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No need to increase constituencies

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Fri, Oct 15, 2010

Editor: In our blessed land, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the government and opposition are chosen through the first-past-the-post-system. This system requires a political party that will form the government to win the most constituencies. Under this system a constituency can be won by a single vote.{{more}}

In 1998 the NDP won eight seats with 45% of the votes, and the ULP won seven seats with 55% of the votes. Hence, the NDP formed government, while the ULP formed the opposition. The ULP then argued that they had the most votes so they should be in government because they represent the majority of the electorate. This argument along with other issues such as the “greedy bill” led to an early election in 2001, which resulted in the ULP winning with 12 seats and 57 % of the votes, while the NDP got three seats with 41% of the votes.

Under the proposed constitution voted on in November 2009, which was rejected, the CRC tried to address the issue of the party gaining the most votes forming government. It suggested a mix of first-past-the-post and proportional representation. They suggested that the number of constituencies be increased from 15 to 17 and the appointed senators would increase from six to 10. Under this system the parties would gain seats based on the first-past-the-post-system that currently exists. Then each party would select senators based on the percentage of votes they received during the election. The party will then add the number of seats they won with the number of senators they select and the party with the most individuals will form government.

On close inspection of this system one realizes that it is also flawed, for example: a party can gain nine seats with 44% of the votes, giving them four senators and a total of 13 individuals, while the other party can gain eight seats with 56% of the votes giving them six senators and a total of 14 individuals. The 14 individuals with eight seats will form the government. This situation is the reverse of the 1998 election, which could lead to a party arguing that they represent a bigger geographical space.

Let’s now look at the economic cost of increasing the constituencies from 15 to 17. The ministers will have to be paid an annual salary of approximately $36, 000 each per annum and with allowance and constituency office expenses approximately $15,000 each per annum. Then there is the opportunity cost of these individuals being meaningfully employed in other sectors of our community.

It is important to note that persons elected to represent our constituencies tend to go missing until a few months before the next general elections. Hence, do we need more representatives or do we need the politicians to start representing us and looking out for our needs?

It is with these few points that I don’t see the need for an increase in the number of constituencies, but rather a need for better representation. It’s time enough that politicians realize that the development of the constituencies leads to the development of the nation as a whole.

God’s blessings!

Deana Moses

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