Friday, February 23, 2018

Undemocratic and unconstitutional

I am trying to make sense of the scheme to hold run-off elections if the winner in a constituency does not get at least 51 per cent of the votes. This appears to be the fruit of nearly four years of thinking about Constitution reform.

i. One of the effects of this proposal would be to further entrench the two-party system that has divided the nation more or less along racial lines.

ii. As it stands now, once a third party does not win a seat outright, all the votes cast for that party do not count. We have all lamented this and some of us have suggested that account should be taken of the votes cast nationally for a third party that does not win any constituency. In recent times both the COP and the NAR have suffered because we have not devised a way of dealing with this aspect of representation. I recall that when they were in opposition, the ruling parties used to talk about some form of proportional representation.

iii. The present proposal makes matters worse. Those who vote for new or small parties will be deprived of their right to vote for the party of their choice. They will now be directed to pass on their votes to one of the two main parties. To my mind this would be undemocratic and unconstitutional.

PS: I do not want at this time to consider all the practical problems the new proposal would face. But...

Will the run-off election give those who abstained a second chance to vote?

Will the secrecy of the ballot be violated to find out who voted for the parties that won no seat?

When their identities have been ascertained, will they be compelled to go out and vote for parties not of their choice?

I can see how a set of cardinals locked up in a room to elect a pope may use the run-off method to achieve unanimity, and it may be practicable to use the method in electing single persons to high positions, but is there really any country in the world that imposes this device on an electorate at a general election?

If some country or other does it, that doesn’t make it right, and it may not mean that the measure is applicable to our circumstances, but I would still like to know where this thing is practised and why.

Kenneth Ramchand

St Joseph-Maracas