Governor John Rankin has denied ever setting any sort of timelines for the formation of a government after the recently held general elections did not produce a clear winner, arguing that the normal precedent is for parties to be given multiple days to resolve any issues that arise.
“Well, the fact is, and contrary to some statements I’ve seen, I did not set a deadline,” Governor Rankin said while appearing on the Talking Points radio show recently. “I would certainly have given parties, had it been necessary, time to see if they could form the necessary arrangements to have those seven votes in the House of Assembly if they had not been able to.”
“If they had not been able to come up with a solution themselves, then actually the normal precedent in countries with the Westminster system and Commonwealth countries in the overseas territories would be for the governor in this instance, to give a number of days for it to be resolved,” he stated. “Had it not been resolved then, we would likely have had to have had another general election.”
Rankin explained that, under Section 52 of the Constitution that governs the appointment of the premier and the government, the general principle is, if a single political party gains a majority, then they form the government and the premier is appointed accordingly. However, he noted that if no political party gains a majority, then a judgment has to be made.
I wrote to party leaders
The governor disclosed that he wrote to party leaders ahead of the elections pointing out the provisions of the Constitution on that particular issue. He noted in that missive that, in normal circumstances, as the majority, one would expect a government to be formed quickly, suggesting this could ordinarily be within a day of the election results.
He added: “Clearly, if there had been a number of days’ delay in forming the government, I might then have set a deadline, but we did not reach that stage.”
When asked whether he would have considered someone from a minority party to be selected as premier in forming the government, Rankin stated: “I would look to whoever as Premier could form a working majority in the House of Assembly because that’s what is necessary for government business to be carried on.”
The controversial switch
Deputy Premier, Lorna Smith, OBE, contended recently that she felt there was a need to move the country forward and expressed concern that the territory was in a state of limbo without a government being formed, even though less than 24 hours had elapsed after the elections had been completed.
Smith has been heavily criticised by members of the political opposition, including Chairman of the National Democratic Party (NDP), Marlon Penn, and members of the public for her unilateral decision in establishing an alliance with the Virgin Islands
Party (VIP) to help form the new government.
But the Deputy Premier has since doubled down on her position about the need for moving ahead with urgency as it relates to the formation of the government, suggesting recently that her hand may have been forced after she was left out of leadership discussions between her NDP colleagues and other members of the now-opposition.