Unexpectedly Intriguing!
June 28, 2019

Last week, the Caribbean Court of Justice upheld the order of operations from mathematics and, in doing so, caused the government of Guyana to fall. TTT News describes the aftermath of the appellate court's decision.

The case on which the CCJ ruled goes back to 21 December 2018, when in an extraordinary effort to survive a no-confidence motion and remain in power, Guyanese President David Granger attempted to legally redefine how a valid majority of votes in the 65-seat Guyanese Parliament should be calculated, raising the threshold from 33 votes to 34, which would allow his party to dismiss the results of the body's 33-32 no-confidence vote that went against them.

The case had gone to the CCJ after a judicial panel in Guyana ruled in favor of the government's bad math.

The President of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), the Honorable Mr. Justice Adrian Saunders, delivered the opinion of the court regarding the no-confidence vote held in the Guyanese Parliament on December 21, 2018, which the court held to be valid under the Constitution of Guyana. The Court’s decision upholds the decision of the Speaker of the National Assembly, Dr. Barton Scotland that the motion was carried by a majority of 33 votes. The contention between the parties was whether 33 or 34 votes constituted a majority. The Attorney General, Mr. Basil Williams, contended that the formula for achieving a majority, as like in other Parliamentary systems with an odd number of representatives, that the majority constitutes one half of the members plus one, which would hold that 34 votes are required to form a majority....

The resulting no-confidence vote by a majority of the 65 member National Assembly against the coalition government requires the government, including the President and his cabinet, to resign immediately and to hold new elections within three months.

The ruling party's position depended upon erroneously applying the order of operations from mathematics. In a 29 March 2019 letter to the Guyana Times, economics and statistics professor Dev Rawana explained why the lower judicial panel's ruling was wrong:

The controversial Appeal Court’s ruling against the No Confidence Motion (NCM) resolves around the meaning of the word “majority” as intended by Article (106). No one in the Appellate disagrees that the greater number in the National Assembly constitutes a majority. The median or the 50th percentile of a set of numbers, by statistical and mathematical reasoning, is half the sum of all numbers plus one, or equivalently ½(n+1).

In the case of the fifty (52) Members of Parliament of the Republic of Vanuatu, one half of 53 (26.5) and then rounded up yield 27 as the majority. In the case of Guyana with 65 sitting Members of Parliament, one half 66 (65+1) is 33, the number that constitutes the majority as in the case of the Republic of Vanuatu.

However, in the Guyana case, the median was not applied. Instead, Chancellor Cummings-Edwards and Justice Gregory disaggregated the median formula into two overlapping stages to define the majority by taking one-half, rounded-up and then plus one to yield a majority of 34. This two-stage hybrid is mathematically and statistically flawed by international standards.

Why? In the first stage, the number is rounded-up, and again the rounded value is added to one to overstate the majority by one. Therefore, based on the median principles in determining the 50th percentile, 33 is the majority of 32 in the 65-Member Parliament; and, reflects the true effect of the constitution.

The correct application of the order of operations in calculating what constitutes a majority in the Guyanese Parliament that Professor Rawana describes is what the Caribbean Court of Justice upheld in its ruling confirming the success of the no-confidence motion. Guyana's next government will now be determined by the outcome of elections to be held in the next three months.

Previously on Political Calculations

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