Nine days after today, the 90-day period to hold elections following the successful passage of the no-confidence motion on December 21, 2018 will come to an end. The elections, as mandated by the Constitution, will not be held by that time, and from what is currently playing out in the country’s political sphere, a constitutional crisis will take effect in just over a week. Its avoidance is through a parliamentary extension which must have the agreement of the Opposition. There may still be hope for that.
The Leader of the Opposition had indicated his Party’s willingness to support any necessary extension provided that the President was committed to holding the elections and implemented related mechanisms. That has not happened as the President has thrown the responsibility unto the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) – a move some have branded as an abdication of his constitutional responsibility.
That, coupled with his firm position of seeking a reversal of the vote by the court, has confirmed the belief that he and his government are only concerned with avoiding the elections in defiance of the Constitution. From all appearances, the Government seems bent on having the elections within its own set time frame with a seeming preference for 2020. In doing so, it is, by its own action, not just pushing the country into a constitutional crisis, but seems willing to expose all to its impact.
That will obviously take a toll on Guyana and Guyanese, and will exacerbate as it prolongs. How that will play out and the severity of its impact is anyone’s guess. It could be a case of hoping for the best, but bracing for the worst. What continues to be bothersome is the Government’s continual defence of its position in not accepting what the Constitution demands regarding a successful no-confidence vote. All of its officials who have spoken publicly on the issue have sought to impose a seemingly alien interpretation at the expense of the rule of law.
Even more jarring is to see some from the legal fraternity manufacturing interpretations that have strayed from what is enshrined. Reportedly, the Attorney General suggested that the Constitution is wrong with regard to what it specifies in the circumstances of a no-confidence vote. It begs the obvious question: wasn’t it the same Constitution he sought shelter under to advise the Government when it was in Opposition and when it threatened a no-confidence motion against the Donald Ramotar Administration? If, according to the reports, the Constitution is wrong now, how come it wasn’t wrong then?
That, along with other scenarios which have played out, is an escapade of convenience to stay in Government. To therefore say these are mere attempts to hold on to power would be a gross understatement. That brings into focus a particular scenario that no one seems to want to talk about. In fairness, this entity alluded to it some time ago. It’s worth a reminder given the current political context.
It can be summed up in one question; what would have been the state of play had the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) taken the same position as the Government following a successful no-confidence vote? To some, it may seem a non-issue on the grounds that the Party would have had no option but to abide by the constitutionally-mandated requirements. To others, the PPP dare not challenge what the said Constitution stipulates. For the latter, no efforts, as evident from history, would have been spared to ensure compliance.
In other words, the Government, given all it has done thus far to avoid complying with the Constitution, including appealing what the supreme law says, would have vehemently objected to same had the PPP being unwilling to comply. It would have made the country ungovernable as it did in the past.
The aftermath of the 1997 elections is a classic example of it creating an ungovernable environment despite the fact that it was not an issue of unconstitutionality but one of dissatisfaction over the results of that election. Eventually, Caricom intervened and fresh elections were held two years before they were due.
These are not manufactured scenarios but realities when the Government while in Opposition refused to accept electoral results. During that period of politically- engineered instability and when the nation was on a rebuilding trajectory, innocent people were harmed, properties destroyed, business stagnated, and the economy took a hit as the country’s international image was tarnished. The then Opposition was adamant the Government should be removed and may have done all it could in that regard.
Having walked that road, having fought for what it believed to be right then, having ignored the Constitution now on the no-confidence vote and having led the nation to the precipice of a constitutional crisis, the Government seems unconcerned of the potential negative impacts its action could have on all.
That same lack of concern could be placed at its feet during the 1997 related period of instability. Many believe that its actions were wrong then and are wrong now. The Government continues to defend its position, a position that many see as defending an illegality which is what it will be after March 21 if no political resolution is found.