Senior counsel praises Court of Appeal, says it advances electoral laws in the region

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by Caribbean News Now Staff

ST JOHN’S, Antigua — While Antigua and Barbuda opposition leader, Lester Bird, is criticising the ruling of the Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal for allowing an election petition appeal, a distinguished senior counsel, Douglas Mendes, has praised the 110-page decision and said that "it advanced electoral laws in the region".

The Antigua Observer reported that Mendes, who was the lead counsel for the ruling United Progressive Party (UPP) in the matter, said, "The court examined the test to be applied when there is a breach of the rules, which is a very complex issue itself; the court developed the law to a certain extend in that it held that in deciding whether the breach did not affect the result, one of the things you had to take into account was whether there was evidence that suggested the result was probably affected or may not have been affected.”

The senior counsel said the court reviewed statistics from previous elections – statistics related to voter turnout as well as calculated whether the results would have been the same if the turnout was higher.

"The point is irregularities are going to happen, mistakes are going to be made, it’s unavoidable… We can only put mechanisms in place to ensure they are minimized," Mendes said.

The court in its ruling said that, although there was evidence that some people did not vote because of late opening, there wasn’t evidence as to the number of such persons.

However, Bird is hopping mad about the ruling, so much so he said that he has lost confidence in the regional judicial system and said that his party will not support the move for Antigua and Barbuda to abolish appeals to the Privy Council and join the Caribbean Court of Justice.

The Court of Appeal last week set aside the decision of Justice Louise Blenman, who had ruled three seats held by Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer and two ministers of his government vacant because of election irregularities due to late opening of polling stations.

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