CJ dismisses APNU/AFC’s final election petition

…says petitioners failed to prove irregularities

The High Court has dismissed the election petition filed by the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) coalition which sought to vitiate the 2020 General and Regional Elections.

Acting Chief Justice Roxane George

APNU/AFC’s petition number 88 of 2020 had targeted the recount that confirmed the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) as the winner of the elections. However, acting Chief Justice Roxane George ruled on Monday that Order 60 of 2020, which created the recount, did not breach the Constitution.
It is a similar ruling to what the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) found when it ruled on the Eslyn David case last year. The Chief Justice made it clear that Article 162 of the Constitution of Guyana fully empowered the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to take whatever actions were necessary to conclude the elections, including the recount.
“Given the difficulties, it does appear that it would not have been prudent for GECOM to declare the results in the peculiar circumstances that accompanied the completion of the process of the March 2 Elections. As noted by Justice of Appeal Persaud in Misenga Jones… GECOM cannot be expected to act on advice known to be unlawful, or lacking legitimacy,” she said.

With the threat of unrest hanging in the air, the PPP urged law enforcement to maintain law and order

“Thus, I’ve concluded that Order 60 was not ultra vires the Constitution or Section 22 (of the Representation of the People Act). A combination of Article 162 (1) (b) and Section 22 confer the power upon GECOM to issue this order, if GECOM considered it necessary or expedient to ensure impartiality, fairness and compliance… as regards the election process.”

No proof
Justice George noted that had there been no difficulties with the election, then GECOM’s creation of Order 60 would have been illegal. However, she pointed out that even the election petition highlights the difficulties GECOM faced in arriving at a valid election result. Among her findings was that the petitioners failed to prove their case that there were substantial irregularities.
“Ultimately, despite the reliefs sought, this petition does not rely on the second limb of Article 163 (b) and Section 30 of the National Assembly Validity of Elections Act Chapter 104, that there have been unlawful acts or omissions affecting the results. Indeed, evidence that there were unlawful acts that affected or may have affected the result of the election have not been provided in this petition,” Justice George said.
“I hold that in order to exercise general direction, supervision over the elections, GECOM had to ensure the lawful and proper implementation of the RPA and Section 22. This was done lawfully by GECOM via Order 60, enabling it to issue instructions and take action as appeared necessary to resolve the controversies, as part of its responsibility to complete the election process.”

The fate of this election petition means that APNU/AFC has now had both of its petitions dismissed by the High Court. In January, Justice George also dismissed APNU/AFC’s petition number 99 of 2020, due to its late service. This petition is currently being appealed.

Meanwhile, the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) released a statement in which they lauded the ruling and noted that the ruling vindicates the position of all right-thinking persons that the recount established the rightful winners of the March 2, 2020 General and Regional Elections.
“The ruling has vindicated the position of the PPP and almost all other political parties and civil society bodies in Guyana, as well as elections observers and the international community, that the machinations and obstructions of the APNU/AFC following the March 2020 polls, were purely meant to hijack the March 2020 elections which it lost fair and square, in a brazen attempt to derail Guyana’s hard-earned democracy, and retain power through back door means.”
The party also slammed the People’s National Congress (PNC) led APNU/AFC for their efforts to destabilise the country, even after their five-month-long efforts last year following the General and Regional Elections.
According to the PPP, this was on full display on Monday, with protests from APNU/AFC supporters following the ruling and the aspersions cast by Opposition Leader Joseph Harmon on the Chief Justice.
“The PPP vehemently condemns Harmon’s attack on the Chief Justice and the Judiciary and calls on all Guyanese to dismiss the Opposition’s aggressive posturing as yet another rank attempt to remain relevant and to mislead its supporters,” the party said.
“We urge the law enforcement agencies to make every effort to maintain law and order. Particular focus should be placed on ensuring that the COVID-19 protocols are adhered to in light of the public health risk it poses.”