Hybrid voting system to be recommended -separate presidential elections rejected

By Patrick Denny
Stabroek News
July 8, 1999

The Constitutional Reform Commission is to recommend a number of significant changes to the electoral system.

At its meeting on Tuesday, it was agreed by consensus both to recommend the retention of the system of Proportional Representation (PR) and to recommend to the National Assembly that it should implement Article 160(2) of the Constitution. This provision, never implemented, provides for a hybrid electoral system which combines Proportional Representation (PR) and First-Past-the-Post (FPTP) systems.

A proposal which would require a separate ballot for the presidency and for the president to be elected by a 51 per cent plurality, if the executive presidency was retained, did not receive the 12 votes needed for it to be carried. The vote was 10 for and 7 against. Three commissioners did not vote.

The present system provides for the presidential candidate of the party with the largest bloc of votes, even if those votes were not the majority of the votes cast, to be deemed to be elected president.

This was the import of its decision taken on Tuesday when the Commission returned to its consideration of the proposals for the electoral system deferred from Friday. The decision calls for the Commission to recommend to the Parliament that the electoral system should provide for an element of geographical representativeness.

The proposal was one of five drafted by Deryck Bernard, one of three People's National Congress (PNC) representatives on the Commission after consultation with the representatives of the People's Progressive Party (PPP)/Civic. When he introduced the proposal, Bernard reminded his colleagues that the concept of geographical representativeness had been included in the submissions to the Commission by both the PPP/Civic and the PNC.

The Commission, too, by a majority vote decided to recommend that the PR lists of candidates for the various parties should be presented in a manner that allows the electorate to be assured as to which individuals they are voting to be elected to the National Assembly.

The proposal is to be accompanied by the observation by the Commission that the principle would be breached by a simple alphabetical listing and if crossing of the floor in Parliament is permitted. The present provisions call for the list to be presented only in alphabetical order and allow the leadership of the political parties to decide which candidates are extracted from their lists.

Professor Theodor Hanf, one of the experts consulted by the Commission, described this provision as exotic, but Reepu Daman Persaud, one of the five PPP/Civic representatives on the Commission had argued that it should be retained as it puts power in the voters' hands to amend the lists of the parties. His colleagues were not convinced by his argument. The Commission also voted by consensus to recommend that there should be a limit on the number of non-elected ministers and parliamentary secretaries who are eligible to sit in the National Assembly.

At present there is no limit on the number of non-elected ministers and parliamentary secretaries who are eligible to sit in the National Assembly.

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