Court of Appeal reserves judgement in election petition case

March 24, 2023 in Regional

The Court of Appeal Wednesday reserved its ruling in the elections petition appeal case after hearing Senior Counsel Roysdale Forde argue that the Guyana Parliament is the only institution vested with the power by the Constitution to modify the country’s Electoral Laws.

In 2020, the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) brought Order 60 into effect to facilitate a national recount of the votes cast at the March 2 Elections, and in doing so, the Commission relied on the Election Laws (Amendment) Act.

But Forde, who was arguing against the Recount Order that led to an outcome of the last elections, told the Appeal Court that Section 22 of the Act conflicts with the Constitution, and is therefore unconstitutional.

“We submit that the conferral of such power on GECOM; the power to issue orders to modify Electoral Laws, where in the opinion of GECOM there is a difficulty in the application of electoral laws constitute an abdication of part or portion of the constitutional authority conferred on the Parliament of Guyana by the Constitution to pass laws in accordance with Articles 65 and 170 in respect of the Electoral System,” he said.

On April 26, 2021, the acting Chief Justice, Roxane George, dismissed the petition that had been filed by Claudette Thorne and Heston Bostwick, ruling that there was nothing unconstitutional about Section 22 of the Election Laws (Amendment) Act and or Order 60.

The appeal case is being heard by Chancellor of the Judiciary Yonnette Cummings-Edwards and Justices of Appeal Dawn Gregory and Rishi Persaud.

Forde told the court that it is the function and responsibility of the Parliament to formulate legislative policy and not GECOM.

He argued that Section 22 constitutes the unconstitutional divestment of a plenary legislative power vested in Parliament and as such, the conferral of the plenary legislative power on the Elections Commission is unconstitutional.

“It is our submission that Article 160 (3) (a) (4) of the Constitution provides that Parliament by our Constitution is conferred with the authority and an exclusive authority to enact legislation if it so desires to determine the manner in which the election shall be held.”

Forde argued that Article 160 (3) (a) (4) is not an ordinary plenary legislative power but a constitutional one. He told the Court that Section 22, therefore, encroaches upon the Constitution.

He also told the Court that Section 22 and Order 60 by their amplitude of power, contravened the doctrine of the Separation of Powers inherent in the Constitution.

It was based on the results of that recount that President Irfaan Ali was declared winner of the controversial March 2020 regional and general elections and elected to Office.

Trinidad-based Senior Counsel Douglas Mendes, who is representing Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo and Attorney General, Anil Nandlall had in earlier submissions urged the Appeal Court to dismiss the appeal.

The coalition opposition A Partnership for National Unity (APNU), which lost the election, is seeking to nullify the entire polls on the basis that the recount was illegal.