Type to search

Archives Debate

Who can be Prime Minister?

Who can be Prime Minister? | business-magazine.mu

The present government was elected into power in 2014 under the banner of the “Lepep” alliance, which is constituted of the MSM, PMSD and ML. As the alliance leader, SAJ of the MSM was appointed Prime Minister, and in the same logic of a coalition government, XLD of the PMSD was appointed to the constitutional post of Deputy Prime Minister. Ministers were then appointed from various parties of the alliance following the same electoral mandate, and each Minister was assigned his or her responsibilities by the President, acting in accordance with the written advice of the Prime Minister as provided by section 62 of the Constitution. This was the executive mandate of government.

Thereafter, it is possible for the President to amend these appointments on advice of the PM, or even under Section 60 (4) (a) to remove a Minister, again acting in accordance with the advice of the Prime Minister.

This is also in line with sections 59 of the Constitution whereby as a rule the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister are clearly appointed by the President and the others are appointed Ministers in accordance with the advice of the Prime Minister, provided the number of Ministers is not more than twenty four. More precisely after elections, the President is obligated to appoint as Prime Minister the member of the Legislative Assembly who appears best to be able to command the support of the majority, and thereafter acting in accor-dance with the advice of the Prime Minister, appoint the Deputy Prime Minister, the Attorney General and the other Ministers from among the members of the Assembly.

Over and above being appointed Prime Minister, SAJ is also Minister of the Interior, and XLD over and above being Deputy Prime Minister is also Minister of Tourism. Thought under section 62, the President may amend these appointments on advice of the PM. However in the case of XLD, though he may be removed and replaced as Minister of Tourism he may not necessarily be removed as Deputy Prime Minister in the same manner, as he was appointed DPM by the President.

Once government has been constituted, according to section 63 of the Constitution, where the Prime Minister is absent from Mauritius or is by reason of illness or is sentenced to imprisonment for a term exceeding 12 months, and hence ceases to perform his functions as a member of the Assembly and also during that period is unable to perform any of his functions as Prime Minister, then in these circumstances, the President may, by directions in writing from the PM, authorise the Deputy Prime Minister or, in the absence of the Deputy Prime Minister, some other Minister to perform the functions of Prime Minister until this direction is revoked.

However where the president considers that it is impracticable to obtain the advice of the Prime Minister whether for absence or illness, or where the Prime Minister is unable to tender advice because for instance of a sentence exceeding 12 months, the President may exercise these powers without advice and in his or her own discretion.

Section 63 does not on its face permit the Prime Minister to advise the President to by-pass appointment of the Deputy Prime Minister, and appoint any other Minister so long as the Deputy Prime Minis-ter remains present and available. That is why in practice the Deputy is always interim PM in absence of the PM, and only where both are absent can a Minister be appointed interim PM.

So, if SAJ for whatever reason is no longer able to act as PM, steps down, for illness or absence, or resigns, XLD will have to be appointed by the President as Prime Minister of the “Lepep” alliance government with all the powers of Prime Minister. I would further say that in such circumstances once the Deputy Prime Minister has been appointed PM, he cannot be removed from office by the President unless there is a resolution of no confidence in the government passed by the Assembly under section 60 of the Constitution. This will normally be followed by the removal of the PM and then the dissolution of parliament, and the by-elections.

Certainly if XLD were now to resign as Deputy Prime Minister, that would leave the way open for any other Minister to be appointed in his place, failing which he is second in line.Penny Hack