President’s election tests PP, PNM unity
By Andre Bagoo Wednesday, January 9 2013
NOT ONLY will the election of a President be another test of the unity of the coalition People’s Partnership Government, but it will also be a test of the unity of the Opposition benches.
This is because under the Constitution, if the Opposition is to put forward a candidate of their own, they must do so under Section 30 of the Constitution.
While the Electoral College which elects the President comprises both the House of Representatives and the Senate, Section 30 stipulates that for a candidate to be nominated, he or she must have the backing of at least 12 members of the House of Representatives.
Section 30 of the Constitution reads, “a person shall not be a candidate for election as President unless he is nominated for election by a nomination paper which – (a) is signed by him and by 12 or more members of the House of Representatives....”
There are exactly 12 PNM MPs in the House, meaning every single member will have to back the candidate chosen.
However, San Fernando East MP Patrick Manning, who is currently on a leave of absence in the wake of suffering a stroke last year, is an uncertain factor. Manning has been on leave of absence for almost a year and last spoke in Parliament more than a year ago. He last obtained 90-day leave in October. That leave runs out on January 22. Manning has a history of missing votes and sessions of the PNM parliamentary caucus. It is not clear if he would back the same candidate chosen for the ballot by Rowley, PNM political leader.
The deadline for nominations is February 5 and the election is due February 15.
On Monday, Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley told reporters that the PNM has not yet decided if to name its own nominee to contest against the Government’s nominee. However, he said the Government could do better than it is at present by seeking collaboration and cooperation in choosing a President.
Efforts to contact Manning yesterday were unsuccessful.
There have been reports that the Congress of the People, the second-largest party in the coalition, has its own candidate for President. COP political leader Prakash Ramadhar on Monday would not confirm or deny this. The possibility raises the prospect of a division in the line of the Government.
Under the Constitution, the candidate with the “the greatest number of the votes” in the electoral college becomes President. The 71-member college comprises the House of Representatives (41) and the Senate (30).
The composition of the electoral college creates a fragile equation when it comes to the voting.
The UNC on its own has 21 MPs and 10 senators, meaning it controls as a party 31 of the college votes. If it joins forces with the TOP (three votes — two MPs; one Senator); NJAC (one vote — a senator), the party would still need one member of the COP, PNM or Independent benches to vote with it to pass its choice by a comfortable margin, assuming the vote is not split by more than two candidates.
A fracture in the coalition on the issue could, thus, also pose a challenge to the unity of the Government and its ability to have its candidate elected.