GEORGETOWN, Guyana (AP) — Authorities in Guyana were under international pressure on Tuesday to certify an opposition victory in national elections even as the head of the Elections Commission argued that the March 2 vote was badly flawed and should be thrown out.
The commission was meeting Tuesday to consider the report by Chief Elections Officer Keith Lowenfield, who said hundreds of people who were dead or has emigrated were recorded as having voted and that some ballot boxes were stuffed only with votes for the main opposition party.
He said over the weekend that an audit found so many irregularities that the vote in the small South American nation can’t be described as “credible.”
But the Organization of American States issued a statement Monday dismissing his report, adding, “His contention that the entire election be set aside on this basis alone is astonishing.” It suggested that he has “displayed partisan behavior.”
It called on the government of President Davide Granger “to begin the process of transition, which will allow the legitimately elected government to take its place.”
The U.S.-based Carter Center, which promotes fair elections, also noted that observers from the Caribbean Community found that “the recount results are acceptable and provide the basis for a declaration of results from the March 2 election.”
The vote was widely seen as the most important election since independence from Britain in 1966 due to the discovery of sizable oil deposits off the shores of the English-speaing nation of some 750,000 people.
Following a recount of some districts, Granger’s party was almost 160,000 votes behind the main opposition People’s Progressive Party.
Pro-government commissioner Vincent Alexander said Tuesday that the lead is made up of fraudulent votes that if scrubbed from the tally would see the governing coalition winning by about two seats. The leader of the party that wins the most seats in parliament becomes president.
The governing coalition wants nearly 12,000 votes in 47 boxes from eastern coastal villages invalidated, complaining they contained only votes for the PPP and none for any other parties, which it said is a clear case of fraud. Lowenfield also reported that required supporting documents such as poll books and poll statements were missing.
The PPP said allegations of fraud were fiction and accused Lowenfield of endorsing “the wild, reckless and baseless allegations made by the coalition.
Guyana’s parliament has not met for more than a year and the country is basically running with a caretaker Cabinet, unable to spend on large projects because there are no legislators to vote on appropriations.
Guyana could become one of the richest nations in the hemisphere in a decade due to oil exports. U.S. supermajor ExxonMobil and partners began oil production and exports in December. The country has already earned $100 million from two shipments of a million barrels of oil each this year.
Guyanese traditionally vote along racial lines, with coalition backeds by the 34% of the population of African descent and the PPP backed by the 38% of Guyanese of Indian descent.
In is unclear who will govern the country if the polls are annulled.