Null and void: Guyana’s High Court orders recount of general election ballots

The Acting Chief Justice, Roxane George-Wiltshire, on Wednesday ruled that the declaration made by the Returning Officer in Region 4 in Guyana’s disputed regional and general on March 2 was “unlawful” and in breach of the Representation of the People’s Act.

In a lengthy ruling, the Acting Chief Justice acknowledged her ruling would be of national importance and would evoke widespread interest and awareness.

“I understand that whatever rulings are made today are likely to excite emotions of different kinds from the parties involved as well as the wider audience and community,” she told the Court.

The High Court had to decide whether or not, the injunction granted to a supporter of the main opposition People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) to block the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) from declaring the results of the elections was justified on the grounds that the votes declared for Region Four were not completely verified.

Injunction against GECOM

Last week Thursday, Justice Navindra Singh granted the injunction against GECOM, the Chief Election Officer, Keith Lowenfield and Returning Officer for Region Four Clairmont Mingo.

But four days after polls were held, GECOM released to the media, results for Region Four, and if, certified would have resulted in the ruling coalition, A Partnership for National Unity plus the Alliance for Change (APNU+AFC), defeating the main opposition PPP/C by more than 59,000 votes and securing another term in office.

In her ruling, the Acting Chief Justice said she had did not agree with the declaration being sought that GECOM “is the only body constitutionally and statutorily authorised to declare the results of the general election pursuant to section 96 to be necessary,” adding “this is a given fact”.

She said the Court orders “that the declaration made on the 5th of March 2020 by the Returning Officer in District Four for the total votes cast in District Four was unlawful as being in breach of section 84 (1) of the Representation of the People’s Act…and is null void and of no effect.”

She said also that the declaration made on the same day “is hereby vacated and set aside.”

“Any act done in pursuant of the said declaration is hereby deemed null and void and of no effect,’ she said, noting also “it would be for the Returning Officer, the Deputy Returning Officer to decide whether they will restart or continue the process. It is their decision to make.”