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High Court injunction against unverified Region Four statements of poll sets back election results declaration

Four days after general elections, Guyana’s High Court has ordered the country’s Elections Commission (GECOM) to verify results of District 4 after the Returning Officer went ahead and declared what many political parties regarded as unverified results on Thursday.

Lawyers for the main opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) secured three injunctions against GECOM from declaring the results of the March 2, 2020 general elections, shortly after the Returning Officer for Region Four, Clairmont Mingo, went ahead and purportedly declared the results for the country’s largest administrative region.

The first injunction precludes the Region Four Returning Officer from making any disclosure of the Region Four results “until and unless he complies with the statutory procedures set out in Section 84 of the Representation of the People’s Act,” PPP executive member and attorney at law, Anil Nandlall told reporters. “…that procedure is the verification process which was aborted and was never completed. That process is a condition precedent to any declaration. What you are declaring essentially is what was verified and reconciliated by all the parties examining their respective statements of poll. That process was never completed so how can you have a declaration without your declaring what you have verified. But you never verified anything or you never completed the verification of anything. So an order was granted failing the declaration until that procedure is complied with.”

The second injunction, Nandlall says, compels the Returning Officer to comply with Section 84 of the Representation of the People’s Act and “to conduct and complete that verification exercise and then make the declaration as the law requires it to be done.”

He said the third injunction restrains the Chief Elections Officer (CEO) and GECOM from making any declarations of the results of the March 2 general elections “unless and until the Returning Officer complies with the statutory code of verification enunciated in section 84.”

Mr Nandlall explained that the statutory procedure sets out that after the Region Four Returning Officer makes his declaration, he has to submit that to the CEO. The CEO then totals all the declarations from the returning officers of the country’s ten administrative regions and then compiles in electronic and manual formats a detailed report of ballots cast per polling station. Such a comprehensive report is then presented to GECOM which has a duty to “examine the report to ensure accuracy and veracity and then based upon their conclusion make a declaration which would constitute the final declaration of the results. It is upon that final declaration only that a swearing in can take place. Any swearing in any before that is illegal, ultra vires, null, void, unconstitutional, a complete and utter illegality. Because, what are you swearing in to? The election process is incomplete!”

Mr Nandlall explained that “the electoral process is only completed when the results are verified, tabulated, and a declaration of them are made in accordance with the law. Elections is a statutory process. All over the world election law mandates that these processes laid out in the statute be mandatory; they do not offer any departure. Any violation of any step of the statutory code will result in an invalidation of whatever arose out of that invalid statutory step.”