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Parliamentary deadlock and the removal of the prime minister: Incumbency and termination theory in Trinidad and Tobago

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In December 2001, the result of the general election in Trinidad and Tobago was an 18–18 tie for the 36 seats in the House of Representatives. The party led by the then incumbent prime minister, Basdeo Panday (the United National Congress – UNC) and the party led by the then leader of the opposition, Patrick Manning (the People's National Movement – PNM) found themselves in a situation in which the President of the Republic, Arthur N.R. Robinson, had to decide on which one of them to appoint as prime minister. The incumbency theory has been an established principle in most parliamentary democracies in the Commonwealth in situations where there is a ‘hung' parliament insofar as offering the incumbent prime minister the opportunity to form a government is concerned. The decision of President Robinson to revoke the appointment of Prime Minister Panday and to appoint the leader of the opposition, Patrick Manning, as prime minister opened a new debate about the powers of the Head of State to terminate the appointment of an incumbent prime minister in spite of the fact that both aspirants for the office commanded the support of an equal number of elected MPs.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Faculty of Social Sciences, University of West Indies, Trinidad

Publication date: March 1, 2006

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