Tens of thousands disenfranchised

THERE are lessons to be learned from Wednesday’s Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) ruling on Guyana.

The court found an official of that country’s Election Commission (GECOM) was out of order to take it upon himself to weed out what he deemed invalid votes from an official recount.

It also said Guyana’s Court of Appeal was wrong to uphold this illicit action.

“The Court of Appeal impliedly invited the CEO to engage, unilaterally, in a further and unlawful validation exercise,” said president of the court Justice Adrian Saunders. “It was inconsistent with the constitutional framework for the CEO or GECOM to disenfranchise tens of thousands of electors in a seemingly non-transparent and arbitrary manner.”

While many have been confused by the manoeuvres since the March 2 election, the CCJ noted there is no magic or mystery when it comes to what is a valid vote. It is simply one that has not been spoilt.

Hence the court made a distinction between removing a spoilt vote versus a full-fledged questioning of the provenance of a vote in the face of allegations of impropriety. The latter is a matter for a High Court election petition.

For all these reasons, the situation is such that the Guyana Opposition party must now be declared the winner and the incumbent President David Granger relinquish power.

If Mr Granger wishes to pursue his claims of skullduggery, he must do so in the High Court and from the opposition benches.

Will that be the next, legitimate step?

Moments after the CCJ ruling, Mr Granger told a gathering, “It is the first time this has happened in the history of our country and it has happened because there are some bad elements out there who tried to manipulate the vote.”

And yet it must be asked: who are and where exactly are these “bad elements” to which Mr Granger refers?

Further question marks still hang over the interminably, intolerably delayed outcome of the elections. The uncertainty, ambiguity and anxiety caused by the knowledge of the turbulent history of elections in Guyana can only have deepened the existing political divide and distrust.

Feelings run high during election periods at the best of times; their intensity have only been increased by Guyana’s newfound mineral resources, which mean the financial stakes are now far higher in any poll.

Since Wednesday, GECOM has held its hand, notwithstanding the clear implications of the court ruling. It will convene a meeting today in Georgetown.

Many view this delay as simply the continuation of a strategy that has unfolded since Mr Granger lost a no-confidence motion in Parliament almost a full two years ago: delay.

The international community cannot yet turn its gaze away from events in Guyana in the assurance that the ruling of the region’s highest court will be scrupulously followed.


"Tens of thousands disenfranchised"

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