A comprehensive 33-day recount of votes cast in Guyana’s 2 March election indicates that the opposition People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) has taken 33 seats, to the governing A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance for Change (APNU+AFC) Coalition’s 31. Under the country’s proportional representation system one seat is expected to go to other parties standing as Joinder Alliance. The outcome means that PPP/C should assume the presidency.
The PPP/C secured a total of 233,336 votes, APNU+AFC secured 217,920 votes and Joinder Alliance 5,214 votes. The contentious District Four recount which included Georgetown showed that votes declared in the set aside first count were heavily inflated in favour of APNU+AFC.
The final recount is subject to official confirmation by the Guyana Electoral Commission (GECOM).
Before that happens GECOM’s Chief Elections Officer must submit a report which is expected to cover not only the number of votes counted but also include a summary of the contents of 2,339 observational reports created during the recount. He has up to 13 June to do so. The Commission then has three days to deliberate, after which a national declaration is expected. A scrutinising team from CARICOM is also expected to submit a non-binding report to the Commission which may include their observations, recommendations, and conclusions.
Speaking after the recount, but before the final official declaration had been made, the General Secretary of the PPP, former President Bharrat Jagdeo, said that supporters of the governing APNU+AFC had nothing to fear from its leadership as they will be a bastion of inclusivity. He told the media “I can say tonight we have no interest, whatsoever, in victimising anyone. People don’t have to worry for their jobs, they don’t have to worry about their healthcare, their education…an APNU
child will be treated just as well as a PPP/C in a family.”
Jagdeo subsequently said that under the terms of the constitution the PPP/C presidential candidate, Irfaan Ali should now be declared the winner based on votes gained and sworn in swiftly. Responding to questions from the media about the role he will play in the new government Jagdeo said “that will come next week. If there is, there will be no surprise.” In December 2019, Ali said that he had asked Jagdeo to serve as a vice-president, if the PPP/C is returned to power.
How readily the outcome of the recount is accepted is uncertain. Prior to the formal declaration, the governing party had argued that irregularities detailed in the observational reports ‘demonstrate a pattern of manipulation of the electoral process’. In addition, the President and leader of APNU-AFC, David Granger, had said that unstamped ballots, deceased and migrant voters and missing poll books that had been observed appeared to be intentional actions.
Responding to the apparent outcome and continuing tension, Western diplomatic missions stressed the need for all stakeholders to uphold the integrity of the process and ‘peacefully accept’ the wishes of the Guyanese population.
In a statement, the High Commissioners for the United Kingdom and Canada and the Ambassadors for the US and EU jointly noted that ‘those who are elected must take on this responsibility with humility and demonstrate that they will govern for the benefit of every Guyanese citizen’. They also encouraged all party leaders to commit to constitutional reform and reconciliation. Their statement commended Granger and Jagdeo for their support of the recount, and for their clear commitment to abide by the results.
Separately, Sir Shridath Ramphal a Guyanese and the Caribbean’s elder statesman had issued a statement calling on all Guyanese ‘not to allow our motherland to descend into the darkness of denial of the rule of law and regularity’. ‘Let lawfulness prevail in our country; unless it does, all of Guyana – and all its people – are imperilled’ he wrote. Sir Shridath has variously been Commonwealth Secretary-General, Chairman of the West Indian Commission, Chancellor of the University of the West Indies, and Head of the CARICOM Regional Negotiating Machinery.
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