ANOTHER POLL AUDIT, ANOTHER CLEARANCE

Editorial
Guyana Chronicle
August 12, 2001



FOR THE second time in three years and less than three months, auditors of Guyana's last two general elections results have concluded their respective mandates by declaring that their findings show "no electoral fraud", and, consequently, confirmed the expressed will of the electorate.

First, there were the findings of the CARICOM Audit Commission that was headed by the Trinidad-born Caribbean jurist, Sir Ulric Cross, for the December 15, 1997, elections that resulted in a second term victory for the PPP/Civic with Mrs. Janet Jagan as President.

In their summary of findings, that Audit Commission made it abundantly clear that "examination of the 1843 boxes of ballots cast in all ten regions did not reveal any fraudulent ballots. The secret code was evident in all ballots scrutinised...." And "with respect to voter identification cards, there was no evidence of fraud in their use..."

Subsequently, then High Court Judge, Claudette Singh, was to void the elections on the ground that requirement for the use of voter ID was unconstitutional. The use of voter ID had been agreed to by both the ruling PPP/Civic and the opposition PNC which had contested the validity of the results of the 1997 elections.

The ruling by Justice Singh had nothing to do with the reality of the conduct of free and fair elections, as noted by all local, regional and international observer missions. Justice Singh's ruling is being appealed.

The IDEA's Findings
Now, for the March 19, 2001 elections, at which the PPP/Civic was returned to government for a consecutive third term, this time with Mr. Bharrat Jagdeo as the elected President, the Sweden-based International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA) has given an unequivocal thumbs-up for accuracy and fairness.

The team of IDEA auditors has done more than commend the high level of accuracy in the compilation of the final voters register in a relatively short time.

The auditors noted that in an electoral roll of about 440,185, the errors found were less than 1,000. Even if the problem with the voters list had been even one per cent or about 4,400, it would have made no difference in the final allocation of seats.

Stressing how highly accurate they found the voters register to be for the March 19 poll, the IDEA's auditors said they were "unable to find that the issues and concerns raised by the political parties and other stakeholders in relation to the 2001 electoral process, prejudiced or advantaged any particular political party or parties.

"Consequently, the Audit Team is able to declare that the issues and concerns detailed in this report would not have affected the result of the election...."

Vindication
This is clearly a vindication - if, indeed it was needed - of the good work done, under very difficult circumstances, by the bi-partisan Guyana Elections Commission, headed by retired Major General Joe Singh, and the Chief Elections Officer, Mr. Gocool Boodoo, and his team of workers.

Dr. Haslyn Parris, for one, who was verbally abused and beaten at Congress Place on the night when he endorsed the results of the elections and spoke clearly about the transparency of the electoral process, would certainly not be surprised by the conclusion of the findings in the IDEA's report.

The PPP/Civic itself has never been in any doubt about the expressed will of the electorate.

Those who had encouraged mob violence and organised protests may find other excuses to rationalise what they did under the pretext of votersí protests against the electoral roll and of alleged denials of their right to vote.

The international donor community deserves to be commended for making possible the work of the IDEA's Audit Team that so rigorously pursued its mandate to produce a report of such high quality that confirms with the core of the conclusions of local, regional and international observer missions that monitored the March 19 elections.