The daring absurdity of the 156-day plan for the recounting of the ballots of the March 2 elections begs the question of what exactly goes on at meetings of the Elections Commission. The word about is that the working principle, suggested by a Commissioner is that two Commissioners should be present at the counting of each ballot box. That meant that only three counting stations, counting one box at a time, could operate at any one time. At this pace, and with over 2,000 ballot boxes to be counted, the time of 156 days was arrived at.
It is deeply baffling that the Commissioner who made the proposal described above would not have been told that his proposal would result in a counting time of 156 days. Had the Commissioner insisted on his suggestion, it is a mystery why the Chair was not consulted with the preposterous consequences of the proposal before a formal meeting. If all of this had been done, and nothing resulted, it is flabbergasting that the CEO would not have reported to the full Commission, before formally tabling his plan, that the proposal of the Commissioner would result in the counting of the ballots taking 156 days and seek guidance as to whether such a plan should be formally presented.
Maybe all of that was done. Whether it was or not, the Commission has clearly lost its way. The evidence of that, as well as the fact that the Chair and the Commission have lost control over their secretariat, is the astonishingly vulgar abuse directed against Commissioners by the secretariat in a public statement.
Some would say that these are over-generous conclusions and that the Commission, long subverted by its secretariat, seized upon the occasion to advance the Government-APNU+AFC agenda of defiance and delay to destroy the will of those Guyanese who would like to see the votes counted. This view is buttressed by the fact that neither the Government nor APNU+AFC has commented on this preposterous proposal put forward by the CEO of Gecom.
The CEO has official post-election functions relating to the selection of Members of Parliament. He would be aware of article 69(1) of the Constitution which provides that Parliament must meet within four months after its dissolution. It is not known whether this fact was within his contemplation when he worked up his 156-day plan. It is not known either, that if it was as it should have been, that he reported it to the Chair and/or the Commission, officially or unofficially. One month since the elections having already elapsed, another 156 days would have taken the time far beyond the four months. Certainly Mr. Vincent Alexander, the head of the Burnham Foundation, who is always at pains to point out that he is not a member of the PNC, but whose views normally coincide with the interests of APNU+AFC, and who is a sensitive to legalisms and legal issues, could not have missed the point. But maybe, in our state of unconstitutionality, elections having been held long beyond the constitutionally due time, and other constitutional violations having taken place, it really doesn’t matter if there is another desecration.
Proposals have been placed before the Commission for the recounting to take place and be concluded in 10 days to two weeks by the Opposition PPP and a group of the new parties, which the Commission will no doubt soon consider. It is now well known to everyone in Guyana that unless the Chair of the Commission is finally persuaded to take a firm position, this, along with the numerous other contentious issues which will emerge as the Commission goes forward to its final declaration, will continue to attract exhausting controversies. From the moment the gravamen of the CEO’s proposals became known, the Chair should have immediately rejected it and directed him to rework it. That did not appear to have happened.
Though late in the day, it is what is expected from now on. In the critical counting period ahead, the visible presence of the Chair in the counting rooms, even periodically, and not locked away as in the Ashmin’s Building while skullduggery was going on downstairs, which she made no effort to stop, would lend confidence to the process.
Guyana cannot make political progress in the abnormal conditions which now exist as a result of the failure to conclude the current crisis. Many who support such ‘political progress’ generally have a sympathetic view of shared governance. The A New and United Guyana (ANUG), a political party which contested the elections, and promoted shared governance as its flagship issue, obtained about 2,500 votes. While its campaign was limited by meagre resources, It is clear that there is no critical mass in support for a political solution.
Our political elites and many observers are well aware that Guyana needs a political solution. Some of us fear that unless statesmanship is deployed to encourage mass support for it and its implementation, a civil upsurge in which many will suffer, will eventually emerge to force it upon recalcitrant elites. We saw its violent manifestation in multiple, indirect, forms during the PPP/C’s terms of office. Has the PPP/C learnt the lessons of those times?