While the PPP/C won the presidency, they did not win the elections

I refer to Bud Mangal’s letter titled ‘An interesting statistic‘ (SN, December 12), and ask what is he saying or trying to say?

Dr Mangal’s letter included a table of votes cast for each of the contesting parties in the 2006 and 2011 elections, and in the event the reader misses the point of the data, he wrote: “What the above clearly shows is that in 2011, 166,340 people voted for PPP and 139,678 voted for

APNU.” Then comes his very telling sentence (he is a Gecom Commissioner) and his ignorance of the election results: “So why all the protest and shouting?”
The most fundamental principle about Westminster model constitutions is that a government can only be formed by a single party if it wins 51 per cent of the votes or seats, or by a combination of parties whose combined votes exceed 51 per cent. Under this principle the PPP did not win

the elections.
Now let us understand and acknowledge that the Guyana constitution is in the main a Westminster model constitution in all its basic principles, but it went beyond that to include a few clauses that are remarkable for their perceived and clear intent to lend a hand to the party with a plurality of votes. It must be noted that under this constitution, the government will fall if it loses a vote of confidence; under the US constitution there is no such thing as a vote of confidence.

The ruling PPP won 48.6 per cent of the votes, a plurality and so the constitution grants it the right to hold the presidency. However, a “right to hold the presidency” and a “right for a minority party (32 v 33) to form the executive branch of government exclusively” are two different and distinguishable animals. While the constitution may not have stipulated a

prohibition to the latter, President Ramotar will learn soon enough that the practical aspects of running a government will demand that he works out a deal to secure the support of an opposition party in parliament. His rush to set up a cabinet comprising his party people only will turn out to be neither wise nor prescient.

It is clear that Dr Mangal believes that the ruling PPP won these elections (166,340 v APNU’s 139,678) and is entitled to hold and control exclusively both the presidency and the cabinet.  It is also clear that he believes that only these two parties, PPP and APNU matter, completely forgetting that  another party, AFC, also won a significant percentage of the votes and seats in the parliament.

The way constitutions and the formation of governments work in a real democracy is a little more complicated than what Dr Mangal’s mind is willing to recognize. While President Ramotar has gone ahead and constituted the executive with his party’s members only, the Guyanese people have a right to ask: Is it workable? Will it last? Bills in parliament cannot become law on the basis of a minority of votes; also parliamentarians in Guyana’s system vote straight party line. A recent law makes it illegal for individual MPs to vote outside their party line.

The Guyanese people have a right to “protest and shout” and demand an explanation of what is going on. Is it not all a charade and the government will collapse as soon as the first vote of confidence comes up? Is it reasonable to expect the combined majority opposition in parliament to vote with the government side after not being consulted in the formation of the executive? (Read invited to join in a coalition government.)

Bud Mangal needs to be told that the PPP with 48.6 per cent of the votes did not win these elections (to win a PR-system election, you have to get a clear 51 per cent), and save and except for an unprecedented clause placed in the constitution, the PPP would have been out of power today.

Dr Mangal’s taunting the opposition (“So why all the protest and shouting?”) not only betrays his ignorance of how constitutions work and the need to set up governments so they will survive their full term, but it at once raises serious questions about his suitability to serve as a Gecom Commissioner.

Yours faithfully,
Mike Persaud

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