Well I am sure you have all been waiting for news of the elections. The good news is that Danilo won. The bad news is that they took it away from him.
Let me explain. There are 17 of what they call mesas, or tables. One in each of the smaller communities and in the larger ones there are up to four. People vote, fold their votes up and put them in the ballot box. At the end of the day, which was supposed to be 6 pm but they extended it to 7 pm and only announced it on television and given no televisions in the voting centres the staff had no idea, they count the votes.
This year, for the first time it was supposed to be electronic counting in that the votes should be scanned and put through a machine which took the count directly to the Central Electoral Court (JCE). But…. some of the voting centres had no electricity, most had no internet, some had no idea how to use the machine and some didn’t know the password, so in the end the counting was done manually and the law says that the manual count would override the electronic count.
Danilo won every single one of the 17 tables. How did he know? In each voting centre each candidate has a delegate to check there is no funny business, along with a member of the local Electoral Court. He didn’t just win by a little, he won by miles. As the votes are submitted to the JCE they issue bulletins. In the first bulletin, with over 11% of votes counted, Danilo was in the lead with 33.23% of the votes. Second was Noel with 23.42% ( he is with the PRM) and third the current mayor with 22.47%. Danilo was around 10 percentage points in the lead.
Then everything went horribly wrong. As the votes for each centre are counted they are entered onto what is called an Acta. These are taken to the main office in Guayacanes for sending on to the JCE. All of the delegates went to the main office in Guayacanes with the ballot papers and the Actas, and the Head of the local Electoral Court submitted the first bulletin. He could see from the other Actas that Danilo had won by miles. He told the staff it had been a long day and to go home and they would finish off in the morning. When they returned in the morning the Actas had all been changed, new bulletins issued and votes had been taken off Danilo and given to the existing mayor. The people in the local Electoral court should be supervised by the candidates or their delegates to see again no funny business. But when the office was closed, in the middle of the night, the members of the local electoral court went in, with members of the existing local government and changed the numbers on the Actas. By the following morning the existing mayor was in the lead with 31% of the votes and Danilo had crashed down to 22%.
Impossible. He complained along with all of the other candidates, they went on television, they went to court and the case was ruled inadmissible. In addition the JCE have now forbidden any recounts or any rechecking of the Actas.
This happened in another 29 municipalities throughout the country. People are complaining, burning local election offices down. Their votes are worth nothing. You all know I love this country, but here there is no democracy. Guayacanes had the chance to have a mayor who would do all he could to improve the lives of the people there, and they voted for him. But due to the local head of the electoral court and the massive corrupt nature of the current mayor their votes were worth nothing. There is no point in having elections here, just a huge waste of time and money. There is no point in having an electoral judiciary as they are incapable of delivering justice.
So what happens now? Well apparently the Head of the local Electoral Court is in a bit of a jam and he has told the Central Electoral Court that he has no experience of dealing with fraud of this magnitude so he has asked for help and for someone from the JCE to come and take over. Throughout the country members of the local Electoral Courts are in fear of their lives. If he tells the truth about what happened, the current mayor will be very cross, if he lies, all the other candidates will be very cross.
We, along with the other candidates have a new lawyer who appears to be confident that he can ensure there are new elections. It has never happened before so I am not as confident, but maybe at the very least we can ensure a recount – assuming the ballot papers do not disappear in the meantime.
So we wait and see. Across the country there are protests, complaints, hunger strikes and riots. And the new government has said not a word. Danilo Medina had an overwhelming victory but has not commented at all on what happened. Maybe he is just hoping it will go away, and given the impossibility of fighting the system here, it probably will.
The losers in this are the people of Guayacanes. In the last 6 years there has been zero development and a massive increase in crime. Things will only get worse, and unfortunately even though they tried to change it and vote Danilo in they were simply crushed by fraud and corruption.