GECOM’s duty now is to declare winner of the elections and nothing else – Datadin
By Ravin Singh
With the national recount of votes completed, the role of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) is limited to declaring the winner of the March 2 General and Regional Elections.
To do otherwise would mean that the elections regulatory body is acting outside of its legal parameters, Attorney-at-Law and candidate of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Sanjeev Datadin has said.
Political Scientist and former PPP member Dr Henry Jeffrey is the latest person to suggest that GECOM should force a power-sharing agreement between the PPP and the incumbent APNU+AFC, and not declare the PPP the winner in keeping with statistics from the recount.
The recount figures show that the PPP has beaten the APNU+AFC by more than 15,000 votes.
However, Dr Jeffrey suggested recently during an interview on Periscope on Politics aired on News-Talk Radio Guyana 103.1 FM that Chancellor of the Judiciary, Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards should be asked by the Chairperson of GECOM, Justice (rt’d) Claudette Singh to head an interim power-sharing administration.
His suggestion is premised on unsubstantiated and unproven allegations by the APNU+AFC that thousands of votes in the March 2 elections were compromised and that it had been cheated at the polls.
Dr Jeffrey is a member of A New and United Guyana (ANUG) but he is not on the executive and his views are his personal capacity, the party’s Chairman Timothy Jonas has said.
“According to the count of ballots, the People’s Progressive Party has won the elections. GECOM has no power to refuse to declare the winner, or to propose any interim Government or to ask anyone to head such an interim Government. That would be unlawful and undemocratic,” Jonas stated on his Facebook page.
He said it is for GECOM to declare the winner, and for the Chancellor to swear in the Presidential Candidate of that winning party, and for the new Parliament to be convened.
“When that is done, our election process will be complete, and democracy will be achieved,” Jonas declared.
He said when that is done, ANUG will begin in the new dispensation to advocate for constitutional reform for shared decision making in Government and the abolition of the winner take all system, by all lawful means available.
Meanwhile, according to Datadin, Dr Jeffrey’s position does not take into consideration Article 163 of Guyana’s Constitution.
That article states that: “…the High Court shall have exclusive jurisdiction to determine any question – (b) whether (1) either generally or in any particular place, an election has been lawfully conducted or the result thereof has been, or may have been, affected by any unlawful act or omission”.
Using this as a basis, Datadin reasoned that GECOM is therefore not in a position to make a pronouncement on the validity of the March 2 elections and therefore cannot deviate from its legally prescribed course of action, which is to announce the winner.
“GECOM is a statutory body and must oblige with the laws given to them. GECOM can only do what the law says. GECOM can apply the law. GECOM can’t decide what’s in the best interest and GECOM can’t say it won’t declare a winner because they know who the winner is,” Datadin said Wednesday during a programme on Kaieteur Radio.
Section 2 of Article 177 of the Constitution states that: “A Presidential candidate shall be deemed to have been elected as President and shall be so declared by the Chairman of the Elections Commission – (b) where there are two or more Presidential candidates, if more votes are cast in favour of the list in which he is designated as Presidential candidate than in favour of any other list.”
The PPP’s Irfaan Ali serves as the party’s presidential candidate, and would, based on the recount, be the President-elect.
But Dr Jeffery maintained that GECOM cannot just ignore the cases of unproven anomalies highlighted and suggested that the elections body must investigate them and take actions which it deems necessary.
However, Datadin again rebuffed this contention by highlighting the fact that GECOM is not equipped with the mechanisms to investigate or conduct a trial, which is why recourse is left to the Courts.
In a rhetorical way, Datadin questioned several things: “Does GECOM have any ability to investigate even in a cursory way, what is being told to them? Do they have rules of evidence? Everybody whose vote you want to take away, you will have to give a hearing. How are those people going to obtain a hearing?
“Who would vote on what the decision would be? How do you put it before [GECOM]? Are they going to administer oats to persons so that they give sworn testimonies? Who is going to administer the oath and what happens in the consequence of a lie?”
He reiterated that GECOM is not equipped with the ability, tools and resources to address those issues and it is the Court that has been reposed with the jurisdiction for such an undertaking.
“Article 163 says the court has exclusive jurisdiction. It means no one else has jurisdiction. Not even GECOM. And if the courts have exclusive jurisdiction to conduct hearings, the court conduct those in accordance with the Act – the National Assembly Elections Validity Act.”
Dr Jeffrey had served as a PPP Minister before resigning in 2009, and later joining the APNU+AFC during its 2015 campaign.