At long last, the governing coalition of President David Granger has affirmed his own previous, if murkily stated, assertion: the will of the people of Guyana, expressed through a CARICOM-supervised recount of the ballots in the March regional and presidential elections, is to be accepted.
Tonight, after too much hand-wringing over what to do with the result of a recount by the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), the prime ministerial candidate for A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC), Khemraj Ramjattan, said the governing coalition is ready to accept the declaration which is expected to show it was defeated at the polls.
The administration has been dragged kicking and screaming to this sobering reality. The commission, riven more by partisanship than patriotism, botched the elections, allowed the electoral rolls to be padded and the government’s representatives on the board did whatever they could to contribute to the re-election of the incumbent.
We are reminded of the doubtfully apocryphal assertion by Guyana’s first president, Forbes Burnham, whose PNC is the forerunner of the APNU that it was unacceptable that a ruling party – in those days, his – could fail to win an election.
So no doubt, the events of the past three months might have left the former “cooperative republic” of Guyana’s comrade leader spinning in his mausoleum. But democracy, not demagoguery, must lead Guyana, and indeed every CARICOM nation, out of the abyss and into a future of enlightenment, progress social justice and peace.
The drumbeat for acceptance of the result has been persistent, if not embarrassing. When the United States – which as recently as a week ago could not pull off a presidential primary without massive long lines, chaos, voter suppression and ineptitude – could join a chorus of disapproval against President Granger’s hesitation to hand over the reins of government, you know Guyana has reached a deeply embarrassing juncture in its history.
Regrettably, this reluctance to proceed to certify the results was aided by division between the political appointees of GECOM’s board and Chief Elections Officer Keith Lowenfield.
Finally, the man who would have been prime minister in an APNU+AFC administration has asserted that the elections commission is bound by the law to facilitate a smooth transition to a People’s Progressive Party (PPP) administration under the presidency of Dr Irfaan Ali and bring the electoral process to an end.
“The clarity that we have since indicated is that we are bound by the constitutional entity and the GECOM… We are bound to by law and we are bound to by the procedures,” Ramjattan was quoted by the Demerara Waves online news service as saying.
“That constitutional entity is GECOM and if GECOM makes the declaration, whether it’s by majority 4-3 or if it is a majority of seven, whatever it is, we respect that and we move on as a country. There’ll be lots to say by all politicians but we’ll have to move on.”
We are satisfied that the AFC member of the coalition has been the adult in the room. Ramjattan reminded all that President Granger himself had said he would accept “any” and “whatever” decision that GECOM Chairman Claudette Singh would make.
The recount shows that of the 460,352 valid votes cast, APNU+AFC got 217,920 and the PPP 233,336 and the three ‘joinder’ parties – A New and United Guyana (ANUG), Liberty and Justice Party (LJP) and The New Movement (TNM) – received a total of 5,214 votes.
The CARICOM team of scrutineers, the Commonwealth and the Organisation of American States have called on GECOM to declare the election results based on the tabulation from that recount.
We concur. The People have spoken.
We can only hope that the members and supporters of the APNU, the senior partner in the outgoing coalition government, will come to accept that it is indeed outgoing and set to work immediately to build a credible case for government in the next election. That is how we do things in the Caribbean Community – a peaceful transition of power even after a rancorous campaign with superheated rhetoric and a credible election. That last part of the formula has eluded Guyana too many times in the past. It must not be its future.
As we welcome the new Ali administration, we urge that the victorious PPP will have learned important lessons of its past incarnation in government, and thus resist the urge to divide the spoils of newly founded oil wealth to its patrons and engage in the politics of vengeance, retribution and pandering to the base. We live in hope.
Rather, the new government should commit itself to create the greatest good for all Guyanese, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion and geography while respecting the civil and political rights of all and the rule of law.
This must now be the Guyana way.