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|The results of the 2020 General and Regional Elections which were held on March 2 were declared by the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) on August 2, 2020. There are election petitions before the court challenging the results. Those challenges deal with the credibility of the process and count in determining the declaration of results by GECOM.
But even as the court has been asked to adjudicate on the petitions, GECOM has legal outstanding administrative matters to inquire into. One such that has grabbed national headlines and remains of national consequence is the 49 ballot boxes that did not have statutory documents, including the Statements of Polls, but were included in the tallying and declaration. 47 of the 49 boxes came from the governing People’s Progressive Party/Civic strongholds on the lower East Coast Demerara. Together these boxes accounted for more than 12,000 votes.
Section 83 (10) (a) ‘Procedure on closing of the poll,’ in the Representation of the People Act mandates the presiding officer to “place the sealed envelope containing the counted and rejected ballots papers in the ballot box, and secure and seal, with his seal and with the seals of such of the duly appointed candidates and polling agents as desire to affix their seals, to the ballot box in such manner that it cannot be opened and that nothing can be inserted therein or taken therefrom without breaking the seals;”
Two years later the presiding officers for the 49 polling stations have not been held accountable by GECOM, the police or any other arm of the Government. A source speaking with Village Voice said the police should have arrested those presiding officers because they were directly involved in the managing of the polling stations, from which the identified ballots came. “Justice Singh before becoming GECOM Chairperson was the legal advisor to the police, and it is unfortunate she failed in advising that the inquiry on the discrepancies should have stretched far and wide”
The petitions before the courts do not deal with personnel management of the process. The management of the electoral process is GECOM’s, and supervision of the balloting process is the responsibility of the presiding officer who is part of the GECOM’s operation.
Opposition-nominated Commissioners have unsuccessfully sought twice, via motion, to get the Commission to do an internal review of the election management procedures with the intent that evaluation could lead to systems improvement and avoidance of actions that brought disrepute to the 2020 Elections. Justice Singh in denying the request, contended that such review would violate Articles 162 and 163 of Constitution of Guyana that election-related matters should be in the hands of a competent Elections Court.
The chairperson justified her decision by making known: “The Commission does not have, and cannot clothe itself with, 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 contained therein. Any such question can only be determined by way of an election petition filed in the High Court.”
Responding to Justice Singh’s contention, the source said the chairperson lacks clear understanding of the motions presented by the commissioners or wants to preserve the status quo which will further hurt GECOM’s image and could have dire implications for future elections and trust in the institution.
The Proportional Representative model of Guyana’s election means the Executive can be won or lost by one vote; likewise the National Assembly, a parliamentary seat, regional and local government and seats allocation. Every vote counts.