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PPPC going to court to challenge election results

Guyana’s High Court

The People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC)  plans to mount a legal challenge to the results of the May 11, 2015 general election and, like other parties, has 28 days to file an elections petition.

Addressing the nation after Saturday’s swearing-in of David Granger as Guyana’s 8th president , former President Donald Ramotar said that an elections petition is one of the options for legal redress that his party has agreed to. “We have agreed to pursue options for redress under the Constitution and the Law including an elections petition,” said Ramotar.

Despite efforts by the PPP/C to postpone the declaration of the final results by the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) the body today announced that the A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) + Alliance for Change (AFC) coalition gained 207, 200 of the total votes cast, while the PPP/C won 202, 694, 207.

Over 410, 000 votes were cast in these elections, with a negligible number going to smaller, less known parties.

These results have given the coalition 33 seats in the National Assembly, and the PPP/C 32. The coalition thus now holds the Executive arm of government, as well as the majourity seating in the National Assembly.

Former Legal Affairs Minister, Anil Nandlall, on his Facebook page this afternoon, hinted that the PPP/C challenge of the results will indeed be done in court.  

“I will begin by launching a legal action to this election. It will be pursued all the way to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), if that is necessary,” said Nandlall in the post.

Speaking to Demerara Waves last evening Nandlall said the party does not yet know when it will file the petition. He said though, that “the petition is a special type of litigation which has its own peculiar rules and therefore a lot of care has to be taken in preparing the elections petition.”

Guyana’s constitution gives the High Court exclusive jurisdiction to determine any question as to the validity of the results of any election.  

The specific provision is laid down in Article 163 (1) (b) (i), which says, “Subject to the provision of this article, the High Court shall have exclusive jurisdiction to determine any question…whether…either generally or in any particular place, an election has been lawfully conducted of the result thereof have been, or may have been, affected by any unlawful act of omission.”

The National Assembly (Validity of Elections) Act offers further guidance on what is required to challenge the results released by (GECOM).

Section 4 (1) of the Act states that “an election petition may be presented by an elector or by a candidate.” Nandlall’s Facebook post, combined with the facts that he was a candidate in these elections, and the PPP/C’s legal advisor while it held the Executive arm of government, suggests that he may be the one to bring such a petition.

Section 5 of the Act demands that the petition be presented “within twenty-eight (28) days after the results of the election out of which the matter in question on the petition arose are published in the Gazette…” 28 days from today would put the deadline for filing the petition as June 13th, however, as today is not a working day it is not clear whether the results have been Gazetted.

GECOM Chief Elections Officer (CEO), Keith Lowenfield, could not be reached to say if they were and/or when they would be, and GECOM Chairman, Steve Surujbally, also could not be reached to provide clarification.

The PPP/C has made several claims against the validity of the results of the 2015 General and Regional Elections. In his address Ramotar said that the PPP/C “had requested the commission to conduct a recount of the ballots cast in view of the several irregularities and discrepancies found during and after the day of the elections.”

He noted that “…our repeated requests were denied by GECOM…without taking into consideration the real concerns that have been brought to their attention by our party.”

Ramotar also said “my party remains convinced that a recount would have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that the electoral process had been compromised and the PPP/C would have won.”

GECOM apparently disagreed however, and today proceeded to declare the final results, after which David Granger was sworn in as the new president of Guyana.