The petitioners, coalition supporters Claudette Thorne and 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 the election results could be arrived at. He dismissed contentions that challenged the constitutionality of the recount order.
Senior Counsel Roysdale Forde, who is among the lawyers representing the petitioners, said he is optimistic that the petitioners will win the petition.
“We expect the Court to rule that Section 22 of the Election Laws Amendment Act and Order 60 of 2020 are unconstitutional,” the Senior Counsel said while adding that the Constitution does not confer power on GECOM to conduct a National Recount and or set aside the declarations made by the Returning Officers.
He submitted that an election could only be set aside by way of an Election Petition. “The power conferred on GECOM by Section 22 [of the Election Laws (Amendment) Act] is a law making power reserved under the Constitution for Parliament,” Forde said.
However, Attorney General Anil Nandlall, S.C, who is a respondent in the matter, said the case submitted by the petitioners lacks merit and ought to be dismissed by the Court.
The Attorney General explained that “the petition challenged the recount process and the recount order as well as the statutory provisions under which the recount order was issued…Both the Constitution and the Election Laws (Amendment) Act allow, cumulatively, once there is a problem for GECOM to take such steps that are necessary and expedient to declare the election results.”
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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