Jul 27, 2020 News
By Kemol King
One hundred countries are now represented in calls from governments and multilateral organizations for the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to declare the results of the recount, and put an end to the contentious and protracted saga that is Guyana’s 2020 general and regional elections. These countries are those which have historically espoused democratic values, and account for about half of the global population.
The national recount was necessary because of two failed attempts to rig the elections through a fraudulent alteration of the Region Four results by Returning Officer (RO), Clairmont Mingo. It did not come without challenges, as the CARICOM Scrutineer Team which was given an elevated role in the observation of this recount, had its members treated to a campaign of misinformation to discredit the Election Day process. Despite the continuous onslaught of that campaign from the APNU+AFC coalition over the 33 days of the process, the CARICOM Team was not fooled. It rejected the public effort to discredit the polls, found the results of the recount “completely acceptable” and posited that those results should form the basis of a final declaration.
The APNU+AFC coalition nevertheless supported multiple attempts by Chief Elections Officer (CEO), Keith Lowenfield to unlawfully usurp the exclusive authority of the High Court to determine the validity of the elections, and unilaterally disenfranchise thousands of voters. Even when the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) ruled that Lowenfield could not do such a thing, the coalition resorted to a different argument against the declaration of the recount results, and endorsed instead, the use of Mingo’s fraudulent numbers as part of the basis on which a final declaration is made.
In spite of the foregoing, the statements of the international community have held one collective thrust: ‘Declare the results of the recount now’.
CARICOM comprises 15 member states. Each of them is bound by the Charter of Civil Society to defend and preserve democracy when it is threatened. The Community has played a pivotal role in ensuring that the international community is well informed of the occurrences of Guyana’s elections. Its former Chair who is also Barbados’ Prime Minister, Mia Mottley, was the first Head of State to realize and publicly address efforts to prevent the will of the people and the national recount when she noted that there were “forces that do not want to see the votes recounted”. At the time, a candidate of the APNU+AFC coalition, Ulita Moore had approached the Court of Appeal to challenge the legality of the process. When the recount was entrenched in law, Mottley sent a three person team which later prepared a scathing report that not only pronounced on the elections, but scolded the agents of the APNU+AFC coalition for their “unacceptable” behaviour during the recount, and pointed to grave issues pervading the operations of the political Elections Commission.
Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Ralph Gonsalves was, at the end of the recount, getting ready to assume his post as Chair of CARICOM when he said that CARICOM would not allow anyone to steal the election in Guyana. To President David Granger, he had said “Take your licks like a man!”
When Lowenfield attempted to disenfranchise tens of thousands of voters, Mottley condemned him. Then, in its judgment in the case of Irfaan Ali vs Eslyn David et al, the independent Judges of the CCJ, an institution formed by the ties of CARICOM, ruled that Lowenfield was wrong to attempt to invalidate tens of thousands of votes, and paved the way for a declaration of the results of the national recount.
Gonsalves intends to call a special meeting of CARICOM leaders to address the Guyana situation.
The Organisation of American States (OAS) and the Carter Center fielded observer missions to Guyana’s elections, and had themselves intimately informed of the fraud that started the saga. Chief of the OAS Electoral Observer Mission and former Jamaica Prime Minister, Bruce Golding, first illustrated Mingo’s rigging attempts to the OAS Permanent Council in May.
The Government, using COVID-19 as an excuse, prevented the Carter Center from returning to Guyana to observe the recount, much to the dismay of the governments of the United States and Canada. However, the OAS was able to observe the national recount, so it could determine the credibility of the recount process. Following the announcement of the findings by the CARICOM Team, the Carter Center and the OAS gave their endorsements as the report confirmed their findings. The observers called on GECOM to ensure that a declaration is made on the basis of the recount findings. Noticing obstructions to the process, the powerful Governments of the United States, and Canada announced consequences for those persons undermining Guyana’s democracy. Most notably, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has specified that the initial wave of consequences has come in the form of visa restrictions. Brazil also made it known that it wants to see a declaration of the results of the transparent vote recount.
The OAS Permanent Council Special Meeting on Guyana was held last Tuesday, at the request of the Secretary General Luis Almagro.
The special meeting saw more than 20 countries calling for respect for the will of the people as certified by the national recount process.
A notable address was made by Permanent Representative of Venezuela to the OAS, Gustavo Tarre Briceño. He said that it is the responsibility of the OAS to preserve and defend democracy, as evidenced by the Inter-American Democratic Charter.
He said what is happening in Guyana reminds him of what has been occurring in Venezuela for the last 20 years, “with the dictator Nicolas Maduro” who continues to proliferate the situation.
Briceño was not appointed by de facto President Maduro.
He was appointed by the Venezuelan politician, Juan Guaido, who has claimed the Venezuela presidency. Maduro called Briceño a “political usurper” when the OAS voted to accept his appointment in April last year. Though Guyana had voted not to recognise the legitimacy of Maduro’s presidency in January last year, it abstained from voting on Briceño’s appointment.
