The recent constitution amendments, especially the one with regards to a runoff election has caused much controversy over the few days. The loudest voices in the media are arguing that it represents a threat and an assault on the democratic process. I however fail to see the logic behind that argument.
As it is currently, our Constitution currently allows for the person who gets the most votes in a constituency via simple majority (not absolute) to become the MP for the seat. Thus we have had many minority MPs, who get via first past the post all the spoils of the elections, while other voices bite the dust.
Now comes the suggestion of a system where in the event there is no clear majority given by an electorate, a second election takes place between the two highest candidates, thus ensuring that one must get 50 per cent of the vote. Thus the eventual victor at the polls has a clear mandate given by the electorate.
How can this proposal be contrary to democracy? Is it not ensuring that via a free and fair election, a person with a clear majority has a chance to govern? And in what way is this detrimental to third-party forces?
It actually strengthens the chances of such parties. In the notorious 2007 election, for example, the COP would have had a second chance at success in many constituencies, as opposed to biting the dust as history had played out. It means that individual parties will have to pay more emphasis on the candidate they place in an election—no seat is potentially a safe seat in such a scenario and thus not to be taken for granted.
Finally, it gives strength to the right to recall—an MP would have lost his clear mandate due to failure of performance.
Of course, there are some things that will need addressing. Again, issues of campaign financing need to be addressed. And in a country where a sizable portion of the electorate stays away for every election, we should consider compulsory voting. But for now, I see nothing wrong with these proposals. We are a talk shop country. For years we have been talking and having consultations on constitutional reform and based on precedence, I do not see any value in yet another round of consultations. Without fear and with a leap of faith, we should reasonably consider the ideas put forward.
Picton Road, Sangre Grande