Minister orders probe into election fax fiasco

By George Psyllides

INTERIOR Minister Christodoulos Christodoulou yesterday announced he had ordered an investigation into what had caused the technical problems that delayed the announcement of Sunday’s election results for several hours.

The election saw AKEL emerge as the largest party in parliament with 20 seats – 34.7 per cent – overhauling ruling DISY’s 34 per cent and 19 seats.

But the election process was marred by technical glitches, which caused confusion and delayed the announcement of winning candidates until after midnight.

The fax machines hired to transmit the results from the counting centre in Nicosia to the Central election Service at the Interior Ministry could not handle the huge volume of paperwork, resulting in around 10,000 pages getting ‘lost’.

Chief Returning Officer Kyriacos Triantafyllides said the fax machines at the counting centre were indicating that the pages had been delivered when in fact they never reached the Election Service.

When the glitch was discovered, exhausted counters, who had been up all night, had to check the results again before they could be forwarded.

Yesterday, Interior Minister Christodoulos Christodoulou conceded that the use of fax machines was not a good idea.

He said his ministry would look into what went wrong, since the government had determined the specifications of the machines.

“It would have been better if the procedure had been carried out on site,” he conceded.

Christodoulou said computer networks should have been used instead.

But he played down the mess, saying it had only resulted in a four-hour delay.

He said the counting process had been frustrated by a last minute decision by the House to change the law and assign vote counting to five district centres instead of the 1,131 individual polling stations across the island.

To make matters worse, the system had to handle around 60,000 new voters since the last election in 1996.

Christodoulou reiterated that, despite the problems, there had been no irregularities and that the elections had been fair and objective.

The minister added that DIKO’s objection regarding the counting was unfounded.

Attorney-general Alecos Markides said DIKO’s objection could not be treated as such.

“It was not based on any provision in the election law, it was just based on their information and they did not ask for any legal remedies,” Markides said.

On Monday, DIKO filed an objection with the election authorities concerning the “long delay or failure of delivery” of election results from the central processing centre to the Central Election Service.