Chief Elections Officer says won’t abide by GECOM’s unconstitutional instructions

Last Updated on Friday, 26 June 2020, 14:24 by Denis Chabrol

Chief Election Officer of the Guyana Elections Commission, Keith Lowenfield.

Chief Elections Officer, Keith Lowenfield on Friday strongly suggested that he does not have to obey unconstitutional instructions by the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) in declaring election results.

“The contents of the Stabroek News article suggests that the CEO must only act as the Commission instructs and flout the Constitutional requirements,” he said in reaction to a Stabroek News newspaper article.

Lowenfield is accused of erasing 115,844 votes from his tabulation, after the Guyana Court of Appeal ruled that Article 177 of Guyana’s Constitution reference to  “more votes cast” means “more valid votes cast” and should be read in tandem with the gazetted national vote recount order that refers to the requirements for a credible election. His report gives A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) a 32 seats in the 65-seat House with 171,825,  the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) 31 seats with 166,343 votes and three small parties one seat.

That 2-1 decision has since been appealed to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) which will receive submissions on, among other things, whether it has jurisdiction to hear the case.

Lawyers for Change Guyana and the PPP failed to persuade the CCJ to instruct Lowenfield to withdraw the report but said arguments about the legality of the submission could be included in the appeal which would be heard next Wednesday.

Prior to the Guyana Court of Appeal ruling, the Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), Retired Justice Claudette Singh had instructed the CEO to submit his report in accordance with the recount data. If that had been done, the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) would have been declared the winner with 33 seats from 233,336 and APNU would have gotten 31 seats from 217,920 votes.

Singh had pointed out that GECOM had no power to annul elections or investigate alleged voter impersonation and other irregularities.

It is unclear whether GECOM had issued new instructions to Lowenfield to reflect the Court of Appeal ruling.

Lowenfield denied breaching any of Guyana’s laws. “At all times, I have acted in conformity with the laws and therefore my action cannot be ‘seen as clear act of insubordination’ as articulated in the ill informed Stabroek News article.” “The source who articulated that position seem to have only read the Constitution in part conveniently and failed to recognize the sections that dictates the functions of the Chief Election Officer. While the Commission makes certain policy decisions and provides guidance to the Chief Election Officer for implementation by the Secretariat, I have to execute my duties as a Constitutional Officer, particularly in the conduct of Elections.

Neither the CEO nor the Commission was represented by a lawyer at the CCJ’s case management conference.

The CCJ  has issued an interim order blocking GECOM from doing anything including declaring final results. Attorney General Basil Williams concretised government’s assurance, referring to President David Granger’s assurance that he would abide by court rulings.

But Williams People’s National Congress Reform’s (PNCR) publication, New Nation, included a banner ‘Swear in President Granger Now’. the PNCR-led APNU+AFC coalition also issued a joint statement stating that “As directed by the Court of Appeal, GECOM must act, exclusively and only on valid votes cast in the March 2, 2020 elections.”