‘Lowenfield engaging in political frolic to delay inevitable’ – Caribbean Elections Lawyer
Guyana’s Chief Elections Officer Keith Lowenfield has come in for harsh criticisms for failing once again to submit his elections report to the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) which would have paved the way for a declaration of the results from the March 02, 2020 elections.
Leading Caribbean Election Lawyer, Senior Counsel Anthony Astaphan has been following the developments relating to the protracted elections process in Guyana and said Lowenfield seems to be assuming authority that does not rest with him.
Instead of submitting his report, as instructed, to the Chairman of GECOM, former Judge Claudette Singh, Lowenfield wrote a letter on Friday asking for further guidance as to whether she wants a report premised on Section 18 of the Election Laws or on Article 177 (2) (b) of the Constitution.
Astaphan, a well-known constitutional lawyer, said he has read Lowenfield’s letter and in frank terms described it as a “sham and a scam” designed to delay the inevitable.
The inevitable which he refers to is the declaration of the main opposition People’s Progressive Party as the winner based on the recount figures which shows a lead of over 15,000 votes ahead of the incumbent APNU+AFC coalition.
Lowenfield in his last report had invalidated over 115,000 votes to hand the coalition a victory.
“You Mr Lowenfield do not have the authority to make decisions on the validity of the vote at this stage at all,” the Dominican Senior Counsel told the News Room Friday.
He added, “Mr Lowenfield, the Chief Elections Officer, is on an absolute political frolic of his own and he is doing it in a manner which is clearly in contravention of the provisions of the Act, and the provisions of the Constitution, the language of GECOM instruction to him and the terms and orders of the judgment of the CCJ.”
Astaphan, who has litigated numerous cases of this nature in the region, described Lowenfield’s attempt to invalidate votes and his refusal to obey the instructions of the Commission as “wanton arbitrary assumption of an authority that does not exist.”
“The sole motivation to assume such authority has to be political and on the instructions of political persons dictating decisions he makes or he is seeking the gratitude of those he’s doing it for,” he added.
Astaphan insisted that Lowenfield has no authority to do anything at this stage but to present the mathematical figure of the count to the Chairman of GECOM who must then declare the winner.
He explained that exclusive jurisdiction rests in the High Court to challenge those numbers via an elections petition.
The lawyer said this is particularly important in keeping with the ruling of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) which set aside a ruling of Guyana’s Court of Appeal and the previous report of the Chief Elections Officer.
He believes Lowenfield’s actions now is contrary to law, violates the Constitution, and the CCJ ruling.
“This must not be allowed to happen… GECOM must take a firm position with the CEO,” the Senior Counsel said as he explained that GECOM has statutory authority under Section 18 of the elections law to give clear directions to the CEO.
“He is required and obliged to obey the instructions and cannot disregard and disrespect those instructions,” Astaphan said in response to Lowenfield’s defiance of those repeated instructions.
Lowenfield has been written to for a third time by Justice Singh asking for his report by 11am on Saturday reflecting the certified recount figures to declare the PPP the winner of the polls.