GEORGETOWN, Guyana – In the latest twist in Guyana’s election saga, Chief Elections Officer, Keith Lowenfield, submitted his report to the chairperson of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) showing that the ruling coalition, A Partnership for National Unity (APNU), had won the disputed March 2 regional and general elections.
In his letter to the GECOM chairperson, retired Justice Claudette Singh, the Chief Elections Officer said that he had “taken note of the guidance of the Court of Appeal…in the preparation of my report under Section 96 of the Representation of the People’s Act”.
He said that his report contains “a table showing the credible and valid votes cast in accordance with the Representation of the People’s Act”. In his first report to GECOM earlier this month, Lowenfield had claimed that the results did not meet the standard of fair and credible elections.
“In other words, approximately 55 per cent of all votes cast for general elections stand to be impacted due to either anomalies and/or voter impersonation or unreconciled ballot boxes. Specifically, 7.2 per cent of the votes cast were impacted by anomalies, 39.2 per cent were impacted by voter impersonation, 3.4 per cent impacted by both anomalies/irregularities and voter impersonation, and 5.7 per cent impacted by unreconciled ballot boxes,” he wrote then.
According to Lowenfield’s new tabulation, the coalition received 171, 825 votes as compared with 166, 343 votes cast on behalf of the main opposition People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C).
Based on his calculation, the coalition APNU will have 33 seats in the National Assembly, with the PPP/C gaining 31 seats and the parties on the Joined Lists gaining one seat.
The final report to the Chair and members of the Commission differ from the total vote recount.
Following the June 9 national recount of the votes cast in the election, the PPP/C said it had won the polls by a margin in excess of 15,000 votes.
On Monday, the Court of Appeal ruled that it has jurisdiction to hear a motion regarding the election of a president, interpreting also that “more votes” cast in the election should in effect be “more valid votes” cast
However, the three-member Court of Appeal did not grant all the remedies that had been sought by the private citizen, Eslyn David, in her motion and also agreed to a stay of three days on the judgement.
Justices Brassington Reynolds and Dawn Gregory ruled that GECOM had a responsibility to determine the final credible count based on quantitative and qualitative assessments of the observation report, in keeping with provisions of the original order and in the final paragraph of the amended order.
But in his minority ruling, Justice Rishi Persaud, ruled that the motion was “premature” and “wholly ill- conceived”: and that the applicant should have awaited to take the matter before the High Court, after GECOM would have announced the official election results.
Earlier, the PPP/C said that it has filed an appeal to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), appealing the Court of Appeal ruling.
In its lengthy statement, the PPP/C, said that “moreover, the Court of Appeal in its pronouncement have plunged the law in total confusion and it is now no longer clear how an election of members of the National Assembly is to be challenged and how the election of the President can be challenged.
“In fact, the Court of Appeal has wrongly ruled that these two challenges must be done separately and in different Courts. To bring clarity to the law and to guard against the Court of Appeal wrongly giving itself jurisdiction, again, to either direct the Chief Elections Officer to submit a fraudulent and perverted report, or to protect a fraudulent and perverted report submitted by the Chief Elections Officer to the Commission, we have decided to file an appeal to the Caribbean Court of Justice.”
The PPP/C said that it anticipates that “this appeal will be heard and determined speedily by the Caribbean Court of Justice to enable the true results of the election be declared and Dr. Irfaan Ali be sworn in as the next duly elected President of Guyana”.
The Trinidad-based CCJ is the country’s highest court, but attorney Mayo Robertson, who was one of the lawyers representing the private citizen, Eslyn David, in her constitutional motion against the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), said the chances of the opposition being successful at the CCJ are “ very slim”.
“There is no basis for an appeal. If such an attempt is made it will go nowhere because the language in the Constitution is clear and unambiguous. I can’t say they will not attempt but the chances of them being successful are extremely slim,” Robertson said on a radio programme here.
Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Senior Counsel, Basil Williams, who was one of the respondents in the constitutional matter, has also said that the CCJ cannot hear the appeal because of the enshrined law here.
Williams said the CCJ, while accepting its position as a superior court of record, has continuously recognised that it only possesses such jurisdiction and powers as conferred on it by the Agreement or by the Guyana Constitution or any other law of the Contracting Party.
In light of this, the Attorney General submitted that an Appeal cannot lie to the Caribbean Court of Justice in respect of matters determined under article 177(4) of the Constitution.
The CCJ has confirmed it has received the appeal filed by the opposition, but no date has yet been set for the hearing.
David had mounted her challenge before the appellate court pursuant to Article 177 (4) of the Constitution, which states “the Court of Appeal shall have exclusive jurisdiction to hear and determine any question as to the validity of an election of a President in so far as the question depends upon the qualification of any person for election or the interpretation of this Constitution….”
Justice Reynolds in his ruling said Article 177 (4) confers jurisdiction over the Court of Appeal in respect to the validity of an election of a president or upon the interpretation of the constitution.
In its statement, the PPP/C said that the coalition has been doing “everything possible to thwart the will of the electorate and to prevent GECOM from declaring the true results of those elections”.