Lowenfield must ‘prudently and lawfully’ comply with CCJ ruling – Caribbean Elections Lawyer
A leading elections lawyer in the Caribbean, Senior Counsel Anthony Astaphan Wednesday night said Guyana’s Chief Elections Officer, Keith Lowenfield has no other option at this point but to comply with the ruling of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).
Describing the recent actions of Lowenfield as extraordinary and stunning, Astaphan told the News Room in an exclusive interview that the Chief Elections Officer must now produce his elections report to reflect the mathematical count of votes.
The CCJ in its judgment set aside the June 22 ruling of Guyana’s Court of Appeal along with the June 23 report by Lowenfield in which he said he had relied on the Court of Appeal’s ruling which amounted to an interpretation that ‘more votes’ meant ‘more valid votes’.
In that report, Lowenfield took it upon himself to invalidate over 115,000 votes to hand the incumbent APNU+AFC coalition a victory although the certified figures from the national vote recount show a victory for the main opposition People’s Progressive Party.
During the jurisprudential discussion, Astaphan said Lowenfield’s actions amount to an affront to democracy in Guyana and the Caribbean region by extension.
Astaphan, based in Dominica, said Lowenfield would be nothing short of “brazen” to submit the same document again now that the CCJ has rendered it null and void.
“He has nothing now to rely on to pull that stunt again… there is no lawful basis upon which he can try to do that again,” said Astaphan who has litigated more cases of this nature than any other practitioner in the Caribbean.
He said Lowenfield in the first instance had no authority to use the objections made by one political party and without any intervention by the judiciary to invalidate votes on his own accord.
“He now has an obligation to provide the quantitative results of the count because as the CCJ said the core issues of these allegations can only be determined by an elections process triggered by an elections petition,” the Senior Counsel explained.
The well-respected elections lawyer said it is now for the Guyana Elections Commission to declare the results of the election and the winner based on the recount figures.
But equally important, as he puts it, is the respect for the doctrine of separation of powers where he insists that not only will Lowenfield be required to comply with the ruling of the CCJ but also the Executive Government including the President, his Attorney General and by extension the Cabinet.
“What any Executive should do is properly, prudently and lawfully comply with the orders of the court and try not to continue this… exercise that has been going on for four months. The Court has made a clear ruling and there is no other place they can go now with this ruling except to make a determination in the interest of the people of Guyana to comply with the ruling and inevitable consequences,” he added.
GECOM has called a meeting set for 13:00h on Thursday where it will decide on the way forward following the ruling.