By Mikaila Prince
Leader of the People’s Progressive Party/ Civic (PPP/C), Bharrat Jagdeo has denounced the recent statements issued by de facto President David Granger regarding the country’s electoral impasse and its slow progress. During a virtual press conference conducted yesterday, Jagdeo labelled Granger’s utterances as “actually wrong and in many cases, downright misleading”.
Monday evening, Granger was the guest on a radio programme hosted by Mark Benschop where he stated that he was in full support of the report submitted by the Chief Elections Officer (CEO), Keith Lowenfield, in which 115,844 votes were discarded due to “anomalies and irregularities” in the March 2 electoral process. The President further stated that the Commission, headed by Chair of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), Justice (ret’d) Claudette Singh, was bound to make a final declaration on Lowenfield’s “fraudulent report”—as Jagdeo labelled it.
It was during his press conference that the Opposition Leader was keen to highlight that the President neglected to acknowledge the key bodies that have made efforts to derail, discredit and prolong the March 2020 election proceedings. To give credit to his statements, Jagdeo referenced Region Four Returning Officer (RO) Clairmont Mingo; the Chief Elections Officer (CEO), Keith Lowenfield, and others as the stakeholders in the A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC), as those responsible for the delay.
In sharing his concerns, Jagdeo explained, “Mr. Granger never for a moment acknowledged what the country knows—that Mingo was the primary source of the fraud that led to the delay in the declaration of results, and that has been proven. We have declarations by Mr. Mingo at odds with the Region Four document that was certified after the recount, and in those two documents, it has been demonstrated factually, mathematically, that Mingo inflated the figures in APNU’s favour by over 19,000 votes, and reduced another 3,000 for the People’s Progressive Party/ Civic.”
During Benschop’s interview, President Granger emphasized that the Elections Commission is “bound” to accept the report of the CEO, although Lowenfield, a statutory officer, discarded 115,844 votes in his most recent report.
“He is the authority,” the President said, “There is no other authority to prepare such a report. He is mandated to prepare a report including the tabulation and also the validation in the form of observations, and if the observation shows that there is corruption then he is obligated to make such a report.”
However, Jagdeo argues that Granger was inaccurate in that pronouncement since Lowenfield does not possess the powers to do such. Against this he said, “He (President Granger) never for a single moment stopped to consider the 115,000 voters, 25% of the electorate, who will lose their right, or their votes, simply because Lowenfield will not follow the instructions of the Commission, and believes that he (Lowenfield) has some God- given authority, because it definitely does not come from the Constitution of Guyana to unilaterally invalidate 115,000 plus votes on the basis of allegations by APNU.”
Considering that Lowenfield is a statutory officer, he said that he can be ordered by the GECOM Chair to redo his report which would reflect the true results of the recount.
The Opposition Leader was keen to point out that the Head of State selectively highlighted parts of the report of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) scrutinizing team, which was publicized on June 16 last. The President had claimed that the report prepared by the CEO, was not only based on “tabulation” but consideration was also given to the “anomalies” alluded to in the report done by CARICOM.
“If you view the recommendations of the CARICOM Team,” Granger said, “you would see how serious this issue is. For example, the team recommended an investigation into missing documents; it also recommended a total re-registration of all voters in Guyana.”
What the Opposition Leader pointed out in the report, however, said that while there were “instances of irregularities”, the majority of which were raised by Coalition party agents during the recount process, the team “does not view the irregularities identified, amounted to sufficient grounds to invalidate the tabulation of the votes at the recount and therefore these irregularities DO NOT constitute sufficient grounds to challenge the integrity of the recount process.”
Further, Jagdeo pointed out that the CARICOM report stated that “We found no intentional miscounting of the ballots which would constitute an election fraud necessitating further action…Nothing that we witnessed warrants a challenge to the inescapable conclusion that the recount results are acceptable and should constitute the basis of the declaration of the results of the March 02, 2020 elections. Any aggrieved political party has been afforded the right to seek redress before the courts in the form of an election petition.”
Granger stated also that the CARICOM team report, “recommends that the structure of the Election Commission be changed; the present structure will not work and it finally recommended that, given all the irregularities which occurred during the period of the electoral cycle, we highly recommend that a political audit be conducted in the operations.”
However, what the CARICOM team report had said in this regard was that, “While GECOM is described as an independent body, it is undoubtedly a political Commission, and herein lies most of the problems, the paralysis, and the factionalism experienced by that body. The level of internal discord which is acutely manifested in the public posturing of individual Commissioners is the norm in Guyana and unfortunately was on full and ugly display in the 2020 elections and its aftermath.”
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