Home Top Stories Election CoI: Lowenfield continuously refused to declare results using recount figures –...
…says gave victory to APNU+AFC by greater margin than was declared by Mingo
People’s Progressive Party (PPP) nominated Commissioner on the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), Sase Gunraj, on Thursday testified that former Chief Elections Officer (CEO) Keith Lowenfield had refused to follow instructions on several occasions to prepare a report using the results from the national recount exercise.
During his testimony at the ongoing Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into the events that followed the March 2, 2020 Elections, Gunraj spoke about the series of events that ensued after the March 2, 2020 polls.
He told the CoI that at the conclusion of the 33-day national recount, which ran from May 6 to June 9, 2020, the then-CEO was directed by the Elections Commission to submit a report on the outcome of that exercise. The CEO is required to present a report to the Commission, detailing the results of the elections and make a declaration of the winner.
However, Gunraj indicated that despite numerous directions from the GECOM Commission, Lowenfield refused to provide an accurate report reflecting the results of the recount.
Gunraj related that the CEO’s non-compliance with this instruction was first observed when he presented his report to the Commission on June 13, 2020.
“In that report, the CEO stated that he was unable to ascertain that the 2020 General and Regional Elections, which he oversaw, were impartial and credible,” Gunraj stated, adding that at no point prior did Lowenfield inform the Commission that he could not ascertain the credibility of those elections.
“In that report, he gave a victory to the APNU+AFC Coalition and quite interestingly, the margin of victory was even greater than that which was fraudulently declared by [Region Four Returning Officer] Clairmont Mingo.”
Earlier in this testimony, Gunraj had told the CoI that he had objected to Mingo’s declaration on March 5, 2020, which was done without the completion of the verification/tabulation of the votes for Region Four – Guyana’s largest voting district. He disclosed that there was a unanimous position at the level of the seven-member Election Commission that the process should be completed before any declaration was made. But that process was abandoned after GECOM took a decision to undertake a national recount of all the votes cast at the March 2020 polls.
Nevertheless, in Lowenfield’s June 13 report to GECOM scores of valid votes cast were invalidated by him to give a victory to the then-incumbent APNU/AFC Coalition.
“The CEO disregarded almost 300,000 votes. There were about 416,000 odd votes cast in the elections and the CEO’s report, only considered 185,000 odd votes to be valid… He would’ve disregarded just under 300,000 votes… In his explanation, he disregarded those as being not valid,” Gunraj told the CoI.
According to the GECOM Commissioner, there is no statutory authority accorded to the CEO to determine the validity of or reject any votes cast.
It was further explained that of the 185,000 votes that Lowenfield considered to be valid, he apportioned 67 per cent to the APNU/AFC, while giving the PPP/C 30.5 per cent. The CEO also claimed in his report that the APNU/AFC won District Six – the East Berbice-Corentyne region, which is primarily a PPP/C stronghold.
However, the results from the national recount showed that the PPP/C in fact won the March 2020 elections having secured a total of 233,336 votes against the 217,920 votes obtained by the APNU/AFC while another 5,214 votes went to the Joinder Alliance comprising several new and small parties that contested the elections.
That recount exercise also highlighted the fact that Mingo heavily inflated the figures in favour of the then-incumbent coalition.
According to Gunraj, that report by the CEO was rejected by a majority of the seven-member Election Commission, that is, the three PPP-nominated Commissioners along with the GECOM Chairperson, Retired Justice Claudette Singh.
Lowenfield, he added, was then directed to resubmit his report based on the actual results of the recount. He was given until June 18 by the GECOM Chair to make that submission.
But Gunraj disclosed that while a meeting of the Commission was scheduled to receive that report, two of the three APNU/AFC nominated Commissioners at GECOM were absent hence there was no quorum – which requires five members including the Chairperson and two commissioners from each side to be present.
Additionally, he informed the CoI that the CEO did not show up nor did he send the report to the Commission that day. Gunraj said no reason was proffered to the Commission for his action.
During this time, however, there was a series of court proceedings ongoing regarding the elections and following a June 22 ruling of the Guyana Court of Appeal, the Commission received another report from the CEO.
But once again in yet another report, Lowenfield went on to invalidate some 115,000 plus votes cast. That report was, however, deemed invalid by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) in a July 8, 2020 ruling.
Again, the Commission ordered the CEO to prepare another report reflecting the valid votes counted in the national recount. He was ordered to do this by July 10.
“He did not [produce that report]. Instead, he came to the Commission on that said 10th of July, 2020 and sought further guidance.”
On July 11, the Commission received a report from the CEO and that report was now using the inflated numbers declared by Mingo in March 2020.
Gunraj further told the CoI that the Elections Commission formally set aside all previous declarations on July 13 and decided that only the recount figures should be used. Once more, the Commission instructed the CEO to present another report based on the national recount figures by 14:30h the following day.
However, the CEO did not submit a report at the Commission meeting. “He was asked [about the report] and he refused to answer any questions. At that said meeting, the Commissioners on the other side, walked out of the meeting, thereby making it lose a quorum.”
That meeting was rescheduled the following day but because of another court case, the Elections Commission could not meet.
Then following a July 30, 2020 decision of the Court of Appeal, which threw out an appeal against a High Court ruling that the recount votes be used to declare the results of the March 2, 2020 elections, the Elections Commission again requested a report from the CEO.
“We reconvened a meeting of the Commission on August 2, 2020 and the CEO finally submitted a report using the actual figures from the national recount,” Gunraj told the CoI.