Last update: 12-Dec-2013 4:50 am
Thursday, December 12, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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EBC will work out aldermen
The Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) will use a mathematical formula to work out the appointment of aldermen—and control of corporations—under the proportional representation legislation being debated in Parliament today. The bill focuses on reforming the appointment of aldermen for the various regional corporations. It also increases from two to four the number of aldermen for corporations.
Debate on the bill begins at 10.30 am today. Government has signalled its intention to complete the debate today, no matter how long the session runs, in order to send the bill to the Senate for debate next Tuesday. Today’s sitting will be the first working session since the Fourth Session of the Tenth Parliament was launched on August 2.
The local government minister is listed to pilot the bill, which uses the simplest method of proportional representation, known as the Hare method, after British political scientist Thomas Hare, a proponent of electoral reform. The system is described as allowing the votes of everyone to influence the outcome of an election. Under the legislation all votes will be cast in the usual regional areas in the normal voting procedure.
The bill, however, proposes the EBC use a mathematical formula to work out aldermen for the various parties in proportion to the number of votes cast for those parties. This will be determined by application of a mathematical formula in which the total number of votes cast in one corporation area would be divided by the number of seats for alderman (four) in that location. This will yield a quota figure.
The total number of votes each party obtains in that corporation will be divided by the quota figure. That yields the seat allocation to a party, which will be rounded off minus any fractions. Any remaining vacant seats will be allocated by multiplying the quota figure by the number of seats a party earned and subtracting this from a party’s total votes. The party that has the highest amount from this calculation will receive the remaining seats.
Thanks to the “numbers” aspect, the system is expected to benefit parties which contest corporation seats as a whole. On the eve of today’s debate, the COP partner of the PP yesterday declared its preference to contest all seats in half of the 14 corporations, an increase in its 2010 local government position, when it contested some seats in several locations.
COP acting general secretary Clive Weatherhead said COP speakers in today’s debate would clarify aspects of the bill. He said the legislation did not interfere with the election of councillors but was focused on how aldermen were appointed. He added: “In the past people did not even know who an alderman will be, but under this legislation, now they will, since parties will now have to send to the EBC a list of people they have selected, not only as candidates but also as aldermen.”
Leading speakers in the Opposition’s reply would be PNM leader Keith Rowley and Colm Imbert, the party said. On Monday, Communications Minister Jamal Mohammed said Government had the support in both Houses of Parliament to pass the bill, which required a simple majority vote. PNM whip Marlene McDonald, while saying the Government had enough Lower House support to pass the bill on its own, had expressed reservations about Upper House passage.
Yesterday Imbert explained: “The Government cannot pass any bill in the Senate unless they get the support of at least one Opposition PNM senator or one Independent senator. “There are 31 senators total, including the President, and rules dictate he must preserve the status quo, which means he must vote against any bill in which there is a deadlock of votes.”
COP wants to contest seven corporations
The COP wants to contest all local government seats in half of the 14 corporations and some seats in the other half, according to a decision by the party’s National Council on Thursday night. The council called a special meeting to decide on the party’s position to take to the negotiating table this weekend when partners in the coalition government will finalise how they will contest the October 21 local government polls.
Yesterday COP acting general secretary Clive Weatherhead said members agreed the COP should contest all seats in seven of the 14 corporations and some seats in the other seven. The seven which the COP wants to contest entirely include Arima and other places where the COP has majority and partial seat-holding. Weatherhead said the position would be put to the UNC and other partners this weekend.
Weatherhead said the entire local government act was not being amended with the proportional representation amendment being debated in Parliament today. He said the amendment would only deal with the election of aldermen under a proportional representation system.
He added: “There should not be any confusion over this. Under the proposed law, people will vote as usual, votes will be tallied—and the only difference is the votes which will be counted by the EBC will be applied, via a proportional representation formula, towards appointment of aldermen. “The EBC will be the one to work that out and declare which party’s aldermen are successful.”
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