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Chief Justice rules recount valid, must be used to declare elections winner

Chief Justice rules recount valid, must be used to declare elections winner
Chief Justice Roxane George

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(Newsroom Guyana): Chief Justice Roxane George on Monday ruled that the results of the national vote recount must be used to declare the results of the March 02 elections; she also ruled that the country’s Chief Elections Officer is not a “lone ranger” or a law unto his own and must do as he is directed by the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM).

The Chief Justice first ruled that she had the power to hear and determine the case because the issue that needed to be resolved was whether officials of GECOM, namely the chair of GECOM and the Chief Elections Officer, were acting lawfully. Justice George then ruled that the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) endorsed the national vote recount.

The ruling means that Chief Elections Officer Keith Lowenfield must prepare a report of the national vote recount that accurately represents a victory for the Opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) and not APNU+AFC as he had done before using figures that were deemed to be fraudulent.

The Chief Justice found that the national vote recount overtook the original vote count and so any declarations made before were correctly set aside by Justice Claudette Singh, the Chair of GECOM.

She said the “only” data that can be used would have to be the recount results and the previous ten declarations cannot be “resurrected.”

AS such, the Chief Justice said there could no longer be an impasse between Lowenfield and the GECOM Chair and that her instructions to him to produce a report based on the recount are valid.

Misenga Jones, an agent of President David Granger’s Coalition filed the case in the High Court.

She wanted the High Court to declare that Lowenfield can decide for himself what numbers he chooses to use in determining the results of the elections and that GECOM was bound by the Constitution to accept his report and declare the results of the elections.

The basis for the applicant’s case was that Article 177 (2) dictates that the GECOM chair must act “only” on the advice of the Chief Elections Officer to declare the winner of the elections.
But it was pointed out that Section 18 of the Election Laws (Amendment) Act of 2000 specifically provides that the Chief Elections Officer shall be subject to the direction and control of the Commission.

It was argued that in determining the results of the election, it could not be construed that the phrase “acting only in accordance with the advice of the Chief Election Officer” would mean any report whatsoever that the CEO produces must be acceptable as that would be tantamount to elevating the CEO above the Commission, the Constitution and the Laws of Guyana.

“One man or woman cannot be vested with such absolute unchecked power. It is inconceivable that the framers of the constitution would have so intended,” Kim Kyte-Thomas, attorney for the GECOM chair had argued.

In any case, it was noted that the issues raised in the application were “res judicata” in that they were already heard and determined in previous judgments of higher courts.

The Court of Appeal, in a case brought by APNU+AFC candidate Ulita More, found that the Recount Order was constitutional. The Chief Justice ruled that since the issued was dealt with already, it could not be canvassed again and she had to rely on the Court of Appeal judgment.

And in the case brought by APNU+AFC supporter Eslyn David, the CCJ had pronounced that “unless and until an election court decides otherwise, the votes already counted by the recount process as valid votes are incapable of being declared invalid by any person or authority.”

The CCJ had also noted that the Recount Order “relates only to the Elections held on 2 March 2020” and it was specifically introduced to cater for the various disputes and contentions that arose after polling day and specifically after the March 13th Declaration.

The intention, of the recount, the Court noted, was to provide an open, transparent, and accountable recount of all the votes cast in those elections.

Clause 14 of the Recount Order provided that the Commission could make the declaration from the final credible count of the results.

Therefore, it was argued the GECOM Chair correctly found that the declarations made before the recount had to be set aside and were replaced by the tabulation of the votes at the recount process which the CCJ described as a transparent and credible process.

Justice Singh, through her attorney, argued that Lowenfield cannot go off on a “frolic” of his own and put himself above GECOM, the laws of Guyana and even the Constitution.

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