When elected reps show no obligation to voters
Published on: Sunday, October 06, 2019
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I watched with dismay how the Brexit events in UK have panned out and question whether elected representatives were acting in accordance with the mandate given to them by the electorate.

This is an interesting question that confronts many democracies.

The following analogy probably illustrates the Brexit events:-

Let us say, for example, before an election, the candidate standing for the election has promised that he/she will vote to abolish slavery.    The mood of the electorate was to abolish slavery.   So, based on the candidate’s promise, he/she was elected.    However, when the Bill to abolish slavery was presented in Parliament, this candidate, because he/she had slaves in his/her household or plantation, and was enjoying the free labour from the slaves, voted against the abolishment of slavery, or imposed many conditions in the Bill to abolish slavery, because he/she wanted to continue to enjoy the free labour provided by the slaves.

In 2016, the UK called a referendum to exit or to remain in the European Union.   By a vote of  52pc to 48pc, the UK voted to exit (called Brexit) the EU.     

Referendums are mandates from the people, and are supposedly bigger than elections, and the government of the day should act according to the result of the referendum to fulfil the wishes of the people.       

So, Article 50 of the EU Charter was invoked and Brexit procedures were initiated, which required a two year process.   However, when the time to Brexit came close to the deadline, some people who were against Brexit demanded that the Government cannot proceed with Brexit unless Parliament approved the Brexit Bill.    

By convention, the Government had a prerogative power over the Brexit actions.    However, being unsatisfied, they took the Government to Court.       

The Court ruled that, yes, the government must get Parliament’s approval to finalise Brexit.

It can roughly be said that since 52pc of the electorate voted to Brexit, so roughly 52pc of parliamentarians should vote favourably on the Brexit Bill.     But many parliamentarians voted against it, and/or imposed conditions to the Brexit Bill.   

Of course many problems will arise due to Brexit, and, based on the previous Prime Minister’s negotiated deadline with the EU, which was 31 Oct 2019, (after many extensions),   the present Prime Minister, Boris Johnson has pledged that “do or die”, UK must Brexit on 31 Oct 2019, and has ruled out asking the EU for more extensions.

The UK does not have a written constitution, and its socalled  “constitution” derives its principles of rule from the Magna Carta during the reign of King John of England in the year 1215.    Decisions made by judges over many centuries, statutes, case law, political conventions and social consensus govern the essential foundation for the contemporary powers of Parliament and legal principles.

It has been a norm of a new Prime Minister to close or prorogue Parliament in session to make way for a Queen’s speech to start a new session of Parliament.        Parliament was thus prorogue from 9th September to 14th October 2019.

Parliamentarians who were unsatisfied with the “die” deadline (“die” here means whether there was a new  or no new negotiated settlement with the EU by deadline date, UK will exit the EU) took the Government to court.

In Scotland, some parliamentarians sued for unlawful prorogation or suspension of Parliament. The Scottish court ruled that prorogation was lawful.      Upon appeal by the losing parliamentarians however, the Scottish Supreme Court over-turned the lower court and declared that the governments’ prorogation of parliament was unlawful.

Almost at the same time. the High Court in England and Wales ruled that it has no domain in this type of political actions.     The government appealed the Scottish Supreme Court verdict to the UK Supreme Court, whilst the losing party at the English High Court also appealed.     The UK Supreme Court is the final arbiter in UK’s judicial system.

Consequently, the Supreme Court of the UK ruled that, indeed, the prime minister’s prorogation of Parliament was unlawful, because it found that the suspension was initiated to stifle the opposition’s  debate on Brexit.       

This scenario has clearly brought about and illustrated that elected representatives do not necessarily act as the electorate had wished them to do.    This would appear to be a betrayal of the electorates’ mandate by using Parliament, (and the Courts?).    

Some ways to ensure that elected representatives do act in accordance with the mandate given to them by the electorates (in this case the referendum) need to be found.

Yon Lee Nam,  LLM (UK), ACIB (UK),

Kota Kinabalu Sabah The writer can be 

contacted at: leenamster@gmail.com    


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