I have no doubt that the results as declared reflect the will of the people. GECOM’s messy post-E-day performance in Region 4, however, has marred the Coalition’s victory. As such, there should be no resistance to the calls for a recount. The Coalition, I would advise, should even insist on one. It has nothing to lose and all to gain.
But in the coming days, expect to see more and more attempts to discredit these ballot boxes. Allegations that the boxes have been tampered with will now be tossed around with reckless disregard. In this political high-stakes game, any lapse by GECOM during any recount would be jumped on as evidence of fraud. A recount, therefore, has to be absolutely flawless, a tightrope act.
While the law allows either a partial or a total recount, the situation demands no less than a total recount. For a recount to withstand the desperate attacks on its credibility, however, GECOM must, at minimum, take the following actions: (i) it will have to remove RO Mingo and any other controversial staff from any supervisory or operational role in the recounting process, (ii) it must ensure, through consultations with contesting parties, that all aspects of the recounting process are agreed on before any ballot box is touched, and (iii) before a full recount, GECOM should conduct a statistically-valid partial recount of 50 or so randomly-selected ballot boxes. In this, each contesting party should be allowed to pull from a bag the numbers of five polling stations. The counts from these stations should be compared with their SOPs. Using such a partial recount to verify the SOPs is critical for several reasons. It provides a dry run allowing kinks to be ironed out before a full recount. Also, the handling of a smaller number of boxes minimises operational lapses and thus the opportunities for unfounded accusations. Lastly, this initial step allows the truth to steadily and irresistibly unfold. These three suggestions can do much to increase the acceptance, even grudgingly for some, of the 2020 election results.
From here on, GECOM must appreciate that mere compliance with the law would not be enough to restore maximum public confidence in its operations. It must take purposeful steps urgently to increase transparency and accountability. GECOM must, for example, publish all its SOPs now. In addition, it must speak, through the media, more often with the public.
As for the Coalition, whose victory has been marred by the untidiness of it all, it can no longer afford a posture of “quiet obedience to the dictates of GECOM”, to quote its Thursday media release. Its deliberate aloofness has little strategic value and only leads to loss of political ground and to negative perceptions. It too must publicly express its expectations of GECOM. It too must demand a recount. It too must demand that GECOM get its act together.