I have concluded that there is at least one unintended consequence of the 2020 election. I had joined others in dubbing the election the “mother of all elections,” because I felt that the imminence of oil wealth meant that the intense competition between the parties of our two major ethnic groups would reach unprecedented fever pitch. I expected a hard-fought election, the result of which would be awfully close. I expected that as was the case in previous elections, after some shadow-boxing and post-election charges, the declared winner would form the government and the country would move on.
How wrong was I! It is now ten weeks and the election is still to be decided. There is a strong prevailing view that is shared by the PPP, its supporters, and many independents that this outcome is due to a crude attempt by the PNC to rig the election. I have refused to join that chorus partly because I do not have the information and partly because I know that rigged elections in Guyana cannot be determined by a single moment in the process.
What I didn’t know and what most of Guyana could not know was that ten weeks later, Guyana would witness the real-time unfolding of something that we knew but never could get the two major parties to simultaneously demonstrate in the public sphere. I refer here to the unintended consequence I hinted at in the first sentence of this column. What am I talking about? Prior to 2020 there has been an unspoken informal agreement between the two major parties to mutually tolerate elections tampering; that when one party wins it ignores the tampering of the other. What it meant was that the loser would stridently charge the winner with rigging but in the end would find a way to fall in line.
However, in 2020 that changed. What we are seeing is that both parties are simultaneously exposing the tampering of the other. After charging the PNC with trying to rig the election by tampering with the tabulation of the Region 4 votes, the PPP galvanized support for its cause, including those of the observer groups and the diplomatic community. The party moved to the courts and subsequently demanded a recount of Region 4 votes. Attempts by sections of the PNC to block the recount proved unsuccessful and the party I suspect reluctantly agreed to join the process.
What has transpired since then was not anticipated by the PPP. The PNC transformed the PPP’s preference for a simple count of the Region 4 votes into a comprehensive audit of the votes in the boxes of all regions. The battle was now joined. Whereas the PPP has continued to rely on the votes in the Region 4 boxes to prove the PNC’s tampering, the PNC has used the recount thus far to prove that the process by which the votes got into the boxes in all regions was tampered with by the PPP.
The PPP and most of the media have been somewhat slow or reluctant to recognize what is unfolding. They kept asking the PNC to produce their evidence that the PPP tampered with the elections. Having embraced the PPP’s narrative that it has the SOP’s of Region 4 to prove that the PNC rigged the results, many are using that standard to judge the PNC’s charges. What they seem to miss is that we have now entered the phase of numbers versus process. The PNC is claiming that if for example there are five votes in a box by persons who were out of the jurisdiction on March 2, that compromises the entire box. And if a high percentage of the boxes are compromised, the credibility of the entire election is called into question.
So, the recount has unexpectedly brought us to the point where we may find out at the end of the recount that both parties tampered with the election. What do we do at that point? For, me the best solution would be to declare the elections a “draw” based on the fact that it was not credible. But both parties are likely to reject that option as they would view it as robbing them of victory. I still hold strongly to the view that once a winner is declared, it would lead to an extreme form of one-party rule as the winner and loser if they choose to negotiate would do so as what Dr. Roger Luncheon once called unequals. So, I say, accept the draw, sit down, and work out an amicable solution as equals. I am sure to hear from the defenders of “democracy” that I am supporting the change of the rules of the game. I shall address that in a future column.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.)
More of Dr. Hinds’ writings and commentaries can be found on his YouTube Channel Hinds’ Sight: Dr. David Hinds’ Guyana-Caribbean Politics and on his website www.guyanacaribbeanpolitics.news. Send comments to [email protected]
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