Westminster System: Majority Rules

In the Westminster system, it’s the existing Prime Minister’s loss of a majority that is decisive. It remains the case that by convention he must resign once it’s clear he no longer has a majority: whether anyone else does is irrelevant.

The President of the republic has given the opposition and the minority ruling government until the 6th of November 2015 to form a government or he will dissolve parliament.

The current Kilman government has reportedly passed a COM decision to ask the president to dissolve parliament and call for elections. The case does make one wonder as the COM was called by a minority as the government do not have the numbers. And so we ask, under the Westminster system which Vanuatu also applies as it’s democratic system of political governance, is it legal to make decisions when the government has lost it’s numbers?

The current government does not have the majority since 14 were incarcerated and there is the question as to whether they can make decisions when already they have lost half of the numbers needed to maintain their status let alone the power to make democratic decisions.

And so we look at the Westminster system adopted by Vanuatu, the test for whether a Prime Minister can govern or not is whether he (or she) commands a majority. Once it’s clear to the Prime Minister that he no longer has the majority, by convention he should resign.

Big words for a small country with a big issue. How would we term our democratic process given we use the Westminster System and have been governed by this system for 35 years.

Given we are to apply reasoning, if the prime minister cannot maintain a majority, the honorable decision would be following the principles of the west minster system is to call parliament and elect a new PM as he does not have an automatic right to govern; nor could he insist that others be denied that opportunity.

Having read through the main pillars of the West Minister system the final notion understood is we cannot continue with a minority as we devalue the principles of our parliamentary democracy and when a PM has a minority he must resign to protect the integrity of the office of the prime minister.

To further stress the issue at times it is the PM should not delay in recalling the House to a seating or insist on his right to test the confidence of the MP’s, if he cannot realistically command it.

More broadly, the prime minister should not place the President in the awkward position of having to seriously contemplate rejecting his advice. Any other course of action risks serious damage to our institutions and to our political system. Sometimes, it really is about more than just politics.