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Starling has already kicked off debate

We will not be breaking new ground with fixed-term elections, Mr Editor.

There are any number of models we can follow. Canada has legislated for fixed-term elections, federally and provincially. Britain has its own Act, too, which came into play at its recent general election and appeared to work well, notwithstanding its early critics.

There is also a local model available for review as well: the work of former Independent candidate Jonathan Starling, who feels so strongly about the need for fixed-term elections in Bermuda, he had a crack at legislative drafting (no easy task) and posted it for review and comment more than a year ago.

The chief purpose of fixed-term legislation is to remove the discretion of the Government leader (Prime Minister or Premier) to set the date for the next general election within the usual maximum five-year term of a parliament. In other words, snap elections are out.

There are limited exceptions and allowances for early elections. Two of them that come to mind are found in the British Act:

• If two thirds of the members of the elected Legislative Assembly approve a motion that there should be an early general election, a two-thirds majority is built in to ensure that the call has not been made by the governing party alone

• A motion of no confidence is approved by the elected House with a 14-day cooling-off period in the event a new government can be formed without the need for a general election

Critics say that one of the drawbacks to fixed-term elections is that the parties will spend the last year of the parliamentary term campaigning rather than attending to the country's business. But, face it, that's pretty well the case now, is it not? The difference is that, with a fixed term, everyone will know the date — not just the Premier and his colleagues — and we can all plan and judge accordingly.

Jonathan Starling

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Published August 28, 2015 at 9:00 am (Updated August 28, 2015 at 12:58 am)

Starling has already kicked off debate

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