Jul 12, 2013 News
– hails whistle-blowing Commissioner
Shocking claims by a Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) Commissioner that there may have been a deliberate attempt to alter the final results of the 2011 General and Regional Elections have triggered political anger, with calls for an immediate restructuring of the entity.
The situation is likely to raise tensions and cast doubts as to whether GECOM could host the long overdue Local Government Elections this year.
In a letter carried by the country’s major newspapers yesterday, Commissioner Vincent Alexander, an Opposition-nominated member, “broke” his silence, asserting that former Chief Elections Officer, Gocool Boodoo, did not make a mistake when an incorrect formula was used to calculate the number of seats to be allocated to political parties in the 2011 elections.
In the letter, Alexander, a senior official also at the University of Guyana, said that there is one formula for converting the votes into seats.
“How could it be a mistake if a factor in the formula is changed? There was no error of calculation. Sixty-five (65) replaced forty (40) in the formula.”
Making it clear that he can no longer remain silent, Alexander said he is prepared to face the music.
The announcement of the results on December 1, 2011, was delayed for several hours as GECOM and its Commissioners scrambled to correct the results while political parties waited with bated breath at the Pegasus Hotel and their respective camps.
The ruling PPP/C lost its majority in the National Assembly by one seat. The argument by the Opposition parties is that Boodoo’s “miscalculation” would have handed the administration a clear majority.
Alexander’s letter was prompted by the fallout in recent days of the battle between GECOM and Boodoo over the non-renewal of his contract as Chief Elections Officer. Boodoo took the matter to court but the matter was thrown out at mid-week. But the issue has been heavily debated in the media, with numerous letters and accusations that he was being racially targeted.
End of Boodoo
According to A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) parliamentarian, Joseph Harmon, as far as that Opposition faction is concerned, Boodoo’s contract is at an end “that is the end of Mr Boodoo. That is basically our position.”
During APNU’s press briefing, Harmon said that the issue of the 2011 election results has been raised time and again with a flurry of correspondence in the media and with GECOM’s Boodoo. “Records will show we have raised the issue over and over…We have documents we sent to Mr. Boodoo… It’s not fair to say we were silent.”
The AFC was even harsher in their press conference yesterday.
The party’s Chairman, Nigel Hughes, said there was grave concern over the revelations of Commissioner Alexander. The AFC made it clear that it is convinced that attempts were made to manipulate both the 2006 elections. The party lost a seat in Linden as a result of GECOM’s calculation and while initially told that it would be corrected, AFC was subsequently forced to take the matter to court.
According to Hughes, Alexander’s letter has made it clear that an attempt was made to also manipulate the 2011 results.
Hailing Alexander as a “true patriot”, Hughes, a prominent lawyer, said his party will be endorsing immediate moves to restructure GECOM. Regarding the position of Chairman, Hughes pointed out that the selection process was a temporary one established years ago by the Jimmy Carter delegation, in which the President would vet one of six names put forward by the Opposition. This system has outlived its usefulness and there is need for a professional body with representations from civil society also, the party urged.
“Any suggestion Mr. Boodoo be remotely considered as a potential candidate on a short list for the post of Chief Elections Officer is clearly beyond the pale,” the AFC Chairman emphasized.
According to AFC executive member, Michael Carrington, “GECOM is responsible for the state of local government elections which is supposed to be held every three years. No minister can hold up elections.”
AFC leader Khemraj Ramjattan said that the emerging evidence is suggesting that in the past, Commissioners merely accepted the final results as announced by the Chief Elections Officer. This, he said, indicated either ignorance of the procedures in tallying seats or complicity between Commissioners at GECOM.
Ramjattan said that with regard to the 2006 elections, GECOM had admitted that it got the Linden’s results wrong yet refused to correct it – a clear injustice to voters and the AFC – and it is against this background that Boodoo should never be returned to his post at GECOM.
The AFC believes that despite the current GECOM “crisis”, local government elections can still be held this year, with the party prepared to back four Bills through the National Assembly. They are to be tabled again next week after being considered by a Parliamentary Special Select Committee.
The party also said it wants GECOM Chairman’s position to be staggered and not for life.
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