By NAN Staff Writer
News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Weds. June 24, 2020: Call it what it is – The Drama In Guyana. One hundred and fourteen days since voters in the South American CARICOM nation went to the polls to elect a new government, there is still no official winner.
Now yet another court battle is waging anew despite the fact that a certified recount of the election results from March 2nd showed that the country’s main opposition Peoples Progressive Party/Civic, (PPP/C,) won the elections with 233,336 votes, while the incumbent A Partnership For National Unity/Alliance For Change, (APNU/AFC) garnered 217,920 votes.
The winner by a difference of 15,416 votes in the country that could be coming into wealth from it new found oil sector, was certified by the country’s Guyana Election Commission in its recount, overseen by international and regional observers, including CARICOM scrutineers.
But the GECOM’s Chief Elections Officer, Keith Lowenfield, last week missed a deadline to submit an official report on the official numbers of the election recount as a Guyanese national and support of the incumbent party filed a law suit in the Guyana Appeals Court that blocked the official announcement of the report.
Eslyn David had asked the three justices to decide on two main points of law – whether it has the jurisdiction to hear the case and whether the order issued by GECOM for the national recount of the votes granted the statutory body the power to decide on the credibility of the elections.
By 2-1 on Monday, June 22nd, the Guyana Court of Appeal issued an order that the words “more votes are cast” in the Constitution of Guyana should be interpreted to mean “more valid votes are cast.” The Court of Appeal, however, declined to issue other orders which had been sought by David against the GECOM, including various orders restraining Lowenfield from presenting a final report.
Following the Monday ruling, CEO Lowenfield yesterday submitted what he claimed to be a new report of the “valid and credible votes” at the March 2 polls to the GECOM Chair, Justice Claudette Singh and its 6 commissioners, showing not the certified recount results but a victory for the incumbent APNU+AFC.
In his report, he reportedly invalidated almost 25% of the votes cast at the March 2 polls. According to Guyana News reports, Lowenfield’s new numbers shows a total of 171,825 votes were cast for the APNU +AFC compared to 166,343 for the PPP/C and 3,348 for a joinder list of new parties.
As a result, with an electoral quota of 5,300, the coalition would be awarded 33 seats and the PPP/C 31 seats, and the joint list would get one seat, according to the latest Lowenfield report.
The Guyana Stabroek News reports that “it is not clear where this new figure for valid votes originates as it does not align with the numbers previously submitted by Lowenfield more than a week ago.”
Prior to the report’s submission, PPP General Secretary Bharrat Jagdeo and PPP/C presidential candidate Irfaan Ali served notice of an appeal of the Guyana Appellate court ruling to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).
That comes as the drama has since March spilled over into the local and Diaspora Guyanese community, where ugly racial rhetoric is rearing its head in Facebook chatrooms and pages, as the race pits the largely Afro-Guyanese APNU supports who are largely from the old guard of the Peoples National Congress/Reform (PNC/R), against the predominantly Indo-Guyanese PPP/Civic supporters.
But while many Guyanese bicker daily, one the global scene, Guyana and its election is fast becoming a global joke on social media with some musing that it may end up in the Guinness Book of World Records for the longest elections ever.
This as officials of the US, UK, EU and Canada have gone largely silent on the country after pushing for an announcement of the recount results and some predict sanctions and a return to the pariah state if the incumbent party keeps up its push to brazenly rig the elections.
However, the Organization of American States, (OAS), weighed in yesterday saying “it is undeniable that this election has gone on long enough.”
“The process in Guyana must be brought to an end, based on the results of the national recount, and with respect for the will of the majority of the electorate,” the OAS added. “The OAS remains committed to the strengthening of democracy in Guyana, hoping for a just and fair conclusion of the current process.”
But as of last night, the elections results has moved outside the borders of the country as The CCJ late Tuesday night ordered GECOM not to issue any results of the March 2, 2020 general and regional elections until the regional court hears and determines an appeal by the PPP/C.
“The Guyana Elections Commission and its officers and agents take no step to prejudice the fair hearing of this Application including but not limited to issuing a declaration of the results of the elections held on 2nd March 2020, until this Court issues final orders following the hearing and determination of the questions raised before this Honourable Court in the said Application,” the court said last night.
That virtual hearing is now set for July 1st, prolonging the Drama In Guyana and the March 2nd elections now to 221 days.