Golding says one-seat majority no cause for alarm
KINGSTON – Former Prime Minister Bruce Golding yesterday dismissed any notion that a one-seat majority in the House of Representatives is cause for alarm, pointing out that while the situation will require extraordinary discipline on the Government’s part, it is not a crisis.
“When I found myself in 2007 with a majority of four seats, I certainly thought that was a nightmare in and of itself… [but while] it is going to be challenging to administer a Government with a one-seat majority, it is not a constitutional crisis and there is no reason why a Government cannot function with a one-seat majority,” he told reporters and editors at yesterday’s Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange at the newspaper’s head office in Kingston.
The Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) was originally declared the winner of last Thursday’s general election by three seats, but following the official count the People’s National Party (PNP), on the weekend, picked up the St Mary South Eastern seat which the Electoral Office of Jamaica (EOJ) had declared for the JLP on election night. This means that while the JLP will still form the country’s next Government it will now do so with 32 seats to the PNP’s 31.
Golding, who played an integral role in the JLP’s campaign in ten constituencies, noted that close elections and the functioning of Government on a slim majority are not unusual, citing some examples within the region. “We had a situation in Trinidad in 2001 when they ended up with an 18 – 18 split. The president at that time had to decide which of the two he was going to choose, and he chose the one that was there before, and that Government continued for about ten months before they called an election,” he pointed out.
The former JLP leader pointed also to Grenada’s eight to seven split in the 2003 general election there and the fact that the Government remained in office for five years before going back to the polls.
“Their realities may be different from ours, but constitutionally it can be done. Where the problems will come is not so much in the functioning of Government, because when matters come to Parliament for a decision it doesn’t matter whether the vote in Parliament is taken by a majority of 36 to 24 or 31 to 30. You will still have the majority in the Senate that will give you the constitutional support that you need,” he argued.
However, he said the delicate balance will come in maintaining strict discipline, particularly on occasions when laws must be passed. “It is going to require extraordinary discipline within the majority party,” Goldimg stressed.
“The Government is safe with a one-seat majority, provided nobody looks across the aisle and decides to go and sit on the other side. If somebody did that, the Government is in trouble. It is more a question of internal discipline, ensuring that members attend Parliament when Parliament is in session; ensuring that they are attentive to the matters that come to Parliament so that they can exercise their functions there. It is going to require tight management and discipline,” Golding reiterated. (Jamaica Observer)