Choosing a chair for Gecom; the Chief Justice rules

For more than twenty years the task of choosing a chairperson of the Elections Commission (Gecom) was without controversy. With the resignation of Dr Steve Surujbally the President invited the Leader of the Opposition to submit a list of six, not unacceptable, names under Article 161 of the Constitution, which was done in December 2016. The article requires the chair to be a judge, a former judge or a person qualified to be a judge (the ‘judge category’) or a fit and proper person. The President rejected the list in its entirety. He first suggested that only a person in the ‘judge category’ could be appointed but later amended that to indicate that preference must be given to the ‘judge’ category. The President also stated that all the names on the list must be acceptable and if one is not, he is entitled to reject the entire list.

At the invitation of the President, the Leader of the Opposition submitted a second list. This was also rejected by the President. The Leader of the Opposition continued the policy of engagement and indicated that he will submit a third list. However, by that time, Mr Marcel Gaskin, of a new organization called RISE, formed to promote constitutional reform, brought legal-constitutional proceedings seeking answers to four questions. These were: whether the list must include a judge, former judge or person qualified to be a judge; whether the President must state reasons for deeming each of the six names unacceptable; whether the President is obliged to select a person unless he has decided that the persons are unacceptable; whether one person being unacceptable renders the whole list unacceptable…..

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