General Secretary of the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C), Bharrat Jagdeo has made it clear that nothing is preventing the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) from moving ahead to make an official declaration of the results of the March 2 General and Regional Elections since the issue of “valid votes” has already been “settled” by the Commission.
Jagdeo was at the time giving an initial reaction to the decision by the Court of Appeal regarding the issue of valid votes and the court’s jurisdiction to hear the case brought by A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) supporter, Eslyn David, which sought to block GECOM from declaring the elections results.
While the court did not grant the injunction, Appeal Court Judges Dawn Gregory and Brassington Reynolds ruled that the Court of Appeal has jurisdiction to interpret Article 177 (4) of the Constitution of Guyana. However, Justice Rishi Persaud had ruled that the Appeal Court has no jurisdiction and as such, struck out the motion.
According to the Opposition Leader, the issue of valid votes had already been determined by the Commission and should set the stage for a declaration. In his virtual broadcast, Jagdeo explained that the Commission had already decided what valid votes are.
They did this when they directed Chief Elections Officer, Keith Lowenfield, to present his report based on the figures coming out of the National Recount which show that the PPP/C secured more valid votes than any other party that contested the polls.
“Total valid votes have already been determined by the Commission…They didn’t do it on the whims or the fancies of the APNU or Lowenfield, they did it on the basis of documentary evidence presented to them by Lowenfield,” Jagdeo posited.
“Validity of the votes have already been determined. And they have already been determined and recorded in all the statutory form. So, there’s nothing that stops a declaration at this point in time. No court ruling, no order. They can’t take away the powers of the Commission and vest it with Lowenfield or in Congress Place,” he added.
Jagdeo added that all of the international and local observers during the elections and recount have already determined that the recount was credible and the final declaration should be on the basis of those results.
He pointed out that the Caribbean Community (Caricom) itself, which was given special provisions in the recount order to pronounce on the elections, has also made it clear that the recount results are credible.
“On the question of validity of votes, clearly the Court of Appeal could not mean that Lowenfield or any single political party, and in this case APNU, can solely determine what valid votes are.”
“This has to be determined on a process…and we are contending that this is already catered for in our laws. Lowenfield and APNU are not trying to determine valid votes, they are trying to invalidate valid votes. That is the issue here,” Jagdeo argued.
The General Secretary said that the coalition is desperately trying to use all avenues, including the court system and elements within the electoral machinery, to hang on to power and continue pillaging the country’s resources.
Jagdeo noted that based on the narrative being pushed by the coalition, a narrative supported by Lowenfield in his heavily opinionated summary of the Observation Reports, “285,000 voters will lose their votes.”
The Court of Appeal on Monday agreed by its majority decision to issue an order that the words “more votes are cast” in Article 177 (2) (b) of the Constitution of Guyana, be interpreted as more valid votes are cast.”
Among the things David had sought was an order from the court restraining the CEO from “complying with the direction of the Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission… to submit to the Guyana Elections Commission an Elections Report under Article 177 (2) ( b) of the Constitution of Guyana [and under Section 96 of the Representation of the People Act] without the Guyana Elections Commission determining the final credible count and or the credibility of the General and Regional Elections…” The court declined to grant such an order.
David had also sought an order restraining the CEO from submitting to GECOM, his Elections Report which “contains votes that are not valid and credible” within the meaning of Order No 60 of 2020, and under Section 96 of the Representation of the People Act. Importantly, the Court of Appeal refused to grant this order.
The court was also asked by David to make a declaration that GECOM has failed to “determine a final credible count and or the credibility of the result of the General and Regional Elections” in accordance with Order No 60 of 2020 and the amended order dated the 29th day of May 2020.
GECOM meets today, where a decision is expected to be taken on how to move forward with the court ruling. GECOM Chair, Retired Justice Claudette Singh, has already made it clear that GECOM is not a court of law and cannot determine the veracity of allegations made by the coalition. Moreover, she has said that he who accuses must also prove.