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WHAT CONSTITUTION?

WHAT CONSTITUTION?

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Two out of every three Vincentians say they are unfamiliar with the proposed changes to the Constitution, yet many of them intend to vote in the November 25 referendum.{{more}}

In fact, based on an informal poll carried out on mainland St. Vincent between September 21 and 24, only 27 per cent of eligible voters polled said they felt well enough informed on the issues to vote intelligently.

For many voters, however, this will not stop them from going to the polls come Referendum Day. Of those who said they are unfamiliar with the changes to the Constitution, 44 per cent said they intend to vote, while of those who admitted that they are not well enough informed to vote on the issue, 39 per cent will still go to the polls.

One regional commentator is, however, of the view that this professed unfamiliarity, or lack of clarity on the issues, should not be taken at face value. Dr Tennyson Joseph, Lecturer in Political Science at the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies, is of the view that voters may not really be confused.

“They may be telling us that they are confused, but the fact that they are saying (that)… may be evidence to suggest that they will vote no. It may be a way to rationalise their action,” he explained.

Joseph said that the confusion, or unfamiliarity, which some claim to be experiencing is because there is no national consensus on the referendum.

“There would be less reluctance to understand had the issue been treated as a national issue and not a partisan political issue.”

Joseph contends that the politicisation of the Constitution reform process is in a large way responsible for what persons claim to be a lack of understanding.

“The way it is playing out in St. Vincent now, it has become a political issue and, therefore, persons will not understand in so far as their political party will tell them that it is something that will cause confusion.”

He added that because there is “not a lot of sophisticated political under standing” in our communities, many persons take the lead from their political leaders.

Joseph expressed his disappointment with the partisan political turn taken by the constitutional reform process.

“It is a kind of very petty partisan political approach we have to doing our business in the Caribbean, which we as a people need to overcome.

“There are issues that go beyond narrow political advantage and we should treat those issues as developmental issues… Too much of the discussion has been mixed up with a political campaign.”

The voter turnout, going by the poll results, will be approximately 51 per cent. This is not unexpected, as according to Joseph, people do not vote with as much “excitement and vigour and in as large numbers” over referendum issues as they do in general elections.

The voter turnout in the 2005 general elections was 63.7 per cent.

The 602 persons who agreed to be interviewed in the informal poll conducted by Interactive Media Ltd. were all 18 years or older. The face-to-face interviews were done at various locations in capital Kingstown as well as other mainland communities including Largo Heights, Arnos Vale, Paul’s Lot, Lodge Village, Redemption Sharpes, Kingstown Park, Fitz Hughes, Chateaubelair, Owia, Sandy Bay, Georgetown, Byrea, Calder, Mt. Grenan and Biabou.

Forty-four per cent of the respondents were men, while 328 or 55 per cent were women. The gender of two of the respondents was not recorded.

There is some indication, however, that as Referendum Day gets closer, the number of persons inclined to vote will increase. Of the 48 per cent of eligible voters who said they do not intend to vote or are unsure whether they will vote, 40 per cent said were they better informed, they would definitely go to the polls.

Younger voters seem to have the greatest apathy towards the process, with only 40 per cent of the 18 to 30 year olds saying they intend to vote. On the other hand, 65 per cent of the persons over 50 will be going to the polls.

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