Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves says that the opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) may find that the court rules that his Unity Labour Party’s (ULP) candidate Carlos James won the North Leeward seat by more than one vote, as declared after the Nov. 5 general election.
James was declared the winner by the narrowest of margins after a 17-hour recount that ended on Nov. 7.
With the declared one-vote majority, he unseated the NDP’s Roland “Patel” Matthews, who was seeking a third consecutive five-year term as MP for the area.
On Nov. 14, at the NDP’s post-election rally in Kingstown, Matthews said that the returning officer, McArthur Gordon, “gave” the seat to James.
The NDP has, at times, suggested that it may go to court over the matter.
In his almost-weekly call to WE FM’s “Issue at Hand” on Sunday, Gonsalves was asked if he had any information and any comments about the number of rejected ballots in North Leeward.
“I wouldn’t comment on anything in relation to North Leeward save and except that I have every confidence in the electoral officers and what they did they did fairly and to the best of their judgement and the matter was heavily scrutinised, as far as I know, and the only thing I am concerned about, the writ was returned with Carlos James as the winner. They want to challenge it; they can challenge it through the court.”
According to the final results of the general elections, released by the Electoral Office, James garnered 2,271 voters, compared to 2,270 for Matthews.
There were 39 rejected ballots.
In preliminary results announced after the Nov. 5 polls, James was declared the winner by seven votes.
However, during the final count, ballots were rejected on both sides, but more ballots than had initially been counted for James, sources close to the recount told iWitness News then.
And when the recount was completed after 5 a.m. on Nov. 7, James was down to a one-vote lead and Matthews, citing the electoral law, requested that Gordon give him reasonable time to decide whether he wanted a recount.
However, Gordon declared James, the winner of the seat. The NDP said that James had a one-vote majority because the returning officer refused to count as valid three votes that he should have, which would have made Matthews the winner.
The ULP, therefore, won the elections by nine seats to the NDP’s six, an increased majority of one seat compared to the 2010 and 2015 Parliaments.
Gonsalves said that the NDP had three or four lawyers during the counting and the ULP had two lawyers “and a couple of other persons who were there, and I think the candidate was there at one point or another”.
He said that the Reverend Adolph Davis who is chair of the Christian Council attended the recount and on one occasion one of the persons who was there with the NDP “apparently” told him to shut up and sit down, when he suggested that the final count be conducted in an orderly manner.
“I don’t want to get involved in all of these side shows you know,” the prime minister said generally of the issue surrounding the outcome of the North Leeward poll.
“I don’t know if at the end of the day both sides were satisfied,” he said in response to a question about whether each side had accepted the decision at the end of the final count.
“I wasn’t there and so on. All I can say is that I am satisfied and that everything was done right and proper and they must be debating as to whether they go to challenge it and find out that Carlos win by more votes…
“But you notice that I am very careful about what I am saying about something which may end up in the court… But I just raise a theoretical possibility there without offering any comment.”
The NDP has 21 days in which to bring a petition, and those 21 days expire this Thursday, Nov. 26,
“But to tell you the truth, just like the last occasion, I didn’t worry about what would happen, save and except where they put the supervisor of elections under siege and harass her day by day for three, four years.,” the prime minister said.
He was referring to the sustained protest outside the Electoral Office after the 2015 election, when the NDP filed two petitions, which were dismissed for lack of evidence at the end of a trial.