Sep 01, 2020 News Comments Off on APNU+AFC lodges election petition in the High Court
By Rehanna Ramsay
The A Partnership for National Unity +Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) opposition party has filed an election petition in the Georgetown High Court challenging the results of the March 2 General and Regional Elections.
The petition comes exactly 28 days after the results were declared and five months after a stiff battle between the two main political parties over the election.
The petition which was lodged yesterday morning at the registry of the Supreme Court by several top ranking members of the opposition party including former President David Granger, presumptive Opposition Leader, Joseph Harmon, and AFC chairman, Khemraj Ramjattan.
According to court records, the applicants, Claudette Thorne and Heston Raymond Bostwick in their capacity as citizens of Guyana and electors of District Four want several questions answered including whether the elections have been lawfully conducted or whether the results have been, or may have been affected by any unlawful act or omission and in consequence thereof, whether the seats in the National Assembly have been lawfully allocated.
The petition drafted by Attorneys -at-law, Roysdale A. Forde S.C, John Jeremie, S.C, Raphael Trotman and Olayne Joseph, states that the two applicants are challenging the results as declared by the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) and published in the official gazette on August 20, 2020.
Those results show the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C) as having 233,336 votes and the APNU+AFC securing 217,920 votes. The results which put the PPP/C in the lead were garnered from a CARICOM supervised elections recount process that the APNU+AFC had condemned as lacking credibility. For these reasons, the applicants claim that the elections were unlawfully conducted and the results were affected.
As a basis of their contentions, the applicants in their supporting document outlined the series of events which led up to the recount declaration. They highlighted, inter alia, the previous declaration made by District Four Returning Officer, Clairmont Mingo, which showed a overwhelming lead for the APNU+AFC in the largest voting population but was challenged in Court subsequently quashed by then Chief Justice (ag), Roxanne George-Wiltshire.
As a consequence of the Judge’s order, the two citizens stated that an agreement was made between the then President, David Granger, and the Leader of the Opposition, Bharrat Jagdeo, for a recount of all the votes cast at this year’s General and Regional Election.
But before the recount figures could be declared, the document noted that another course of litigation was taken.
This time, Justice Franklin Holder ruled that the electoral returns and or declarations of returning officers could only be set aside by an election petition.
As such, the applicants claimed that the Fixed Date Application (FDA) was filed to challenge the outcome of the elections by way of the petition.
In the elections petition, the applicants asked the Court to determine several questions, including whether Section 22 of the Elections Law Amendment Act (ELAA) is unconstitutional in that it violates the separation of powers and impermissibly usurps the legislative powers of Parliament.
As such, they are contending that the (recount) regime which was created under Order 60 of 2020 pursuant to Section 22 of the ELAA and Article 162 of the Constitution is ultra vires and inconsistent with Article 161 A of the Constitution.
“The regime created by GECOM purportedly in pursuant of Section 22 of the ELAA was inconsistent with the Representation of the People Act,” the court document said.
Further, the document noted recital 8 of Order No. 60 provides that GECOM, in exercise of the authority vested in it under Article 162 of the Constitution and pursuant to Section 22 of the ELAA 2000, seeks to remove difficulties connected with the process of the Representation of the People Act, Chapter 1:03, in implementing its decisions related to the recount of all ballots cast at the said elections.
Order 60 of 2020, according to the applicants, “negates the process of the reconciliation of the ballots issued with the ballots cast, destroyed, spoiled, stamped, and as deemed necessary, their counterfoils/stubs; authenticity of the ballots and the number of voters listed and crossed out as having voted; the number of votes cast without ID cards; the number of proxies issued and the number utilized; statistical anomalies; occurrences recorded in the Poll Book”.
By virtue of Section 96 (1) of the said Act, the document said that the Chief Elections Officer (CEO) shall, after the declarations have been made by all the Returning Officers for all of the 10 Electoral Districts and calculate the total number of valid votes cast for each List of Candidates. The CEO is also required to prepare a report in accordance with Section 96 (2) of the Representation of the People Act and furnish same to the GECOM.
As a consequence, the two electors believe that GECOM rejected the CEO’s report submitted on July 11, 2020 in keeping with the Report pursuant to Section 96 of the Representation of the People Act.
However, they noted that his report was rejected and the Chairman directed the CEO to prepare his report using the valid votes counted in the National Recount as per Certificates of Recount generated therefrom.
“The request by the Chairman of the GECOM to the CEO was illegal… The Certificate of District Tabulation used in the Recount Process was not Gazetted and is not required by the Representation of the People Act to be used for the Declaration of the results…” the applicants contended in their petition.
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