Holistic view required to decide fairness of elections
May 24, 2000
The court was asked to treat the 1997 elections holistically yesterday when considering whether they were free and fair.
Senior Counsel Doodnauth Singh in his second day of arguments for Chief Election Officer, Stanley Singh, said the very nature of elections under proportional representation dictated that things could not be taken in isolation. Whilst the petitioner might go on about unsigned statements of poll, it was important to note that "the Elections Commission at all stages wanted to be above board" and that "decisions made by the commission were unanimous save three or four, where unanimity had not been achieved." Singh recalled that all appointees to positions in the elections apparatus were chosen by representatives of both parties.
He admitted there were systems, such as the command centre to accept phoned in results, that did not work. He said in the case of Region Four only two lines were available to accept calls from 730 stations. Realising the failures, the Elections Commission called the parties together and after discussion decided to introduce a verification process. Singh argued that the declaration of the presidency was within the law because calculations had shown that with the number of votes counted, the PPP had an unassailable lead. Singh said that the figures declared by Returning Officer, Henry Europe, as the results for Region Four have yet to be challenged in any way.
Even the letter to Desmond Hoyte dated December 23, sought "to assure the PNC that the Elections Commission was taking every step to be transparent and to keep them informed of what the Elections Commission was doing at every stage."
The petitioners might say they were not concerned with figures, Singh argued, but it was a necessity under the Validity of Elections Act for the court to be concerned with figures. How else could it be determined that the results differed from the will of the electorate? How else could the count be rectified or seats reallocated?
Singh cited the testimony of returning officers from various regions as to the conduct of the elections and declared that there "was no evidence of any irregularity with respect to the count and conduct at the polling stations and no witnesses have come forth to suggest any irregularity."
Singh will continue his arguments today.