Rejected candidate applies to Supreme Court to have ACT election declared invalid.
Kirsten Lawson “The Canberra Times”.
The ACT election result is being challenged in the Supreme Court, where a candidate who was barred from standing wants the result in Gungahlin declared void. It is the first time in the ACT’s history that an election has been challenged in the courts.
Mohammad Hussain, who is is challenging the outcome of the ACT election in the Supreme Court, and wife Bazlun Bilkis.
It is the first time in the ACT’s history that an election has been challenged in the courts.
Businessman Mohammad Munir Hussain says he was wrongly shut out of the race.
He wanted to stand as an independent candidate in the October territory election, but his nomination was rejected by the ACT Electoral Commission, which said he did not have the required number of signatures on his nomination form. Nominations must be signed by at least 20 voters on the ACT electoral roll in the Gungahlin electorate of Yerrabi.
Mr Hussain lodged his nomination to stand on September 21, the final day for nominations. On September 22, he was told his nomination had been rejected because only 19 of the signatories were enrolled to vote. Mr Hussain argues the Electoral Commission was wrong.
Among those rejected were Mr Hussain’s wife, Bazlun Bilkis, and Saidu Kamara.
But Mr Hussain and his wife say they have confirmation that her enrolment was complete by September 21. She says she updated her enrolment details in late 2015 with the Australian Electoral Commission when the family moved address.
As for Saidu Kamara’s enrolment, the ACT Electoral Commission says his date of birth and address did not match the details on the electoral roll. Mr Hussain asked the commission to compare signatures, but the Electoral Commission judged it inconclusive whether the signatures matched.
Mr Hussain argues that even without the nominations of his wife, Saidu Kamara and his son, whose signature was also rejected, he still had more than the required number of valid signatories.
He has applied to have his candidacy declared valid and the election in Yerrabi declared void.
He and his wife have written affidavits for the court, which are yet to be released. A directions hearing is set down for February 10.
The Electoral Act specifically allows people to dispute the validity of an election over a rejected nomination. The Supreme Court, as the Court of Disputed Returns, has the power to declare an election void.
It has been suggested that the government might rely on a section of the Electoral Act which suggests that to declare an election void, the court needs to be satisfied that the result of the election was, or was likely to have been, affected.
If an election is declared void another election – which would be restricted to the electorate of Yerrabi – must be held within 90 days.
Yerrabi was strong for the Liberals in the 2012 election but the picture was reversed in 2016, when Labor polled highly, winning three of the five parliamentary seats. The result suggested strong support among for the light rail line to Gungahlin, a project the Liberals had vowed to scrap.
Across the city, Labor won 12 seats, the Liberals 11 and the Greens two, delivering government to Labor for a fifth consecutive term.
After the election, Alistair Coe, who stood in Yerrabi, took over as Liberal leader. He made no comment on the court challenge on Monday. Chief Minister Andrew Barr also made no comment given the issue is before the courts.