People are in distress. Not about the blackouts or crime. But about the forthcoming decisions of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).
People are being overcome with anxiety about the possible outcomes of two cases before the Caribbean Court of Justice – the one concerning the appointment of the Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) and the other about the validity of the no-confidence motion.
The distress is being cause by partisan prejudice. The electorate has become highly polarized over these cases.
In so far as the population is concerned, the verdicts in these cases are a zero-sum game. A decision either way will be a victory or defeat for one or the other.
A ruling which invalidates the no confidence motion will be viewed as a victory for the opposition and a loss for the government. Upholding the constitutionality of the appointment of the Chairman of GECOM will give the supporters of the government as much pleasure as it will bring unhappiness to the opposition supporters.
The two cases presently before the Caribbean Court of Justice have brought out, not created, just how polarized is the society. One side wants the verdicts to favor the respondents. The other side wants it to favor the appellants. These divisions run deep and approximate to Guyana’s political divisions.
Politicians, unfairly, are forced to shoulder almost all the blame for the country’s ethnic and political divisions. But the politicians are more much the victims of ethnic prejudice than they are its agents.
Ethnic politics is unforgiving. The ethnic communities rail against their members who join the opposing camp. Indians who join the PNCR are called all manner of ill-names including ‘naamkaran’. Africans who join the PPPC are treated as outcasts.
When it comes to determining where the main responsibility lies for Guyana’s ethnic divisions, the people are looking in the wrong direction. They should start by looking in the mirror.
The public is assessing the two cases strictly in terms of their potential partisan benefit. People are concerned as to which side the decisions will favor.
However, if the present cases were looked at in terms constitutional principles, people would realize the issues at stake in these two cases before the CCJ are not a zero-sum game. It is the sum of all games.
The verdicts will settle what type of majority is needed for a no confidence motion to be passed. It will settle what constitutes a majority for the passage of a no confidence motion. It will decide on the validity of the vote of someone sitting in the National Assembly. The CCJ is also expected to determine whether the President has absolute discretion to appoint whomever he feels as Chairman of GECOM or whether he is bound by the consensus formula once he has activated such an approach.
Guyana has never had a no confidence motion debated in its National Assembly. Nor has any President rejected three lists, from the Leader of the Opposition, of nominees for the Chairman of GECOM.
As a result both the passage of the no-confidence motion and the unilateral appointment of GECOM has led to political divisions. And as is so well known in Guyana, where there is politic divisions, the ugly spectacle of racial tensions rears its head.
The cases before the CCJ may be generating its own flatulence. But Guyana has to anticipate that no confidence motions will become a regular feature of political life. Guyana’s future elections are going to result in either minority governments or majority governments with slender parliamentary majorities.
No party is likely to command more than a two-seat majority. In such scenarios, no confidence motions are going to become a regular occurrence in Guyana’s political life.
One-term governments are also likely to become institutionalized. As such, the public have to get accustomed to regular changes in government via elections.
One-term governments will mean that each of the two main political parties have a genuine chance of holding power. This may be a good thing by virtue of the law of unintended consequences.
The political parties have failed to agree on a system of shared governance. One-term governments may unintentionally provide an alternative to shared governance.
Given the inflexibility of the main political parties towards shared governance, the prospects of one-term governments may also be a solution to zero-sum politics.
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