New parties ‘disappointed’ with GECOM’s approach to recount

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The new political parties that contested the March 2, 2020 elections are calling for the much-anticipated national recount to be conducted at the earliest time possible and for there to be “no less” than 10 counting stations during the process.

This is in light of a decision by the Chairperson of the Guyana Elections Commission, (ret’d) Justice Claudette Singh, on Friday (April 17, 2020) to have “no more than ten work stations, subject to the availability of the requisite equipment and technology to display the ballots”.

These situations, according to the GECOM Chair, should tabulate its own results and will be located inside the Arthur Chung Conference Centre building, where the recount will take place. No date has been decided for the commencement of the national count.

However, five of the 11 political parties that contested the March 2020 polls – A New and United Guyana (ANUG); Change Guyana (CG); Liberty and Justice Party (LJP); The New Movement (TNM), and United Republican Party (URP) – have expressed deep disappointment with the Chair’s decision.

“We urge that more stations should be considered by the Madame Chair and, in any circumstances, there should be no less than ten (10),” the new parties said in a joint statement on Friday.

They further lamented the fact that there has been no further announcement of the hours of work. As such, the parties suggested that there should be two sessions of eight hours each with one break each for lunch and dinner.

“It cannot be consistent with good administration and the rule of law for more inordinate delay to continue to frustrate the desire of the Guyanese people for an early end to the elections process which started on March 2 and, for all intents and purposes, would have ended on March 4, had the fraudulent activity not taken place on March 4,” the parties stated.

Adding to this, The Citizen Initiative (TCI) – another one of the new parties that contested last month’s polls – have also expressed “disappointment and disgust” with the approach by GECOM in conducting the recount.

In a separate statement today (April 18, 2020), TCI said it had hoped that the GECOM Chair’s ‘intervention’ would have provided a definitive way forward but instead turned out to be in keeping with the Commission’s behavior as a whole.

“Whereas, what was needed was a clear-cut plan of action with a definitive administrative strategy, a timeframe for action and assignment of personnel, the public was given a vague document that could be so widely interpreted as to allow a process even longer than the ludicrous 156-day plan originally submitted,” the party’s leader, Rondha-Ann Lam, stated.

To this end, Lam called for the citizens of Guyana to be presented with an explicit commitment to a clear plan with a set timeframe for a recount, which she suggested should start no later than Monday, April 20 and be completed before or not significantly after the constitutional deadline for a parliament to be in place.

The is a four-month constitutional deadline for the convening of Parliament after its dissolution. With the last Parliamentary session ending on December 30, 2019, the new session is expected to commence on April 30.

The joint statement from the other five parties had similarly echoed plans for the recount of all the votes cast on March 2 to be completed before that constitutional timeline, noting that GECOM must make every effort to ensure that the Constitution of Guyana is not once again violated.

“Having regard to the constitutional deadline, we urge GECOM and the Madame Chair to fix a deadline by which the recount should be completed so as to assure the nation that Guyana will not once again drift into unconstitutionality,” they stressed.

Moreover, the new parties pointed to the fact that the Court had ruled that the first unlawful declaration of embattled Returning Officer of Region Four (Demerara-Mahaica), Clairmont Mingo, was made with the involvement of several members of the GECOM Secretariat and the second declaration is under challenge by an action for contempt of court which is pending.

Against this backdrop, the parties joined mounting calls including from the Opposition People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) for compromised persons be removed from the recounting process.

“Having regard to the widely-publicised events surrounding these declarations, it is incumbent on GECOM to exclude the RO for Region 4 and the staffers of the secretariat involved in these declarations to be excluded from involvement in the recount “ the parties asserted.