VIDEO: Gov’t falls after APNU+AFC MP Charrandas Persaud votes yes to no confidence motion

FILE PHOTO: Charrandass Persaud taking the oath in 2015

A high-stakes gambit by the PPP/C paid off tonight when APNU+AFC MP Charrandas Persaud voted for the opposition motion of no-confidence meaning that fresh general elections will have to be held in three months.

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Persaud, an attorney, who represents the AFC wing of the coalition, voted yes when it was his turn tonight, stunning the National Assembly and clearly taking the government benches by surprise.

His vote brought proceedings to an immediate halt as government MPs attempted to have him change his vote. Both APNU+AFC Chief Whip Amna Ally and MP Volda Lawrence who is the chairman of the PNCR rounded on him to no avail.

Persaud, a Berbician,   proceeded to repeat at least four times that he was in favour of the motion when Speaker Dr Barton Scotland had the process restarted. The vote was then concluded and the no-confidence motion succeeded 33 to 32 meaning that the government had fallen.

The voting came at the end of nearly seven hours of gruelling debate on the PPP/C’s motion which had had the political class on tenterhooks.

The collapse of the government comes at a particularly precarious time with President David Granger being unwell and the Chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission also unwell.

Thus far there has been no word on the collapse of his government from President Granger.

Jagdeo’s motion of no-confidence was crafted on the heels of the November 12 local government elections where the PPP/C stormed to impressive wins.

The PPP/C lost the 2015 general elections by a mere 4,500 votes and will now fancy its chances at the new polls. It however has to decide who its presidential candidate will be.

With first oil set for 2020, the outcome will rock the entire country and particularly the investment community. Preparations for general elections will create a period of instability and a vacuum when important pieces of legislation and the execution of the 2019 budget are required. It will also raise questions about whether the President would be able to lead the government through this period as his chemotherapy regimen for Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma goes all the way up to May.

Tonight’s outcome will be a particularly bitter outcome for Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo who was one of the speakers on the motion tonight and who up to last night had boldly said that no APNU+AFC MP would vote for the PPP/C motion.

There is great irony to the no-confidence motion. Nagamootoo and the AFC had tabled one against the PPP/C in 2014 and to avoid losing it, the President Donald Ramotar prorogued and then dissolved Parliament leading to the 2015 elections which APNU+AFC won.

There would now be great uncertainty as whether the APNU+AFC coalition would survive this collapse.

Tonight’s development may also impel the formation of new groupings to occupy the third party space.

In September 2013, Persaud had a falling out with the AFC. He told Stabroek News then that he left the AFC because he was treated as second class and taken for granted. He later patched up with the AFC in time for the 2015 general elections and was named a member of Parliament.

The collapse of the government has once again underlined the fragility of the government going back to 2011 when the Ramotar administration government with a minority. In 2015, APNU+AFC won only a one-seat majority.

Article 106 (6) of the constitution says that “The Cabinet including the President shall resign if the Government is defeated by the vote of a majority of all the elected members of the National Assembly on a vote of confidence”.

This would then necessitate a formal resignation by the APNU+AFC Cabinet and the President.

Article 106 (7) of the constitution says that “Notwithstanding its defeat, the Government shall remain in office and shall hold an election within three months, or such longer period as the National Assembly shall by resolution supported by not less than two-thirds of the votes of all the elected members of the National Assembly determine, and shall resign after the President takes the oath of office following the election”.

This will be the third abbreviated term of government since 1997 when President Janet Jagan’s term was cut short following political unrest. President Ramotar’s term was also cut in 2015 when he was forced to call general elections.

All eyes will now be on who the PPP/C’s presidential candidate will be. That process is to start on Thursday. A hint of the PPP/C thinking might be seen in today’s lineup of speakers on the no-confidence motion. Aside from Jagdeo who is not eligible to run for another term in office, the other speakers were PPP/C Chief Whip Gail Teixeira and MPs Irfaan Ali, Anil Nandlall and Juan Edghill. Teixeira, Ali and Nandlall have signalled interest in being the presidential candidate.  Both Ali and Nandlall are currently facing criminal charges. Dr Frank Anthony who has also been seen as a potential candidate was not in today’s lineup for the PPP/C.

Whoever is selected will only have three months to establish his or herself with the electorate.

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