Vote verification would prove PPP/C won majority

-Ramotar

President Donald Ramotar yesterday said he is not afraid to go back to the ballot boxes to verify the votes cast at last year’s elections, adding that he remains sure that the PPP/C actually won by more than 50 percent.

Speaking at a press conference at the Office of the President yesterday, he again accused the opposition of infiltrating the Guyana Elections Commission (Gecom) machinery, in response to the findings of major irregularities found by main opposition party A Partnership for National Unity’s (APNU) after a verification of Statements of Poll (SOPs).

APNU on Monday announced that it found misconduct and illegal acts in the holding of the November 28, 2011 elections, and said there was no reliable basis to determine who won the presidency. Its findings, based on its independent physical verification of the SOPs, included that there was abuse of private residences used as polling stations to inflate the votes counted for the PPP/C.

But Ramotar yesterday questioned why both APNU and the AFC refused his offer to have a forensic audit of the elections “and let us go back into the box as we did after the 1997 elections to see what the real results are if they had any doubts in their minds.”

“It is rather unfortunate that after an attempt to block a re-verification of the elections results, APNU continues to paint itself as a victim in this process,” he said.

The President added that APNU’s claims are bringing the integrity and competence of its own polling day staff and agents into disrepute.

“There were also several instances where well known former PNCR scrutineers and other officials were directly employed on elections day by Gecom to various roles, as there is documented evidence where the PPP/C polling agents were refused entry into polling stations. Many of you saw the treatment I had when I went to vote in my polling division by a staff that was clearly anti-PPP/C,” he complained.

“I am convinced that there were several instances of malpractice by strategically placed Gecom officials who infiltrated the system and I remain confident that the PPP/C did have a decisive victory – more than 50 per cent – at the last elections. I have said that and I am ready to go back into the boxes to prove me wrong,” he said.

The President said APNU is clearly trying to rewrite history and change the past. “This was a party that destroyed this country. We have transformed Guyana since we came into office,” he said.

Last month, Ramotar accused APNU and AFC of “manipulating” the results of the elections and cheating the PPP/C of a majority victory.

“For sure, I think we had over 50%. I think we lost some votes, no doubt, but I don’t think we lost enough to bring us under 50%, but the results were through manipulation,” Ramotar was quoted as saying in an interview published in the Guyana Chronicle. “My own realistic assessment was that we had probably between 52 [and] 53%,” he said, while also indicating that his party withdrew requests for partial recounts to avert any outbreak of violence.

Ramotar suggested that the opposition parties manipulated the elections results by scaring away polling agents in South Georgetown and other areas and by penetrating Gecom.

SOP verification submitted to Gecom

Meanwhile, APNU yesterday said that it has made an official submission of the results of its SOP verification to Gecom. “This morning the team that did the verification went to the Guyana Elections Commission and presented Mr Calvin Benn, who is the acting Chief Elections Officer, with our final report,” said Joe Harmon of APNU.

“The Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission Dr Steve Surujbally said that Benn was acting CEO in the absence of Gocool Boodoo. They appreciated the work that we have done. Dr Surujbally said that they will review our report and where we were right as far as they are concerned, they will apologise. And where they find there are issues requiring further clarification, they will do so,” Harmon said.

“As it stands right now, Gecom, Dr Surujbally and Benn have our final report on the verification of the SOP,” he said. “…Now the ball is in their court to determine whether what we are saying is true or not,” he said.

Harmon, however, added that contrary to what Gecom said, there was no agreement to present the findings of the verification to Gecom first. “However, we felt it feasible to give a copy to Gecom, because a number of the irregularities and misconduct, which we found, are matters in the domain of Gecom and which they would have to correct,” he said.

On Monday, APNU representatives also suggested the complicity of the Gecom in misconduct.

An examining team that APNU put together worked with Gecom from January 23 to February 20, during which there were five meetings to review the physical copies of the SOPs; this was after APNU voiced its dissatisfaction with the electronic copies that Gecom had provided earlier.

The examination found that a final list of polling stations was not provided to political parties by Gecom. It found too that votes on the SOPs did not add up to the Gecom’s gazetted results.