Venezuela has suffered from sanctions directly linked to the legitimacy of its government, and it has often been touted as an instructive example for Guyanese leaders to note before they continue to take the country closer and closer to the precipice of legitimacy.
The Bolivarian Republic continues to struggle, and millions of Venezuelan refugees have been forced to run to neighbouring countries in recent years, in search of food and shelter for their families.
Ahead of the meeting, the Organisation had said, “Let us be very clear – the only democratic solution for Guyana at this time is respect for the results of the national recount. No other figures – neither those prepared prior to the recount, nor those recently invalidated by the Caribbean Court of Justice, nor any others that may be unilaterally devised by the Chief Elections Officer – can have any place in the final determination of results. A new electoral process is also an unacceptable solution.”
Its staunch advocacy is premised on Article One of the Inter-American Democratic Charter, which states that “The peoples of the Americas have a right to democracy and their governments have an obligation to promote and defend it.”
As a result of its obligation to the charter, the OAS stated, “It is past time that the current leaders of Guyana comply with their democratic responsibilities and allow the newly elected government to take its place.”
It is noted that the number of countries calling for a declaration of the recount results at the OAS is comfortably above the minimum majority threshold needed to pass a resolution.
The advocacy of the OAS has inspired statements from other governments as well. On Thursday last, six South American governments called for a declaration of the recount figures. The Governments of Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, Paraguay and Peru sent out a joint statement from the organisation, Progress and Integration of South America (PROSUR), an initiative for an intergovernmental regional bloc.
PROSUR is an initiative meant to replace the Union of South American States (UNASUR) from which most initial member states have withdrawn, due to the region’s debilitating relationship with Venezuela. Amidst the withdrawals from UNASUR, PROSUR held its first summit in 2019, and excluded Venezuela. Apart from the six states making the joint statement, Argentina and Guyana are PROSUR member states as well.
The six governments have emphasized that one of the essential guidelines of PROSUR is respect for democracy. The declaration which began the process to form PROSUR is called the ‘Declaration of Santiago for the renewal and strengthening of South America’. Section five of that declaration, for which Guyana is a signatory, states “That the essential requirements to participate in this space will be the full validity of democracy, of the respective constitutional orders, respect for the principle of separation of the Powers of the State, and the promotion, protection, respect and guarantee of human rights and fundamental freedoms…”
The country, which has led the calls for a declaration of the recount figures in Europe, is Guyana’s former colonial master, the United Kingdom. Many of its officials, most notably, its Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, have called on GECOM to declare the recount results. Following the continuous frustration of the process, Britain announced, like its North American counterparts, that it would be bestowing consequences on offenders of Guyana’s democracy.
The Kingdom of Norway, one of Guyana’s major financiers in the fight against climate change, late last month weighed in on the political situation and called for the end to Guyana’s electoral process using the figures amassed from the national recount.
Apart from those two countries, the 27-member European Union made a statement days ago, warning that a legitimate Government can only be sworn in on the basis of a declaration of the credible results of the recount. The statement comes from the European External Action Service, which is the diplomatic service and combined foreign and defence ministry of the European Union. The EU had fielded an electoral observer mission to Guyana’s elections.
The European Union had also fielded an observer mission to Guyana’s elections and was instrumental in condemning Mingo’s fraud, calling it ‘seriously compromised’.
THE COMMONWEALTH OF NATIONS
The Commonwealth of Nations fielded an observer mission to Guyana’s March elections, headed by Former Barbados Prime Minister, Owen Arthur. In an interview with Kaieteur Radio, Arthur had said that Guyana cannot withstand the fire of the entire international community, and that it would not benefit from being a “pariah state”.
The Commonwealth has paid keen attention to the developments in Guyana’s electoral process and has expressed deep concern. Its most recent statement came from Secretary General, Baroness Patricia Scotland. Following the ruling of the CCJ, Scotland issued a statement on July 12, which reads “Guyana is a much loved and valued member of the Commonwealth. On behalf of the entire Commonwealth family, I strongly encourage the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to follow the directions given by the CCJ and decisively conclude the 2nd March 2020 elections based on the results of the national recount.”
She said that Guyana’s future may truly be forged by this electoral process, and asked that all leaders be faithful to the common good.
The Commonwealth of Nations has 54 member states. Sixteen are also represented as members of the EU, OAS, PROSUR and/or CARICOM. The other 38 nations are scattered across Southern and Western Africa, Asia and the Pacific. They include Australia, New Zealand, Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and India.
On Saturday, India made a separate statement too, calling on all parties to accept the outcome of the elections. The country, which is the largest democracy in the world, said that it has closely been following the developments in Guyana’s electoral process and would like to see a swift, democratic resolution.
Jagdeo will make ayo sell ayo bodies to feed ya’ll pickney.
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