Elections and Boundaries Commission Chief Elections Officer Fern Narcis-Scope yesterday rubbished claims by the United National Congress’ candidate for Tunapuna David Nakhid, that the recount he requested in the marginal constituency was being done in an undemocratic manner.
Contacted by Guardian Media yesterday to respond to claims made by Nakhid during a press conference at the El Dorado Community Centre, Narcis-Scope said he and his team were, in fact, not abiding by the guidelines set by the EBC returning officer for the recount process.
“Mr Nakhid and his team have been persistently late, as I understand, in attending the recount in Tunapuna. The recount was carded to start on Wednesday morning at 8.30, they did not arrive until 11, and having arrived at 11 and therefore delaying the process by several hours, they then wished to leave by 6 pm when the returning officer would have indicated he was willing to continue the process and they left anyway,” Narcis-Scope said.
She said the rules that govern the recount process state that the commencement and termination of the daily recounts are set by the returning officer only, adding since Nakhid is the candidate who requested the recount, he should comply with the terms of the returning officer. She said Nakhid has a responsibility to be present or have an agent present on his behalf if he cannot be at the venue for the process.
Narcis-Scope referenced the Notice of Election published by the EBC on July 6, which states that any recount requested would begin at 3 pm on August 11 and continue, with the dates and times set by the returning officer.
“I am saying that to underline the fact that the returning officer sets the conditions under which the recount shall be taking place. By that, I mean the length, the time and the duration and that candidates and their agents are to comply with what has been set by that relevant returning officer.”
During the press conference yesterday, Nakhid alleged that the recount process was undemocratic because the recount had continued on Wednesday when he and his representatives had already left for the day.
“How can we have a process from 6 pm to 11 pm yesterday (Wednesday), where votes were recounted and we were not present? How is that possible? We have no documentation from the EBC about what the schedule is, we tried to comply, we told them what the schedule was and every time it changes, PNM legal (team) whatever they say seems to hold weight with the returning officer,” Nakhid said.
Asked how far along in the recount process they were, Nakhid responded, “We are going as quickly as we can but this is a process you cannot go for speed, this is not a NASCAR race, this is a recount of an election so someone cannot just come, say based on one side, that they can recount four boxes from 6 to 11 last night without the UNC being present, that is just simply ridiculous, in any country, in any state.”
Asked if he expected the recount to cut the 2,000 vote difference between himself and the PNM candidate Esmond Forde, Nakhid said, “Before we talk about overturning 2,000 votes, we talk about having a transparent process, then we can see what has happened. But be assured, something is not right, the behaviour we have seen is not that of a democracy.”
Forde secured 9,460 votes to Nakhid’s 7,534 according to the preliminary results issued by the EBC.
The UNC has also ordered recounts in La Horquetta/Talparo, St Joseph, San Fernando West and Toco/Sangre Grande.