The election petition hearing which came up in the Guyana High court yesterday, focused on oral arguments from several attorneys, including Dominican SC Anthony Astaphan, who is representing the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM); Trinidadian, SC Douglas Mendes, representing Bharrat Jagdeo in his capacity as General Secretary of the PPP/C; Trinidadian SC John Jeremie, who is leading the team of lawyers representing the petitioners; and Attorney General Mohabir Anil Nandlall who is representing the State.
The petitioners, Ms. Claudette Throne and Mr. Heston Bostwick are asking the Court to declare the election results null and void. In further seeking to do so, the petitioners are challenging the national vote recount process, Section 22 of the Elections Laws Act and Order 60 of 2020, which governed the recount.
It challenges the validity of the National Recount Order by the Elections Commission and the declaration of the final results using that order. The order came out of an agreement between then-President David Granger and then Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo.
The petitioners have been arguing that the Elections Commission did not have the power to amend the election law on its own, making way for the Recount Order.
Senior Counsel John Jermie, representing the interests of the petitioners argued :“It has to be one of two things. It’s either the Order is invalid in the sense that it did not comply with the provisions of the law, or that it amended the law for a particular time and a particular purpose. They can’t eat their cake and have it too.”
GECOM’s Attorney-at-Law, Anthony Astaphan told an election petition hearing that the elections management authority did nothing wrong by formulating a recount order because difficulties had plagued the March 2, 2020 general and regional election process.
Senior Counsel Astaphan told the Court that the Recount Order was a valid one and the Elections Commission acted within the law in making the order and putting it into force.
According to the GECOM Attorney, the Law gives the Elections Commission the power to put the Order in place so that a the election results could be arrived at. He dismissed contentions that challenged the constitutionality of the recount order.
“Even if your Ladyship may find a breach, then there were no consequences which effected the conduct or result of the count and, therefore, in any event, Your Ladyship should dismiss the petition.”
The Attorney for respondents Bharrat Jagdeo and Irfaan Ali, Senior Counsel Douglas Mendes told the Court that the order which paved the way for the recount did not infringe on the Representation of the People Act which covers elections.
He said “in this case, there is no question of amending the Representation of the People Act. Order 60 does not propose to do that. Language of the RPA is the same now as it was before Order 60. Neither did Order 60 modify the RPA because again, the language of the RPA is the same now as it existed before”.
With no evidence to prove that there were irregularities or illegalities from the results of the national recount, the Attorney General argued that the case was without merit.
Election Petition No. 88 is one of two petitions filed by the Coalition following the declaration of the March 2 elections results in August last year. Petition No.99, which challenged the final elections results, was nullified on the grounds of non-compliance of service on the second named respondent, former President Mr. David Granger.
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