Guyana Elections Recount: Report of CARICOM observer team completed – update below

The three-member CARICOM team was met on May 2nd at the Eugene F. Correia Airport by Assistant Secretary-General for Foreign and Community Relations, Ambassador Colin Granderson (at left). The team comprises (from left to right) Sylvester King, Deputy Supervisor of Elections of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Cynthia Barrow-Giles, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Government at the University of the West Indies (UWI) and John Jarvis, Commissioner of the Antigua and Barbuda Electoral Commission. (CARICOM photo)

The three-member CARICOM team was met on May 2nd at the Eugene F. Correia Airport by Assistant Secretary-General for Foreign and Community Relations, Ambassador Colin Granderson (at left). The team comprises (from left to right) Sylvester King, Deputy Supervisor of Elections of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Cynthia Barrow-Giles, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Government at the University of the West Indies (UWI) and John Jarvis, Commissioner of the Antigua and Barbuda Electoral Commission. (CARICOM photo)

The highly-anticipated report from the CARICOM team which observed the recount of the March 2nd General and Regional Elections has been completed and will be delivered to GECOM Chairperson Claudette Singh very soon.    

“On behalf of the Secretary-General of the Caribbean Community, His Excellency Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, I would like to inform you that the Report of the CARICOM Observer Team on the Recount of Guyana’s General and Regional Elections of 2 March 2020 will be delivered to the Chair of the Guyana Elections Commission imminently,” Leonard Robertson, Communications Adviser of the Office of the Secretary General of CARICOM said today in response to questions from Stabroek News.

Public Relations Officer of GECOM, Yolanda Ward has not yet replied to this newspaper’s request for answers on if Chairperson Singh already has the report.

According to the gazetted recount order, “The CARICOM Scrutinising Team shall submit a report to the Commission which may include their observations, recommendations, and conclusions”

This newspaper understands that the seven-member commission will meet tomorrow  (June 15) at 11am to begin the first round of discussions on Chief Election Officer Keith Lowenfield’s report which has said that the recount result is not credible.  It is unclear if they will then also be given a copy of the CARICOM report.

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 Stabroek News: UPDATE – 15 June 2020.

The CARICOM observer team at the recount of votes from the March 2nd general elections says it reflects the will of the people and provides a basis for the declaration of a result.

View the full report in this attachment: Report of the CARICOM Observer Team on GY Elections

In a key section the report says:

“Overall, while we acknowledge that there were some defects in the recount of the March 02, 2020 votes cast for the General and Regional elections in Guyana, the Team did not witness anything which would render the recount and by extension the casting of the ballot on March 02,  so grievously deficient procedurally or technically, (despite some irregularities), or sufficiently deficient to have thwarted the will of the people and consequently preventing the election results and its declaration by GECOM from reflecting the will of the voters. The actual count of the vote was indeed transparent”.

In its overall conclusion it emphasized that the recount was valid. This is in stark contrast to Chief Election Officer, Keith Lowenfield’s report on Saturday to GECOM that the recount results are not credible.

The CARICOM team said: “We are however, of the unshakable belief that the people of Guyana expressed their will at the ballot box, and as a result, the 3 person CARICOM Observer Team concludes that the recount results are completely acceptable. There are obvious lessons to learn from this experience which going forward the government and the people of Guyana must make every effort to rectify in the best interest of democratic governance. Many of the instances of irregularities that we witnessed can be explained by either the incompetence of the Presiding Officers at the polling stations on March 02, 2020 and or the failure to give adequate training by GECOM to its staff on the varied possibilities which may have arisen at the level of the individual stations”.

President David Granger had said that CARICOM was the most appropriate interlocutor in the Guyana elections and it is left now to be seen if his government will accept the report.

The CARICOM report will pile pressure on GECOM Chair Claudette Singh to reject Lowenfield’s findings and finally declare a result using the figures from the recount which shows a victory and overall majority for the PPP/C.

The CARICOM team condemned attempts to discredit the 2020 poll aside from what it called the “disastrous Region Four tabulation” which had been done by District Four Returning Officer Clairmont Mingo. It also pointed out that any aggrieved party can approach the court via an election petition.

The report said: “The national recount process then, despite some of its administrative failings, despite some of the minor flaws, is not an indictment of the 2020 polls and the Team categorically rejects the concerted public efforts to discredit the 2020 poll up to the disastrous Region 4 tabulation. Despite our concerns, 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”.

In its blistering report, the team called for a political audit of GECOM saying that in a real sense it had betrayed its obligations.

“But what is also unmistakeable is that a political audit of GECOM, (its successes and failing and the factors contributing to this), both the Commission and its administrative arm, is urgently warranted. It therefore behoves whichever political party emerges victorious from these elections to initiate an immediate political audit, as in a very real sense GECOM betrayed its obligations to behave impartially and independently in the best interest of integrity based processes which did not favour any party or parties in terms of operational or policy decisions”.

The CARICOM observers report said: “From the outset, the Team wishes to acknowledge that the exercise that we observed was not in fact a recount. It was an audit of the votes cast on March 02, 2020 and from the start it was conceived as an audit, notwithstanding the statements on a national recount. A recount of votes means exactly that, a counting of the ballots cast. In this case, the so-called recount extended to issues normally reserved for an audit of ballots cast in an election”.

It listed among these various tasks: the inspection of the ballot, tally sheets, poll books and other polling station documents.

“This is representative of what occurred at the recount in Guyana and was conceptualized and designed as such from the outset at the Gazetted Order and Work Plan revealed. From the start, the recount activities went beyond the original stated objective of the exercise and contributed almost entirely to the extended time taken to undertake an exercise which ought to have been limited to a count of the votes. We were told by the CEO (Chief Election Officer, Keith Lowenfield),  that initially the objective of the exercise was a `recount’, that is a straight count of the ballots cast on March 02, 2020. However, according to the CEO, the national recount evolved into something entirely different to a recount, which the CEO attributed to the decision made by the Commission. In the words of the CEO, `what the Commission wants, is what the Commission gets’”.

Report of the CARICOM Observer Team on GY Elections

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