PPP/C in first step towards petition

The PPP/C was yesterday given clearance by acting Chief Justice Ian Chang to file an election petition to contest the results of May’s general and regional elections which it claimed had been rigged in favour of the APNU+AFC coalition.

Former Local Government Minister Ganga Persaud bearing a placard outside GECOM, last month.
Former Local Government Minister Ganga Persaud bearing a placard outside GECOM, last month.

Executive member of the party, Anil Nandlall last evening confirmed that an ex parte application for leave to file an election petition was lodged on Monday afternoon and was heard yesterday by Justice Chang. Justice Chang, he said, granted the leave, which is the first step to be taken before the elections petition can be filed.

“The law requires that leave be obtained before an elections petition can be filed. This is the first step…so the way is now clear”, he stressed but did not indicate when the petition is likely to be filed.

Ganga Persaud
Ganga Persaud

The ex-parte application was made by Ganga Persaud. According to the court documents seen by Stabroek News the application was for leave to institute proceedings for the determination of certain questions regarding the Elections held on May 11, 2015.

In the documents, Persaud who described himself as the election agent listed a number of grounds to support the application. Among them were that there was multiple voting; persons whose names were not on the official list being allowed to vote; huge mobs gathered at several polling stations and at strategic places particularly in Region 4; several ballot boxes were not sealed or improperly sealed; PPP/C ballot attendants and counting agents were prevented from accompanying ballot boxes; its votes were subtracted and added to that of the APNU+AFC coalition and that the system, process and procedure used to intermix the Disciplined Services ballots with that of the general electorate is unknown, irregular and clandestine, rendering it impossible to confirm whether that which was intermixed was disciplined services ballots at all.

On May 14, former president Bharrat Jagdeo held a press conference at Freedom House where he held up tabulations of seven allegedly irregular Statements of Poll (SoP), showing tabulations by the PPP and discrepancies in Gecom’s tabulations.

However, the official Box by Box results revealed that with the exception of one of the SoPs Gecom’s official numbers are in line with those tabulated by the PPP. Jagdeo also had a chart depicting the PPP’s tabulations for Box No 4643 at 21 votes for the APNU+AFC Coalition and 267 for the PPP, which are the same numbers officially published. The only discrepancy is that of Box No 4644, where the PPP’s documentation showed the Coalition as having received 16 votes while the PPP received 261; the official number as published by Gecom is 201 votes for the PPP. All of the other tabulations held up by the PPP as irregular are in line with what has been published by Gecom.

The PPP/C has been claiming that some SoPs carried incorrect information and that the corresponding ballot boxes would also illustrate this.

Nandlall had told this newspaper repeatedly that Gecom has failed to supply the party with the information that it has requested. In the days following the elections, the party had requested that it be outfitted with copies of the results from each polling station as well as copies of the SoPs which Chief Election Officer Keith Lowenfield used to calculate the results. They have also requested a report from the Information Technology Department of Gecom. The party had complained that there had been no response to several follow up letters sent to Lowenfield.

As recent as last week Nandlall said that the party will be proceeding with the petition while noting that they still had time left to do such. This newspaper was told that this period would end sometime in early July.

In his column in the last Sunday Stabroek, former Speaker of the National Assembly Ralph Ramkarran stated that the court in the hearing of a petition cannot order a recount of the votes. The PPP/C has been seeking a recount of all the votes.

Ramkarran said: “Where a political party feels aggrieved, it can file an election petition to the High Court under article 163 of the Constitution. This article provides for claims based on two limbs. Firstly, the petitioner can claim that either generally or in a particular place the elections were not lawfully conducted. Secondly, the petitioner can claim that generally or in any particular place, an election has not been lawfully conducted or the result thereof has been, or may have been, affected by any unlawful act or omission. It appears from the PPP/C’s public pronouncements on the conduct of the elections that it would have to rely on the second limb.

“If an election petition is filed on the basis of the second limb, the Guyana High Court would have jurisdiction to determine the issues only on the basis of the evidence which is presented by the petitioner who has to show by that evidence which is presented that the election result was or may have been affected by the unlawful acts or omissions which are proved. It is not the function, duty or business of the court to seek out its own evidence to aid the petitioner in proving its case by ordering an opening of the ballot boxes and the counting of the votes. In any event the court has no power to do. In other words, the petitioner would not be permitted to present a scintilla of evidence showing suspicious circumstances in relation to a limited number of Statements of Poll and then call on the court to order a recounting of the votes, based on that suspicion, so that it can verify whether or not its suspicions are justified.”

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