Brief on Elections & Constitutional Reform – By Thomas B. Singh

Brief on Elections & Constitutional Reform –  By  Thomas B. Singh

Democracy Redux: Ensuring Good Governance in Guyana’s 11th Parliament

 By  Thomas B. Singh

Dept. of Economics.  University of Guyana – January 18, 2 015

 Status of Guyana’s 10th Parliament

Guyana’s 10th Parliament was prorogued on Nov. 10, 2014. The proroguing of the Parliament was triggered by an impending motion of no-confidence in the Government,[1] which won the last elections in November 2011 with a plurality of the popular vote in an electoral system that is essentially proportional.

As soon as the Parliament would have been reconvened after a recess, the passage of the no-confidence motion was assured because the combined opposition parties enjoyed a majority[2] in Parliament, and had made credible[3] public commitments to vote in favour of the motion.  Proroguing the Parliament was a device used by the President to pre-empt and forestall the no-confidence motion.  It also paved the way for elections on the Government’s terms as against the opposition’s.[4]  Hence proroguing the Parliament was a best response to the no-confidence motion, albeit one that had the appearance of being myopic in the sense of considering only the next stage of the game: Parliament will have to be reconvened before it is dissolved, as dissolved it must be when elections are called; but this may give the combined opposition a chance to proceed with the no-confidence motion.  

The President will announce the date for elections sometime soon.  As soon as that announcement is made, elections will have to be held within 3 months.

[1] There are there are three branches of government: The Executive, the Legislature or Parliament, and the Judiciary.  In this brief, Government (with a capital G) will refer to the Executive branch.

[2] Albeit a one seat majority in the 65 seat Parliament!  It was this majority that led to the no-confidence motion and everything else that followed there from.

[3] See Section C, below.  The credibility of those public commitments was assured because one opposition political party, the AFC, created a public storm by announcing that it had information that the Govt. was going to attempt to ‘buy out’ some opposition MPs ahead of the reconvening of Parliament.  All that was needed was for one opposition MP to vote against the no-confidence motion, given that the combined opposition enjoyed only a one seat majority in Parliament.  It would not have cost the Government much to attempt to buy out two or three MPs, to increase its chances of a vote against the no-confidence motion.  Government would have probably been willing to take the gamble hadn’t the AFC announced that it had information about the scheme.  Because of the AFCs announcement, the incentive the individual opposition MPs had to defect if offered a bribe decreased significantly, and so consequently did the incentive the Government had to attempt to bribe individual MPs.  The sequence is important as it points to the root reason for the scheme falling apart: Opposition MPs cared about how they would be perceived were they to cooperate with the Government in this matter; Government and the governing party may not have had any such compunction.

[4] The passage of the no-confidence motion would have also triggered elections, but much earlier perhaps, and on a schedule that had fairly rigid deadlines.  The Government now has a lot more scope for determining when elections will be held.  It can also use the time, and its upperhand in determining when elections will be held, to pursue all avenues available to it to enhance its prospects at the elections.

Read more: Brief on Elections & Constitutional Reform –  By  Thomas B. Singh

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