THE Political Parties Commission (PPC) has defended the High Court ruling on Forum Solomon Islands International (FSII) Facebook page on Wednesday.
Chief Justice Sir Albert Palmer has ruled in favour of the Commission after re-elected member Mathew Wale and his unregistered party – Solomon Islands Democratic Party (SIDP) took it to court.
Mr Wale had argued that the Political Parties Integrity Bill, which requires Political Parties to be registered with the Political Parties Commission, went against his constitutional right to freedom of association.
But the court disagreed, and upheld that the Electoral Commission’s right to ban Parties that have not registered from participating in the election.
The ruling means that unregistered Political Parties would not be able to contest as a Party in the recent elections.
However, the ruling did not stop candidates of unregistered parties from contesting as independents.
This means as independents they are free to join other coalitions and/or other registered political parties.
The Registrar of the Political Parties Commission, Calvin Ziru said there is no inconsistency between the PPI Act and Schedule 2 to the Constitution.
He said the court ruling was clear.
“The court did not say that Independent cannot form government.
“What the court said is that the first and second claimant which is Wale and SIDP cannot enter into a coalition agreement with a registered party,” he said.
Ziru said in short the court was of the view that section 53 of the PPI Act did not contravene the rights of the first and second claimant.
“Schedule 2 to the Constitution is expressly clear in that all members are eligible as candidates for the election of Prime Minister.
“The PPI Act provides for coalition agreement between parties,” he said.
Ziru said the coalition agreement which is schedule 2 of the PPI Act has certain requirements that parties entering into coalition must adhere to.
He said one of the requirements is that the party with the highest number of MPs will have its Parliamentary Leader to be the coalition’s group candidate for the PM.
“The Party with the lower number of MPs will have its parliament leader as the deputy PM.
“Upon entering into a coalition both parties will form a coalition executive which is essentially the coalition caucus,” he said.
Ziru said the coalition executive consists of members from the parties forming the coalition group.
“The coalition executive will allocate ministerial portfolios to MPs in the coalition.
“All these happen well before the election of the PM,” he said.
Ziru said if a coalition agreement is entered into by two or more parties this agreement will be given to the Political Parties Commission.
“The PP Commission will then inform the GG that a coalition group has been formed and that they have the numbers.
“The PP Commission can determine this by looking at the PPI Form that independents have signed in joining a party,” he said.
Ziru said not only that but independent members joining parties must also make a declaration renouncing their status as independent in accordance with section 50 of the PPI Act.
“This will demonstrate to the GG that the coalition group has the numbers to form government.
“Based on this the GG will activate Schedule 2 of the Constitution and call for nominations for the PM,” he said.
Ziru said by then the coalition group will already have its candidate for the PM.
“The coalition group will also have in place its DPM and Cabinet line-up.
“If the coalition group’s candidate is elected as PM he will then advice the GG in accordance with section 33 (3) of the Constitution for the appointment of ministers,” he said.
Ziru said he did not see any contradictions between the PPI Act and the Constitution.
“The PPI Act provides for a more orderly and regulated process for independent to join Parties and for Parties to enter into coalition agreement.
“This will provide more certainty as to which group will form government,” he said.
Ziru said the PPI Act does not take away or add anything to Schedule 2 of the Constitution.
A lawyer, Edmond Saramo said independents can form government but the only way this can happen is for them to find common ground and contest the Prime Ministerial election as a group, not necessarily a Political Party.
He said there are 32 of them so if they can stick together, winning the PM and the government is a foregone conclusion.
“Their greatest enemy is themselves – internal wrangling may split them and so deny them of the numerical advantage they now have,” he said.
Saramo said another option is for a coalition government but all the registered Political Parties who have contested the elections have returned only a total 18 MPs altogether.
“If all these parties want to form a coalition, they still need at least 8 independents to resign as independents and join one or more of the registered Parties (the independents cannot just join the coalition directly).
“The Political Parties may have already elected their leaders so the incoming independents cannot become party leaders anymore,” he said.
Saramo said hence, if a coalition government is formed, it is unlikely that an independent MP will be the PM.
“The law requires the leader of the most numerous party to be the PM.
“The leader of the second largest party in the coalition will be the DPM,” he said.
By EDDIE OSIFELO