SOMETHING happened that has apparently brought us closer to the end of the current electoral road. After the Court of Appeal made its landmark ruling on Monday last, the Chief Election Officer, Keith Lowenfield, dispatched his report to the Elections Commission based on a calculation of the valid votes cast at the election. That report gives the APNU+AFC Coalition a slim but clear majority (33 seats) over the PPP (31 seats). Shortly after the tabling of the report, the CCJ granted an injunction blocking GECOM from making a declaration of the winner of the election.
However, crucially, the report was already submitted. So, when lawyers for the PPP sought to get the CCJ to invalidate the report on the grounds that it flouted the CCJ’s injunction, the court promptly said no. It reasoned that what was done before the injunction cannot be interfered with by the court. PPP executive Mr. Anil Nandlall then dispatched a letter to GECOM’s Chair, almost ordering her to reject Mr. Lowenfield’s report. This was followed by a string of statements from CARICOM, the OAS, the Commonwealth, the ABCE countries slamming the CEO’s report and demanding that GECOM declare the winner based on what they termed the certified votes of the recount.
The report that they are referring to is the one that was previously turned in by Mr. Lowenfield in which he said he could only ascertain the credibility of 40% of the votes cast and suggested that he could not come to a decision on who won the election. This report was rejected by the Chair of GECOM and the PPP Commissioners. The Chair then ordered the CEO to prepare a report based on both credible and non-credible votes. It was this order that prompted Eslyn David to move to the court, which then ruled that a president can only be elected based on valid votes.
The fact is that once the CEO turned in his report as he is mandated to by the constitution, then any previous report becomes null and void. Mr. Lowenfield has performed his constitutional duty and that cannot be undone by demands from the diplomatic community, the PPP, and its allies. As APNU+AFC Campaign Chairman, Joseph Harman, reasoned about these demands, “It really comes from a narrative which has been overtaken by time and, in view of a report submitted by the Chief Elections Officer to the Commission showing that Mr. Granger’s coalition, APNU+AFC, with a majority of the valid votes cast after the recount so there you have it, a report in the Elections Commission showing all the valid votes and still people are calling for Mr. Granger to concede. Concede to what? Concede to who? What is he to concede to?”
Mr. Harman is correct. The PPP and others are calling on the winner to concede to the losers. Is that the democracy they have been preaching about? They had a chance to accept Lowenfield’s assessment contained in his first report and annul the elections for want of credibility. But they said no. They argued that Lowenfield had overstepped his mandate and demanded that he prepare a report showing a clear winner. Now that his second report did exactly that under the guidance of the Court of Appeal, they are asking him to flout the law.
They now charge him with insubordination and are urging the GECOM chair to reject his latest report. But the chair does not have that authority. As she had to the APNU+AFC, she must now tell the PPP that they must take their case to the Elections court in the form of a petition. For his part, Mr. Lowenfield has made clear he has no intention to withdraw his report. He points to the fact that his actions are grounded in the law.
According to the CEO, in response to an article in another section of the media: “The contents of the Stabroek News article suggests that the CEO must only act as the Commission instructs and flout the Constitutional requirements. At all times, I have acted in conformity with the laws and therefore my action cannot be ‘seen as clear act of insubordination’ as articulated in the ill-informed Stabroek News article… I have taken note of the guidance of the Court of Appeal in Eslyn David v Chief Elections Officer et al in the preparation of my Report under Section 96 of the Representation of the People Act and providing advice as required by Article 177 (2) (b) of the Constitution of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana.”