Over the past few days, Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley and Chair of Caricom, accused Keith Lowenfield, Chief Election Officer, of ‘gamesmanship.’ Having dumped 115,000 votes, the Prime Minister applied the word ‘bizarre’ to Guyana’s elections process. Representing Caricom, which has been described by President Granger as the ‘most legitimate interlocutor,’ Prime Minister Mottley characterised the electoral shenanigans as ‘not our finest hour.’ When asked to comment on the criticisms made of her comments, the Prime Minister responded that ‘the truth hurts.’
US Assistant Secretary of State Michael Kozak, joined with Prime Minister Mottley in calling for a conclusion of the electoral process and a declaration of the winner. He was in turn joined by Nelson Mandela’s Elders Group that includes his wife, Graca Machel, former UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, and current chair Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and UN Commissioner for Human Rights. The Group called for ‘an electoral declaration based on the recount [to] be made without delay.’ Resident US, British, Canadian and European Union Diplomatic Heads in Guyana also called for a declaration based on the recount.
Four US Senators, Jim Risch, Chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Menendez, Ranking Member, Marco Rubio, Chairman of the Foreign Relations Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, and Ben Cardin, who had written President Granger on May 12 encouraging a free, fair and transparent recount of the votes, issued another statement late last week which said in part: “Nearly four months since their national election, the Guyanese people are still waiting for an official result following the general and regional elections in their nation. This is unacceptable. We share in the frustration expressed by the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the Organisation of American States (OAS), and other international stakeholders, and call on the Guyanese authorities to issue an official election declaration that reflects the results of the March 2 election which were confirmed in the official recount by Caricom’s observer mission. Recent reports suggest questionable maneouvres by interested parties designed to continue forestalling a final declaration of results…President Granger should honour the will of the Guyanese people and concede.”
While international concern and pressure mount, local responses are becoming more and more perverse. Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo linked ‘foreign interference’ in Guyana’s election to a plot to remove the Venezuelan Government. Long known for the imaginative reach of his political analysis, rational people will somehow miss the connection between the US supporting free and fair elections in Guyana (clearly the PM is talking about the US) and a plot to overthrow the Maduro Government.
But taking the cake by far is the claim by Mr. Keith Lowenfield, the Chief Election Officer, who justifies his appalling and abysmal conduct by claiming that he is a law unto himself. Having remained publicly silent about his actions, he now says, under public pressure, that while the Commission makes policy decisions and provides guidance, he has to execute his duties ‘as a constitutional officer, particularly in the conduct of elections.’ Having completely misconstrued his role, which is a statutory, not a constitutional one, and being fully supported by APNU+AFC, it is clear that Mr. Lowenfield will insist on his right to tamper with the results of the recount, no matter what instructions he receives from the Commission or the Chair, or no matter what is the decision of the CCJ.
His statutory duty under section 96 of the Representation of the People Act is to report the results of the elections to the commission based on the figures of the Returning Officers, not on his own, manufactured, figures. Under clause 12 of the Order of Recount, he has merely to prepare matrices of the statements of recount and a summary of the observation reports, not offer his ‘final credible result,’ different from the recount figures.
In claiming constitutional independence, Mr. Lowenfield assumed the right to unilaterally reduce the recount figures by 60 percent to show APNU+AFC winning the elections by a two-third majority; and later, when this appalling atrocity was condemned, by twenty-five percent showing the APNU+AFC winning the elections, this time by one seat. Abandoning his reliance on his right to give a ‘final credible result,’ he has now invoked the Court of Appeal in the case of Eslyn David v The Elections Commission and others, interpretating the decision that the word ‘votes’ mean ‘valid votes’ to justify his alteration of the recount results!
Mr. Lowenfield, who is a statutory officer, is bound by section 18 of the Election Laws (Amendment) Act which states he and the Commissioner of Registration shall ‘be subject to the direction and control of the Commission,’ ‘notwithstanding any written law’ and by clause 15 of the Recount Order which provides that he remains ‘subject to the general supervisory power of the Commission.’ He has no authority to operate outside the statutory framework, is not independent and must follow the instructions of the Chair.
Mr. Lowenfield’s public declaration of his independence, orchestrated and/or supported by APNU+AFC, indicates that he is not going anywhere. He’s a runaway train. The Chair of the Elections Commission will, sooner or later, have to take a stand – either dismiss Mr. Lowenfield or ignore him – if she wants to claim her and Guyana’s finest hour.