 vote, far less over 115 000 votes when the votes were already certified as valid by officers of the Guyana Elections Commission in the presence of the political parties.” Mia Motely, Prime Minister of Barbados (June 24, 2020).

“I have never seen a more transparent effort to alter the results of an election…It takes an extraordinarily courageous mind to present fictitious numbers when such a sturdy paper trail exists.” These were the words of Bruce Golding, former Prime Minister of Jamaica, 2007-2011, and the Head of OAS Elections Observer Mission for the 2020 election in Guyana. 

Similarly, I have never seen a more transparent effort to alter the history and historiography of the results of an election result than that proffered by Amber Symone Stewart in the Chicago Journal of International Law. Instead of a reasoned and coherent reflection on the 2020 elections in Guyana, Amber Symone Stewart has offered a view that is weak in theory, weaker in evidence, corrupt in its general claims and propositions, and pathetic in terms of its historical groundings. 

Ms. Stewart claims the following: (1) that the US wrongfully interfered in Guyana’s 2020 elections; (2) that the APNU-AFC government was conducting the 2020 elections in ways consistent with democratic procedures, and (3) that the academic literature on foreign election influence and interference supports her claims of US hegemonic practice in the said elections. She is wrong on all three counts.

Stewart spends considerable time to situate the Guyana 2020 elections in historical context. Her purpose for doing so is to show that there is a historic pattern of US interference. There are two issues here that warrant attention. 

Firstly, rather than review the electoral history of Guyana, Stewart hides behind what happened in Chile (1970) and Bolivia (2002). While space does not permit a full discussion, I can tell you that both cases invalidate Ms. Stewart’s assertions. Allende won the election in 1970 despite foreign efforts against him. His removal in 1973 is a different matter. In the case of Bolivia, and by Stewart’s own admission, “…ultimately the decision [of who became President] fell to the Bolivian Congress because none of the candidates garnered 50% of the vote” (Stewart, 2024). For good measure, you should know that Morales is the longest serving president (2006-2019) in the history of Bolivia. 

Secondly, the silence by Amber Symone Stewart on the history of rigged elections by the PNC is not only troubling, but a condition of possibility for her twisted claims. Let me help Ms. Stewart with the electoral history. The PPP won the 1953 election but was overthrown within months. No one disagrees with that. The PPP won the 1957 and 1961 elections. No disagreement here either. The 1964 election was manipulated by foreign powers to facilitate the installment of the PNC and UF. Still no disagreement by credible scholars. Forbes Burnham and the PNC then rigged the 1968, 1973, 1980, and 1985 elections, plus the July 1978 referendum. Every independent report on Guyana has confirmed this to be the case. Further, a former PNC General Secretary, who was also Prime Minister, agrees that the PNC had rigged elections for decades. Further, the same ‘Elder’ recently advocated for more rigging of elections. 

Amber Stewart skids over this lengthy history, but then magically pronounces that Guyana has a record of holding free and fair elections. She characterizes the period of rigged elections as “unfortunate.” The massive abuse of power by PNC as symbolized in party paramountcy is wantonly dismissed.

Instead, Amber Symone Stewart offers the following: “under its current constitution, Guyana must hold elections every five years, notwithstanding votes of no-confidence which, if successful, require new elections to be held within ninety-days of the vote… This system appears to work in practice (emphasis added); Guyana successfully held elections in 2015, 2011, 2006, 2001, 1997, and 1992” (Stewart, 2024). All of this is to set up for her to claim that the election in 2020 was just another free and fair election until the Americans “intervened.”

Ms. Stewart almost got it right, except for two conspicuous mistakes. The PNC government under President Hoyte reluctantly held free and fair elections in 1992. Many in the PNC still consider Hoyte a traitor for not continuing the PNC tradition. They wanted him to rig the 1992 elections. The free and fair elections of 1997, 2001, 2006, 2011, and 2015 were all held during PPP administrations! The truth is, 2020 was the first opportunity since 1992 that the PNC and its partners in APNU-AFC had at running elections. It decidedly reverted to its old tradition of rigging. 

Amber Symone Stewart is utterly confused about the background to the 2020 elections and what transpired between March 2, 2020, and August 2020. Numerous clarifications and corrections are in order. 

