Chief Elections Officer unlikely to budge on results based on Caribbean Court ruling – Political Scientist

Last Updated on Wednesday, 8 July 2020, 20:43 by Denis Chabrol

FLASH BACK: President David Granger greets Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo on his arrival at State House for consultations on the appointment of the Chancellor of the Judiciary and the Chief Justice. (file picture)

Political Scientist Peter Wickham on Wednesday said he did not expect the Chief Election Officer, Keith Lowenfield to present results to the seven-member Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) based on pronouncements by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) of what constitutes valid votes and the settlement of grievance through an elections petition.

“I am confident that he will say that there is no one can that can make him submit a new report, that he is comfortable with the report that he has submitted and if , it is, that he has to withdraw that report, prepare the same information in the report and submit it all over again, that is exactly what he will do and he will create a crisis,” Wickham said on a discussion on News-Talk Radio Guyana 103.1 FM/ Demerara Waves Online News shortly after the CCJ’s decision.

Political Science Professor, David Hinds said the CCJ’s decision would not change anything at GECOM. “I don’t think today’s (Wednesday’s) ruling has shifted anything at GECOM. When we go back there, it will be Lowenfield saying I am a constitutional officer and I will present my report …So I am putting my attention on the social and political impact of the ruling not on GECOM, not on the law but on the sociology and politics of the country,” he said.

He said CCJ’s decision to find jurisdiction, throw out the decision by the Guyana Court of Appeal and scrap Lowenfield’s report would adversely impact social and ethnic relations in Guyana. “The decision will have political consequences inside Guyana and perhaps the entire region,” he said.

CCJ President, Justice Adrian Saunders, in the unanimous decision, stated that the Chief Election Officer to submit a report to the Commission based on its directive on June 16, 2020 in order to “proceed along the path directed by the Laws of Guyana.”

Dr. Hinds acknowledged that the Chief Elections Officer would now have to present a new report to the politically divided GECOM but he chided the CCJ for failing to consider the constitutional mandate of that body to ensure that the elections are fair and impartial.

President David Granger and PPP General Secretary Bharrat Jagdeo separately acknowledged that the matter was now back in the hands of GECOM to decide. Speaking with supporters outside State House shortly after the ruling, Mr. Granger said his People’s National Congress Reform, A Partnership for National Unity and the coalition with the Alliance For Change “are committed to the rule of law.” He said the matter was now back in the hands of GECOM.  “The CCJ has not allowed the position that our Court of Appeal has taken but it means that the matter will now have to go back to the Election Commission. So the matter is not closed, it now has to go back to the Election Commission. We all have to be patient,” Granger said.

He blamed the prolonged delay in declaring the March 2, 2020 general and regional elections on “bad elements out there who tried to manipulate” the polls by impersonating dead people and migrants as well as having more votes in a polling station than were electors.

Mr. Granger noted said GECOM has not given an coercive orders to instruct GECOM what it should do under Guyana’s laws. He insisted that the coalition has evidence of massive fraud and he promised to  “fight to make sure that your votes are counted.”

For his part, Jagdeo expected Mr. Lowenfield to follow the CCJ’s decision in the same way that he had been guided by the Guyana Court of Appeal’s decision which has since been thrown out.  “That matter has to be settled. We expect that the CEO (Chief Elections Officer) to comply with the decision of the CCJ  since he had cited guidance from the Court of Appeal decision, we expect him to now use the CCJ  which is a higher court decision, as guidance in the preparation of his report…which has to be  in accordance with the instruction given to him by the chair,” said Jagdeo.

While Mr. Jagdeo acknowledged that some members of the coalition will not be in favour of the ruling, Jagdeo said, “there is a small group of people who are hellbent on not conceding but that is not a matter for us  and all the law abiding citizens. Now we have to move forward with the lawful process.”
“APNU can’t pick and choose which court decision they want to respect. They were all in favour of the  decision of the Court of Appeal but they themselves lauded the impartiality of the CCJ in the third term case.  They will never accept anything except an APNU victory. Election or no election, no-confidence motion or no no-confidence motion,” he said.
The PPP General Secretary concluded that the CCJ ruling will now bolster the international community arguments. “They will now have a lot to say on the matter.”
In a unanimous decision, the CCJ invalidated the Chief Elections Officer’s report that he had said he had compiled based on guidance by the Guyana Court of Appeal which had tied its decision of “valid votes” to mean “more  valid votes” with the recount order. The CCJ, however, said the features of a valid vote are clearly spelt out in the Representation of the People Act through a transparent process that “weeds out” spoilt or invalid votes.
The recount shows that of the 460,352 valid votes cast, APNU+AFC got 217,920, the PPP 233,336 and the  three ‘joinder’ parties- A New and United Guyana (ANUG), Liberty and Justice Party (LJP) and The New Movement (TNM) got a total of 5,214‬ votes. 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 APNU+AFC a 32 seats in the 65-seat House with 171,825,  the PPP 31 seats with 166,343 votes and three small parties one seat.
The United States, Britain, Canada, European Union, Commonwealth, Caribbean Community, and the Organisation of American States have called on President Granger’s coalition to respect the results of the CARICOM-scrutinised recount.