By Sue-Ann Wayow
THE United National Congress (UNC) continues to find fault with the election process even as recounts are being done for some constituencies as requested by the party.
At a press conference on Saturday, defeated UNC’s candidate for St.Joseph Ahloy Hunt said there were irregularities in the recount process which he referred to as “ alarming,” and claimed that the Elections and Boundaries Commission(EBC) was siding with the People’s National Movement (PNM).
The official recount results for the constituencies of San Fernando West, Toco/Sangre Grande, Tunapuna, St.Joseph and La Horquetta/Talparo have not yet been officially released by the EBC.
Hunt was also joined by UNC candidates Sean Sobers, Jearlean John, David Nakhid, all of whom were defeated in the general election.
Hunt said the irregularities included the alleged denial of access to specimen signatures.
Hunt said, “What we’ve seen in our recount as representatives of the United National Congress has been alarming. First of all some of my colleagues stated that especially in Tunapuna to have a specimen signature present. None was provided. We were flatly told that none would be provided so we have nothing to compare to the signatures on the ballot which for me is unbelievable in itself.”
He said, “Secondly we asked to see diaries so that we can have an account of people who came to vote possibly without IC cards and we were told that those diaries would not be available for us to see. We queried on several occasions why this is so and it was stated to us that it will be under the discretion of the returning officer. Of course we rejected. We sent letters from our legal team to the EBC and until now, we have not received replies to our queries.”
Hunt also said 25 ballot boxes were counted without a UNC representative witnessing the count.
The press conference also had heated moments between the speakers and the press with UNC’s public relations officer Anita Haynes telling the media what questions they should ask and David Nakhid calling the media’s questions “ridiculous.”
The EBC also published a statement on Saturday concerning the recount process stating that the law was upheld during the process and issues raised by political parties were prolonging the process unnessarily.
The EBC stated, “The Elections and Boundaries Commission notes the public discourse on the recounts of votes which were requested in specific electoral districts. It advises that the process for a recount is clearly outlined in law and assures the public that the recounts are being conducted within the parameters of the law.”
The EBC said, “Election Rule 101 (6) provides that where a general recount is requested, a Returning Officer must review all ballots, inclusive of any ballots rejected on Poll day, to determine whether he/she is satisfied with the decision of the Presiding Officer in this regard. The counts would have been conducted by Presiding Officers at Polling Stations, after the close of poll, in the presence of party agents and Poll Day staff. ”
“During the recount, there have been requests to inspect additional documents and requests for specimens of initials. These requests have no legal bearing on the recount. The raising of matters not properly to be considered at a recount, together with non adherence to the times set by Returning Officers for the conduct of a recount, has had the effect of prolonging the process unnecessarily. On Poll Day, at each polling station, representatives of candidates (polling agents) are present all day to observe the process and to witness the counting of the ballots/poll cards when the polls close.”
The EBC added that at the end of the voting period last Monday, no objection was raised by any polling agent and all witnesses signed the Statements of Poll, agreeing to the accuracy of the count and satisfaction with the process.
“The EBC gives the assurance that it is doing whatever is necessary, within the law, to facilitate and expedite the proper conduct of the recounts, so they can be completed in the shortest possible time,” the Commission said.