Over the next few weeks, I will be making a series of posts on the referendum, to encourage people to vote, and to choose Option A on 24th April. Remember you have until Wed. 3rd April to register, if you are not currently on the roll. If you have recently moved house or have just completed 2 years in the island, it is worth checking your status. You can find more info HERE.
I am pleased to reproduce below a very good letter by Grouville resident, Wayne Le Cuirot, who sets out a clear case for Option A as the only viable reform option on the table.
|The A Team is the official group campaigning for Option A|
and is a coalition of groups and individuals from diverse backgrounds
and political persuasions who see fairness and democracy as fundamental to government reform.
'The forthcoming referendum on our electoral system has seen the debate focus on the future role of the Constables. I do feel it needs emphasising that Option A, while the fairest of the three alternatives, does also provide the opportunity for Constables to stand for the States in the six proposed districts. They would also still be head of their parochial system to which they would have more time to devote towards if unelected to the chamber.
In the rural parishes a contested Constable's election is the exception rather than the rule, indeed in the last 'General Election' three quarters of the Constable seats did not result in an election whilst in St Ouen the parish had its first such election in over a hundred years. The dual role of the Constables as head of each parish's honorary system together with being a States member means that most people do not feel comfortable standing for the role. Contesting an election against a sitting Constable is still seen in many quarters as a surprising thing to do and often intimated to be divisive and not in the interests of the parish. Consequently comparatively few elections for the post are seen whilst few candidates of any calibre are prepared to put themselves forward. If there is a genuine desire for all States members to be regarded as equals, then the ability of people to stand for such a role should be so too. While it is difficult for a Constable to claim to have any more affinity for their parishioners than their colleagues on the Deputy benches it can be seen that the great majority of issues debated in the States legislature relate to issues for the Island as a whole and any voting system must reflect this.
The interim report handed to each household by the Electoral Commission states 'if the Constables are included in a system of large electoral districts, it will make inequality of representation even worse than under the present system.' This clearly indicates that any vote in favour of incorporating the separate position of the Constables into the new proposals will end up with a system less representative of its people than before! In a world that is keeping ever closer eyes on the workings of this Island, an electoral system that results in 12/42 of the members being in a capacity that rarely faces a contested election will be seen as a move away from a fair and equal system rather than a reform towards one. In effect we would have Senators who face regular elections and an Island wide mandate being dropped altogether to be replaced by a system with a higher proportional representation for members who do not have either.
The referendum on 24 April can be seen as a most important election which we should all participate in. It should not become a debate dominated by those who have most to lose and which on election day the Constables' supporters turn out to keep them in the States while the large majority of the rest of the electorate show their usual apathy and stay away from the polling booths. Consequently by default we will be left idiotically with a representative system that by the commission's own reasoning will be worse than the present one and does not meet the requirements of the Venice Convention.
So why is such an effort being made to keep the Constables in the States while the far more representative figures of the Senators are being removed with barely a word? A cynical interpretation could lie in the voting records of the Constables, three quarters of whose default setting appears to be the backing of the large majority of proposed legislation from the Council of Ministers. Even if as a consequence of future changes the council were reduced by twenty percent to eight ministers, with the combination of the eight assistant ministers and the reliable support of eight Constables any future Council would secure an immediate inbuilt majority by securing 24 out of the 42 members which may be seen as a recipe for poor government.
The problem of an improved electoral system for such a small Island is hardly a Gordian knot of intricacy. The simplest solution is surely Option A whereby all States members whether they be Deputies, Senators or Constables stand in whichever of the six already devised constituencies they live in. Whoever gets the most votes gets elected, every elector will have seven directly elected representatives who they could contact whenever they required and that perhaps would be how anywhere else in the world would do it, even Guernsey has managed to follow a similar process with success surely it is not beyond the wit of this island to do the same.'
------If you interested in helping to campaign for Option A, then please contact christine@theATeam.org.je