Yes to proportional representation
In the 1981 general election, the People’s National Movement (PNM) received 218,557 votes, representing 52.9 per cent of the votes cast. The PNM got 26 seats in Parliament.
The Organisation for National Reconstruction (ONR) received 91,704 votes, 22.2 per cent, and got no seats in Parliament!
Put another way, the ONR got 42 per cent of the votes the PNM got, but had still no seats in Parliament.
On the other hand, the United Labour Front (ULF) got 15 per cent of the votes cast, far less votes than the ONR, but got eight seats.
And the Democratic Action Congress (DAC) got even less votes – 3.7 per cent, but got two seats in Parliament.
Great for those who voted for the ULF and the DAC but a terrible letdown for those who voted for the ONR. I know, I worked for and was one of them.
The history of this country will have been significantly different if we had proportional representation in 1981 – simply based on the number of votes cast for each party.
Parliament would have been comprised of the following numbers of representatives: PNM – 19, ONR – eight, ULF – five, and among DAC, NJAC and Tapia – four. What a difference this would have made!
We would have in all probability avoided the widespread disenchantment of voters which has been largely caused by the inherent weaknesses of the first-past-the-post system in a transplanted plural society, with the two major political parties seeking to exploit real and imagined divisions in our country.
For those of us who, when faced with the “same old, same old” want to vote for “none of the above”, we have no encouragement to do otherwise because one certainty under the first-past-the-post system is our votes will count for nought if we don’t vote for exchange.
Now, for the first time in our history as an independent nation, voters will be assured that, one way or another, win, lose or draw, their individual votes will count when the final determination of who will represent us at the local government level is made.
This will happen because the proposed four aldermen – up from two – will be appointed based on the proportion of total votes cast for each political party that contested the elections.
The Elections and Boundaries Commission will use an appropriate mathematical formula to determine which aldermen, from the names known before election day, will be appointed based on total votes received by the parties. It is worth repeating that under this process every vote will in fact have value.
This is our 52nd year as an independent nation and it is the first time that there will be a form of PR. It is long, long, long overdue!
Next step, amend the Constitution to provide for proportional representation at the national level.
Ashton S Brereton