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Tough time for gov’t to prove 34 votes needed for no-confidence motion – Attorney-at-law; Norwegian political scientist also says it’s 33

Attorney-at-Law Vivian Williams

As legal and procedural uncertainty surrounds whether the opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP)-sponsored no-confidence motion was passed, a Norwegian Political Scientist is the latest expert to point out that the motion secured 33 votes – an “absolute majority” of the 65 seats in the House.

Attorney General Basil Williams has said that regardless of the House Speaker, Dr. Barton Scotland’s pronouncement on Thursday when the National Assembly meets for the first time since the December 21 no-confidence vote, the matter would be taken to court.

Political Science Professor at the University of Oslo, Bjørn Erik Rasch stressed that the absolute majority of Guyana’s parliamentary seats is 33.

“It follows from the above answer that if one from the government side votes with the opposition, an absolute majority is achieved (at least 33 votes is the requirement for absolute majority),” he told Demerara Waves Online News.

Rasch, who has written extensively on voting matters, described as “strange” Attorney General Williams’ mathematical calculation that, split in half, the 65 members would be 32.5 rounded up to 33 votes plus another 1 to take the total to 34 votes.

University of Oslo, Norway, Political Science Professor  Bjørn Erik Rasch

“I do not understand why you should add 1… You cannot use “half men”, meaning that 33 is absolute majority. With 33 votes, you have more votes than the others. Majority actually means “more votes”; absolute majority means more than half of the members in the entire assembly – abstention disregarded,” he said.

The Norwegian Political Scientist noted that simple majority means more Yes votes than No votes, and because of abstention, the Yes votes may be fewer than half of the members.

Professor Rasch is the third expert to have disagreed with the Guyana government’s calculation that 34 represents the absolute majority of the House. The others are University of Georgia’s Political Scientist Dr. Keith Dougherty and Florida International University’s Mathematician Dr. Julian Edward who have already insisted that 33 is the absolute majority of the elected members of Guyana’s National Assembly.

Meanwhile United States-based Guyanese Attorney-at-Law, Vivian Williams has indicated that seeking legal redress might be tough for the Attorney General and his team because Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo did not raise any objection in the House after the vote, and similarly the Prime Minister himself and President David Granger had accepted the vote.

“If you stipulate or submit to a particular interpretation of a rule without objection you are usually prevented from challenging the outcome. Therefore, a question of fact is whether the government participated in the process believing that 33 votes constitutes a majority of 65.

If after the process was concluded the government came to a conclusion that 34 rather than 33 constitutes the required majority, it may be estopped from challenging the outcome based on its belated discovery. Again, the court will look to the government’s statements and conduct to answer this question,” said Williams, a former journalist in Guyana.

He added that before the vote, the Guyana government, through its Chief Whip Amna Ally, had held the position that it would have defeated the Bharrat Jagdeo-filed no-confidence motion with all of its 33 lawmakers. However, that changed when now recalled government backbencher Charrandas Persaud voted with the opposition to give it 33 votes.

Williams reasoned that one option available to the government before it takes the matter to Court is to have the National Assembly review its decision. “The court is likely to view the government’s explanation for why it changed its position as evidence that the government consented to and submitted to the 33 majority interpretation of the constitutional provision,” he said.

Opposition Leader Jagdeo has been calling on the government to resign and make way for general and regional elections within the constitutionally-stipulated period of 90 days following the passage of the no-confidence motion. At the same time, he has said the PPP would be willing to support an extension of that period by at most one month to allow the Guyana Elections Commission to prepare for the polls.