Home News No sign of SoPs in APNU/AFC 2nd election petition
A second election petition has been filed on behalf of the A Party for National Unity/ Alliance for Change (APNU/AFC) at the High Court in Demerara, challenging the results of the March 2, 2020 General and Regional Elections.
This second petition deals predominantly with allegations of anomalies and voter-impersonation for which the party complained during the recount of all ballots.
It also accuses the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) of failing to execute several of its constitutional and statutory duties, including failing to complete house-to-house registration and verifying the Official List of Electors (OLE).
Those who are the petitioners of this second petition are Monica Thomas of Lot 58 Norton Street, Lodge, Georgetown, Demerara, Guyana and Bernnan Joette Natasha Nurse of Lot N16-1079 Critchlow Street, Tucville, Georgetown, Demerara.
They say that during the period January to August 2020, they were employed at the Office of the Elections Agent as Assistants to Opposition Leader Joseph Harmon, who was appointed as Election Agent for the APNU/AFC.
According to the petitioners, they assisted Harmon in coordinating the election machinery of APNU/AFC, and attended the polls and had interactions with thousands of polling agents and counting agents, candidates, workers, and volunteers throughout the country.
In addition, they say that all information and electoral data, including tally sheets, Statements of Poll, Declarations of the Returning Officers, Statements of Recount, Certificates of District Tabulation, Observation Reports, results of elections, complaints, instances of electoral irregularities, and breaches of the statutory requirements, breaches and violations of the Constitution and all applicable laws governing elections in Guyana were transmitted through them by and to the Elections Agent.
In the petition, representatives of all the political parties which contested the elections and Chief Elections Officer (CEO) Keith Lowenfield are listed as the respondents. Therein, APNU/AFC complains that GECOM failed to investigate reports made by Harmon of anomalies and instances of voters’ impersonation that were unearthed during the recount exercise.
This is despite the fact that GECOM does not have the mandate, or the wherewithal, to investigate such cases. In fact, Article 163 (1b) of the Constitution of Guyana makes it clear that the High Court has the “exclusive jurisdiction” to determine the veracity of such claims, and whether an election was lawfully conducted. This provision of the Constitution was upheld by both the High Court and Court of Appeal in their respective rulings this year.
The petitioners further submitted that several unused ballots were not found in specific ballot boxes; there were instances when the evidence required to validate the legitimacy of ballots cast was missing; there were instances when Oaths of Identity that are required by statute for electors voting without identification cards or other acceptable forms of identification were missing.
They complain that there were instances when persons appeared to have voted with Oaths of Identity but were not listed on the Official List of Electors; instances when extra ballot papers which were not issued to the particular polling station were found in ballot boxes without any requisite documentation; instances when poll books were missing.
Further, the duo submitted that there were instances when the evidence of the polling activities was not recorded in the available poll books; instances when ballots cast were unstamped, and instances when evidence to validate the issuance of ballots to proxies were missing.
These missing documents were all cited in the case brought before the High Court by APNU supporter Misenga Jones in the ultimately futile attempt to overturn Recount Order 60 of 2020. However, the High Court had ruled that the recount was valid and the results must be used, notwithstanding any such missing documents.
Thomas and Nurse are of the view that GECOM failed to comply with Order No. 60 of 2020, the very Order it created to establish the recount, and in accordance with which it was obligated to act solely. In fact, they say that on June 16, 2020 GECOM stated that it did not have the legal authority to determine the credibility of those elections, and by extension to arrive at a final credible count, as required by the Order.
Like in the first petition, APNU/AFC claims that Order 60 of 2020 is unconstitutional and inconsistent with the provisions of the Representation of the People Act. The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) upheld the validity of Order No. 60 of 2020 and ruled that it was the recount results which had to be used to make a declaration.
APNU/AFC, again, did not include their Statements of Poll (SoPs) in this petition. As exhibits in this petition, they submitted a table showing the results of the March 02, 2020 elections which were gazetted on August 20, 2020, and a table with a summary of change of ballots during the recount that were recorded by party agents.
In the first petition, the Coalition attached the form that embattled Returning Officer Clairmont Mingo used to declare the results for Region Four, which listed the total number of valid votes for all lists as 217,425 for which APNU/AFC received 136,057 votes and the PPP/C 77,231 votes.
In actuality, the results of the National Recount found that there was a total of 202,077 ballots cast in Region Four, with 116,941 for APNU/AFC and 80,920 for PPP/C. As it relates to the overall elections, the gazetted results show that 460,352 valid votes were cast, with 233,336 for the PPP/C and 217,920 for APNU/AFC.
This petition is yet to be assigned a date for hearing. Their lawyers are Senior Counsel Rex McKay, Mayo Robertson, Khemraj Ramjattan, Darren Wade, Gary Best and Geeta Chandan-Edmond.