The coalition APNU-AFC government is confused over what constitutes a majority in parliament. As a political scientist and as someone who taught comparative politics, international relations, and constitutional law, I have researched the definition of a majority and what constitutes a majority in several countries as well as in Guyana. It is simple math and the definition of a majority (greater than 50%) has been used for centuries to address government matters or any election. Also, it is the global convention, and law in Guyana, when a government loses a majority, it must resign.
In Guyana’s parliament of 65 MPs, 33 is a majority (50.7% rounded off to 51%). In governance, a majority is also at least one more (or greater) than the count of the other side. Thus, 33 is a majority over 32. And the Guyana government has rightly functioned with a majority of 33 over 32 since May 2015. But it cannot now suddenly change the definition of a majority to 34 which is much larger than a simple majority of what would be 33. So Ramkarran is right when he stated that 34 is not needed for a majority. If 34 were needed, then the government would not have passed any legislation or any budget. Also, the coalition would have failed in its no confidence motion in November 2014 when it had just 33 votes to the government's 32. Isn't it ironic that the coalition now refuses to accept 33 as a majority when it accepted that number in 2014 and 2015.
In the UK, a government must have the support of 326 MPs to constitute a majority of 650 members. In an even number assembly, one more is needed more than the 50%. But in odd number assembly, you reduce the number by one , divide it by two, and add one. Thus, in T&T, a majority is 21 of the 41 MPs. In Pakistan, a majority is 137 of the 272 elected members of the Assembly. In Australia, 76 MPs are needed for a majority of 150 members. In New Zealand, 61 constitute a majority of the 120 members of the lower house. In Canada, 170 make a majority of 338 members. In St. Kitts, six make up a majority of the eleven members Assembly. In Grenada, eight is a majority of the 15 members lower chamber. In the US, 51 members make a majority in the Senate (of 100) and 218 (of 435) in the House are needed to pass a bill. To elect the President, 270 electoral votes (out of 538) are needed.
In India, the government needs 272 of the 543 elected MPs to form a government. The late Prime Minister Atal Beharri Vajpayee lost a confidence vote 269-270 in 1998 with four MPs not present for the voting. Although 273 was needed from the full house of 543, Vajpayee was considered to have lost a majority of those present and voting – 270 is a majority over 269. Vajpayee resigned as he lost a majority of those voting. The President of India asked him to preside over a caretaker government and new elections held within three months. Vajpayee won a majority in new elections.
I hope the above clarifies what is a majority in a chamber and what the government must do when it loses a confidence motion. The coalition government does not have a case of claiming that 33 is not a majority. Going to court is a delay tactic to buy time for what is inevitable general elections. It should do the honorable act and resign forthwith. Otherwise, people around the globe would be laughing at Guyana because of the failure of the coalition APNU+AFC government to abide by its own constitutional rule of what was a majority in 2014 and 2015 and having accepted that number just before the vote last week (December 2018). Even Carl Greenidge in November was saying that if the PPP felt it had 33 on its side, then a confidence vote is not needed. It should vote down the budget to trigger the fall of the government. That number was obtained in the no confidence motion. So the country must now go to the polls as Carl Greenidge accepted just last month.
*Dr. Vishnu Bisram (PhD) is a (Political Scientist – Comparative and International Politics)