Thursday, December 14, 2017

Run-off amendment will be anti-democratic

 Under T&T’s Constitution, the president must appoint as prime minister the political leader of the party which has 21 or more seats in Parliament. 

The aggregate of votes cast for those members of the House of Representatives can be less than 50 per cent; there is no requirement that the majority party must get a majority of total votes cast, thus allowing  for a “minority” prime minister, and a “minority” party to form the government. 

On the basis of votes cast at a general election, T&T has had a minority government for most of its independent years when the PNM got about 30 per cent, but certainly not 40 per cent of the votes cast.  

We accept a minority parliament, and a minority government— but want majority MPs. 

Against this fact I question the logic or the merit for the proposed run-off amendment, and in fact I consider it to be anti-democratic.

Democracy bestows on each constituent the right to support any candidate–or none. If a contest between A, B and C results in 40-31-29 it is obvious that B + C acting in concert is the majority and  can displace A. 

The eat-ah-food mentality has dominated the Partnership Government and the run-off amendment can motivate B and C to conspire to get hold of a ministry to  share the spoils. 

 The present system reveals A as the preferred candidate on the first count; I find no justification for giving B and C a second bite of the cherry to displace the front runner, and I resent this tinkering with my voting right.

The other Partnership proposals for amending the Constitution– fixed election date, two-terms limit, recall—have been on the table for four years. 

I have no problem with these, though I am entitled to modify my views as the detailed legislation comes to light. 

What is very suspect, however, is the limited time afforded the population to understand and debate the bill, and attempting to have it passed by a simple majority during the normal vacation period, on the eve of the 2015 general election, which election should have the same rules by which the Partnership came into government.

Michael J Williams

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