When Can A Motion Be Withdrawn?

April 5, 2022

If you are a member of a deliberative assembly, then you’ve probably been in a gathering where a member who moved a motion became disappointed by how the debate was going and therefore decided to withdraw the motion. Many people seem to believe that when this happens, the motion ceases to exist. But that’s not true. Just like you have to follow the five steps in presenting a motion, you must follow the right parliamentary procedure to officially withdraw the motion. In this article, you’ll learn how and when to withdraw a motion.

What is a Motion?         

In parliamentary procedure, a motion is an official proposal put forward by a member of the assembly for debate. A motion forms the basis for decision-making by members of a deliberative assembly. What separates a motion from other house debates is the fact that a motion must be moved by its owner and seconded by another member of the house before it’s debated.

The chair will then propose the motion by reading it to the whole house, thus opening the floor for debate. Every member who wishes to participate in the debate will be given enough time to air their views. Once the motion has been debated exhaustively, the chair will put the motion to vote by proposing the question. The vote may be a secret ballot, voice vote, raising hands, or a roll call. However, sometimes a mover can withdraw a motion before it goes through all these stages.

But it’s important to note that the process of withdrawing a motion when it has already been formally introduced in the house by the chair is not easy. Remember that a deliberative assembly like parliament is guided by rules and procedures. Therefore, you have to follow the right parliamentary procedure to successfully withdraw your motion.

When Can You Withdraw a Motion?

Once you have moved a motion on the flow of the house and it’s successfully seconded, you can only withdraw it by leave of the entire house. This leave must be granted by members of the assembly without any dissenting voice. The chair will ask members of the assembly if they approve the request to withdraw the motion, and if the house unanimously agrees, the motion will be withdrawn. The chair will state that “the motion has been withdrawn by leave of the house” to officially mark the end of the debate on the motion.

But if there’s an objection, or if one member continues with the debate, the chair will put the question at the end of the debate, even if the dissenting member no longer objects. This is important because the motion can’t be withdrawn if there are dissenting voices. 

Note that only the member who moved the motion can withdraw it. However, there’s a general convention that allows members of the government to withdraw motions on behalf of their colleagues. Therefore, a mover who is a member of the government can appoint another member of the government to withdraw a motion in their absence.

If there is an amendment to the motion, the original motion can’t be withdrawn until the amendment has been exhausted by either being withdrawn, rejected, or agreed to. Always remember that the proposal to amend stands before the main motion.

Reasons for Withdrawing a Motion

The motion to withdraw a motion is an important part of parliamentary procedure because not all motions will succeed to get to the voting stage. Many governments and organizations use this process to withdraw motions that appear to be unpopular and likely to be defeated. Here are some of the reasons why you might consider withdrawing a motion.

To Avoid Defeat

No matter how helpful your motion is, it’ll be defeated if it’s unpopular among the majority of members of the assembly. Sometimes this defeat could have serious repercussions on you or the sponsors of the motion. In such a situation, the best thing to do is to withdraw the motion before it goes to a vote.

To Rephrase

Sometimes you will notice errors in your motion after you’ve already moved it forward. For instance, you might notice that its wording is incorrect when it’s being debated in the house. You may also discover that your motion is getting too many dissents because of its wording. When this happens, the best thing is to withdraw it and correct the errors.

No Longer Germane

Sometimes your motion may be overtaken by events, rendering it irrelevant. In that case, you won't have any other choice than to withdraw it.

Finally, you should understand that when you successfully request to withdraw a motion, the motion ceases to exist and doesn’t go on the records of the house. Therefore, if you wish to reintroduce it later on, it has to go through all the necessary stages afresh.

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