The question of a majority for the no-confidence motion would have been laughable if so many people were not taking the issue so seriously. For many people, the idea of a simple majority is clear, but no sooner had the government side acknowledged the loss of the no-confidence motion, the issue took a change.
I found out that this issue first surfaced when APNU and the AFC, while in opposition, tabled a no-confidence motion against the Donald Ramotar-led government. A lawyer compiled the argument and gave it to Attorney General Anil Nandlall for transmission to Mr. Ramotar.
Mr. Ramotar admitted that the arguments were forwarded to him, but both he and Nandlall decided that the arguments would not hold water. But they never told anyone about it, so the lawmakers never had an opportunity to examine the arguments.
Then came this no-confidence motion, and once more the arguments surfaced. Attorney Nigel Hughes was the first person I heard propose the argument. Before long, it had taken root, and there was talk about heading to court with this argument.
There were people who argued convincingly that the first thing that should have happened was that the Speaker should have determined the half of the number of seats in the assembly. The argument continues that a majority would have been half plus one.
However, in Guyana over the years, a majority merely means more than half.
Then I heard that the lawyer who initially proffered the argument for the half plus one to the previous government, offered his argument to the current government for $7 million. That would have been an easy way to make a lot of money for something that had been produced in 2014.
Indeed the government has gone to court, but it is refusing to challenge the vote in the National Assembly from the point of view of the numbers. This suggests that the decision-makers also have a problem with the argument.
But there is another problem, and this has to do with dual citizenship.
This is novel territory, given that it has never been challenged. One could argue that the late President Janet Jagan was an American by birth and a Guyanese by naturalization. There was talk that she renounced her American citizenship, so the issue of dual citizenship did not arise.
Her children, on the other hand, easily became American citizens. Mrs. Jagan’s renunciation seemed to have no effect.
Back in Guyana, the National Assembly had, and still has others who enjoy dual citizenship. They have all voted in the National Assembly.
But the constitution is clear. This then provides the reason for the challenge in the courts over the right of Charrandass Persaud to vote. A layman like me would argue that we allow the law to be ignored until something happens. Why has there not been a challenge to the other people in the House who hold dual citizenship? This could have posed immense problems for laws passed in the past. Fortunately a decision should not affect what preceded.
Lawyers are however pointing to a clause in the constitution that states once a vote is taken the decision stands. Whether the decision by the court will affect the no- confidence motion is left to be seen.
In any case, the formula introduced by President Jimmy Carter places the conduct of the elections in the hands of the Guyana Elections Commission. If the commission is ready then it can proceed with elections.
Yet there are blocks to the holding of early elections. A member of the elections commission has said that the commission was provided with money for house to house registration.
That alone could take some time, unless the commission votes to avoid such registration for the upcoming elections.
From my vantage point, I cannot see elections being held within the three months stipulated by the constitution.
President David Granger and Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo are to meet on Wednesday. The outcome of those talks will be interesting. I cannot prejudge the issue, but I am certain wiser counsel will prevail.
I expect Mr. Jagdeo to hold out that the government should only perform caretaker functions. Yet the very constitution stipulates that governments cannot exist in a vacuum. There must be one in place and a government must do the things it is expected to do.
Meanwhile there is the question of the presidential candidate. The People’s Progressive Party has modified its rules along the way. From naming its presidential candidate by the end of last year, such a decision would now be taken at the end of this month.
Some of the frontrunners from the point of view of the watchers are Anil Nandlall, Gail Teixeira, Dr Frank Anthony, Dr Vindhya Persaud and Irfaan Ali.
The sharp divisions in our country could affect Irfaan Ali from being the presidential candidate and the PPP is aware of this. That party is predominantly Hindu. The voters, therefore, may not readily support a Muslim leader.
And indeed, there have not been too many Muslims in the hierarchy of that party. But the word is that Jagdeo favours Irfaan Ali. Whether he will push the members to tempt fate is another matter.
On the side of the coalition, Minister Joseph Harmon has already said that David Granger is the presidential candidate. For stability sake, that may be a good thing, except some are worried about Granger being fit and ready to campaign. The announcement of President Granger as the leader of the party slate essentially avoids a scramble to find a replacement.
Guyana is accustomed to charismatic leaders and I do not see too many around. Granger is charismatic, as is Jagdeo. However, Jagdeo is excluded from running. At least he could be the king behind the throne in his party, because he has dominated his party’s landscape. Whoever is his candidate would be dictated to by him.
It was Finance Minister Winston Jordan who said that the elections will be the mother of all elections. He is right. Come what may, people would be asked to rally around whoever is put up as leader. Of course, the race voting is high on the agenda. I remember a PPP executive saying to me that if the People’s National Congress were to put up a crab, the people would vote for it. In the PPP camp, while that may be largely true, it may not be so straightforward.
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