The rearguard action by the People’s National Congress (PNC)-led A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) coalition against the no-confidence vote in the National Assembly, after accepting the decision by the Speaker that “the ayes have it” and after the motion was transmuted into a binding resolution by the Clerk, can only be seen as an attack on the fundamental tenets of our parliamentary democracy and the Rule of law. The Government cannot, on one hand, accept the 33 seats gained at the 2015 General Elections gave it a “majority” in the National Assembly – which it used to pass several pieces of legislation as well as Budgets – and, on the other, now protest that it takes 34 votes to constitute that same majority to defeat the Opposition’s No-confidence Motion.
The argument proffered to push that position involves a particular procedure in Mathematics that would divide persons into “halves”, which the advocate himself admits is an anomalous proposition. They ignore the fact that reality does not have to bend to Mathematics, but the latter has evolved numerous methodologies for dealing with reality. The mathematical notion of “sets” offers a more appropriate technique for dealing with the division of the 65 seats in the National Assembly to determine its majority. There is no need for half-persons since the complete set of 65 parliamentarians (P) would be divided according to how they actually voted into subsets. All those who voted “yes” (PY) – 33 and all those who voted ‘no” (PN) – 32, would be compared to determine which subset is greater – and is the majority. In our universe, 33 is always greater than 32 and all those who argue otherwise are simply engaged in sophistry to push some other agenda.
On the course of action for the Government following the passage of the No-confidence Motion as transmuted into a binding resolution, the following extracts from “Confidence Motions/Research Paper 95/197” from the House of Commons describing what occurred after their last passage of a no-confidence motion in the “mother of Parliaments”, when the Labour Government was defeated 311 to 310, should serve as a guide to the PNC-led APNU/AFC Government:
“28 March, 1979: In the aftermath of the devolution referenda, a motion of no-confidence was passed against Callaghan’s minority Labour Government. The effect of the vote is described in the exchange between the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition immediately following the result:
Mr James Callaghan: “Mr Speaker, now that the House has declared itself, we shall take our case to the country. Tomorrow I shall propose to Her Majesty that Parliament be dissolved as soon as essential business can be cleared up, and then I shall announce as soon as may be – and that will be as soon as possible – the date of Dissolution, the date of the election and the date of meeting of the new Parliament.” (Mr Callahan announced the next day he would seek dissolution.)
Margaret Thatcher: “As the Government no longer has authority to carry on business without the agreement of the Opposition, I make it quite clear that we shall facilitate any business which requires the agreement of the Opposition so that the Dissolution can take place at the very earliest opportunity and the uncertainty ended.”
At the outset of the 23 July, 1993, confidence debate in the Commons, the Prime Minister John Major, set out clearly the consequences of a defeat for the Government: “We have before us a motion of confidence in the Government, with all the implications that flow from that ….. At the conclusion of this debate, either the Government will have won the vote of confidence and we can proceed with our policy… or we shall have lost and I shall seek a dissolution of Parliament…..”
The rules of democratic parliamentary Government cannot be arbitrarily changed to suit the desires of parties to remain in office. The present course of action invokes the sordid history of the PNC to do so at all costs.
We expect the world to support our fledgling democracy which was only restored in 1992.