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President can run Guyana without National Assembly for up to nine months- sources

Last Updated on Thursday, 6 November 2014, 2:28 by GxMedia

Even as Guyana’s opposition prepares to commence debate on the no-confidence motion on Monday, President Donald Ramotar could end up running the country without the National Assembly for as much as nine months if he suspends the current parliamentary session.

The no-confidence motion, to be moved by Alliance For Change parliamentarian Moses Nagamootoo, is listed at number 11 on the House’s Order Paper for Monday, November 11.

Referring to the constitution, sources observed that Article 69 allows him to discontinue (prorogue) the first session of the 10th Parliament and begin another session not more than six months later.  However, the sources pointed out that on the expiration of those six months, the opposition can table a fresh no-confidence motion and if passed he would have to dissolve parliament and call elections in three months.

If Parliament is prorogued, the work  of all parliamentary committees and pending motions and bills would be automatically scrapped.

Assuming that he discontinues the current session in November, he could run the country without the National Assembly until May, 2015. If a new no-confidence motion is then tabled and passed, general elections would have to be held in 90 days – any time between July and August 2015.

Observers noted that such a time-line would jeopardize President Ramotar’s  promise to hold Local Government Elections (LGE) in the second quarter – April to June – of 2015.

The other option that the Guyanese leader said Tuesday night that he has is to dissolve the Parliament and call fresh elections if the opposition decides to debate and approve the no-confidence motion. Should he do so this month, Guyanese could vote in early general elections between December 2014 and February 2015.

The voters list recently prepared by the Guyana Elections Commission  (GECOM)is valid until January 31, 2015 and would have to be subjected to a new Claims and Objections period if the polls are not held by that date.

Sources, however, noted that if the President’s promise to hold Local Government Elections during the second quarter of next year is taken in good faith, it could very well mean that he would dissolve Parliament and call General Elections the latest by next January.

According to the sources, if the President opts for E-Day in January, Nomination Day would have to be in December to allow for the minimum 32 days before polling day.  It is only after Nomination Day that GECOM can go ahead and print the ballots overseas.  GECOM has begun training polling day staff.

Unlike the period during which the Parliament has been prorogued, the Constitution empowers the Finance Minister to spend money from the Consolidated Fund on public services until three months have expired commencing with the date on which the National Assembly first meets after dissolution. The Finance Minister is then required to submit a statement of expenditure for approval and inclusion in the next Appropriation Bill.