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Doing the math
Given its rejection by the Congress of the People, the passage of the Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2014 “irregardless” means that the United National Congress, which only got 43 per cent of the vote in the May 2010 general election, can use this to change the country’s Constitution in its favour. It should be noted that a majority of the COP MPs and the party’s National Council did not support Monday’s vote.
The irony of the bill is further compounded by the runoff provision which seeks to ensure that MPs earn at least 50 per cent of the vote. The UNC has only ever once got to the 50 per cent mark in its history. This was in the disputed 2000 election, marred by allegations of voter padding, and in which the party held on to office while fighting two election petitions.
In that December 2000 poll, the UNC won 19 seats with 51.75 per cent of the vote, only to implode in less than a year as internal bickering, a feature of every government in which it has been involved, led to its losing office in less than a year.
Barring the 1956 elections that saw party politics come of age and which the People’s National Movement won with 38.7 per cent of the vote, every election from 1961 to 1981 saw the PNM winning by upwards of 50 per cent. And although the PNM has fallen below that threshold in elections since 1986, the PNM under Patrick Manning did manage to win the 2002 general election, which broke the 18-18 deadlock, by winning 50.89 per cent of the vote and 21 seats.