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NDP to challenge North Leeward results in court

NDP to challenge North Leeward results in court
SUPPORTERS of the New Democratic Party march into Kingstown for one of their mass rallies.

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It is likely that a court matter will be born out of the contention surrounding the results in the North Leeward constituency, following the general elections of November 5.

The Unity Labour Party (ULP) emerged winners in the 2020 general elections, claiming victory in nine of the 15 seats – one more seat than they had in 2015. This secured the party an unprecedented fifth term in office, while decreasing the New Democratic Party’s representation in the House of Assembly.

But St Clair Leacock, vice president of the New Democratic Party (NDP) was speaking on the New Times programme on Wednesday, November 11 when he said there were some “outstanding matters” to be addressed following the elections.

One such concern had to do with the count in the North Leeward constituency, where fellow vice president for the NDP, Roland ‘Patel’ Matthews was, during the preliminary count, determined to have lost by seven votes to Carlos James of the ULP.

After the final count, James’ margin of victory decreased to one vote.
A usually reliable source told SEARCHLIGHT on Saturday, November 7 that a recount of the votes, which began at 9 am on Friday and lasted until 5 am the next day, saw at least 39 ballots being rejected, not due to any error on the part of voters, but that some ballots were mutilated and/or did not have a seal or signature of the presiding officer.

The source also said that while the rejected ballots were for both the ULP and NDP candidates, the majority were in favour of the ULP.

The rejection of almost 40 ballots narrowed James’ margin of victory, leading to the separation of the two candidates by a single vote.

SEARCHLIGHT understands that Matthews requested that the presiding officer grant him time to decide whether he wanted to have a second recount.

This request is in keeping with House of Assembly Election Rules, which speak to the final counting of votes.

The section notes that a candidate may require the returning officer to have votes recounted, but that the request can be refused if, in the opinion of the presiding officer, the request was unreasonable.

Our source said that the recount process lasted over 20 hours because lawyers for both sides were present and had the opportunity to scrutinise the ballots.

When SEARCHLIGHT contacted Carlos James on Saturday morning, he said it was unfortunate that voters didn’t get a chance for their votes to be counted for one reason or another.

Leacock, while speaking on the New Times radio programme this week, intimated that he heard from two lawyers present throughout these events.

“Those two people who are officers of the court, and whose confidence that we’ve enjoyed for years, I know they’re not lying, they’re not speaking half-truths,” he said, while informing “as it stands today Roland Patel Matthews won the seat in North Leeward.”

He also said that Matthews got more votes; “if we count those that have been unfortunately rejected — which there are few, just as somebody could have won by one, he could have won by a few.”

Leacock said that the matter will be going to court.

And he added that people “who are standing in Parliament knowing that they have not won would be uncomfortable I’m sure, for that outcome”.

Matthews had served as the parliamentary representative for the most northern constituency on the Leeward side of the island for the past two terms.

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