PPP/C Candidate, Attorney-at Law Charles Ramson says that only valid votes were tabulated and certified during the 33-day Recount Exercise. His sentiments are in response to statements by APNU+AFC Co-Campaign Manager, Joseph Harmon who has insisted that Chief Elections Officer (CEO), Keith Lowenfield cannot declare anything other than valid votes.
Yesterday, Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) Chairperson, retired Judge Claudette Singh directed Lowenfield to prepare his final report which will serve as a basis for the final declaration of results using data garnered from the National Recount. Justice Singh instructed Lowenfield that the report must be prepared pursuant to Article 177 (2) (b) of the Constitution and Section 96 of the Representation of the People Act. The report is due tomorrow, June 18, 2020 at 13:00hrs.
According to Ramson, Lowenfield is required to tabulate the results of the Recount as it stands because all the votes tabulated were valid. To substantiate his position, Ramson made reference to the Statements of Recount for each of the 10 Electoral Districts.
He pointed out, “Each Statement of Recount said valid votes. Each Certificate of District Tabulation said the total number of valid votes cast and valid votes cast for each party’s List of Candidates.”
Ramson said that as the Chief Elections Officer of GECOM, Lowenfield is under “direct instructions from the Commission”, and as such, is required to tabulate the results of the Recount as it stands because all votes tabulated during the process were valid.
He further said that the Commission is empowered by the Constitution to ensure that the declaration of the final result reflects its decision and that all persons performing functions connected thereto fall under its instructions.
Harmon, who is also an Attorney-at-law by profession, has said that based on his understanding, Section 96 of the Representation of the People Act, requires Lowenfield to submit a report on only the valid votes cast in the March 02, 2020 General and Regional elections to the Chairperson for her declaration.
In Harmon’s view, Justice Singh’s direction to Lowenfield is very convoluted, and it has left a lot of people confused as to what is her ruling.
He said, “… I believe that the Chairman gave a very convoluted decision which still has to be interpreted and I believe that she herself recognizes that and has actually said that I will give the CEO further instructions in writing. So we have to see what instructions they are. No elections in Guyana can be determined on votes that are not valid and this was the whole purpose of the recount; to determine the valid votes that were cast at the elections.”
The incumbent APNU+AFC coalition government has been calling on GECOM to annul the elections. As a matter of fact, the government’s Chief Legal Advisor, Attorney General Basil Williams, is of the view that GECOM can make a declaration annulling the elections on the basis that it has been plagued by irregularities and fraud.
The numerous irregularities and fraud Williams speaks of is his party’s claims of dead people and those who have migrated voting in the Opposition, PPP/C strongholds. Apart from that, APNU+AFC has also been asking GECOM to probe instances of missing polling documents from ballot boxes from PPP/C strongholds along the East Coast of Demerara.
Williams argues that to ignore evidence of corruption and proceed with a declaration would be to undermine the integrity of GECOM and erode public confidence in the electoral process.
But, Justice Singh has asserted that GECOM does not have the powers of a court of law to examine and re-examine witnesses or to procure official documents to determine the truth of the allegations.
In fact, the Chairperson posited that she is of the opinion that some of the allegations are of a serious nature and must be addressed.
Justice Singh, however, noted that Article 163 (1) (b) of the Constitution confers on the High Court exclusive jurisdiction to determine the validity of an election; the aggrieved party would have to file an election petition within 28 days after the final result is declared.
As far as Harmon is concerned, there has been no declaration as to the winner or loser of the elections since a final declaration is yet to be made.
Taking this into consideration, Harmon pointed out that Lowenfield always has to act in accordance with the Constitution and the laws of this country and therefore cannot make a submission that is unlawful “so he has to be aware of that and certainly has to send to the Chairman for declaration what is considered valid votes that were cast at these elections.”
In his report dated Saturday, June 13, 2020 to the Commission, Lowenfield asserted that the elections were not “fair and credible.”
Speaking about the results for Region One, Lowenfield said, “Finally, the summation of the anomalies and instances of voter impersonation identified in District One clearly does not appear to satisfy the criteria of impartiality, fairness and compliance with the provisions of the constitution and the [Representation of the People Act]. Consequently, on the basis of the votes counted and the information furnished from the recount, it cannot be ascertained that the results from District One, Barima/Waini meet the standard of fair and credible elections.”
This conclusion was replicated throughout the report regarding all regions.
However, the report of the three-member CARICOM team which observed and scrutinized the recount contradicted Lowenfield’s report. As a matter of fact, the CARICOM observer team concluded that the recount of the votes cast in the elections reflect the will of the people and provide a basis for the declaration of results.