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‘CEO acted based on strict law’

‘CEO acted based on strict law’

CHIEF Elections Officer, Keith Lowenfield’s resort to the 10 declarations to compile his report is based on “strict law”, longstanding Commissioner of the Guyana Elections Commission Vincent Alexander has said.

Lowenfield on Saturday submitted his Elections Report to the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), showing a win for the A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC). The Elections Report, the third of its kind since the conduct of the March 2, 2020 General and Regional Elections, was submitted to the Chairman of GECOM, Justice (Ret’d) Claudette Singh on Saturday at around 11:00hrs by the Chief Elections Officer. It is reflective of the declarations made in March 2020 by the Returning Officers in the country’s 10 Electoral Districts.

According to the Elections Report, there were a total of 475,118 valid votes cast at the General and Regional Elections, and of that number, the APNU+AFC secured 236,777 votes, while the PPP/C raked in 229,330. A New and United Guyana (ANUG) received 2,275 votes; Change Guyana, 2,026 votes; Liberty and Justice Party (LJP), 2,569 votes; People’s Republic Party (PRP), 862 votes; The Citizenship Initiative (TCI), 680 votes; The New Movement (TNM), 246 votes; and the United Republican Party (URP), 353 votes. There were a total of 3,997 rejected ballots.

Based on the valid votes cast in favour of the Lists of Candidates that contested the elections, the APNU+AFC was allocated 33 seats; the PPP/C, 31; and the Joined Lists – ANUG, LJP, TNM – one seat in the National Assembly. The National Assembly has 65 seats. In submitting his Elections Report, the Chief Elections Officer told the GECOM Chair his Report was consistent with Article 177 (2) (b) of the Constitution, and the Elections Laws governing the country. “It is my understanding that Article 177 (2) (b) of the Constitution affords the technical officer the right to advise the Chairman of the elections result that ought to be declared. In this regard, I have prepared and submitted the results of the General and Regional Elections, in accordance with my statutory and constitutional duties and all applicable laws,” Lowenfield said in a signed letter to Justice Singh.

JUDGE-LIKE MANNER

Speaking with reporters following a meeting of the Commission on Monday, Alexander reported: “In a judge-like manner, the Chairperson reverted to the 16th June, and has once again instructed the CEO to prepare a report in keeping with the results of the recount, and has given him up to tomorrow (July 14) to make the submission. If in any circumstance he does not make that submission, she has already decided that the task will be given to the DCEO.”
Given the fact that Article 177 (2) (b) of the Constitution mandates that the Presidential Candidate with the most votes could only be declared President by the Chairman of the Elections Commission, “acting only in accordance with the advice of the Chief Elections Officer,” it is unclear whether Justice Singh will terminate the services of Lowenfield, if he fails to comply, to allow for Myers to assume his position. The PPP/C and its allies have been pushing for Lowenfield to be fired.
While the GECOM Chair and the Opposition-nominated Commissioners are pushing for a declaration of the results, based on the National Recount, Alexander said if one should analyse the CCJ’s ruling, he or she would agree that the Elections Commission created a new electoral regime under the Recount Order for which the Court ruled should not occur.

According to Alexander, though Lowenfield was “silent” for the most part of the meeting, he explained that his decision to submit an Elections Report based on the 10 Declarations made in March was in accordance with the Electoral Laws of the country.

Lowenfield, in a letter to the GECOM Chair July 10, had said that the judgment of CCJ ruled out the notion that the Elections Commission could determine the credibility of the Elections. On that basis, he said Order No. 60, the legal instrument used to trigger the National Recount, could not be executed in its entirety. The primary objective of the National Recount was to determine a final credible count as provided for in Order No. 60.

Further, Lowenfield sought clarity on the request for another Elections Report under Section 96 of the Representation of the People Act. “Kindly provide guidance on how Section 96 (1) of the ROPA could be properly operationalised,” the Chief Elections Officer asked, while noting that “of particular relevance are two facts: 1) that the election law envisages that “the votes counted, and information furnished” would be provided by statutory officers and 2) the allocation of seats is premised on the statutory report of the Returning Officers.”

Alexander said the Chief Elections Officer’s decision to revert to the 10 Declarations was based on “strict law”. “If you look at strict law, the 10 declarations have not been contested. The only issue in the past, which was placed before the 10 declaration was the issue of content; that issue no longer exists, and there has been no legal action that question those 10 declarations. So, procedurally, those 10 declarations are available for the purpose of determining an election result,” Alexander pointed out. However, given that the elections have been marred by a host of irregularities and thousands of cases of voter impersonation, which were unearthed during the recount, Alexander told reporters that the better option would be to nullify the elections.

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