The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) will on Tuesday, June 26th hand down its decision in the third term case which will determine if former President Bharrat Jagdeo can run for the presidency again.
The decision by the Trinidad-based court has been greatly anticipated and is to be delivered before the retirement of the President of the court, Sir Dennis Byron.
The decision of Guyana’s final court will be particularly crucial to the opposition PPP as a decision in favour of a third term would most likely clear the way for Jagdeo to campaign for a third term. A decision against a third term will deepen divisions in the PPP over who should be the next candidate as there are disparate factions. There would also be concerns that the candidate should not be someone under the control of Jagdeo.
On March 12 this year, in a more than six-hour long hearing before the CCJ, attorneys for the state argued that amendments to effect the presidential term limit were done in accordance with the Constitution, even as those representing the challenger maintained that a referendum was required and that the two-term restriction is unlawful.
The attorneys on both sides fiercely defended their respective positions before the Trinidad-based final court on the challenge mounted to term limits by private citizen Cedric Richardson.
The state has appealed decisions by both the Supreme Court and the Guyana Court of Appeal in favour of Richardson, who in the run-up to the 2015 general elections had challenged restrictions created by amendments to Article 90 of the Constitution that were enacted in 2001 after the bipartisan Constitution reform process.
His argument had been that Act No 17 of 2001, which was passed by a two-third majority of all elected members of the National Assembly to effect the term-limits, “unconstitutionally curtails and restricts” his sovereign and democratic rights and freedom as a qualified elector “to elect the person of former president Bharrat Jagdeo” as executive president.
The amended Article 90 of the Constitution states at Clause 2(a) that a person elected as president after the year 2000 “is eligible for re-election only once” and at Clause (3) that a person who acceded to the presidency after the year 2000 and served therein on a single occasion for not less than such period as may be determined by the National Assembly “is eligible for election as president only once.”
On July 9th, 2015, former Acting Chief Justice Ian Chang declared that the presidential term-limit was unconstitutional without the approval of the people through a referendum. In February, 2017 former acting Chancellor Carl Singh, and now retired Justice B S Roy dismissed the state’s appeal to Justice Chang’s ruling. Dissenting was then acting Chief Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards.