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A closer look at the Constitution – No 6


Last week we looked at the composition of Parliament under the proposed constitution. We mentioned that there will be seventeen elected Representatives and ten Senators. The elected representatives would correspond with the constituency, while the ten senators would be chosen (in a system of proportional representation) according to the number of votes that are obtained by the parties.{{more}}

Senators are chosen in pursuant of section 100 of the proposed constitution. It would be quite different to the way in which senators are chosen under the present constitution. We have senators without a Senate. In some system, for example, Barbados, there is a two-house system, the Upper House is the Senate, and persons are selected for this house, while those persons who sit in the Lower House are elected.

Proportional Representation

Under the new constitution, Senators would be selected by the parties based on the proportion of the votes cast in their favour. Thus if one party receives “10 per cent plus one of the votes validly cast” then that party would be entitled to one Senator; twenty per cent plus one would yield two; thirty per cent plus one would yield three, forty per cent would yield four. After this the mathematics goes awry so that fifty percent of the votes yield six Senators and ninety percent would yield all ten Senators. This is the proportional aspect of the new system and it may prevent unusual situations as occurred in the past, but sometimes odd situations have a way of occurring as we do not always foresee them.

Unallocated seats

Where there are more than two parties and independent candidates and where there are unallocated places, subsection 13 would come into play to distribute the unallocated seats. These seats would go to the party polling the highest total number of votes validly cast in that election.

Where “two or more parties have polled an identical number of votes, the unallocated seats shall be allocated to the party whose constituency candidates have won the highest number of constituencies.”

Subsection 14

The parties or independent candidates participating in the elections must on nomination day put forward the names of the Senators to the Commission and it specifically notes that no name would be accepted after nomination day (subsection 14).

Party List

The list of would-be Senators is required under Section 98. According to Section 98 all parties contesting the general election must present a Party list which would include representatives for the constituencies and senators. The Party list is submitted to the Electoral and Boundaries Commission.

If any of the candidates listed dies or is unavailable or for what ever reason, the party can add another name by informing the Commission. The information is relayed to the Speaker of the House. The Speaker of the House is responsible for publishing the Party List in the Official Gazette.

The persons on the Party List could be eligible as Representative or Senator but if a person is elected as a Representative he cannot be a Senator. It means that a person who fails as a Representative can become a Senator.

Ada Johnson is a solicitor and barrister-at-law.
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