The aftermath of the vote of no confidence and preparing for elections (Part II)
Last Wednesday, the President and the Opposition Leader met to discuss the way forward, following the 21 December 2018 vote of no confidence in the Government. The outcome of the meeting was a positive one. Having committed themselves to respecting the Constitution and putting the public interest first, and recognizing ‘the high importance of continuous engagements between the Government and Opposition, the importance they hold for the national interest and the elevated public expectation’, the two leaders have agreed to the following:
(a) Holding of the general and regional elections, subject to the readiness of the GECOM;
(b) Government would remain in office to ensure continuity in the delivery of public services;
(c) The court’s intervention at the request of the Government would continue in order to bring about clarity and resolution on the two issues raised. These are: whether the number 33 constitutes a majority of the all the elected members in the 65-seat National Assembly; and whether the vote of a member of National Assembly who holds a foreign passport is a valid one in the context of the vote of no confidence in the Government.
(d) Parliament would continue to function in the normal way, pending the conclusion of the legal proceedings;
(e) Two representatives (one from each side) would be liaising with GECOM to determine its readiness for holding elections.
Today marks the 24th day since the motion was passed in the Assembly. We therefore have a little over two months (66 days) within which to hold the elections. The Constitution provides for an extension of the deadline by two-thirds of the votes of all the elected members of the Assembly. This to a large extent would depend on GECOM’s readiness to hold elections within the 90-day deadline.
GECOM’s approved budget for 2019 has more than doubled, from $2.257 billion in 2018 to $5.371 billion. According the Minister of Finance, ‘[t]his is to facilitate early preparations and to ensure the smooth conduct of these most important elections’. Considering that GECOM had successfully run off the recent local government elections, it would be in a substantial state of preparedness. However, it will need to re-programme its activities planned for over the next year or so, so that they can be executed, perhaps in an abbreviated way, over the next two months. Whether this is possible, it is for GECOM to decide. It is in this regard that the role of the two representatives referred to at (f) should be viewed. A meeting is planned to take place in the next few days, the outcome of which hopefully will be made public.
Continuation of the court cases
As pointed out last week, while it is within the Government’s right to seek judicial intervention if it is dissatisfied with the Speaker’s ruling on the no confidence vote, we had advised against doing so because of the potential of creating further tensions in the Guyanese society. We still maintain that position. Besides, the court will need enough time to reflect on the two matters before ruling on them. Whatever the outcome, we also have to factor in the possibility of an appeal to the Guyana Court of Appeal, then to the Caribbean Court of Justice. It is therefore likely that the complete judicial review process will not be concluded within the 90-day deadline or any extension thereof, in which case elections will have to be held to comply with the requirements of the Constitution.
As regards a Member of Parliament (MP) holding a foreign passport and by virtue of that, he or she has not met the eligibility criteria for holding such a position, the Constitution is clear that such a person’s participation and voting in the Assembly does not invalidate any decision taken by the Assembly. While we do not condone any
Counting down towards elections, and GECOM’s readiness