Party’s lawyer writes EBC
PNM queries new system of aldermen
The People’s National Movement felt constrained to write the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) on Tuesday, after the EBC appeared to be using a formula for the allocation of aldermen not set out in the law.
Attorney Michael Quamina, in an letter to EBC Chairman Norbert Masson dated October 23, stated that he was informed by his client (the PNM) that there had been some differing views as to the interpretation of the aldermen in some instances.
Sources told the Express that in instances such as Port of Spain where the PNM won convincingly and the second runner up failed to get 25 per cent of the vote, that party was not entitled to any alderman. However, PNM sources said the commission initially had a different view and felt that the party getting the second highest number of votes should get one alderman. The PNM has such victories in the Port of Spain, Arima, Diego Martin, Point Fortin and San Juan/Laventille corporations.
The letter was sent against this background, sources said.
“My client is of the view, and I fully concur, that there is only one interpretation available to the commission, which is that once a party fails to meet the quota (of 25 per cent of the votes), no alderman is to be allocated to it,” the letter said.
The letter said the rationale for this is that the new section provides at 2 (a) for the determination of a quota of votes per seat and at subsection 2 (b) provides for the number of aldermen to be awarded to a party to be determined by dividing the total number of valid votes cast by the quota of votes per seat determined in accordance with subsection 2 (a).
“The need to establish a quota is obviously to avoid having to consider, for the purposes of allocating aldermen, every single party that contests an election irrespective of the number of valid votes cast in its favour. The parties to be considered must therefore meet a specific threshold, which in the present circumstances, and in most instances, would be 25 per cent of the votes cast,” the letter stated.
It added: “If a party does not meet the (25 per cent) quota, it is not considered for the allocation of an alderman under 2 (b).
The letter quoted the law which stated: “Where the result of the calculation under subsection 2 (b) yields a remainder of vacant seats not absorbed by the number of aldermen awarded to a party or parties concerned, the surplus calculated under subsection (6) for a party competes with other similar surpluses accruing to any other party or parties, and any vacant positions for an alderman or aldermen not allocated under subsection 2 (b) shall be allocated to the party or parties concerned in sequence of the highest surplus until all vacant positions of aldermen have been so allocated, unless the party or parties concerned yielded no allocation of alderman under subsection 2 (b)”.
The letter stated that this interpretation is concretised when one considers that such a party would firstly, not have what can be referred to as a “surplus” for the purposes of the calculation referred to in 13 (6), and secondly, it cannot provide the number of seats allocated under subsection (2) because none was allocated to it in the first place.
The letter noted that the Hansard Report with respect to the Municipal Corporation Amendment Act and the contribution of Dr Suruj Rambachan (who piloted the measure on September 10, 201,) fully supports the above interpretation.
“In his contribution Dr Rambachan stated that a party which did not meet the quota got no aldermen, and would as a consequence get, to use his words, ‘zero’ aldermen when any remaining seats are being allocated,” the letter said.
The letter concluded by saying that it was confirmed at 11.30 a.m yesterday (Wednesday) that the commission appeared to share the PNM’s view.
“I, therefore, at this stage merely submit this letter for the purposes of the record, and I look forward to the allocation of seats for aldermen, in accordance with the interpretation, as set out above,” Quamina stated.