Parliament watchers of more than just a few years would not have been overly shocked or surprised at the outcome of last week’s debate on the Anti-Gang Bill 2017.
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Ghany: Run-off not new to PNM
Constitutional expert Dr Hamid Ghany says the run-off poll proposal was something the Opposition PNM introduced in its party constitution recently and it was not an alien concept to the PNM. He was among members of the Constitution Commission who made recommendations for constitutional reform. He was responding yesterday to specific questions on the various proposals the Prime Minister announced Monday.
He said: “I think these measures require a simple majority and could have been done by any previous prime minister. I think the question is whether they had the political will or desire to do it. The term limits for prime ministers was advocated by the ONR in 1981 and that debate went on for years. “Recall of MPs is another issue debated for years and is nothing new and the run-off aspect isn’t alien, as it was introduced by the PNM and detailed at a press conference by PNM chairman Franklin Khan and Ashton Ford at Balisier House.”
He said the proposals for a run-off poll and others could be made with a simple majority, which was why they could have been done at any time Ghany noted the measures would empower the electorate, ensuring it got the MPs who received a majority of votes rather than ones who don’t and would increase interest in elections and registration. “There’s been great debate on first-past-the-post systems and proportional representation was offered as an alternative.
“It’s not being put forward here but this is a fine-tuning of the first-past-the-post system and it’s been embarked upon by major parties. The PNM introduced it for their party poll but they didn’t use it fully, since their candidates all won by 50 per cent of the votes in that internal election,” he said. Former public service head Reginald Dumas, meanwhile, said he agreed with the term limits for prime ministers, an NAR proposal, and the principle of right of recall though the latter must be worked out to prevent abuse of the system
Dumas said: “But I wonder if the run-off poll, in our system, might not have the effect of eliminating third parties and this may not be best for democracy. “In 2007 the COP got many votes but no seats. In a run-off COP people may not vote, so where’s the voice of the people of COP to be heard in this process?
“I am unsure this is in the best interest of democracy. It may certainly eliminate third parties and see coalition politics masquerading as single party politics. We are reverting to the two-party system that has bedevilled us all along. “Also, while the first two ideas were in the PP manifesto, this is a new proposal and which should be discussed with the public.”