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High Court cannot order recount of votes cast

The High Court

The People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPP) should not expect the High Court to order the re-opening of ballot boxes for a recount of all votes cast, if the opinion of one of Guyana’s senior lawyers is anything to go by.

The PPP has repeatedly stated that it plans to challenge the outcome of the May 11, 2015 general and regional elections which it lost the coalition of A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC).

Demands by the PPP for a total recount of the more than 400,000 votes cast have been rejected by the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), international observers and American, British and Canadian envoys on grounds that the differences were not sufficient to influence the outcome of the polls.

Former Attorney General Anil Nandlall has said that with GECOM publishing the results in the Official Gazette, the way is now clear for his party to file a petition.

Writing on Conversation Tree (located at www.conversationtree.gy),  Senior Counsel Ralph Ramkarran said under the law, a recount would be impossible.

“The petitioner would not be permitted to present a scintilla of evidence showing suspicious circumstances in relation to a limited number of Statements of Poll and then call on the court to order a recounting of the votes, based on that suspicion, so that it can verify whether or not its suspicions are justified,” said Ramkarran who had fought election petitions for the PPP while he was a senior member of that party.

Ramkarran said the High Court is not empowered to search for evidence but rather it is the job of the petitioner to prove to the court that unlawful acts of omission or commission had affected the results. “It is not the function, duty or business of the court to seek out its own evidence to aid the petitioner in proving its case by ordering an opening of the ballot boxes and the counting of the votes. In any event the court has no power to do,” he said.

Supporting his contention that the law does not permit the High Court to order the reopening of ballot boxes and the counting of the votes cast, the former House Speaker recalled that a Caricom team could have only audited the results of the 1997 election through the passage of special sunset legislation-  the  Electoral Audit (Caricom Agreement) Act which emerged out of the Caricom-brokered Herdmanston Accord of 1998.

The Electoral Audit Law had provided for the Chairman of the Audit Commission to direct the Chief Elections Officer to produce any book, document, paper or electronic material’ in his or her possession for inspection.” It was on this legal basis that the votes could have been produced by the Commission to be audited. There was in fact a full recount of the votes,” said Ramkarran.