Even as the Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), Retired Justice Claudette Singh has so far not asked the seven-member decision-making body to decide the fate of the 10 regional declarations of last month’s general elections, a prominent member of the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) insisted that recount is illegal.
Attorney-at-Law, James Bond, however, made it clear that that was not his party’s position and that he was supporting party leader, President David Granger’s request for a recount once it is legal and constitutional. “We are following what His Excellency says and if His Excellency wants a recount, I support His Excellency 100 percent. 100 percent I support my Leader. He says go ahead and have a recount, let the chips fall where they may, I am supporting that but I will say this very personally, very personally, those recounts are unlawful and whatever should be happening, should be happening via an elections petition,” he said on a Facebook video post.
Bond’s position came one day after pro-coalition Elections Commissioner, Vincent Alexander said Singh has so far not put the fate of the 10 declarations by the Returning Officers (ROs) on the agenda for discussion. “The declarations made by the ROs have not been brought to the commission for consideration by the Chairperson and she seems to have a reason why she has not. I don’t quite agree with her but she seems to have a reason why she has not brought them,” he told reporters.
A GECOM spokeswoman has already said the declarations—which are still posted on GECOM’s website—”still stand” until after a recount.
Bond, citing legal opinions by GECOM’s Legal Officer, Excellence Dazzell and Guyana’s Chief Parliamentary Counsel, Charles Fung-a-Fat, said the recount process is provided for in the Representation of the People Act. He argued that only the Returning Officers could conduct a recount and that requests to do so could be turned down. “GECOM has no power to recount where all the declarations have been made. GECOM has no authority to recount and to discard those declarations by the duly empowered persons who made those declarations,” said Bond, a former PNCR executive member.
He stressed that the 10 declarations made by the Returning Officers indicate that the incumbent A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) has won, unless Granger concedes defeat. “Unless His Excellency decides to concede, I will never ever concede. As far as I am aware, we have won these elections. As far as I am aware, that declaration should be made. As far as I am aware, the President should have been sworn in a long time ago,” he said.
Elections Commissioner Alexander confirmed that a GECOM order would have to be prepared and published in Guyana’s Official Gazette to provide for a recount. He explained that the Commission would be using Article 162 (1)(b) and Section 22 of the Representation of the People Act to create a final declaration. “We are starting from ground zero to do a counting of the ballots. Once we do that count and we get a final declaration, those declarations become irrelevant,” he said.
Asked whether the order to be gazetted would include rescinding of the 10 declarations, he said that was not discussed but depending on how it would be worded, “may in fact nullify those results.”
Opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Elections Commissioner, Sase Gunraj said he was comforted by the GECOM Chairperson’s rejection of the report by the Chief Elections Officer, Keith Lowenfield and that it would not used as the basis to still eventually declare a winner. “I believe that the rejection of same by the Chairman was sufficient disposal,” Gunraj added, saying that he would nevertheless address the issue at the commission.
The Guyana Court of Appeal has ruled that GECOM is constitutionally empowered to conduct, manage and supervise general elections and cannot farm out of any of its functions to an external body. The Court of Appeal has also ruled in favour of APNU+AFC candidate, Ulita Moore that anyone can seek a judicial review of a constitutionally independent body such as GECOM to say whether its actions are illegal.