The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) on Wednesday scrapped the Chief Election Officer, Keith Lowenfield’s report that shows the governing coalition was expected to declare A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) the winner of the March 2, 2020 general and regional elections.
CCJ President, Justice Adrian Saunders said categorically in its unanimous decision by the panel of judges that “the court also declared that the report of the Chief Elections Officer of 23rd June, 2020 is similarly of no effect.”
The court also threw out the case by APNU+AFC supporter, Eslyn David, saying that the Guyana Court of Appeal did not have jurisdiction to hear her case on the matter in the firs instance as Article 177(4) does not apply to someone who was not yet President.
Saunders said the Chief Elections Officer was now expected to submit a report based on tabulated results of the recount, as the Guyana Elections Commission cannot address concerns about alleged voter fraud or annul the elections. The GECOM Chairman had said aggrieved parties could file an elections petition in accordance with the law and the constitution.
“It is for GECOM to ensure that the CEO submits a report in accordance with its directive of 16th of June in order to proceed along a path directed by the laws of Guyana,” Saunders said. The CCJ states that the recount order’s reference to valid votes is qualitatively expressed in the Representation of the People Act,” he said. He noted that “valid” votes means and could only mean validity based on an exercise that weeds out spoilt or rejected ballots in the presence of candidates and counting agents.
He said complaints of voter fraud, irregularities, impersonation and anomalies such as those complained by APNU+AFC election agent, Joseph Harmon must be addressed through an election petition. “If the integrity of a ballot or the manner in which a vote was procured is questioned beyond this transparent validation exercise say, because of some fundamental irregularity such as those alleged by Mr. Harmon, then that will be a matter that must be pursued through Article 163 after the elections have been concluded and the victors declared,” he said.
In throwing out the Guyana Court of Appeal majority decision by Justices of Appeal Dawn Gregory, Rishi Persaud and Puisne Judge, Brassington Reynolds, the CCJ said their addition to say “more valid votes” “implied invited the CEO to engage unilaterally and a further and unlawful validation exercise that trespassed on the exclusive jurisdiction of the High Court established by Article 163.”
Justice Saunders said it was inconsistent with Guyana’s constitution for the Chief Elections Officer or GECOM to disenfranchise more than 100,000 electors “in a seemingly non-transparent and arbitrary manner” without going the route of an elections petition.
Justice Saunders hoped that “there would quickly be a peaceable restoration of normalcy” in Guyana and “now the law must run its course.”
The People’s Progressive Party’s (PPP) General Secretary, Bharrat Jagdeo , as Representative of the List of Candidates, and presidential candidate, Irfaan Ali had appealed the Guyana Court of Appeal decision.