Harmon responds to CJ ruling, revives fraud claims already ruled on by CCJ
Moments after losing a High Court battle, which now paves the way for the Opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) to be declared the rightful winner of the March 2 elections, the APNU+AFC has revived its unsubstantiated claims of electoral fraud – an allegation already addressed by this country’s Apex Court, the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).
“It is disappointing that in its ruling today, in the case of Misenga Jones v GECOM et al the Court has side stepped the issue of fraudulent ballots in the tabulated votes at the Recount,” Harmon wrote in his very short statement Monday.
He said the APNU+AFC will continue to “insist that Fraudulent Recount Votes cannot determine the will of the Guyanese People. Only valid votes can produce such a result.”
But these allegations – a lot of which have been proven to be false and the others unsubstantiated – have already been addressed by the CCJ in a ruling handed down on July 8.
“Unless and until an election court decides otherwise, the votes already counted by the recount process as valid votes are incapable of being declared invalid by any person or authority,” Section 24 of the CCJ’s Judgment Summary reads.
The national recount has shown that the PPP won the elections by more than 15,000 votes, but the APNU+AFC wants a declaration to be made on fictitious numbers already set aside by the GECOM Chair and by the High Court on Monday.
The CCJ in its July 8 judgment went further to explain that GECOM lacks both the legislative authority and the machinery to investigate claims of voter fraud, and such matters are for an elections petition filed after the declaration of a winner.
“The irregularities complained of by Mr Harmon and alluded to by the CEO, were required to be addressed under the jurisdiction conferred by Article 163, by an election petition filed in the High Court.
The Court held that the GECOM Chairperson was right to state that GECOM lacked the legislative authority and the machinery to embark upon a determination of such irregularities,” Section 20 of the CCJ judgment reads.
The Apex Court again, in section 24 of the Summary Judgment, spoke directly to the integrity of a ballot, informing the parties that such allegations ought to form part of an elections petition.
“If the integrity of a ballot, or the manner in which a vote was procured, is questioned beyond this transparent validation exercise, say because of some fundamental irregularity such as those alleged by Mr Harmon, then that would be a matter that must be pursued through Article 163 after the elections have been concluded,” Justice Adrian Saunders, President of the CCJ had said.
Prior to the matter being escalated to the CCJ, the Court of Appeal had, by split decision, given itself the authority incorrectly interpreted “more votes are cast” to mean “more valid votes are cast” thereby allowing the Chief Elections Officer (CEO) to invalidate more than 115,000 votes to hand the APNU+AFC a victory.
The CCJ found that the Court of Appeal erred in doing so, and it is, therefore, unlawful for the CEO to invalidate votes already certified by during the recount.