The AFC’s proposals for constitutional reform remain a work in progress and thus far, among its initial suggestions are that the President must be able to secure a majority of the votes cast and members of Cabinet should only be appointed subject to the approval of the National Assembly.
Among the initial proposals laid out by the party’s chairman Nigel Hughes at the AFC’s biennial National Conference held at the St Stanislaus College two Saturdays ago was that the organs of democratic power should consist of the National Assembly and the Presi-dency with the Presidency being the minor of the two organs.
“In the event that a new constitution identifies and locates the `organs of democratic power’ in the National Assembly and the Presidency then the election of the President shall be effected directly by the people and not by virtue of being head of any party as exists at present,” he said, according to a copy of his speech made available to Stabroek News.
Under the current arrangements, the Presi-dent is elected by virtue of being the Presidential Candidate stated on the list of candidates which he/she heads, Hughes noted. This arrangement fuses the election of a party to the National Assembly with the election of the candidate for President and removes from the electorate the opportunity of voting directly for the President but confines them to the choice of a political party headed by a specific candidate, he said.
“The divided, disparate political and cultural history of Guyana requires the identification of leadership which is based on consensus rather than plurality. The President must be able to secure a majority of the votes cast. This may require a runoff between various candidates until a president is elected by a majority of the votes cast in a Presidential elections. This may initially seem protracted and expensive but given our divisive history the alternative will continue to promote the insularity,” Hughes said.
He added that the Office of the Prime Minister should be occupied by the candidate who secures the second highest votes in the Presidential election. The powers of the Prime Minister must be increased and not confined to mere leadership of the Government’s business in the National Assembly, he added.
Additionally, the composition of the cabinet should broadly reflect the votes cast at national elections for various parties, he said. “The members of Cabinet should only be appointed subject to the approval of the National Assembly,” Hughes said while adding that a new constitution should envision a cabinet which includes key appointments from the specifically qualified nominees from the political parties in proportion to the votes secured at the national election.
He proposed that the key cabinet posts of Minis-ter of Finance, Attorney General, National Security and Home Affairs and Minister of Education with deputy ministerial positions shall be alternatively identified and appointed by the President and the Prime Minister. “Our deeply divided political history has locked various sections of the population out of executive decision making (which) in all cases has led to cabinets identified and appointed solely at the President’s discretion which have excluded members of the opposing parties,” he noted.
He said that the new system must force and encourage consensus in executive Government and ministers need not be elected members of the National Assembly but must be approved by the National Assembly.
“This is born of the view that when a Minister occupies the position of minister and elected representative of the people at the same time, he or she may be placed in the position of divided loyalty and worse, possible conflict between their interest in securing own personal political interest or that of their party against what may be in the national interest,” the AFC chairman said.
He also proposed that the newly elected president shall within a specified time frame, not to exceed three months, present to the National Assembly for approval the development plan for the country for his/ her term of office.
In relation to the immunities of the President, he said that the immunities as set out Article 182 of the Constitution must be reduced. “The President should be liable … civilly and criminally liable for any infractions of the laws of the Country conducted during the term of his office. These proceedings however should not (be) instituted against him and or her while he and she occupies the office of President. The same shall apply to the office of Prime Minister,” he added.