Firstly, she states that the no-confidence vote in 2018 had something to do with “reignition of entrenched ethnic divisions.” Absolutely no evidence is provided for this claim. Instead of evidence we get this: “[b]ecause Black Guyanese make up 29.3% of the population and South Asian Guyanese make up 39.8%, voting down racial lines typically results in a PPP victory.” The truth is that someone from the AFC, the party that helped put the PNCR in power, voted with the PPP on the no-confidence motion because of the AFC collusion with an anti-democratic regime. It had nothing to do with race. One must wonder if Ms. Stewart knows that the PNC, under African leadership, has governed Guyana as many years as has the PPP. 

Moreover, what Ms. Stewart does not say is that the APNU-AFC used the most absurd tactics to delay the elections that should have been held within ninety days of the successful no-confidence vote. One of their main arguments was that 33 is not a “majority” over 32. The APNU-AFC used a string of similar tactics to illegally delay the elections by 347 days. Not surprisingly it took 153 days to accept defeat in 2020. All of these malpractices seem to be just fine for Ms. Stewart. 

Secondly, Stewart gives the impression that the judicial system, and specifically the CCJ, violated the constitutional rights of Guyanese voters. Here she is in her own words: “…critically, by holding that the recount votes should decide the outcome of the presidential election, the CCJ effectively decided who won Guyana’s election (emphasis added). Voters may have placed the ballots, but it was Guyana’s judiciary that had the final word (Stewart, 2024). Please note that a University of Chicago trained lawyer is implying that the apex court of this country, the CCJ, did not have the right to rule on the 2020 election. 

Thirdly, Amber Symone Stewart disrespects every foreign observer mission by implying that their work in Guyana during the 2020 elections was not above board. This includes the Prime Minister of Barbados, the former Prime Minister of Jamaica, the former Prime Minister of Barbados, the Carter Center, the Commonwealth Observer Group, the observation teams of the United States, Canada, the U.K., the E.U., the OAS Electoral Observer Mission, and the CARICOM Election Observation Mission, as well as numerous civil society groups in Guyana.

Stewart gives the impression that the US, and specifically Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Acting Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs Michael Kozak, were biased against the APNU-AFC coalition. If so, then Ms. Stewart must contend with every other observer mission that clearly, and unambiguously, established efforts by those connected to the Granger administration to rig the elections. 

The EU Election Observation Mission official report states the following: “After a transparent, largely uncontested tabulation was completed in most regions, the process abruptly derailed into chaos and confusion amidst obstruction tactics by election officials in decisive Region 4. On 5 March, the Returning Officer (RO) declared results without having tabulated them in the presence of party agents and observers as required by law. After these results were annulled by the Chief Justice as unlawful, GECOM still allowed the same RO to rush through the rest of the tabulation without any transparency in blatant violation of the law and explicit court orders, and to make a second declaration of unverified results on 13 March” (European Union Election Observer Mission, Guyana 2020, Final Report).

The Commission of Inquiry into the elections found the following:

“…there were, in fact, shockingly brazen attempts by Chief Election Officer (CEO) Keith Lowenfield, Deputy Chief Election Officer (DCEO) Roxanne Myers and Returning Officer (RO) Clairmont Mingo to derail and corrupt the statutorily prescribed procedure for the counting, ascertaining and tabulation of votes of the March 2nd election, as well as the true declaration of the results of that election, and that they did so – to put it in unvarnished language of the ordinary man – for the purpose of stealing the election.

What is also shocking is that Ms. Amber Symone Stewart either did not take the time to read the COI report, or if she did, the findings were conveniently disregarded to facilitate what amounts to a shameless defence of attempted electoral banditry by the APNU-AFC. This negligence, whether willful or inadvertent, is inexcusable.

To date, all independent reports have substantiated the charges of attempted theft by the APNU-AFC in the 2020 elections in Guyana. Despite the overwhelming evidence of “shockingly brazen attempts” at this election fraud, a handful of PNC, AFC, and WPA academics continue to push narratives of marginalization constructed around a historiography of victimhood. Regrettably, Amber Symone Stewart Comment discussed here, falls in this category, namely, another futile attempt in defence of election fraud in Guyana’s 2020 elections. 

Dr Randy Persaud is Advisor, Office of the President.