The Standing Orders: Quorum |06 September 2021
In terms of parliamentary procedures, a ‘quorum’ may be defined as the minimum number of members of parliament that must be present in order to be able to carry on with parliamentary business.
The history of quorum dates back to medieval England and in a sense, the quorum as an element of parliamentary procedure is almost as old as the Parliament of England from which most of the Commonwealth practices originate. The issue of quorum is very important for parliamentary business because decisions are counted as invalid without the necessary quorum in attendance.
Article 10 of the Standing Orders of the National Assembly emanates from Article 95 (1) of the Constitution of Seychelles which clearly shows how important it is to have a quorum and what happens if the House or Committee do not quorate:
The quorum of the Assembly and of a Committee of the Whole Assembly must consist of one half of the number of Members and if at any time the attention of the Speaker is called by a Member to the absence of a quorum, the Speaker must count the number of MNAs in the House. If on the first count there’s no quorum, the Speaker must call for a division of the Assembly (call out the names of each MNA), and if no quorum be present after the lapse of three minutes, the Speaker or the Chairperson shall announce to the Assembly or Committee, as the case may be, that there is not a quorum present and shall proceed as follows —
(a) the Speaker must adjourn the Assembly without question put until such time on the same day or such other day as the Speaker may decide;
(b) if the Assembly is in Committee, the Assembly must resume, and the Speaker shall adjourn the Assembly as provided in paragraph (a); Provided that if attention is drawn to the absence of a quorum at the commencement of business, the Speaker or the Chairperson, as the case may be, must before taking the action described in paragraphs (a) and (b) suspend the sitting for such period of time as the Speaker or the Chairperson may decide.
Therefore, it can be said that quorum is necessary even for debate. Any member may raise the question of ‘no quorum’ and the Chair/Speaker is constrained to recognise for that purpose even though another member has the floor.
To conclude, it can be said that having a quorum in the National Assembly is an important part of the democratic process whereby it ensures that the majority have a say in the parliamentary business. Matters of the Assembly cannot evolve or develop without the participation of its directly elected members as well as its proportionately elected members.
Contributed by the National Assembly secretariat