Electoral Commission may be cure

  • Throne Speech 2017: David Burt hands over the first Throne Speech during his tenure as Premier to John Rankin, the Governor. John Barritt writes that one does “not need to be a rocket scientist, political scientist or any scientist at all to appreciate why an election may be called sooner rather than later”

    Throne Speech 2017: David Burt hands over the first Throne Speech during his tenure as Premier to John Rankin, the Governor. John Barritt writes that one does “not need to be a rocket scientist, political scientist or any scientist at all to appreciate why an election may be called sooner rather than later”


That letter, the claim that prompted it and the kerfuffle that followed were all starting to look like nothing more than usual political drama until … until suddenly it got serious: the election was called.

Now when it comes to politics, you better be careful what you wish for when you complain.

First, the decision should not have come as a big surprise or a surprise at all, really. It was always open to the Premier to call an early election. He was working under the rules that have governed our elections since 1968, which offers the option.

No question that the option to choose the date gives the Premier, and his sitting government, political advantage — and we have seen this option exercised in the past to great advantage. You do not need to be a rocket scientist, political scientist or any scientist at all to appreciate why an election may be called sooner rather than later.

It makes perfectly good political sense to go when it looks like things might get worse before they get better, and notwithstanding the state of the economy, the Government appears to have managed to widespread and popular acclaim the challenges that Covid-19 have visited upon us as a community.

Second, as is often said in politics, it is always better to go — to the polls — when the people still want you rather than when they don’t. This, too, has been a recent experience in electoral politics in Bermuda, but in reverse.

The issue is the economy, the better plan for recovery, and who can best take us there. The Opposition has complained loudly and consistently that the Progressive Labour Party government has none. So the One Bermuda Alliance now gets to showcase its plan and the PLP likewise. Then it is over to the voters

But the battle for votes will not end there. It will also be, as it always is, a matter of, in which party the voters are prepared to place their trust; trusting not just that they can and will deliver on their promises, but who they believe will have their backs when making and implementing some of the hard and critical decisions that will have to be made.

Broken promises are not often forgotten.

Fixed-term elections are the answer for those who believe snap elections are unnecessary and unfair. They are a means of doing away with the politics that can feature in the selection of the date by the premier of the day. Fixed-term elections are neither novel nor new. They are being employed increasingly in other parliamentary jurisdictions.

In fact, for those who have forgotten, the introduction of fixed-term elections was a key feature in the OBA platform in 2013 when it went on to win the Government. But once in power, it never took it beyond the committee stage, proving once again that committees are where governments can send ideas to die.

Electoral reform is often forgotten in any event once the voting is over. But the long-term solution here could be the establishment of a standing Electoral Commission, much like the Boundaries Commission, comprising an equal number of members of the Government and Opposition — two apiece with two independents appointed by the Governor.

The appeal of the Boundaries Commission model is that it has a more bipartisan look and feel to it. Its recent history confirms that this is so, in fact: the prime example being when Bermuda tackled the transition to single-seat constituencies. There was unanimity on the contentious issues of both the number of seats and their boundaries.

An Electoral Commission would keep under review the Parliamentary Election Act, and its operation, and make recommendations, as well as oversee the administration of elections, which would be crucial at times such as this, given the challenges posed by Covid-19 when it comes to canvassing, campaigning and voting.

You may think that good politics?

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Published Aug 27, 2020 at 8:00 am (Updated Aug 27, 2020 at 7:54 am)

Electoral Commission may be cure

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