Monday, January 22, 2018

AG: Experts say only simple majority vote needed

Attorney General Anand Ramlogan said he consulted international constitutional experts on the Constitution (Amendment) Bill and was satisfied a simple majority was required for its passage.

Speaking to the Express by phone yesterday, Ramlogan dismissed concerns and objections raised on the proposed measures saying they will only serve to strengthen this country’s democracy.

“These changes do not require a special majority. The sections that are being amended clearly fall within the category that does not attract or require a special majority,” said Ramlogan.

He said the provision of a run-off vote was not intended to destroy third parties as already in the present first past the post system, third parties do not survive.

“This system will create a new dynamic in the politics that can allow third parties to flourish and develop as their support will count in the event of a run-off,” said Ramlogan.

“In the current system, a vote for a third party is a wasted vote as they can gather national support but fail to win a single seat,” he added.

He said run-off vote will not create a divide in the country but in fact have the opposite effect and the right to recall will ensure quality representation.

“An MP will no longer be a UNC or PNM MP who can neglect certain parts of his constituency. He will now be liable to be recalled by all constituents. He must therefore be a good MP to all his constituents as the votes of those who did not support him would have the same value as the ones who did support,” said Ramlogan.

“This would therefore provide a real political incentive for the MP to represent and serve all constituents, regardless of their political affiliation, ethnicity, race, creed or class,” he added.

Ramlogan said the right of recall was something the people have been clamouring for over three decades.

“The complaint is that you only see your MP around election time and this amendment will give the people power to evaluate the performance of their MP so they can fire him if he is not performing satisfactorily,” said Ramlogan.

He explained after a period of three years from the date of election, the right of recall can be effected.

To do so, ten per cent of the constituency electorate—2,500 persons—would need to apply to the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) for the recall petition to be issued.

Once it is issued, there is a 21-day period whereby persons have to come out and vote. Two thirds of the constituency voters is needed to support the petition in order for the MP to be recalled and once this is achieved the Speaker declares the seat vacant.