The recount of ballot boxes in the San Fernando West, St Joseph and Toco/Sangre Grande seats started yesterday, even as the United National Congress (UNC) announced it was compiling a list of alleged voter irregularities to take to the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC).
Speaking at a press conference at the M Rampersad Building in San Fernando, UNC public relations officer Anita Haynes also reiterated that the party had not yet conceded defeat in the 2020 General Election.
The move by the UNC forced President Paula-Mae Weekes to tentatively set the inaguration of the Prime Minister and Attorney General for Friday.
In a release yesterday, Weekes’ communications adviser Cheryl Lalla said, “Because of the recount/s, the swearing-in ceremony for the PM, AG and government ministers is now tentatively scheduled for 9.30 am on Friday August 14. Please note, this date and time are not cast in stone and may or may not change.”
Haynes said there were no Commonwealth or CARICOM election observers here although the UNC had called for this in the months preceding the elections.
Fraught with irregularities in many constituencies, Haynes said this was why the UNC had called for a recount in five constituencies —San Fernando West, St Joseph, Tunapuna, Toco-Sangre Grande and La Horquetta/Talparo.
She said the disparity in the figures was cause for concern, noting that the party was shocked when Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley announced victory at the polls although the ballots were still being counted.
“Our legal teams are compiling data. We are not going to go about this in a piecemeal fashion, where you get one thing today and another tomorrow. You will get the total list of irregularities when we have it,” Haynes said.
“They will be backed up by information coming from our polling stations, our station’s diaries and our legal teams. We are going about this in a deliberate manner because we understood that we had to be very careful and very deliberate because we had no election observers in the 2020 election.”
She noted that the UNC had taken note of a video showing the PNM candidate for San Fernando West Faris Al-Rawi walking into the EBC’s returning office at 6 pm with documents and papers.
“We have taken note and we intend to raise this issue with the EBC,” she declared.
Haynes also said the UNC was not pleased with comments made by Chief Elections Officer Fern Narcis-Scope, who denied reports that people had waited four hours in line at the Gulf View Community Centre.
Guardian Media on Monday interviewed several residents who said they were forced to wait for up to four hours to cast their ballots. It was alleged that a presiding officer who was related to the returning officer from a polling station was deliberately holding back the flow of voters but Narcis-Scope said COVID-19 protocols had created some delays.
“This idea of people seeing things happened and being told it did not happen, we have seen across the board. Everyone who was in a polling station knows what was happening. We are not satisfied with the answer by Narcis-Scope because we know it to be inaccurate,” Haynes said.
Asked to comment on how close the voting figures were in the marginals under recount, Haynes said, “In San Fernando West, the figures were about 1,500, La Horquetta/Talparo were about 400-500.”
She added, “Polling Divisions were still coming in when victory was announced. Some numbers are still not in.”
Haynes explained that the recounts will take place between yesterday and today and then the UNC will deal with the alleged irregularities. She said they had no information yet on voter turnout.
“Once we get the data we will provide analysis. We saw for ourselves people lined up and waiting. We have seen irregularities and we will be keeping the public abreast of the situation,” Haynes said.
On Monday night, Narcis-Scope said the EBC did its best to clear up lines at Gulf View Community Centre after electors complained they waited for four hours to vote. Narcis-Scope said she was aware of the issue with one polling division but said the delays were caused by a high voter turnout and COVID-19 protocols.
She explained that the EBC had warned that there would be delays because of social distancing but denied people waited for four hours to vote.
As the polls closed off at 6 pm on Monday, more than 40 people from the Gulf View and Bel Air area were turned away from voting. Only those who were near the polling division were allowed to vote.
Attorney Jayanti Lutchmiedial and sub-agent for UNC candidate Sean Sobers said they were disappointed that the EBC did nothing to speed up the voting processes at the polling division, which housed three polling stations.