Guyana's chief elections officer wants clarification ahead of submitting report

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Guyana's chief elections officer wants clarification ahead of submitting report

Saturday, July 11, 2020

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GEORGETOWN, Guyana (CMC) — Guyana's Chief Elections Officer Keith Lowenfield yesterday failed to submit a report to the chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) that would have started the process of releasing the official results of the disputed March 2 regional and general election.

Retired Justice Claudette Singh had written to Lowenfield on Thursday seeking the report on the elections based on the results of the national recount vote that ended on June 9.

Singh had indicated to Lowenfield that under the Election Laws Act, “you are subject to the direction and control of the elections commission” and that the report should have been submitted by 2:00 pm on Friday “using the valid votes counted in the National Recount as per certificates of recount generated therefrom”.

Her letter came one day after the Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), the country's highest court, threw out a Court of Appeal majority ruling upon which Lowenfield had based a report he had submitted to GECOM, indicating that the ruling coalition, A Partnership for National Unity (APNU), had won the polls defeating the main Opposition People's Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C).

The PPP/C had claimed victory by more than 15, 000 votes following the national recount of ballots that was observed by a three-member team from the Caribbean Community (Caricom).

But in a letter to Singh, the chief elections officer said he needed guidance as to whether the report should be premised on Section 18 of the Election Laws or on Article 177(2)(b) of the Constitution.

Lowenfield said he had reviewed the judgement of the CCJ and “some clarifications are imperative to preparation and submission of the required report to safeguard against any action deemed to be unilateral.

“The court endorsed the view that GECOM cannot determine credibility,” he wrote, adding, “it, therefore, holds that order 60 of 2020 cannot be executed in its entirety.

“As a consequence, a final credible count as conceived by the commission and expressed in the order cannot be attained.”

Lowenfield said the citation of Section 96 of the Representation of the People's Act (ROPA), in the request for another election report, requires clarification.

“Kindly provide guidance on how Section 96(1) of the ROPA could be properly operationalised. Of particular relevance are two facts: (1) That the election law envisages that 'the votes counted, and information furnished' would be provided by statutory officers; and (2) the allocation of seats is premised on the statutory report of the returning officers.

“'It is noteworthy that the CCJ clearly stated…' that the allocation of seats in the National Assembly and the identification of the successful presidential candidate are determined on the sole basis of votes counted and information furnished by returning officers under the Representation of the People's Act .”

Lowenfield told Singh that, as she is aware, “the National Recount was not undertaken by returning officers”.

He said that the concluding opinion of the CCJ's judgement states “that Order 60 is in tension with the Constitution of Guyana and could not create a new election regime.

“Kindly provide guidance on which results of the elections of 2 March 2020 could be lawfully declared”.

Lowenfield wrote that the “historic” practice of submission of the elections report to the chairman has been premised on ascertainment of the results by the chief elections officer.

“The structure of your missive suggests a change in operational procedures, and, further, the two citations appear dissimilar. In that regard, clear guidance is required with respect to whether the report being requested is premised on Section 18 of the Election Law Act 15 of 2000 or on Article 177 (2) (b) of the Constitution.”


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