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Court cannot reinstate coalition if it wins no-confidence appeals but loses elections

Even if Guyana’s the ruling coalition wins its no-confidence cases at the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) will remain in office if it wins the next general elections, a Law Professor said Friday.

The Professor said the principle of “state necessity” would apply and so the CCJ would be unable to order the removal of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) and return the coalition of A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) to office.

The political and legal luminary’s position came against the background of repeated calls by the opposition PPP, its three election commissioners, the business community and the Guyana Bar Association (GBA) for general elections to be held within the three-month period after the passage of the High Court’s validly-passed ruling on last December’s no-confidence motion.

Questions have since arisen about what would happen if general and regional elections are held before the local Court of Appeal and the CCJ hear and determine the appeals.

GBA executive member, Attorney-at-Law Pauline Chase said if elections are held before the appeals, the court would have to consider whether to proceed with hearing the appeals, events having taken over.

She, too, believes that if the court decides to hear the appeals, the judges could not reverse the elections. “If they do so proceed, there is no jurisdiction to recall the elections results in those appeals. Election results can only be challenged by way of election petition brought within the rules therefor,” Chase said.

The GBA official stressed that Guyana’s “constitution and rulings of the Chief Justice must be obeyed. They are valid and effectual and cannot be put on hold for fanciful prospects”.

The GBA’s Bar Council welcomed Chief Justice Roxane George-Wiltshire’s decisions in January in the three Actions arising out of the No Confidence Motion.

The GBA highlighted a section of the Chief Justice’s written judgment in the Action of Attorney General of Guyana Basil Williams v Dr. Barton Scotland, Mr. Bharrat Jagdeo and Mr. Joseph Harmon, which states, “I hold that the NCM was carried as the requisite majority was obtained by a vote of 33:32. The President and the Ministers cannot therefore remain in Government beyond the three months within which elections are required to be held in accordance with art 106(7), unless that time is enlarged by the National Assembly in accordance with the requirements of the said art 106(7).”

With just over 50 days having elapsed since the passage of the motion and no date fixed for elections within the required constitutional period or otherwise, the GBA said “Neither the filing of appeals nor applications for orders staying the operation of the clear timelines fixed by the Constitution can stop the time from running within which elections must be held.”

Only a resolution of the National Assembly supported by not less than two-thirds of all of its elected members can extend the time for elections if it is necessary to do so.

“The Bar Council therefore renews its call on all parties concerned, including the President, the Leader of the Opposition and the Guyana Elections Commission, to take such immediate steps as will avoid Guyana entering into a constitutional crisis and prevent the dire effects such a crisis could have on the country,” the Association said.

The GBA said the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) is constitutionally required to be ready to conduct elections at any time within three months (90 days) of the December 21 passage of the ‘No Confidence Motion’ in the National Assembly.

“The Guyana Elections Commission is required by the Constitution to issue such instructions and take such action as appear necessary or expedient to ensure fairness, impartiality and compliance with the Constitution on the part of persons exercising powers or performing duties connected with or relating to the registration of electors or the conduct of elections.

The Guyana Elections Commission and all other stakeholders required for the conduct of elections are bound by the operation of the constitution, the supreme law of Guyana,” the Bar Council said.

The governing coalition and its elections commissioners have been clamouring for a fresh voters’ list to be generated by house-to-house registration to remove the dead and migrants. However, the opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) has accused GECOM of being complicit with government in frittering away the 90 days to deliberately delay general elections. The PPP says it is willing to agree to cleaning up the list and including additional eligible voters through a 35-day claims and objections process.

GECOM’s administration says once it gets the green-light, preparations can take 148 days, but house-to-house registration can take nine months. The ruling Coalition-backed elections commissioner Vincent Alexander wants to propose a compressed timetable for house-to-house registration to be conducted in six months.