CJ dismisses APNU+AFC’s elections petition; says election, GECOM’s actions all lawful

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By Kurt Campbell

Declaring that the constitutional mandate of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) “is very wide” Chief Justice Roxane George on Monday dismissed the APNU+AFC’s elections petition (88/20-P) which challenged the legality of the 2020 elections.

“There was no breach or violation or non-compliance by GECOM with the Constitution or the law governing elections such as to make the elections a sham or a travesty as claimed by the petitioners,” the Chief Justice said.

This means that both petitions filed by the coalition have been dismissed by the High Court although petition (99/20-P) has been appealed.

In her ruling, Justice George said that the March 02, 2020 election was conducted lawfully and there were no breaches, violations or non-compliance with the laws of Guyana by GECOM.

As a consequence of her decision, both Section 22 of the Election Laws (Amendment) Act and Order No. 60 of 2020 have been found to have been executed under the proper authority.

Petitioners Claudette Thorne and Heston Bostwick had contended that Section 22 of the Election Laws (Amendment) Act is unconstitutional and that Order No. 60 of 2020 is invalid, null, void, and of no effect.

The CJ, however ruled that Order No. 60 of 2020 was lawfully created by virtue of Article 162 (1) (b) of the Constitution and Section 22 of the Election Laws (Amendment) Act to resolve irregularities, discrepancies, and anomalies occurring in the elections process and to determine a final credible count.

“I hold that both Section 22 and Order 60 are both intra vires (inside the powers). Neither provision offends the Constitution. They buttress the provisions to make them implementable,” she added.

She also laid to rest the petitioner’s contention that the Statements of Recount could not replace the initial declarations made by the 10 Returning Officers, declaring that it can and did in fact do so.

Justice George said there were undeniable difficulties in the election and said GECOM had to act to resolve those difficulties.

“I do not consider that it is logical that GECOM could not address difficulties that have occurred and it must wait on an election petition… in issuing Order 60 GECOM did not purport to amend any legislation… GECOM had an obligation to complete the election process and it had a duty to address the difficulties to achieve this,” she added.

In her ruling, she also mandated that the Statement of Polls and Statements of Recount which are currently in the custody of the High Court for safe keeping remains there until all appeals ate heard and determined.

The APNU+AFC filed its first elections petition (88/20-P) on August 31, 2020, officially challenging the outcome of the March 02, 2020 elections and the recount exercise from which the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C) emerged victorious.

A second petition (99/20-P) was filed subsequently on September 15, 2020, also challenging the March 02, 2020 elections. This petition has since been dismissed because former President, David Granger, was not served within the required five-day timeline, and he has been found to be a necessary party in the proceedings. An appeal is pending.

The petitioners wanted the court to declare that the elections were so badly held that the results from it cannot be deemed to be the will of the people. At the same time, they want the court to have David Granger declared as President under those very elections they claim were conducted against the electoral laws and constitution of the country.

The petitioners contend that the Chief Elections Officer was not required to use the data from the national vote recount to produce his elections report from which the results were declared.

None of those reliefs were granted via the ruling on Monday.

 

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