The Guyana Constitution does not make it possible for an ex-president to become prime minister

Dear Editor,

Vladimir Putin created history with a raw and atrocious abuse of power and democracy when he bypassed the presidential term limits of the Russian constitution by sliding back into power as Prime Minister after his protégé won the elections. The Putin model cannot work in Guyana. Article 101 of the constitution kills it. Article 101 states that “Provided that a person who is not eligible to be elected as President shall not be eligible for appointment as Prime Minister.” That is the death blow. Any new president-elect who participates in such a plan will be in violation of the constitution and subject to parliamentary impeachment and public prosecution and lawsuits. Similarly, the ex-president who participates in or plans this Trojan Horse will be subject to similar legal attacks.

What happens if the president-elect appoints an ex-president as a minister and a member of cabinet? While there is no similar provision to Article 101 for ministers, the result is the same as above with regard to the backlash the president-elect and the ex-president are likely to face. Granting executive power to an ex-president automatically brings intense constitutional scrutiny.

The presidential term limit was created to prevent an ex-president assuming further executive power. The integrity of the constitution, voters’ political expression and the presidency are tarnished when an ex-president returns to executive authority after he has been constitutionally barred from it. Particularly if that return is under a former protégé or someone who served under him in government or was his subordinate in his political party.

Because the president appoints the prime minister who must be elected, no ex-president can be named as a member of a party list for any election after his constitutional term ends. If the new president-elect attempts to appoint the ex-president as an unelected minister, questions of constitutional violation, abuse of the office of the presidency, undue influence, undermining and conflict of interest arise. The actions in paragraph one will be completely on the table, especially if the ex-president still commands the loyalty of key institutions such as the armed forces and judiciary. Further, the fact that any minister may become prime minister and eventually president, blocks the ex-president from appointment as an unelected minister. This entire scenario clearly contradicts the intent of the presidential term limit and in doing so contradicts the constitution.

Democracy would be gravely threatened by any appointment of an ex-president to any position of executive power. Cabinet could become a battleground pitching the country into ongoing constitutional crisis. Alternatively, a president-elect appointing an ex-president as an unelected minister in a Putin manoeuvre, signals violation of the constitution, the presidency and also of voters’ electoral expression. It would amount to fraud upon the electorate who voted on the understanding of constitutional integrity and presidential performance without any influence and interference. The president-elect would likely have to vacate office, face removal by Parliament or face the triggering of an election or the pursuit of a referendum to change the constitution to stop the madness. The public would also be entitled to sue and prosecute the president and ex-president-turned-minister on a number of grounds stemming from this sideshow. The bottom line is: the constitution is clear that the president cannot ever gain executive power after he leaves office.

Yours faithfully,
M Maxwell

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