One of the examples provided by pollster Dr Nigel Henry in support of having a run-off election, is in fact a perfect reason why we need to be extremely circumspect in the manner which we approach this critical stage of our development. Further, we should be particularly careful about how we transplant wholesale the principles and mechanisms adopted by other countries in our quest to achieve a reformed Constitution. Many of our political pundits and incumbent Government officials have a strong penchant for prefacing their positions with “in America”, “under the Westminster system” etc.
Dr Henry in his letter indicated that in France, where voters are divided by right and left wing ideology, a left-wing voter may, in the run-off, achieve his objective to support a left-wing candidate if his initial choice received less votes. He uses this as a supporting argument for adopting the run-off mechanism.
Many commentators and objectors have already indicated that in our circumstances that this is precisely what will happen except that the driving force behind the run-off vote will be the propensity for the electorate to adopt race as the criterion, this notwithstanding the growing sophistication of the electorate and the growing tendency to a more cerebral approach to voting.
The fact remains that in a run-off, some voters are being forced to forego choosing their candidate, after having considered all the information, in favour of someone less acceptable, in the name of achieving a “majority representative”. What new criteria must he then consider to support the “less or least worst” of the candidates in his mind?
It is for this very reason that, as for so many of us who are not aware and sufficiently enlightened, that much more needs to be done to have the issue thoroughly massaged and debated in the public so that the average person can understand what is at stake and make his/her views known post the initial gathering of ideas by the CRC.
This is particularly critical having regard to the fact that the proposals for reform are being pushed by a Government whose bona fides and capability capital are under serious question by many segments of the population.
For example, Attorney General Anand Ramlogan, in an interview, when challenged on the potential for the run-off to further entrench racial voting, rightly indicated that this already existed and that the run-off proposal ought not to be blamed for this. Should he and his Government not be examining and exploring more creative ways of achieving the principles to be agreed on rather than justifying its use on the grounds that it exists elsewhere or is not to be blamed for racial voting? If the Government’s motives are improvement of our society, it is hard to understand why it would contemplate such a measure even if there is a slight possibility that it would exacerbate the situation.
It appears that the Government may be attempting to capitalise on some old and current sensitivities in the minds of the population regarding long-serving leaders, non-performers etc.
We have the catalyst of a population fertile for change which should be used wisely and not hastily and conveniently, supported by the intellectual capability and understanding of our own peculiar circumstances to construct a framework that is congruent to our society if we give it the time and attention it deserves. To do otherwise, the Government may be responsible for filling one hole but creating an even bigger hole from which we are unable to get out.