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Perinchief posits more democratic voting system

A dozen House of Assembly seats could have been won by the One Bermuda Alliance and two by the Free Democratic Movement in last week's General Election under a proportional representation voting system, a political pundit has claimed.

Phil Perinchief, a former attorney-general, added that the size of the island's legislature should be reduced to help improve democracy.

He said: “Under the first-past-the-post electoral system, we cast our individual ballot into a total popular vote of 25,760 votes.

“The Progressive Labour Party received 62 per cent of that total and 30 seats, the OBA received 32 per cent and six seats and the FDM received approximately 5.5 per cent of those votes and no seats in Parliament.

“In comparison, and under the proportional representation electoral system, the PLP would have received 62 per cent of those 25,760 votes and 22 seats, the OBA 32 per cent and 12 seats, or twice as many seats as under first-past-the-post system, and the FDM about 5.5 per cent of the votes and two seats.

“Though there would be no coalition government here, we do nevertheless have a wider representation of the interests reflected from the electorate or the community according to the percentage share of the votes cast.

“That's greater democracy, plain and simple.”

Mr Perinchief added: “Those results under a PR system inarguably accord or afford more diversity, which would be more directly reflected or represented in the House of Assembly.”

He said that first-past-the-post systems wasted votes and “effectively disenfranchised” almost half the electorate.

Mr Perinchief added: “Under that system — a ‘winner takes all' voting system — the candidate who achieves 50 per cent of the total constituency electoral votes plus one further vote, immediately renders the rest of the votes of no value at all.”

PR electoral systems were designed to deliver representation that reflected the distribution of support for each political party.

Minority groups benefit by securing an amount of representation that is proportionate to their support from voters.

The Parliamentary Registry website said on the night of the October 1 election that 25,763 votes were counted but the figure was revised to 25,760 to take account of spoilt ballots that were included in the total in error.

Mr Perinchief also aimed to “debunk” myths and misconceptions about the island's parliamentary and governmental arrangements.

He said it was untrue that the island had “a two-party system because of the Westminster form of government” and insisted it was because of the voting format.

Mr Perinchief explained: “If Bermuda is truly interested in achieving a greater degree of democracy, and maximising the value of the PLP mantra and principle, ‘one person, one vote, of equal value', then Bermuda must adopt the appropriate variant of the proportional representation electoral system of voting.

“The PR system will also give Bermuda the greatest chance of achieving a wider diversity of opinion about burning political issues and having these issues better reflected or represented in the House of Assembly.”

He added: “In a country as small as 21-square mile Bermuda, the parliamentary seats ought to be reduced to 17, or at a stretch 19, with a Cabinet of seven to nine members.

“We have to reduce as much as it is feasible, and practical, the unnecessary weaponisation and divisiveness of the current political system as we strive for greater democracy.”

Mr Perinchief said it was “erroneous” to believe that independence as a “constitutional monarchy” — where the monarch remained as head of state, but their powers were limited by a constitution — would be much of a move forward for the country.

He added that neocolonialism was said by political scientists to be “greater or more developed countries or powers, through indirect means, having the control of, or influence over, the internal and external affairs of less politically, constitutionally and economically developed countries”.

Mr Perinchief said that Bermuda was already in “an advanced stage of neocolonialism” and had been since the Constitution came into force in 1968.

He added: “This legislation, and others, permits the UK Government to largely, and very indirectly, govern Bermuda via those of us who enjoy residence and Bermuda status when we constitutionally occupy the upper and lower houses of the legislature.

“Hence, these constitutional arrangements are purposely designed to give the appearance that Bermudians are fundamentally governing Bermuda exclusively by themselves.”

Mr Perinchief said: “Any dealings in serious or likely problematic external or foreign affairs can only be effected by Bermudians after the Bermuda Government obtains the consent of the Governor, the representative of Her Majesty, by way of certain appropriately limiting entrustments to the Bermuda Government — neocolonialism at its finest.

“It has successfully caused us to doubt ourselves on the world stage in this regard, and to live quite isolated, sheltered and blinkered lives as far as international relations and diplomacy is concerned.”

Mr Perinchief added he “vehemently disagreed” that a move to independence with a constitutional monarchy would represent independence or sovereignty.

Mr Perinchief said: “Under a constitutional monarchy, Bermuda, as with the Bahamas and Jamaica and others in like circumstances, would still have as its head of state and sovereign queen, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

“Bermuda, in my view and because of this ‘soft landing' approach of moving to a constitutional monarchy, would still not be free of its colonial master or mistress.

“How independent is that?” He added: “Such a position is a complete waste of time, money and effort.

“If that is to be the result, then Bermuda should remain precisely where it is until it matures to the point of moving to a republic.”

Phil Perinchief, political adviser and analyst (File photograph)

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Published October 10, 2020 at 9:04 am (Updated October 10, 2020 at 7:45 am)

Perinchief posits more democratic voting system

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