Guyana judge declares 1997
elections null and void
GEORGETOWN, Guyana (AP) -- A High Court judge on Monday declared
Guyana's 1997 general elections null and void because of fraud and unfair
restrictions, but she also said she cannot order a change of government.
Justice Claudette Singh ruled the parliament had no right to approve legislation
that requires voters to have special identification cards to vote. In the 1997
elections, about 30,000 registered voters were not allowed to vote because they
lacked the cards, even though they had other forms of official identification.
Guyana is preparing for new elections on March 19, as both sides agreed
elections to quell riots that erupted after the elections. Elections would have been
due in 2002.
Singh ruled that there also appeared to be instances of fraud at the polls,
missing ballot boxes from opposition strongholds, but she cannot declare a
change of government because there is no evidence that it would have changed
"It is the first time that a judge in the Commonwealth has nullified a
election altogether, totally," said Doodnauth Singh, who was then the elections
commission chairman. "In most countries, they declare a constituency or
regional elections as null and void, but as far as I know, a national election has
never been so treated."
The opposition People's National Congress, which filed the court challenge
shortly after the elections, had alleged that elections officials rigged the vote to
give the governing People's Progressive Party a second term in office.
Former President Janet Jagan won the 1997 elections, but she stepped down
years later for health reasons, choosing President Bharrat Jagdeo to replace her.
The government did not immediately respond to the court ruling Monday.
Nearly 300 witness testified in the case in the former British colony in
Singh said the court would give further details on the implications of