After a harrowing 107 days with no results since Guyanese went to the polls, the country’s electoral body decided on Tuesday to begin taking the necessary steps for an official declaration of the General and Regional Elections results which will see Dr. Irfaan Ali, Presidential Candidate of the opposition People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C), assuming the Presidency.
A 33-day long recount of the votes concluded last week clearly showing the opposition party had won the elections by over 15,000 votes. However, efforts to prevent it from being declared the winner reached a climax on Saturday when Chief Elections Officer (CEO), Keith Lowenfield, presented a report suggesting the elections lacked credibility. Lowenfield’s conclusion was in line with claims of voter fraud being made by the incumbent A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) coalition, which had initially claimed victory at the polls. The coalition has alleged that a number of people voted in the names of the dead and those who were not in the jurisdiction on elections day. These claims, none of which were supported by verifiable evidence, have all been downplayed by local and international observers who maintained that the elections were free and fair.
The Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) said on Tuesday after considerable deliberations on the report submitted by Lowenfield, Chairperson of the Commission, Justice Claudette Singh had requested for the CEO to prepare a report to ascertain the results of the elections, in keeping with requirements under Section 96 of the Representation of the People Act.
Justice Singh asserted that the Commission does not have the powers of a Court of Law to examine and re-examine witnesses or to procure official documents to determine the truth of the allegations, some of which she described as serious, contained in the Lowenfield report.
A key report from regional body CARICOM, which had dispatched a 3-person team to oversee the recount, said the process was conducted in a transparent manner and its team “did not witness anything which would render the recount and by extension the casting of the ballot on March 2, so grievously deficient procedurally or technically, (despite some irregularities), or sufficiently deficient to have thwarted the will of the people…”
The Organization of American States had also called on GECOM to declare the country’s opposition the winner of the elections and for President David Granger to hand over power to allow “the legitimately elected government to take its place.”
The Carter Centre, which had been blocked by the Guyana government-led COVID-19 Task Force from sending officials to observe the recount, said its on-the-ground observation of the elections process showed that it was free and fair.
“Going forward, The Carter Center calls on all Guyanese to prioritize efforts to strengthen Guyana’s democratic institutions and advance constitutional reforms to move beyond the winner-takes-all system,” the Centre said in a statement Tuesday.
Local observers, stakeholders, members of civil society and representatives of several new parties that contested the elections had also concluded that both the polling day and recount processes were free, fair and transparent.
The Chief Elections Officer now has until 1:00 pm on Thursday to submit his report using the recount results to the GECOM Chairman after which a declaration is expected, paving the way for Dr. Ali to be sworn in as Guyana’s ninth Executive President.