Last update: 11-Dec-2013 6:16 am
Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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For Political Convenience
This administration ought to be commended for making the long overdue move of introducing a measure of proportional representation (PR) as part of the electoral process, even if it has been done for the selfish reason of ensuring a PP presence, however small, in the municipal corporations.
It is evident that the electorate is fed-up of this regime and unless the Cabinet reshuffle manifests itself into the miracle that this government needs to regain the love and trust of the population, it is only a matter of time before they say a permanent goodbye to the flashing blue lights and arrogant lifestyles to which they have become accustomed.
The hope that this regime would be the start of “new politics” has been dashed on numerous occasions and while the electorate had been forgiving in the past despite political faux pas after faux pas, the indulgence of the population has been stretched beyond all reasonable limits.
The political charm of the Prime Minister and the collective intelligence of her Cabinet are insufficient to convince the citizenry that it is the beneficiary of good governance. One would have thought that with all the goodwill that this government had amassed at the start of its term, that there would still be enough to keep it afloat before the general election which is constitutionally due in May 2015.
But almost as if it has deliberately squandered the opportunity to prove itself worthy of a second term in office, this regime appears to be struggling to get its act together and to win the support of the population. And it is for that reason, it seems that this government will use whatever drastic measures are available to ensure that it is not wiped out in the upcoming local government elections.
So once the concept of PR becomes a reality when the requisite legislation is passed, the fact is that political convenience would have opened the doors for meaningful change in our political landscape.
With the introduction of PR, each citizen will be assured that his vote carries a value and that a party, although not winning a particular Corporation, will have some representation on the Council. Even if the fear factor is primarily responsible for the introduction of this form of PR in the local election, it is good that the process of electoral transformation, in which there is better chance for proper representation of the people, has begun.
It is unfortunate that the time between the passage of the legislation and the actual election is so short because the majority of the population may not fully understand how the process will operate. However, one expects that once the amendments are made to the Municipal Corporations Act, there will be an intense nationwide campaign to educate the citizenry on the new provisions.
For those who have advocated over the years for the introduction of PR, this sudden initiative by the Government would be understandably welcomed.
Legal luminary, former Chief Justice and first President of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) Justice Michael de la Bastide, who sat on both the Wooding and Hyatali commissions which examined constitutional reform, stated recently that: “The current proposal appears to be almost a pilot project in the context of local government councils and I think it is interesting because I am still in support of PR in a mixed form. It helps to soften some of the inequities produced by the first-past-the-post system.”
In the THA elections in January, the PNM won all 12 seats meaning that there was no individual to be appointed the Minority Leader. Any electoral system that is based on the “first past the post” must have inherent checks and balances and it is expected that those who occupy the opposition benches will hold the government, or in the case of the THA, the Chief Secretary and his members, to the highest standards of accountability.
That there is no other party sitting in the Assembly in Tobago constantly monitoring the actions of those in charge is an example of the deficiency of the current electoral process. Had PR been introduced earlier in our political history, we might have been more advanced in our political thinking and more mature in the manner in which we choose our representatives.
The wave of political change that began with the Warner win in the Chaguanas West by-election, in which voters put performance of the individual before loyalty to party, is sure to grow stronger with the proposed amendments to reflect a form of PR in our local government elections. And with all these brave steps being taken to enhance our sovereignty, it is expected that in the very near future, we will be taking legislation to the Parliament to accept the CCJ as our final court of appeal.
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