––Alexander maintains no results should be declared from 2020 Elections
Elections Commissioner Vincent Alexander, on Friday, said the National Recount Order – Order No. 60 – should be set aside by the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) on the grounds that it created a new elections regime contrary to the Representation of the People Act and the Constitution.
Alexander’s new stance on the ongoing electorate impasse is in light of a decision handed down by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) on July 8, 2020. “With respect, the notion that Order 60 could either impact interpretation of the Constitution or create a new election regime at variance with the plain words of the Constitution is constitutionally unacceptable,” the CCJ said in its judgment in the case – Irfaan Ali and Bharrat Jagdeo v. Eslyn David and others.
Alexander, shortly after existing a meeting of the Elections Commission on Friday (July 10), told reporters that undoubtedly the National Recount created a “new elections regime,” in contravention with not only the Constitution but the Representation of the People Act.
“My own understanding is that now that the CCJ has ruled, for all intents and purposes, the Order should be set aside,” the longstanding Elections Commissioner opined. While the Elections Commission had supported the National Recount, which spanned for a period of 33 days, he said, given the decision of the CCJ, one cannot logically say, that GECOM could produce a result from the National Recount.
“They (the CCJ) talked about not being able to produce a result under a new regime; new regime meaning, what the order provided for,” he posited. But while Alexander shares this view, the Chairman of the Elections Commission, Justice (Ret’d) Claudette Singh is insisting that the Chief Elections Officer, Keith Lowenfield must compile an Elections Report based on the valid votes tabulated during the recount and reflected on the Certificates of Recount. That report was expected Friday, but, the Chief Elections Officer sought clarity on the basis that the recount was not done in strict accordance with Representation of the People Act.
Questioned whether he thought the CEO’s request for clarity was a fair one, Alexander responded in the affirmative. “In my own view it is a fair request because I do see a collision between asking him to respond under 177 (2) (b) of the Constitution and 96 of the Representation of the People Act, and at the same time specifying that [the] count must come from the recount,” Alexander posited.
Referencing to the ruling of the country’s apex court, the Elections Commissioner maintained that the Recount Order created a new regime, particularly with respect to what constitutes a valid vote and spoilt and rejected ballots.
“The CCJ for example, sought to define a valid vote by going back to the Representation of the People Act. If you do that, then there would be a difficulty because some of what we did at the recount flies in the face of a declaration of a valid vote. Here I am not referring to the things in the Observation Report, I am referring to the fact that there were instances where we reviewed ballots and decided almost on the spot that we would not follow the strict interpretation of the law that once one could discern the intent of the voter the ballot would be counted,” the Commissioner explained. He added: “There were three times we met on that issue and very time a different decision was made; so ballots were differently affected.”
Alexander told reporters that the Order created for a lot of maneuvering, and did not facilitate strict compliance with the Representation of the People Act. According to him, the electoral process, as outlined in the Representation of the People Act, was corrupted during the National Recount. Given the current challenges faced by GECOM, Alexander reiterated his position that there should be no declaration of results from the General and Regional Elections held last March, and fresh elections should be held using a clean List of Electors.
But Sase Gunraj, who is among three commissioners nominated by the Opposition, said that the CCJ’s ruling was unambiguous and paved the way for the elections results to be declared based on the Recount Order.
“Importantly that decision of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) did not in any way, shape, or form, howsoever or whatsoever impugn the Recount Order No. 60 of 2020,” he told reporters shortly after the conclusion of the meeting of the Elections Commission.
Gunraj said that the Elections Report should have been submitted by the Chief Elections Officer, who is a ‘creature’ of the Commission, and ought to act in strict compliance with the orders of that Commission. He said failure to submit an Elections Report today should result in serious disciplinary actions being taken against the Chief Elections Officer. “The law dictates that the CEO is a creature of the Commission and if he fails to carry out the lawful instructions of the Commission, obviously that has to be met with consequences and there are a raft of consequences which can flow from that,” Gunraj said.
The Elections Commissioner reminded that it has been more than four months since Elections were held in Guyana, and the results have not been declared. His colleague, Bibi Shadick also expressed her dissatisfaction. “We cannot have one person holding up this country; right now that is what is happening,” Shadick told reporters. Today, at 11:00hrs the Chief Elections Officer is expected to submit his Elections Report.