We are not concerned with the ugliness that was splashed all over during a Radio Plus debate involving the leader of the reform Party, Roshi Bhadain, and Labour Party MP Shakeel Mohamed on the issues relating to our electoral system and during which it came out that the latter would have been dropped in favour of MMM’s Reza Uteem. We trust that the respective parties to which they belong and the leaders of the LP and the ‘L’Entente de l’Espoir’ will have taken note of their potential value or otherwise to the alliance that would still be in the works for a united front of the Opposition. What is of concern to us is the assertion of MP Mohamed that his views regarding the role and responsibility of the Electoral Commission, in particular its Commissioner as regards the conduct of the last general elections, would be shared by the Labour Party. We need not go over the anomalies that have been mentioned in different electoral petitions, including that of no other than the leader of the LP, as well as other discrepancies revealed by the Electoral Commission itself and during the recount exercise at Constituency No. 19 conducted on February 1.
But readers will however recall that the latter recount laid bare such serious anomalies and dysfunctions that the speculations about whether irregularities would also not have been committed in other constituencies around the island in the 2019 general elections cannot be curbed. The more so since what came out went beyond simple arithmetic miscalculations: more seriously, discrepancies were revealed in the Recapitulation of Votes forms in No. 19, the discovery of counted ballot papers not bearing the official stamp of the Electoral Commission, one ballot of Constituency No.1 in the lot belonging to No. 19, and 73 ballot papers were found to be missing.
In a recent comment on the recount at No. 19, we stressed on the imperative for the Electoral Commission and the Electoral Supervisory Commission to explain those glaring discrepancies as well as the opacity surrounding Computer Rooms, and other disturbing anomalies which have come to light. We are not aware if any investigation has been carried out or has even been contemplated by the electoral authorities or by the police about the missing and roving ballots. However, we doubt whether the Labour Party and the ‘L’Entente de l’Espoir’ would share the views of MP Mohamed that the Electoral Commissioner cannot be made to carry the can for those anomalies and that the issue, according to him, basically boils down to the mechanism employed to register electors as had been apparently highlighted by the Sachs Commission report. That’s a long shot from what obviously went seriously wrong in No. 19 and possibly in other constituencies subject of electoral petitions. It is worth noting that both the Parliamentary leader of the LP, Arvin Boolell and Reza Uteem of the MMM had to restate on air that the demand for the departure of the EC Chairman and the EC himself were official positions of their respective parties.
What is at stake is obvious and very important: public trust in our public institutions. It bears repeating that the overarching feature of a functioning democracy is that it has an effective system of checks and balances in place. This system should ensure that government and related public institutions are held accountable for decisions and actions that they take and for the consequences thereof and serious deviations sanctioned. If we look back at the history of the country, it was the independence, impartiality and strength of public institutions and conscientious responsible officers and sterling qualities of governance which ensured public trust in the governance of the country. In our setting of sociological and economic diversity, there is no domain where trust, transparency and accountability are more imperious than in the very basis of our democratic functionings and constitutional rights: free, fair and credible elections. Those principles and values that functioning democracies cherish have been under siege over the organisation of the 2019 general elections. Without accountability and transparency, the chalice of suspicion can poison everything our forebears fought for in the lead- up to independence.
* Published in print edition on 18 February 2022
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