APNU/AFC files submissions ahead of next month’s election petition hearing

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Petitioners Claudette Thorne and Heston Bostwick have laid over submissions in Petition #88, the surviving election petition which they have filed on behalf of the APNU/AFC challenging the results of the March 2020 General and Regional Elections.
The submissions are in response to those filed by Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo, Attorney General Anil Nandlall, SC, and Chief Elections Officer Keith Lowenfield.

In this case, Thorne and Bostwick are seeking to vitiate the results of the 2020 General and Regional Elections on the ground that Section 22 of the Election Law (Amendment) Act (ELA) and Order 60 of 2020 are unconstitutional. The Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) used Section 22 of the ELA, together with Article 162 of the Constitution to amend the procedure used in the Representation of the People Act to facilitate a National Recount of all ballots under Order 60 of 2020.

The petitioners, through their lawyers led by Roysdale Forde, SC, have submitted that the election results came after there were egregious departures from the legislative framework that touched and concerned the proper parties to make declarations for the respective electoral districts, the conduct of recounts, the breaking of seals and reopening of ballot boxes and ultimately the declaration of the final results.

While Jagdeo, Nandlall, and Lowenfield argue that there was no evidence that the results were affected by Order 60 and thus the elections/recount does not fall to be considered as a sham or a travesty, the petitioners maintain that this case does not require evidence.

In doing so, they have placed reliance on the case of Morgan v Simpson in which Lord Denning, MR, among other things, said: “Collating all the cases together, I suggest that the law can be stated in these propositions: (1) If the elections were conducted so badly that it was not substantially in accordance with the law as to elections, the election is vitiated, irrespective of whether the result was affected or not […]”

They, therefore, contend that the March 2, 2020 elections fall within the above category. “The instant case falls within such a category so long as there is proof of substantial departure from the electoral laws even if the result was affected so that the elections ought to be vitiated. Therefore, the instant case does not require evidence that the results of the elections were affected.”

In their submissions, the petitioners further argue that the travesty about the entire March 2020 election process was the egregious breaches of the Constitution in respect of the tampering with ballot boxes once they were sealed, the counting and recounting of ballots, the personnel employed to do so and the use of non-statutory documents to record and report results.

They extended their arguments to the conduct of the National Recount. They submitted that political parties participated in the recount process which is in breach of Article 161B of the Constitution which makes it clear that political agents ought to not influence the lawful conduct and management of elections.

“In all the circumstances, the petitioners submit that the unconstitutionality of Section 22 and Order 60 mark a clear departure from the democratic principles which ought to govern elections and the declaration of results such that the 2 March 2020 Elections was a sham and a travesty to the ordinary Guyanese man/woman. Order 60 was a codification of that sham and travesty which ought never to be sanctioned by any court of law acting in obedience to the rule of law,” Thorne and Bostwick stressed.

As such, the petitioners submitted that Jagdeo, Nandlall and Lowenfield have not demonstrated any real arguments in favour of the constitutionality of Section 22 and Order 60.

Against this backdrop, they are asking the High Court to vitiate the results of the March 2, 2020 General and Regional Elections as it was substantially not in compliance with the law in relation to the conduct of the elections.

Chief Justice (ag) Roxane George, SC, has fixed April 7, 2021, to begin hearing submissions in Petition #88.

In keeping with an order handed down by the Chief Justice, the Chief Elections Officer, Keith Lowenfield, has handed over all Statements of Poll (SoPs) and Statements of Recount (SoRs) to the Registrar of the High Court for safekeeping.