October 1, 2016

Court-ordered recount was done quickly in Jamaica but not in Guyana

Dear Editor,
It can never be understood why counting and certifying ballots take several days in Guyana when other countries declare their winner the same evening or why the court takes almost forever to ad-dress an election petition in Guyana.
Jamaica, St Vincent, Trinidad, etc all held elections in recent months and the winner was known the same evening. In Guyana, the outcome is always contentious. Election petitions in those territories are also quickly disposed of, often changing the outcome of an election.
In Guyana, the defeated PPP/C filed an election petition (to force a recount or) to vitiate the results of last May’s General Elections. Some nine months later, the matter is yet to be determined. Jamaica held elections on February 25. Ballots were counted and a winner (JLP) declared that very evening (33 seats for opposition JLP and 30 for incumbent PNP). There was a request for a recount of ballot boxes in some constituencies. The Jamaica Election Commission (JEC) opted to recount all ballots of all 63 seats and it was done in less than two days although Jamaica had almost three times the number of electors as Guyana.
In Guyana, it took some four days to count and certify the ballots. There was a PPP/C request for a re-count of ballots before the official declaration of the outcome. Gecom initially agreed and then decid-ed against a recount on the objection of the Ambassadors of the ABC countries; while they object to recounts in Guyana, electoral recounts are routine in UK, US and Canada.
The PPP/C then requested a recount of some ballot boxes in Georgetown and in the region where it lost a seat by one vote and where there were some 50 spoilt votes all in favour of PPP/C as per voter intention. PPP/C stated it would abide by the recount numbers. Gecom agreed and then decided against a recount (at the objection of the ABC countries?). An official winner (APNU+AFC) was de-clared (33-32).
In Jamaica, a candidate sought court intervention for another count. A magisterial recount was held within days, reversing the official outcome. Initially, JEC officially stated JLP won a seat by 137 votes. On the recount that was ordered by the magistrate court, the PNP won by nine votes.
That is the final outcome and the final result is 32-31 in favour of JLP (Incidentally 32 seats are needed for government formation and so the government is barely surviving). While the recount was being done, there was an atmosphere of calm; Jamaicans went about their business and daily routine nor-mally. The same was not the case in Guyana where the atmosphere was very tense and shops shut-tered for a week.
So a count and a recount of ballots can be done and it affected the outcome. It was carried out in a fel-low Caricom nation. It is noted that the Jamaica Election Commission did a recount of all ballots to satis-fy the public interest as well as the parties. Not satisfied, the losing candidates had the option of going to the court to address any discrepancy. The court intervened within days and ordered a recount in one seat.
It is inexplicable why Gecom could not mount a similar recount as in Jamaica to satisfy the public inter-est (amidst all the allegations and counter allegations of improprieties) or why the court is taking so long to determine a simple electoral matter.

Yours truly,
Vishnu Bisram

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