Despite injunction and pending court ruling, Lowenfield prepares final report on elections results
The country’s Chief Elections Officer (CEO), Keith Lowenfield has prepared his final report on the results of Monday’s elections and has called for a meeting of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to approve it; his report contains the unverified count of votes in Region Four, which the Opposition says has been doctored to approve a win for the David Granger-led Coalition.
The results for the other nine Regions showed the PPP winning six regions and leading by 52,000 votes.
The CEO wrote the Chairman Justice (Rt’d), Claudette Singh and Commissioners, on Saturday night even though there is an injunction against the declaration of the results by the High Court; the Chief Justice will rule Sunday on the matter.
“These matters continue to engage the attention of the Chief Justice, Roxanne George, sitting in the High Court.
“We consider this invitation to meet as a flagrant attempt to breach the Order of Court aforesaid and a naked attempt by the Chief Elections Officer, Keith Lowenfield, to suborn us to breach an Order of Court and exposing us to liability for contempt of Court,” GECOM Commissioners Sase Gunraj, Robeson Benn and Bibi Shadick declared in a statement.
They said that as holders of a constitutional offices, they are at all times obligated to obey the Constitution and other laws of Guyana “and we consider this invitation to meet as not only a violation of our duty to uphold the Constitution but also an invitation to subvert the course of justice.”
GECOM is split even, with three Commissioners representing the government and three representing the Opposition.
Three of the six Commissioners have said they will not attend any meeting as long as the court case is still active. The Commission cannot meet if there is no quorum, which is defined in the Constitution as four Members and the Chairman. So, for any meeting to go on at least one PPP Commissioner has to be present.
But in the case for the declaration of the results, if a meeting is called and there is no quorum, the Chairperson will adjourn the meeting to the same time the following day and inform the absent members.
If at that meeting those who were absent for the original meeting do not show up, only the presence of four members, including the chair, is required and any decision made would be deemed valid in law and binding.
If the PPP Commissioners do show up to the meeting and both sides vote along party lines, it would mean that the Chair would have the deciding vote, leaving the ball in her court.
The CEO has only asked for a meeting; no date and time has been set just yet.
International governments, including the U.S., UK, Canada, and the EU, along with observers from the Commonwealth, the OAS, the EU and CARICOM, have all said that if the verification of the Region Four Statements of Poll are not completed, the elections results would not be credible.
The U.S. State Department on Saturday night said the government would be illegitimate if the President is sworn in with unverified votes from Region Four.
On Thursday last, a High Court injunction was granted restraining the Returning Officer, Clairmont Mingo, and/or the Chief Elections Officer, Keith Lowenfield, and the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), from in any manner whatsoever, declaring the votes recorded in Region Four before first complying with, or ensuring the compliance of the process set out in Section 84 of the Representation of the People Act, Cap 1:03., Laws of Guyana.
The law states that the Returning Officer shall, “in the presence of such of the persons entitled” to be there ascertain the total votes cast in favour of the parties.
Section 86 (1) lists the persons who shall be present at the counting of the votes.
These persons include:
(A) The Returning Officer, and such other Elections Officer appointed by him
(B) The Elections Commission
(C) Duly appointed Candidates
(D) Counting Agents
(E) Such other persons, as in the opinion of the Returning Officer, have good reason to be present.
Returning Officers for nine of the ten electoral districts followed what the law states and had party agents and local and foreign observers present.
This was not done by Mingo. Neither candidates of the Opposition PPP not observers were present when the votes for District Four were declared.
The PPP Commissioners reiterated their “unconditional position” that Section 84 of the Representation of the People Act, Chapter 1:03 of the Laws of Guyana was not complied with by the Returning Officer and therefore the purported declaration of the votes recorded for each list of candidates is invalid, null, void and of no effect.
“For the foregoing reasons, we will not respond to any such or further invitations from the Chief Elections Officer, Keith Lowenfield or Chairman of Guyana Elections Commission, Justice Claudette Singh, while the Court proceedings are still extant,” they stated.
Chief Justice Roxane George will rule Sunday on whether she can properly hear and determine the case brought before her to block the declaration of the votes from Monday’s polls until the Returning Officer of Region Four complies with the legal provisions for the verification of Statements of Poll from his district.
If the Chief Justice throws out the injunction, it would pave the way for GECOM to meet to declare the results.
If the Chief Justice rules that she can hear the case, the matter will then continue next week, likely Tuesday, and she will then have to rule on whether or not the Returning Officer for Region Four must complete the verification of Statements of Poll for his district.
A citizen named Reeaz Hollander was granted the injunction by the High Court to block the declaration of the overall results of the elections until the matter is heard and determined.