– Opposition Commissioners say it’s impractical in the current political crisis, needs to be reworked; GECOM calls their comments “absurd, distasteful and unethical”
– PPP says needing almost 6 months to count less than 500,000 ballots is “simply ridiculous”
By Kemol King
Chief Elections Officer Keith Lowenfield has presented a draft plan to the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) for a recount that would take 156 days.
Expectedly, Commissioners nominated by the opposition were disapproving of such a plan.
Commissioner Robeson Benn said that the GECOM secretariat is not being helpful in terms of producing a practical solution to the current political crisis, where five weeks have passed with no official credible elections results.
He said that all kinds of reasons are being proffered to justify the figure, but he is adamant that “in no way, shape or form” should the Commission have been presented with a document that suggests such a duration for the recount.
Benn said that the recount should take a matter of days.
Commissioner Sase Gunraj told reporters that the plan has a lot of issues, which both sides of the Commission agreed, need to be addressed. He (Gunraj) has undertaken to rework the document, including proposals he has to fine-tune the process, and will submit his proposal to the Commission this morning.
Briefly commenting on the duration, Gunraj said that the nation cannot survive a 156-day wait. He explained that a count of the votes, in his view, should take a week, at most. He intends to demonstrate how that could be done.
“If the requisite will is given and due diligence is exercised, we can be done with this in short order,” Gunraj said.
Government-nominated Commissioner Vincent Alexander preferred not to comment extensively on the contents of the draft plan or the duration presented. He said that the matter is under study, and that, as a matter of principle, it should not be under heavy discussion.
“We should allow the system to work,” Alexander said.
He did not comment on how reasonable the 156-day figure is, but explained that he understands the Secretariat to have taken into consideration a two-hour period for the count of each ballot box, certain preliminary exercises executed before the count, etc.
The GECOM Secretariat after observing the comments made by the Opposition-nominated Commissioners to the press, released a statement labelling their comments as “absurd, distasteful and unethical”.
The statement released by GECOM public relations officer Yolanda Ward said that the Commissioners are aware that the proposal considered the decisions of the Commission, and its content is still being discussed for finalization.
It posited that the proposal presented by Lowenfield includes a request by the Commission to have each ballot projected on to a screen, and examinations of the contents of the ballot boxes, i.e., ascertaining the number of electors on the list, the number of electors who voted, counting votes cast for both General and Regional Election and validation of spoilt, questioned and rejected ballots.
“Against this backdrop, the estimated time for one ballot box to be counted was projected to be two hours; utilizing 3 workstations for 10 hours per day (9:00hrs -19:00hrs) at a central location to count 2,339 boxes,” the Secretariat said.
Taking note of what it terms ‘public ridicule’ by the Commissioners, the Lowenfield-led Secretariat acknowledged that the 156-day duration is “lengthy” but it said that it had to consider matters of law in relation to the procedures to conduct a recount; approved decisions of the Commission and the current COVID-19 pandemic.
Meanwhile, the opposition People’s Progressive Party in a statement released to the press, last evening, said that the proposal presented by the GECOM Secretariat is “simply ridiculous”.
“The timeframe proposed is 156 days. The law provides a 90 days period for preparation of elections. Further, the entire country’s results are normally totaled in about 2 hours after the close of poll and the law provides 15 days for declaration of results, including recounts and further recounts. Yet, Keith Lowenfield wants almost 6 months to count less than 500,000 ballots.”
This is obviously yet another ploy by Lowenfield acting in concert with the rigging cabal to continue their enterprise of derailing the electoral process and thwart the will of the electorate. Many components of the proposal presented are either unnecessary or are simply put forward to provide opportunities to corrupt the recounting process.
We take this opportunity, once again, to call upon the Chairperson to not only be vigilant, but to act decisively in respect of the proposals and, most importantly, in ensuring a fair and transparent framework is established in accordance with the law to facilitate an expedient recounting process that will enjoy the confidence of not only the stakeholders, but indeed the nation and the international community.
To contribute to such a framework, the People’s Progressive Party, through its Commissioners, will present a comprehensive proposal which is in keeping with the law and will conclude the process within two weeks.
The nation’s patience is wearing thin with each passing day. The PPP will therefore never accept any proposal that is farcical and which is ultimately designed to keep the illegal APNU+AFC squatting in office.”
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