Guyana is in the Stone Age when it comes to elections. You go into a polling station and you still see people scurrying through pages of folios to find your name. Some of the folios are not in colour. They are in black and white, and this undermines the security features in the system.
But those hurdles can be overcome. What is worrying is the rate at which results become known. The sloth in announcing the final results is a major source of worry, and it is hoped that this time around the foreign embassies will convince GECOM to undertake a forensic audit of its systems to determine why the slothfulness still exists.
The level of mistrust is so high in the system that even counting a few hundred votes takes hours, and reporting on slightly more than 400,000 votes, takes days. General and regional elections in Guyana are fraught with suspicion, and this places the Guyana Elections Commission in a difficult position, because the slightest of mistakes can cast a shadow in the minds of supporters of the main political parties, over the entire results.
Different was expected of local government elections. The main parties were never expected to have been ruffled in their power bases. The stakes in these elections were not as high, and therefore it was to be expected that results would have been known within hours of the closing of the polls. This has not happened.
Party elections are taking place in the United States of America and within hours of the closing of the polls, the results are known. In fact, based on a sampling of results, the various media networks in the United States, a country with about 300 times the population of Guyana, were able to project who will win which states and by what percentage.
At the time of writing, it was almost twelve hours since the local government polls had closed, yet the final results of the elections were not yet known to the public. Those results would already have been known to the country’s political parties. The delays are unacceptable.
GECOM has not yet gotten it right, and the failure to get final results out by Friday night remains more than a source of embarrassment to GECOM. It remains a source of major concern, especially in the context of some polling stations in Georgetown in which the results that have been provided by the media indicate a high turnout relative to elsewhere in the country.
There have been no reports of irregularities, and this is all the more reason why GECOM should have been able to announce preliminary results earlier. In 1994, long before the computerization of results, the then Guyana Elections Commission was able to get out preliminary results by midnight on Election Day.
Twenty-two years later, and with computers and smart phones in use, the results still cannot be released as they were in 1994 when there were few computers in use in tabulating results.
GECOM hasn’t gotten it right, as so too has the local media. It was disappointing that the media, which has complained about the long delays in releasing elections results in general and regional elections, and which had tried its own system at reporting results at individual polling stations, seems to have done a worse job this time around, being only able to report on a smattering of polling stations. Perhaps the various media houses should combine their resources to report on the results earlier.
But then again, GECOM may be a reflection of what is happening in the wider society, where everything takes time to be completed. The media may be no different from the agencies over which it is standing watch.
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