UNC elections petitions to move ahead in court …after split decision at Court of Appeal

(Trinidad Guardian) Three of the country’s most senior judges have failed to come to an agreement over whether the United National Congress (UNC) has conclusive proof that its defeat in September’s general election was due to a one-hour extension in voting, in order to secure a re-election.

Delivering its judgment in the appeal brought by the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) and the People’ National Movement (PNM) at the Hall of Justice, Port-of-Spain, on Monday, the appeal panel, led by Chief Justice Ivor Archie, was split two to one, as it ruled that the UNC had met the requirements required for preliminary approval of the petitions.

The judgment now clears the way for the petitions to be heard in the High Court, with Archie assuring both parties that the Judiciary will take steps to ensure their petitions are heard and determined expeditiously. A date for the hearing is yet to be set.

Delivering their majority decision, appellate judges Allan Mendonca and Peter Jamadar suggested that qualitative issues needed to be considered in determining the impact of the EBC’s decision and not just the quantitative consequences on whether the PNM attained its majority in the six disputed marginal constituencies during this period.

“Such a position elevates outcome as absolutely determinative of legitimacy and discards process as of no or little consequence.

Therein lies a path to undemocratic rule,” Jamadar said as he suggested that the purpose of the petitions was to ensure public confidence in the electorial process.

Jamadar added: “It appears to me the main reason for the divisions of opinion is based on fundamental ideological difference on the core purpose of the representation petitions.”

While Mendonca and Jamadar came to the same decision, Mendonca gave slightly different reasoning.

Stating that the UNC would have had difficulties gathering the evidence required through Archie’s analysis during the brief limitation period allowed for filing petitions, Mendonca said the party had presented sufficient details to warrant Dean-Armour’s decision to grant leave.

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