Last update: 28-Jul-2014 7:38 pm
Monday, July 28, 2014
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Constitution Commission: PM, ministers should be senators, not MPs
Citizens will have to vote twice in the next general election, due in 2015, if a recommendation by the Constitution Commission to have senators elected is approved. The commission, chaired by Legal Affairs Minister Prakash Ramadhar, completed its report on December 27 after months of public and private consultations with stakeholders. The report also recommends that the Prime Minister and Cabinet ministers be senators, and not MPs.
“If ministers are drawn from the Senate only, and not from the House of Representatives, this will make the Senate the focus of executive power,” the report said, adding: “...the House of Representatives will become more effective of its name in respect of duties to be performed by its members.”
The commission said the House of Representatives could play “a new and enhanced role of scrutiny for the Parliament.” It said MPs could address constituency matters there and also serve parliamentary committees to keep the Government in check. On the reform of Parliament, the report recommended that senators (apart from the nine to be appointed by the President) be elected by a system of proportional representation using the Hare method; it also suggested an increase by ten in the number of senators to 41.
“Each voter should be entitled to two votes, one for his/her MP in the House of Representatives and the second vote for a party list in the Senate,” it said. Under the proposed proportional representation system for electing senators, the Ramadhar Commission said each political party contesting the election would present a list of candidates, including its choice for prime minister.
The Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) would inform the president of the party which gets more than 50 per cent of votes cast; and he will subsequently appoint the party's prime ministerial candidate as Prime Minister. “If no party list earns such a majority of votes, the elected senators would choose a prime minister at their first sitting.” The report said that election would be presided over by the Senate President; only prime ministerial candidates listed for the General Election would be eligible.
If the Senate fails to elect a prime minister, the report said the “President shall appoint as Prime Minister, the person whose list earned the largest single number of votes cast.”