President Donald Ramotar’s comment that the main opposition political party, A Partnership for National Unity (APNU), was engaged in irregular activities which led to claims of rigging in the November 28, 2011 Regional and General Elections was given credence in the report compiled by local observer group the Electoral Assistance Bureau (EAB).
The report which is to be officially released today found “incidents, irregularities and discrepancies” that still need an explanation. It also makes a mockery of the APNU's report which discredited the total outcome of the polls.
The EAB said that except for two discrepancies, the original Statements of Poll (SOPs) in its possession generally matched those held by the Guyana Elections Commission (Gecom), the PPP/C, APNU and the AFC.
“The numbers of the votes involved in the discrepancies were small and insignificant to the overall results of the elections of the elections but the nature of the discrepancies were highly significant in that they brought to the fore the issue of the chain of custody and security of SOPs from the time they are produced and published at polling stations to the time of declaration of elections results,” it said, adding that security and transparency in chain of custody of SOPs were of paramount concern.
“The overall findings of the EAB’s assessment of observer reports and SOPs is that, barring some incidents, irregularities, discrepancies that warrant explanation, and even taking into account stations where there were remarkably high voter turnout spikes, the results of the General and Regional 2011 Elections as declared by Gecom appear to reflect the intention of the electorate,” it added.
Of the 4,152 SOPs assessed, the EAB report said two discrepancies were found between Gecom’s scanned SOPs and the SOPs in original collections. At 7 polling stations in the APNU/PNC stronghold Sophia, South Georgetown, the SOPs on Gecom’s scanned copies of SOPs were all signed by one person, the Deputy Returning Officer, and not the Presiding Officers of the polling stations and the witnesses to the count. The EAB said when Gecom’s scanned versions of SOPs were compared with the original SOPs issued and signed by witnesses, all of the counts matched except in one case. “In the case of Division 413332C (U-Y), Polling Station: Guiding Light Healing and Deliverance Ministry (Ballot Box No. 4504), General Elections, the total count for APNU, Total Votes Cast, Total Valid Votes at the station were altered upwards by 20 votes on Gecom’s scanned version compared with the original signed SOP issued at the polling station,” it noted.
The EAB found that the second discrepancy was in Region 4, in the Upper East Coast sub-division. “At a polling station in Cane Grove, Division No. 421214D, Polling Place: Cane Grove Health Centre (Ballot Box. No. 4805) the SOP for the Regional Elections on Gecom scanned version did not match the original in count or signatures of the polling agents and Presiding Officer. On Gecom’s scanned copy, APNU was given 58 more votes that were on the original SOP and AFC was given 3 more. The PPP/C had gained 284 votes that were recorded as zero on the Gecom’s version of the SOP. Further, the Division Number, Name, and Ballot Box number of the Cane Grove SOP on Gecom’s scan appear to have been written over a copy of an SOP that was issued at a polling station on the East Bank, Region 4: Division No. 412111 B-I; Timehri Primary School, Ballot Box. Number: 4022. The name of the Presiding Officer and all signatories to the count on that SOP were identical to the one appearing with the Cane Grove unique identifiers on Gecom scanned version of the Cane Grove SOP,” the report said.
According to the EAB’s report, there was a “high degree of correspondence” between its findings and Gecom’s declared results. However, it did single out polling stations where the total votes cast considerably exceeded the total number of registered voters and said that the discrepancies were so severe that they warrant an explanation. Polling stations at Mainstay Lake Primary, Achiwuib Primary, Karaudanawa and the Diamond Secondary School, where this newspaper previously reported difficulties accessing the statements of polls, were listed among those for which account needed to be given.