Increased judicialization of petulant politics

As part of the 2000 electoral reform package, the constitutional stricture for the President to consult with the Opposition Leader on specified constitutional appointments was widened, along with statutory acknowledgment that the consultations must be “meaningful”. The PPP Administration has been in office for now almost two years, and has been champing at the bit after the Opposition could not designate an Opposition Leader.
This was finally achieved after Mr Aubrey Norton finally filled the position late last April. The country breathed a sigh of relief, and assumed that the staffing of critical institutions like the Integrity Commission, Police Services Commission, and Public Services Commission would now proceed with his availability. Sadly, this was not to be. It would appear that the Opposition Leader is determined to use his constitutional role to prove to his constituency that he is “tough”, by not cooperating with the President to catch up on lost time, and act with alacrity in view of the time lost due to his own challenges.
Matters came to a head when Mr Norton claimed that an invitation on April 29 for a May 13 meeting was too “rushed”, since his requested information a week later on the appointments was unavoidably delivered just days before the meeting. At that meeting, Norton raised his need for additional details on the qualifications of the President’s nominees, which were promised “within a week”. However, he broke protocol by playing to the gallery of public opinion by gratuitously announcing that he would support the two incumbent acting top judicial officers to be confirmed permanently. These appointments were not on the agenda, and it displayed poor form by the Opposition Leader.
Because of a tight schedule due to the exigencies of official public obligations, the President could not meet My Norton within the stipulated “week”, even though the requested information was supplied. However, when the meeting was scheduled to consult on the appointments, Opposition Leader Norton petulantly announced, after standing up to the President, that he was otherwise engaged. This is very unfortunate, and does not bode well for our politics to evolve in a more positive direction, after all the high drama surrounding the attempted rigging of the 2020 elections in full view of the world.
Mr Norton has now announced that he would be going to the Courts to challenge the appointments made by President Ali. What will be his contention? That he could not make the meeting, and could not find the time to inform the President that he was not going to be there? And, as such, he is demanding that the President – evidently with all the time in the world – wait on him to find the time on his busy schedule to make appointments that are vital to the proper functioning of large areas of governance?
By going this route, Mr Norton, first of all, forgets that “consultation” does not mean “agreement”; and secondly, he is confirming the “Judicialization of politics” in Guyana, which was described in the paper “The Judiciary and the 2020 Guyana Elections” by Lecturer in Law Dr Ronnie Yearwood and Senior Lecturer in Political Science Cynthia Barrow-Giles. They had led the high-level Caricom team to supervise the recount of all ballots cast at the March 2020 elections.
One expert on judicialization, Ran Hirschl, defined the phrase to mean the adjudication of “matters of outright and utmost political significance that often define and divide whole polities, such as determination of foundational collective-identity questions, nation-building processes, corroboration of regime change, and determination of electoral outcomes.” He pointed out, however, that such questions “…reflect primarily deep moral and political dilemmas, not judicial ones. As such, they ought — at least as a matter of principle — to be contemplated and decided by the populace itself, through its elected and accountable representatives.”
Mr Norton should cogitate on this piece of advice as he proceeds, and not be pushed by extremist nihilists who would not mind Guyana going up in flames.