The counting of ballots in Guyana and Suriname offer two contrasts. Neighbouring Suriname held elections on May 25 in partial lockdown. The country is as diverse as Guyana with many outlying areas with significant chunks of voters and two large parties as well as several minor parties all competing for seats. The electoral system is similar to Guyana’s – PR system. Yet within a few hours, the independent elections commission was able to count and tabulate the ballots. There are some issues with the recount, and there were irregularities with voting. Nevertheless, the original count was quick. The recount is taking some additional time; the opposition complains of opportunities for fraud by the incumbent. The commission seems prepared to announce official results within 48 hours. Guyana’s certification of the ballots and the recount is disgraceful and an embarrassment.
The Suriname elections commission was very transparent in the count and recount before it was stopped. The counting was open to the nation. It was streamed live and ballots flashed on a screen. There were no engineering of votes, no skullduggery, no transference of fraudulent numbers on spreadsheets. No bed sheets were used to project votes. Of course, there are no Mingos in the elections commission of Suriname. The commission officers did not get instructions to rig, or did not carry out any rigging if they received such directives.
In Guyana, twelve weeks later and the nation is yet to know who officially won the elections. Unofficial count showed which party won. One party has refused to accept the unofficial results or allow the certification to be completed. The declared count was fraudulent.
The recount is treated by some political actors as an audit which it is not. An audit, raising problem with the voting exercise and voters’ list, etc., is for the court via an election petition post-declaration of results unless all parties agree to have an audit and the election commission so rules before the declaration. There is no such agreement. A recount is exactly what it is defined as – another count to ascertain or negate an original count. It does not allow for entertainment of irregularities of the voting process. Regardless of the lack of credibility of the voting exercise, which must be a concern of all, these cannot interfere with the count or recount unless there were ballot stuffing.
In Suriname, there was a Caricom (OAS and others) observer presence as there was in Guyana and is presently monitoring the recount. Caricom intends to be in Suriname throughout the completion of the official process, which should be completed within days. In Guyana, the Caricom team is praised for its work. People want the team to remain in place to see the recount process thru its completion. Caricom (OAS and others) must pressure GECOM and the two main parties to see the process through a quick completion. It may take an additional week beyond the 25 days. Caricom must have its team remain in the country till the last ballot is recounted and the right winner declared, never mind that it has taken more than three months to get a winner and more than a month to do the recount.
Dr. Vishnu Bisram
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