ONLY VALID VOTES MATTER
Making the news yesterday in the New York Times and the Washington Post were claims by President Donald Trump that mail-in elections in the United States exposed massive fraud and rigging, but his critics said that those claims were baseless.
In one article, Mark Hemingway reported that in New Jersey one in five ballots was rejected as fraudulent. As I read the claims and counter-claims, I wondered why it seems so difficult for a handful of American and other Western officials to identify with the credible claims raised in Guyana that the March 2, 2020 elections were characterised by widespread fraud and massive rigging.
For cynics, what is happening in the United States might appear as poetic justice for the victims against whom external forces have engineered, facilitated, encouraged and applauded the fraud in Guyana. What happened here on March 2 is just one tiny blot in what David Shimer documented in his book, “Rigged: America, Russia and One Hundred Years of Covert Electoral Interference,” which was released last week. In some situations, interference is a mild word to describe regime change, such as had taken place in Guatemala way back in 1954.
In the late 1970s while I was on my way to a solidarity conference in Africa, I remember meeting Guillermo Toriello Garrido, a friend of President Jacobo Arbenz and former Foreign Minister of Guatemala. He had been on a one-man crusade around the world to expose the unlawful removal of the Arbenz government.
I have since seen declassified CIA reports that described Guillermo as a former staunch anti-communist, which contradicts the ideological reasons given for the coup against Arbenz that he was a radical, left-wing communist.
American historian Stephen Schlesinger has exposed the unjustified interference in that so-called “banana republic” in his book, “Bitter Fruit — the Story of the American Coup in Guatemala.” In 2011, after 57 long years, a new-generation President, Alvaro Colom, apologised for what he described as “a great crime,” and asked forgiveness for the overthrow of President Arbenz. However, sadly, in the interval between that “great crime” and the apology, there have been three decades of brutal conflicts in Guatemala that claimed some 200,000 lives.
CORRIDOR OF BITTERNESS
Whatever the outcome of the appeal to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) and the 2020 elections in Guyana, for years to come there would exist a corridor of bitterness between our two major ethnic groupings and their representatives. We hope that we could be spared the social costs of conflicts, particularly ethnic conflicts. The least of the bad blood that could flow would be across the aisle in the Parliament chamber, where “honourable members” would trade these two words – “thieves” and “riggers.”
The final report on these elections has been submitted by the chief elections officer (CEO) to the Chairman of the Elections Commission, in compliance with the law and the Order of the Court of Appeal, that only valid votes count. It appears incomprehensible that the major opposition party is challenging the authority of our Court of Appeal to make such an Order.
PROCESS NOT AN EVENT
The determination of a valid vote has to be part of a process that involves a recount, review, report and results. It was Prime Minister Mia Mottley, during her visit to Guyana after the original foiled count of ballots, who reminded us that the elections were not a single event, but a process. As she articulated this position in her authoritative and oratorical style, I was day-dreaming about the far-end of this process, which ought to be the formation of a broad-based government of national unity.
Now, with events that have soured inter-party relations, it is doubtful that this dream could ever come true. But for those following the four-stage recount process, the tabulation of ballots for each of the 10 districts has to be subjected to a review of the figures to take into account the Observation Reports that highlighted massive irregularities and naked fraud, similar to those alluded to by President Trump in the context of mail-in balloting.
After the tabulation it is the CEO who has to apply the credibility test to determine how the massive material irregularities have impacted on the ballots cast and, for the purpose of the law, to ensure that only valid votes count. It is for him, as the sole constitutional functionary, to apply applicable methods in his computation of valid votes.
MORE VALID VOTES
The fact of the matter is that he did his computation, and he has reported on the outcome of the polls, which gives the APNU+AFC Coalition some 5,500 more valid votes than its nearest rival, the PPP/C. This gives the Coalition a one-seat majority in the 65-seat National Assembly.
The Observation Reports provide compelling data on voter impersonation of the dead and Guyanese who have migrated, multiple other irregularities, and missing official records. Were they available, those records could have cast a light on the credibility of balloting in several polling places where more than 7,000 irregular practices were identified, and were duly recorded. Whether described as “defects” or fraud, the Observation Reports would be handy in an elections petition for vitiation or nullification of the elections subsequent to the assumption to office of the President.
For now, the limelight this week is placed on two courts – the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and the Caribbean Court of Justice. The former will hear submissions from Guyana in assertion of the indivisibility and territorial integrity of our beloved country under a binding treaty.
The latter will be asked to pronounce on the constitutional sanctity of the Guyana Court of Appeal to definitively settle a narrow range of issues, among which is assertion of the sovereign right of the Guyanese people to choose their government at periodic, credible elections by way of valid votes cast at these elections. The clock is ticking for final adjudication of both of these matters of national importance after which, hopefully, the Guyanese people can breathe freely again.