The recount winds down amidst the 40th Anniversary of the assassination of Walter Rodney, one of Guyana’s most prominent and courageous fighters for democracy and free and fair elections. The party, of which he was a leader, the WPA, now in alliance with APNU, together with the PPP, proposed separate policies in the late 1970s for shared governance. The WPA’s proposal was called “Government of National Unity and Reconstruction,” the PPP’s, a “National Patriotic Front Government.” There were formal discussions between the two parties, chaired by the neutral Ashton Chase, at the CCWU’s headquarters, seeking mutual support for each other’s proposals. There was no immediate agreement but the WPA’s subsequent adjustment to include the PNC in its Government of National Unity and Reconstruction, created an alignment of the two positions on two important issues for a political solution, namely: 1. Free and fair elections; and 2. Inclusion of the PNC in a unity government.
The major issue underlining Guyana’s political instability before the 1970s, during the 1970s when these discussions were taking place and today, is the same. It is the struggle for ethno-political dominance characterized by the expression of political support among the electorate for one or the other major political parties. The PPP and the WPA were making efforts to encourage the PNC away from exercising its own ethno-political dominance in the form of rigged elections and authoritarian rule. Both saw democracy, in the form of free and fair elections, as the essential basis for such an outcome. No argument has been advanced to suggest that it should be any different today.
The assassination of Walter Rodney on June 13, 1980, did not bring an end to the alliance between the PPP and WPA but it had several effects. It took the PNC out of the picture and Rodney’s absence was felt in the discussions leading up to a proposed unified electoral list in 1992 and the WPA’s participation in the government thereafter. But the most important lessons to take away from past and current events are: 1. There is no support for shared governance and the abolition of the winner take all system while elections are rigged and; 2. The struggle for ethno-political dominance will always, always, embrace rigged elections as one of its most obvious manifestations.
The many statements, particularly at this time, including from the US Congress, the State Department, the diplomatic community in Guyana and election observers, among others, calling for the political leaders to maintain their commitment to accept the results of the recount, point to a great deal of nervousness among foreign and local observers that APNU+AFC might be tempted to renege on President Granger’s commitment. No one quite knows what is going on in the Government and coalition. He repeated, in more emphatic language, his commitment to accepting GECOM’s declaration upon the recount when first, Basil Williams, the Attorney General, then Roysdale Forde, a lawyer representing APNU+AFC, challenged the legality of the recount.
Yet he has remained silent since Mr. Joe Harmon, defying all precedent, logic, commonsense, practicality, electoral practice and electoral laws in Guyana and the Caribbean, issued an ultimatum to GECOM, on behalf of APNU+AFC, to give a give a decision on “these matters” by the end of Friday June 5, 2020. “These matters” include the credibility of 90,000 votes which may or may not (we are not sure) refer to illegal voting by the impersonation of dead and migrated persons, 8,000 ballots of the disciplined forces rejected as not being stamped, and various other “illegalities” connected with the absence of various elections records which are required to be in the ballot boxes.
Mr. Harmon ignored the test of the credibility of the impersonation of migrated persons. The Chair of GECOM sent 207 names submitted by APNU+AFC as having voted despite not being in Guyana to the Commissioner of Police for investigation. The Commissioner confirmed that 172 of them were out of Guyana on March 2. Of the 172, 24 have since come forward and displayed their records to prove that they were in Guyana at the time. Mr. Harmon has also ignored the fact that nothing close to 1,000 ballots, far from the 8,000 claimed, have been rejected because of not being stamped. So much for the credibility of APNU+AFC’s allegations, mostly without evidence of any sort and the wild and unanchored claims for “investigations.”
The most important factor in counting votes or any form of recount is the ballot and what it says. The ballot paper must not be fake, it must have a security mark, a serial number, the vote must be clearly identifiable for a contestant and the ballot must contain nothing that identifies the voter. These have not only been enumerated in Mr. Anil Nandlall’s letter in yesterday’s SN but are provided for in the Representation of the People Act. While the Recount Order, which has been extensively quoted in previous articles, provides for some elements of auditing, these relate to the contents of the ballot box and not to allegations based on no evidence.