“Disguised” election petition filed in final-ditch effort to thwart the will of Guyanese – Jagdeo
…as APNU/AFC supporter seeks injunction to halt election declaration
Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo has stated that the Notice of Motion filed in the Court of Appeal by a supporter of the caretaker APNU/AFC Coalition, Eslyn David, is a “disguised” elections petition.
The Appeal Court is expected to hear the application at 13:30h today. It is asking for a series of orders to stop the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) from moving ahead with the declaration of the results from the March 2 elections.
However, Jagdeo, who is also the General Secretary of the People’s Progressive Party/Civic – the party that has emerged with the most votes from the March 2 elections – contends that the Court has no jurisdiction to hear the matter.
“Our position is that the Court of Appeal has no jurisdiction on this matter. This is a disguised elections petition… We hope this matter would be thrown out in the interest of moving forward,” he stated during a virtual briefing on Thursday.
Chief Elections Officer Keith Lowenfield was expected to submit his final elections report to GECOM on Thursday, but deferred so doing after he was served with the legal notice. This, coupled with the fact that the seven-member Commission did not have the quorum to convene its meeting due to the absence of two of the three government-nominated commissioners, forced GECOM Chair, Justice Claudette Singh, to postpone the much- anticipated meeting that would have paved the way for a final declaration and eventual swearing in of PPP/C’s Irfaan Ali as the new President of Guyana.
Jagdeo believes the events that played out on Thursday were “well-coordinated”, especially since the two Commissioners did not show up for the scheduled meeting.
He contends that the caretaker Coalition is trying to make the Court direct Lowenfield to use fraudulent figures to declare the results of the elections.
CEO Lowenfield, in his summary report, had used the allegations made by the APNU/AFC of dead and migrated voters to disenfranchise thousands of Guyanese, and provided figures which he concludes are credible. His calculation awarded the Coalition 125,010 votes and the PPP/C 56,627 votes.
However, the GECOM Chair has since ruled that the Commission does not have the jurisdiction to address the allegations of irregularities, which should be ventilated in the High Court, and as such directed Lowenfield to use the results emanating from the National Recount – which put the PPP/C ahead with 233,336 votes and APNU/AFC with 217,920 – to prepare his final elections report.
The CEO had also presented these figures in his report, but says he is unable to ascertain their credibility. However, many stakeholders say that he has overstepped his mandate by making such a pronouncement.
According to Jagdeo, this new move by the caretaker administration is worse than the fraud perpetuated by embattled Returning Officer Clairmont Mingo, who had heavily inflated votes in favour of the APNU/AFC for Region Four – Guyana’s largest voting district.
“That is what they’re trying to get the Court to do. But clearly, you can’t win an election on technicality,” he asserted.
This comes on the heels of the Coalition’s Prime Ministerial Candidate Khemraj Ramjattan telling the Stabroek News on Wednesday that he believes “certain legal technicalities can tip the electoral scale in the Coalition’s favour”.
But the PPP/C, in a statement, said this utterance by Ramjattan, who himself is a lawyer, is “utterly disgraceful” and shows the level to which he, and the Coalition by extension, is prepared to descend for political power.
The party reminded of the admonitions expressed by the Chief Justice of the Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal in the case of Anthony Ribeiro v Kennedy Simmons (1979): “I do not think that the intention of the law is that an election should be won or lost on technicalities in Court, but rather, the wish of the people expressed through the ballot box should prevail. The Court should put first and foremost, in my view, the intention of the electorate.”
Against this background, Jagdeo asserted that the Coalition cannot use the court to compel the Commission to accept anything other than the results emanating from the National Recount, which was the instruction of GECOM Chair to the CEO.
“They seem to think that whatever Lowenfield submits to the Commission, the Commission must dutifully accept that and declare on the basis of that. Then you don’t need the elections [Commission] in the future in Guyana. You can get a Chief Elections Officer who is sympathetic to a party and he goes declare whatever he wants or not, based on the count… Clearly, you can’t disguise everything now which should come under an elections petition, put it before the Court of Appeal and say they must hear the matter and rule on technicality,” he posited.
Meanwhile, the PPP/C, in its missive on Thursday, contended that any report presented outside of the figures from the recount could be considered a conspiracy to commit electoral fraud.
“Any report prepared without using the totals of the valid votes cast, which he has already submitted to the Commission, would amount to a conspiracy to commit electoral fraud at Common Law; a most grievous offence, which can attract as severe a penalty as life imprisonment. Those who are in the conspiracy with him are exposed to the same criminal liabilities,” the party detailed.
Moreover, the PPP/C noted that even if Lowenfield persists in this direction, the Elections Commission has sufficiently wide powers under Article 162 of the Constitution to declare the results of the elections as produced by the National Recount exercise.