Three weeks ago I set myself the task of combining some historical facts with a few personal reflections to make an important point in support of my hypothesis that a ‘significant shift has taken place in the global political system that threatens the PNC’s take no prisoners approach to acquiring and holding on to political power!’ (SN: 15/01/2020). A few believed that my intention was to argue that the PPP is not also threatened by this global shift but they are incorrect for in recent times the PPP has moved much closer to the PNC in the manner in which it sought to acquire and maintain its hold on government. Even stalwart PNC members would now not seriously deny that their party blatantly manipulated the national elections between1968 and 1992 and if the PPP is correct about the 2015 elections the PNC is still in that business. So rather than concluding my topic today, I will set the stage for my contention that the PPP is also in jeopardy.
For me, the red flag arose when I began to consider the growth in registered voters for the 2015 elections. The numbers were 440,185, 492,369, 475,469 and a whopping 585,727 for 2001, 2006, 2011 and 2015 respectively. Based on this and some other calculations I made a rudimentary suggestion that the 2015 electoral list was bloated by over 100,000 persons and concluded that, ‘Once one of the significant parties insists that the electoral list is flawed an objective effort must be made to fix the problem before elections are held.’ (SN: 11/09/2019). The problem was not fixed and recently both Mr. Vincent Alexander, a government-nominated commissioner on the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), and Dr. Tara Singh (‘Statistically impossible for OLE to have 661,028 eligible voters’ SN 02/02/2020) have said that the present listed is flawed.
Only a week ago, the former PPP/C minister and parliamentarian, Bishop Juan A. Edghill, more or less adumbrated the position I stated above: ‘having a credible Official List of Electors (OLE) is of paramount importance, (but) what transpires on Election Day … are also critical’ (SN: 31/01/2020). Indeed, the Electoral Knowledge Network states, ‘Integrity in voter registration is critical to free and fair elections. … A permanent registry … must be regularly updated to change the registration status of voters who have moved residence or whose status has changed, e.g., as a result of death or incapacity.’ (http://aceproject.org/ace-en/topics/ei/eif/eif06/default).
It is universally accepted that a bloated list is a danger to free and fair elections, but rather than fixing the problem that developed and was maintained during its period in office, the PPP set about its usual propaganda offensive and fought tooth and nail efforts to clean the list. First it argued that the list was not bloated and when that became difficult to maintain, its supporters began claiming that a clean list is not of paramount importance. Thus, Mr. Gerry Gouveia, while not denying that the present electoral list is bloated, pointed to the many other security features of the electoral process to conclude that, ‘What is most important is that no person can vote for another person.’ Gerry’s position is not too unlike the businessman – which I am certain in his private dealings he is not – who leaves all his money and important documents unsecured in his office because he is assured that the best security system in the world is guarding the office!
‘The greatest political paradox of our time is this: there are more elections than ever before, and yet the world is becoming less democratic. Nowadays, elections are held almost everywhere. The vast majority of governments at least go through the motions of election campaigns, and are rhetorically committed to allowing citizens to cast ballots to choose the leaders who will govern them. However, in many places, that choice is little more than an illusion: the contest is rigged from the start’ (Cheeseman Nicholas and Brian Klaas (2018) How to Rig an Election. Yale University Press).
In Somaliland in 2008 and the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2011 modern biometric registration processes were introduced but 700,000 double registrations were later detected by the elections commission that had obviously not conducted effective audits of the process but later ruled that it was too late to clean the register. Based upon the latest technology, Indians designed what they believed to be a tamper-proof voting machine but researchers from the University of Michigan built a custom-made device that used Bluetooth technology to steal votes from the machine without tampering with the physical device. But what occurred in Azerbaijan’s 2013 elections must takes the cake. There the repressive regime of President Ilham Aliyev, trying to boost its democratic credentials, launched an iPhone app that was to give citizens a real time view of the ballot counting process. Lo and behold – some of those trying out the app the day before the polls found the elections results!
Mr. Gouveia, I am aware that in recent times persons have voted more than once. Indeed, on elections day in 2006, I was even called and asked what to do with people who are coming to vote more than once. My response was cautious: tell the supervisor if you believe it is sensible and safe for you to do so. On 2011 elections night a resident next to a polling station called with the claim that persons had arrived and were tampering with/exchanging the statement of poll that was placed on the station. So many copies of that statement were in circulation at the time that I put it down to vandalism, but now I am not that certain. After all, in 2015 fake statements of poll were found in GECOM’s system! A few months ago, in an open letter to the leader of the opposition, one staunch supporter of the PPP who stated that he was now residing in one of the Caribbean islands called upon his leader to be more vigilant in PPP strongholds because too many of their supporters are turned away from the polls for having fake documents. Why do you think the PPP did not make a huge stink about such incidents?
Against this backdrop, I began to wonder why it was that a party that has historically prided itself on supporting free and fair elections and almost immediately after the 2015 elections supported house to house (HtH) voter registration, suddenly, in about middle of 2019, began to object to it when the PNC demanded the same thing. Talk about voter suppression cannot hold in a context where the PPP government had sufficient time to properly and legally sanitize the list. Indeed, what are we to make of the fact that when the court decided that the HtH was legal but that the list cannot be radically reformed the leader of the PPP claimed victory?
I know what I make of the above observations. There is now in existence a voters list that constitutes a danger to free and fair elections for it is substantially bloated and was maintained as such under the PPP/C regime. If that list was electorally disadvantageous to the PPP it would have long been legally rectified. In the circumstances it is appropriate to conclude that with a diminishing ethnic support base, over its two decades in office the PPP/C deliberately set about constructing and embedding a flawed list in the electoral process. Thus, electorally, Guyana is presently a rigging field in which the PNC and PPP periodically joust to the detriment of their constituencies and the populace.