The court battle on matters related to the March 2nd, 2020 national and regional elections continues and will hopefully be resolved sooner, rather than later.
The daily reports on the court proceedings have revealed a number of things, but for the purpose of this letter, I will focus on one glaring claim that was made by the Chief Elections Officer, Mr. Keith Lowenfield, in his affidavit to the High Court.
The content of Mr. Lowenfield’s affidavit was the focus of a newspaper on Tuesday, March 24th, 2020.
The newspaper reported that Mr. Lowenfield said: “The Statements of Poll were scanned in the presence of persons entitled to be there and displayed. All the Statements of Poll were picked up, one after the other, in the presence of the persons entitled to be there, and were scanned in their presence, and also displayed in their presence on the screen set up for that purpose…at no time did the Returning Officer and the Election Clerks read or call votes cast for the List of Candidates from a spreadsheet.”
This is what Mr. Lowenfield said about the Region Four election results which remain mired in controversy.
I have been following the reports/statements from the international Election Observer Missions (EOMs) because I think they play an important role in free and fair elections, and the claim by Mr. Lowenfield is troubling because it is starkly different from what the international EOMs have said.
After the Region Four Returning Officer, Mr. Clairmont Mingo, declared – and I will say fraudulently because of the facts that have been made public – the international EOMs said clearly that what Mr. Lowenfield claims happened did not happen.
In chronological order, the Organisation of American States EOM on March 13th, 2020 said: “The process conducted by the Returning Officer for Region 4 to ascertain the results of the national and regional elections held on March 2 does not meet the required standard or fairness and transparency.” The OAS also said: “Without any plausible explanation, the Returning Officer continued to ascertain the votes cast for each party list without affording the duly authorized candidates and counting agents an opportunity to see the Statements of Poll, in order to compare them with the copies in their possession.”
Also on March 13th, 2020, there was a joint statement from the European Union, Carter Center and Commonwealth EOMs. That said: “The order of the Honourable Chief Justice on 11 March was not followed. The tabulation process did not resume on 12 March as mandated by the court. When the tabulation process was resumed on 13 March, it was not in line with the judgment, which required public tabulation as a safeguard and a measure for promoting transparency and accountability. The Chief Justice reasserted that the actual Statements of Poll have to be displayed in this process.
The orders issued with the judgement should be complied with, and the tabulation process conducted and concluded accordingly. Unless and until this is done in Region 4, the election results cannot be considered credible.”
On March 18th, 2020, a further statement from the Commonwealth EOM said: “On resuming the tabulation after leaving the Court on 13 March, Mr Mingo refused all requests from those entitled to be present to view the actual statements of poll and did not display the spreadsheet being populated.
This compromised the process of ascertaining the credibility of the statements of poll relied on by Mr Mingo to tabulate the results; and, it was impossible for party agents and those entitled to be present to observe that the numbers being called out were being accurately entered on the spreadsheet. In some cases, the tabulation totals announced by Mr Mingo on 13 March reflected more voters than were entered on the list of eligible electors for certain polling stations. At no point did the leadership of the Guyana Electoral Commission halt or rectify these blatant instances of disregard for the rule of law and electoral ethics, despite its vested authority to independently ensure credible elections.”
The statements from the international EOMs, as well as the reporting from the Guyanese media (kudos to the Newsroom, Stabroek News and Kaieteur News for fulfilling their duty to the public), made public what the facts are.
How then can Mr. Lowenfield expect his claim to be seen as anything but a show of duplicity? How can Mr. Lowenfield expect the Guyanese people to have confidence or trust in the electoral process? How can Mr. Lowenfield expect Guyanese to accept the results of Region Four without a recount?
There is much at stake for our country and our people. We can all only hope that a sense of duty to country kicks in at some point.