CEO to submit report today

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GECOM Commissioner, Vincent Alexander …Gov’t commissioners submitted that GECOM should not declare results using contaminated votes By Svetlana Marshall

In keeping with Section 96 of the Representation of the People Act, Chapter 1:03 , the Chief Elections Officer (CEO), Keith Lowenfield is expected to submit his report to the Elections Commission today to pave the way for the long awaited declaration of the results for the General and Regional Elections held last March.

With a 13:00hrs deadline in place for the submission of that report, the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), chaired by Justice (Ret’d) Claudette Singh, is expected to meet shortly after for deliberation before a declaration is made.

The pending declaration has been a matter of grave dispute with increasing calls by the A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance for Change (APNU+AFC) and their supporters for the results to be declared solely on valid votes cast. While the National Recount indicates that People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) won the Elections by a 15,000 vote margin; well over 250,000 votes have been reportedly compromised due to a long list of irregularities and cases of voter impersonation. And while the GECOM Chair has said that these are serious allegations that ought to be investigated; such, she said, is not a matter for the Elections Commission but rather an Elections Court in keeping with Article 163 of the Constitution.

Ahead of the GECOM Chair’s decision to have the report compiled using the data garnered during the National Recount, the Government nominated Commissioners had made a strong case for the elections to be nullified due to the plethora of irregularities and cases of voter impersonation – death and migrant voters. «The daunting question which has to be answered is how these maladies can be addressed to ensure: I. Every voters vote is counted; and II. The value of the voters’ vote is not devalued by the inclusion in the count of invalid votes…In view of the unascertainability of the assignment of the actual affected ballots, the only remedy seems to be to return to ground zero in an attempt to negate the impact of such ballots and provide the right to those whose ballots were wrongfully excluded,» Elections Commissioner Vincent Alexander said as he made a case for the annulment of the elections.

Alexander had received the support of Elections Commissioners Charles Corbin and Desmond Trotman. According to Alexander, fresh election is the most prudent remedy is avenue to taken to ensure ‘impartiality and fairness’ as is required by the Constitution. Justice Singh, in rejecting the submission made by Alexander, had maintained that the issues that arose during the recount are matters for which the High Court had exclusive jurisdiction as set out in Article 163 of the Constitution. But the Government-nominated Commissioners have said that the Elections Commission had wide ranging powers under Article 162 and Section 22 of the Elections Law (Amendment) Act.

Article 162 states: «The Election Commission shall issue such instructions and take such action as appear to it necessary or expedient to ensure impartiality, fairness and compliance with the provisions of this Constitution or any Act of Parliament on the part of persons exercising powers or preforming duties connected with or related to the matters aforesaid.»

Against this backdrop, Alexander rejected the contention that Article 163 of the Constitution supersedes Article 162. «[Article] 163 clearly speaks to pre and post electoral matters with the jurisdiction for pre electoral matters sitting clearly within the jurisdiction of GECOM. The determination of the count, be it a recount under the Representation of the People Act or recount «so called» under Article 162 of the Constitution and Section 22 of the Elections Laws (Amendment) Act as articulated in Order 60 of 2020 is clearly within GECOM’s jurisdiction. This vested authority has also been tested and reaffirmed by cases across the Commonwealth,» Alexander submitted.

Nullification This push to have the Elections nullified was based on his premise that no voter should be disenfranchised and most importantly only validate votes should be counted. «The reality is that any voter whose vote is not counted would have been subjected to disenfranchisement and a breach of his or her fundamental right which the Constitution protects and which the election provides opportunity for him or her to exercise; and an opportunity for him or her realise that entitlement,» he posited.

Alexander added: «On the other hand the country or votes, the validity of which cannot be ascertained in Parliament to nullifying or reducing the value of the valid vote cast and bringing into question the intent of the election, which is to allow the individual voters to equally input the process and to collectively determine the outcome.»

LINK ORIGINAL: Guyana Chronicle