CEO seeks clarity from GECOM Chair for final report
—cites CCJ ruling
DPI, Guyana, Friday, July 10, 2020
Chief Elections Officer (CEO) of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) Keith Lowenfield has requested that Commission’s Chairman Justice (ret’d) Claudette Singh provide further guidance to her request for his submission of the final elections report.
Justice Singh on Thursday wrote to the CEO, asking that he present a report by 14:00 hours today, which would then lead to the declaration of a president, using the valid votes generated from the Certificates of Recount from the recently concluded National Vote Recount.
However, the CEO responded with a letter, asking that the Chair provide further guidance to her request, especially since the recent ruling of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) could impact his report.
The CCJ on Wednesday, July 1, handed down its ruling invalidating the June 22 decision of Guyana’s Court of Appeal, which had interpreted the words “ more votes cast” in Article 177 (2) (b) of the Constitution to mean “more valid votes cast” in accordance with Order 60 of 2020 or the gazetted National Recount Order.
The CEO’s first report to the Chair which was guided by the Court of Appeal’s decision was essentially invalidated as well.
That report saw the Coalition Government winning the March 2 elections with 171,825 valid votes and the opposition PPP following with 166,343.
According to the CEO, the CCJ in its ruling endorsed the view that GECOM cannot determine credibility. He said it, therefore, holds that Order 60 of 2020 of the National Recount Order cannot be executed in its entirety.
As a result, Lowenfield stated, “a final credible count as conceived by the commission and expressed in the Order, cannot be attained.”
In her missive, the Chair cited Section 96 of the Representation of the People Act Cap. 1.03, as a basis for the submission of the CEO’s report. The CEO is, however, seeking further guidance on how Section 96 could be properly operationalised.
“Of particular interest is two facts. (1) that the elections laws envisage that “the votes counted and information furnished” would be provided by statutory officers and (2) the allocation of seats is premised on the statutory report of the Returning Officers.”
He said the CCJ stated clearly that the “allocation of seats in the National Assembly and the identification of the successful Presidential Candidate is determined on the sole basis of the votes counted and information furnished by Returning Officers under the ROPA”. He reminded that the National Recount was not undertaken by ROs.
He said the CCJ has opined that Order 60 is in tension with the Constitution of Guyana and could not create a new election regime. To this, the CEO is asking which results of the elections could be declared.
The CEO brought to the Chair’s attention the historic practice of submission of the elections report, which has been premised on the ascertainment of the results by the Chief Elections Officer.
“The structure of your missive suggests a change in operational procedures and further the two citations appear dissimilar. In this regard, clear guidance is required with respect to whether the report being requested is premised on Section 18 of the Election Laws Act 12 of 2000 or Article 177 2 (b) of the Constitution.