OPINION: Push to have electoral audit instead of a vote recount another delay tactic – Sanjeev Datadin

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The following is an opinion piece by Attorney Sanjeev Datadin 

Democracy is the right of citizens to pick their leaders. Guyana went to the polls on March 2 to pick a President. More than 2 months later, our electoral body, GECOM, after spending more than $8 billion to ensure free, fair and transparent elections was undermined by A Returning Officer, Mingo, who was determined to declare fantasy numbers.

The money spent, the presence of international and local observers, the diplomatic corps and a Court Order didn’t stop him. The will of the Guyanese people remain hostage to his actions and the inability of GECOM to sensibly resolve chaos caused by his actions.

It is universally accepted even by Mr Granger that the declared results for Region Four are “problematic” and do not withstand scrutiny. The tabulation process of the Statements of Poll for Region Four was not a smooth one. It was so flawed and fraudulent that every observer and even the political leaders of the two main parties agreed that a recount must take place. This recount was agreed upon for more than a month ago but APNU and its Commissioners have raised every possible hurdle and employed every delay tactic possible to not have that recount take place.

The current chapter of delay is promoted by Vincent Alexander who, now all of a sudden, suffering from a rare bout of transparency, seeks to have an electoral audit undertaken instead of a recount. GECOM wants to audit itself is the new mantra. This desire ignores Section 89(2) of the Representation of the People Act (RPA) that expressly states  “the Returning Officer shall not open the sealed packets containing tendered ballots, the marked copies of the official list of electors …or counterfoils of used ballot papers.”

Whilst it is true that the recount is under GECOM exercising its constitutional (Art 162) and statutory powers and not the RPA the edict of RPA should not be easily ignored. What happens if a polling clerk made an error and did not cross off all the names who voted or was having lunch and missed a name? How is this to be resolved? Do we trust Mingo and his gringos to resolve it? Do we expect Lowenfield and Meyers to get an attack of morality and resolve it fairly? The RPA codified the restriction because it was recognised that to do otherwise in a recount would be chaotic and take far too long.

The opening of the “packets” is usually under the authority of a court in an Election Petition. These restrictions should not be easily ignored. We must recognise that Alexander is only insisting on it because of the confusion it will likely cause and the length of time it will take. Alexander also sought to rely on Section 90 of the same RPA to deny live streaming of the recount. He affords himself the luxury to rely on the RPA when it suits him and ignore it otherwise.

To engage in anything except a recount of the ballots allows Alexander and his APNU cohorts to raise all manner of issues relating to the OLE and voters with no dispute resolution protocol in place – the recount process would be rendered paralysed.

But, I’m glad to hear all the APNU supporters follow Alexander in his feigned commitment to transparency and fairness. They can all, of course, publish their SoPs for Region Four and also vote at GECOM to do the same … let the world see.

They could allow the Carter Center and all other observers into Guyana and allow them to bear witness. They can also stop holding the nation hostage by proceeding to do an audit in violation of the RPA and count the votes of its citizens.