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Two-party system gets thumbs down

Roughly half the population believes the two-party political system is not good for Bermuda, according to a poll commissioned by The Royal Gazette.

The battle between the One Bermuda Alliance and the Progressive Labour Party encourages infighting and division, and prevents the Bermuda Government from focusing on the issues that really matter, registered voters told pollsters Global Research.

Asked whether the Westminster system is good for the island, 49 per cent of people said “no”, 40 per cent said “yes” and 11 per cent did not know.

Earlier this week, The Royal Gazette revealed that 57 per cent of people believe both the OBA and PLP had too much infighting to govern Bermuda, with the leaders and deputies of both parties scoring poorly on transparency, unity and trust.

The telephone poll of 402 registered voters by Global Research took place between September 6 and 12, and has a margin of error of +/- 5 per cent.

Reasons for opposing the two-party system largely focused on the need for more choice for voters, and a more balanced, less adversarial, approach from politicians.

Eliminating the parties, and replacing them with “the best people for the job”, proved a popular suggestion from respondents.

The most common reason for keeping the system was that it allows for an Opposition party to provide a different point of view.

A breakdown of the results shows the most disillusionment with the system comes from people aged between 35 and 54. Among the 35 to 44 age bracket, 62 per cent of people wanted a change, and among the 45 to 54 group the figure was 53 per cent. In contrast, among those older than 65, just 35 per cent wanted a new system, with 49 per cent preferring to keep it. Whites (50 per cent) were marginally more likely to want to end the Westminster system than blacks (44 per cent). There was little difference between men and women’s views on the subject.

The Westminster system, which has operated in Bermuda since the 1968 General Election and has generally pitched the PLP against either the United Bermuda Party or the OBA, has long been a source of debate.

Opponents claim it lends itself to divisive tactics, with race activist Eva Hodgson, who advocates replacing parties with independent individuals, arguing more was accomplished for Bermuda’s black population in the years before the PLP was formed in 1963. In the five decades since, Dr Hodgson says, politics has been a back-and-forth squabble between a mainly black party and a majority white party, while the PLP itself has concentrated on personality-based issues rather than tackling social problems.

However, others argue the system at least provides a democratic framework in which the leaders can accomplish their goals, and that there is no clear way a workable alternative could be set up.

Political commentator Walton Brown, the PLP MP, has argued those countries without political parties have evolved that way based on their own circumstances, rather than by expressly prohibiting parties.