The lead lawyer for the government in the two election petitions filed by the opposition says he was wrong when he said a number at the back of ballots can be used to determine how Vincentians voted.
But the opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) said that what Dominican senior counsel, Anthony Astaphan, described was a perversion of the electoral system in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Astaphan made the claim about the number on the ballot when he spoke on Boom FM last Friday, much to the shock of the hosts and listeners.
But he recanted on Monday, saying on the same radio programme that he was wrong.
“I realised that the moment that Steve Joachim had reacted the way he did that I probably had misspoken and I subsequently did what I thought was the proper thing for me to do. I got in touch with the chief elections officer who said that was at one time the position in St. Vincent and the Grenadines—” Astaphan said.
“… Now, there is no number on the back. The chief elections officer said the only number on the ballot paper, which includes the counterfoil, is the number on the counterfoil, which goes into a separate box and there is no number on the ballot paper.
“So, I obviously misspoke. I misled you … and your listeners and I have to apologise for that because I protect my reputation for credibility vigorously and if I make an error, I have a national obligation to apologise on the radio station I made the error on,” Astaphan said.
NDP President and Leader of the Opposition, Arnhim Eustace, told a party press conference in Kingstown on Monday that having a number on an election ballot in SVG is illegal.
“Under the Representation of the People Act, no ballot shall bear a number of any kind. A number is printed on the counterfoil only, which is removed before the ballot is placed in the ballot box,” said Eustace, whose NDP is contesting in court the results of the Dec. 9, 2016 general elections in two constituencies.
“Mr Astaphan, the lead lawyer of the Supervisor of Elections, has described in detail to this nation a complete perversion of the voting process,” Eustace said.
The Opposition Leader noted that while Astaphan was making the claim on radio, Stephen Joachim, one of the hosts of the programme who is also a voter, repeatedly sought clarification and expressed his total confusion at Astaphan’s comments.
“Yet Mr Astaphan persisted,” Eustace said, adding that when the NDP learnt on Monday morning that Astaphan had hurriedly apologised for his comments, “it is difficult to believe and unaccept that his persistence and detail on Friday can be explained away”.
Eustace said that Astaphan’s comments are important because not only is he lead lawyer for Supervisor of Elections, Sylvia Findlay-Scrubb in the petitions, but he also represented Findlay-Scrubb in the application of Ben Exeter for inspection of the very ballots and counterfoils about which he spoke.
Exeter was the NDP’s candidate in Central Leeward one of the two constituencies that are named in the election petitions, the other being North Windward.