GUYANA | Government legitimacy and electoral credibility

 GUYANA |  Government legitimacy and electoral credibility

 JAMAICA, September 2, 2022 - The March 2, 2020 general and regional elections in Guyana, are not yet settled as there remains a number of electoral matters that involve charges of electoral irregularities that are yet to be ruled on by both the Court of Appeals of Guyana as well as the Caribbean Court of Justice, CCJ, that country's final or Apex court.

 On Monday of this week, two complainants represented by Senior Counsel Roysdale Forde filed a Notice of Motion in the Appeals Court, aimed at having the court rule on a matter in relation to the March 2, 2020 elections that had been filed with the court since the 21st of May 2021 and is yet to be ruled on and which affects the standing and credibility of the government.

The petitioners filed “an Election Petition questioning whether the Election held on the 2nd day of March, 2020, were unlawfully conducted and/or whether that the result of the said Elections (if lawfully conducted) were affected or might have been affected by unlawful acts or omissions.”

Then there is the case before the CCJ where In January last year, Chief Justice Roxane George struck out Election Petition 99 of 2020, filed by coalition supporters Monica Thomas and Brennan Nurse. The petition wanted the Court to nullify the outcome of the elections owing to “grave irregularities” discovered during the recount. The case was thrown out by Chief Justice Roxanne George for late service to former President David Granger who was a respondent in the matter.

Then there is the matter of the Opposition charges that dead people voted in the 2020 elections as well as persons who were abroad at the time of the elections, and even more egregious, the matter of the 49 ballot boxes from which the statement of poll documents were discovered missing, yet the twelve thousand or so ballots from mostly PPP/C dominated areas were counted.

These are matters that test the credibility and legitimacy of any government, and should not be dragged out indefinitely. In fact, the Caribbean Community of Nations, CARICOM, should pay special attention to these matters as Guyana is a founding member of the community and holds pride of place as the venue for the regional headquarters of that august body.

It is in light of this that we commend the Guyana Village Voice for its editorial stance on this matter, as was published on August 29, 2022 in a piece entitled "Government Legitimacy and Electoral Credibility" and which we reprint hereunder as an excellent example of the media holding the government to account.

The following is the full text of the Village Voice Editorial:

"Government Legitimacy and Electoral Credibility"

An article captioned ‘Gov’t attempts to dismiss missing statutory documents in 49 ballot boxes ignoring salient points,’ was published in this paper on August 12. The article described the People’s Progressive Party/Civic’s (PPP/C’s) response to an article highlighting electoral irregularities which was published on the previous day.

Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs Anil Nandlall SC sought to dismiss the concerns raised by the article. The unreasonable position taken by the PPP/C — that electoral irregularities in the National and Regional Elections of 2020 — were of no consequence is evidently ridiculous. After all, no fewer than 12,000 ballots were affected by those unlawful irregularities.

The PPP regime, having taken office as a result of those questionable elections, considers itself to be a legitimate government. However, it defies logic and common sense that any legitimate government could emerge from an election that lacks any semblance of credibility.

Political experts tell us that under a democratic political system, a government is considered legitimate if it reached power via democratic popular election, as prescribed by the law. Moral philosophers teach that, the term legitimacy is usually positively interpreted as the status conferred by a governed people upon their governors’ institutions, offices, and actions, based upon the belief that their government’s actions are appropriate uses of power by a legally constituted government.

In other words, a legitimate government must (1) come to power legally, and (2) use power in an appropriate manner. The PPP regime fails to meet both of those critical criteria, as such, the regime cannot be considered to be legitimate.

First, the PPP did not come to power without serious doubts about the credibility of the declared results. The August 12 alluded to this in referencing, “Section 83 (10) (a) ‘Procedure on closing of the poll,’ in the Representation of the People Act (ROPA) mandates the presiding officer to “place the sealed envelope containing the counted and rejected ballots papers in the ballot box, and secure and seal, with his seal and with the seals of such of the duly appointed candidates and polling agents as desire to affix their seals, to the ballot box in such manner that it cannot be opened and that nothing can be inserted therein or taken therefrom without breaking the seals.”

The Act mandates, too, that among the documents that must be placed inside the ballot box before it is sealed are the all-important statements of poll. Since more than 12,000 votes which were tallied and counted, and were in ballot boxes that did not meet the legal requirements, it follows that those questionable votes should not have been counted. Further, it must be emphasised that those questionable votes were from polling places that are PPP strongholds. It also follows that since blatant illegalities occurred, the government that resulted from that electoral process is questionable.

Second, since taking over the office of government, the PPP regime has been using power in a manner that is discriminatory, undemocratic, unfair, and high-handed. Simply put, the PPP exercises political power in an inappropriate manner. It is undeniable that the PPP regime openly discriminates against its opponents and critics, while using the resources of the State to reward its supporters and promote its partisan agenda. The regime blatantly ignores the needs and desires of Guyana’s Indigenous Peoples. Worse still, the PPP regime uses the coercive arm of the State — law enforcement — to intimidate, harass, and even physically harm its detractors.

The indisputable fact is the legitimacy of the PPP regime, given what happened with those ballot boxes and other irregularities unearthed in the Recount team questioned is not at all surprising. A legitimate authority can be the result only of a credible process, and the credibility of the process by which the PPP took power remains in question. It is a fact the PPP has to accept.

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