Elections must be held in 2-3 months – Opposition Leader
…as President still wants advice from unconstitutional GECOM Chair
Following the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) validation of the No-Confidence Motion on Tuesday, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo has rejected the November timeline put forward by President David Granger for holding elections. The Opposition Leader insisted that elections must be held in two to three months.
Jagdeo made this pronouncement at a press conference called shortly after the CCJ handed down its decision. According to Jagdeo, President David Granger’s insistence on a November 2019 date for calling elections, which he referenced in an address to the nation after the ruling, is not consistent with the reality of the situation.
The Opposition Leader reminded that as per the CCJ ruling, an election date should have been set and President and Cabinet resigned since last year. He read Article 106 (6) and (7) of the Constitution, which sets out clearly that Government must resign after being defeated by a No-confidence vote.
Specifically, Article 106 (6) of the Constitution states: “The Cabinet including the President shall resign if the Government is defeated by the vote of a majority of all the elected members of the National Assembly on a vote of confidence”.
Meanwhile, Article 106 (7) states that “Notwithstanding its defeat, the Government shall remain in office and shall hold an election within three months, or such longer period as the National Assembly shall by resolution supported by not less than two-thirds of the votes of all the elected members of the National Assembly determine, and shall resign after the President takes the oath of office following the election”.
“So there are clear provisions now that the no-confidence [vote was validated by the CCJ], there is no other recourse for the Government to challenge it. The final court has spoken. These two provisions have kicked in. And they should have been relevant since last year. So the count can’t start from today.”
“The count should start from when the motion was validly passed, 21st of December. So what we’ve had is an illegal Government since March of this year. The period between the NCM and when the elections were to be held in three months, that period is also defined in the memorandum to the bill amending these Articles.”
According to Jagdeo, this definition speaks to Government staying on only to facilitate the holding of elections within that timeframe. The Opposition Leader expressed the view that Government staying on for almost a year after being defeated by a No-Confidence Motion is unreasonable.
He pointed to the Government’s actions since it lost the No-Confidence Motion, such as the less than transparent awarding of billions of dollars in contracts, the allocation of lands and the privatisation of state assets.
“Now that the Government has been illegal during this time, we will have to decide what will happen to much of their illegal acts in this period. But definitely from today onwards, any contract, anything outside of a caretaker capacity, these will be declared illegal by a PPP Government. It’s not business as usual. It’s no longer in court. The final decision was made and the Government is illegal as per that decision.”
According to Jagdeo, such actions are a breach of the caretaker role the coalition Government was supposed to be playing since it fell to the NCM and he insisted that elections now be called as soon as practical.
“We think that elections could be held within maximum three months. The CCJ has indicated that the consensus should be a principled and practical position – a principled position would be that elections are held tomorrow, a practical position is two to three months,” Jagdeo insisted, also calling for the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to get into full elections mode.
After the ruling, President Granger had announced in an address to the nation that while he respected the CCJ’s decision, elections could not be held based on the current list and that he has been informed by GECOM Chairman Justice James Patterson (whose appointment was also declared unconstitutional by the CCJ) that the soonest elections could be held was in November.
Told about this, Jagdeo made it clear that they would approach the international community and that the President “had another thing coming”.