GUYANA | That Contentious Recount Order Decision: An Examination
GEORGETOWN, Guyana, April 30, 2021 - So, let's talk. A few days ago the Chief Justice (CJ), Madam Roxane George, dismissed the elections petition which alleged that the Recount Order was unconstitutional. The Recount Order permitted the recount of the votes cast in the March, 2020 general and regional elections. The PPP party prevailed at the close of the recount and was accordingly installed as government. The CJ held that the Order was valid.
The Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Joseph Harmon, among others, has expressed his displeasure with the CJ's decision and has vowed to appeal against the decision.
Permit me a few observations. The outcome of the elections remains contentious. On the face of the recount, there appears to have been manipulation of the electoral process by both the PPP and the Coalition. It is reasonable to imagine that supporters of the Coalition will not abandon their feelings of being cheated in the outcome of the elections.
Our posture at every election is that the system has been tampered with to favour one party or the other. Whether or not this is fact, it widens the oceans that divide our people. And quite unfortunately, our leaders continue to shovel away the banks of the oceans flowing between us.
I read with deep worries the words attributed to Mr. Harmon in his reaction to the decision of the CJ. Mr. Harmon is reported as alleging that the CJ's decision has no basis in law and is in effect collusion to keep in office an illegally installed PPP government.
Mr. Harmon is further credited as saying that he or the Opposition would not be held responsible for the actions of their supporters in response to the CJ's decision.
The thing is my people, no one will be happy with a legal outcome that is adverse to his or her interest. We commence legal proceedings because we believe or imagine that we would win. So it is quite understandable that Mr. Harmon or the Coalition and its supporters would not be happy with an unfavourable outcome. However, holding as prominent a position as Mr. Harmon does, respectfully, demands tact in the expression of his displeasure.
Mr. Harmon could have simply said that he disagrees with the decision of the CJ and that the matter will progress to appeal. This is why we have a pyramid court system. If we are dissatisfied with a decision of the court, and there is at least a persuasive basis for appeal, then we move to the higher court with the expectation that the errors of the lower court will be corrected. And this really, in these circumstances, is the only hope any party can give to its supporters.
No political party should negatively excite the emotions of its supporters or say the things that are likely to provoke an adverse reaction. Worse yet, this should not be done if that party is incapable of protecting its supporters when they so react.
Respectfully, the Coalition has so far not shown itself capable of protecting the persons whom are perceived to be in its corner. For example, we need not look beyond the persons dragged before the courts on allegations of electoral fraud and the innumerable persons whom have lost their jobs under the pretext that they were political appointees. Let's look at the consequences of the two possible outcomes of the appeal of the CJ's decision all the way to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ)
1. If the CCJ upholds the CJ's decision (whatever the outcome at the Guyana Court of Appeal), then the matter ends there.
2. If the CCJ overturns the decision and rules that the Recount Order was unconstitutional, then we would be heading to new elections. The new elections would not happen in three months from the date of the ruling because of all that would need to be done for GECOM to be ready.
So, this may not happen until the end of the PPP's tenure. The doctrine of necessity may cause all of the major decisions the PPP makes to remain intact.And for there to be a determination that there was electoral fraud by the PPP, the first petition dismissed by the CJ will have to be revived and ultimately the CCJ will have to make a finding that there was fraud.
Awaiting these outcomes I imagine can be taxing on the supporters of the Coalition. And there would be a devastating blow to both the Coalition and its supporters if at the end of the road the petitions are not won.
The thing is, the margin between the Coalition and the PPP is as narrow as 15,000 votes. Elections are a numbers game; and in Guyana, it is an ethnic numbers game. And it is for this reason there is a Coalition to begin with. Someone has to pull the swing votes. The Coalition runs the risk of alienating the swing votes, especially since there is still a sour taste in the mouths of many folks about the Coalition's amateurish handling of its tenure.
Perhaps it would be prudent for the Coalition to deploy a sizeable fraction of its passions and resources to aggressively recruit and or nurture fresh talents and new faces possessed of the competence, integrity, vision, charisma, and zeal to revise and rearticulate the ideology and policies of the Coalition, revise its vision, and chart its course forward.