The only guaranteed winner regardless of the verdict in the election petitions case is Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves.
That is according to former Prime Minister Sir James Mitchell, who is founder of the main opposition New Democratic Party (NDP), which has brought two petitions challenging the results of the 2015 election.
The High Court will next Wednesday, March 6, hear oral submissions in the case, following the hearing of oral evidence from Feb. 11 to 20.
Acting High Court judge, Justice Stanley John will hand down a ruling on March 21.
Speaking on Boom FM on Tuesday, Sir James said that the judge cannot order a by-election.
He, however, said that if the irregularities that have emerged so far in the case mean that the election was void, there has to be a by-election.
“Immediately that there is a by-election, the ball is in the court of one man: Ralph E. Gonsalves. Not that I love Ralph but I know what the constitutional position is, and we have to understand that.”
Gonsalves’ Unity Labour Party (ULP) was declared winner of the Dec. 9, 2015 election by winning eight of the 15 parliamentary seats, while the remaining seven went to the NDP.
Sir James said that should the judge rule that the election in any of the two constituencies was void, Gonsalves is the one to decide whether he will have a by-election or call general elections.
Gonsalves has said that if there is an unfavourable ruling in the petitions case he would opt for a general election rather than a by-election.
Sir James said that a general election or by-election is “governed by the 90-day provision”.
“In other words, if the government becomes a state of 7-7, the prime minister can then decide — and he has 90 days to make up his mind,” he said.
He noted that the governor general cannot tell the prime minister on what day to have an election, neither does the prime minister have to tell the opposition leader about a decision to dissolve Parliament.
“I am not giving a Son Mitchell opinion. I am trying to lay the facts of the Constitution,” Sir James said.
“So, I am saying, if we win, Ralph also wins. I mean, I could be crucified for that but the point is the constitution, if we win, the ball is in Ralph’s court, not ours, for the next step. Not nice, but so be it.
“That is why I insist, I have said so before, you do not win elections in the court house, you win them on election day.”
He said that once a prime minister is sworn in, he has won the election.
“… the second after the prime minister is sworn in, he can dissolve parliament and call any election… For God’s sake, please understand these things. Understand it is not Ralph Gonsalves, it is the power of the office.”
He said that should the government fall, it can use the 90 days before an election must be held “to consolidate their position by putting in new civil servants and etc., etc. and they start their campaign with their resources.
“Remember they have the treasury on their hand. If we win the petition and it becomes 7-7, the government still controls the treasury for 90 days. Those are startling facts.”