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Reform electoral system to combat racial polarisation UBP leader Kim Swan

Bermuda must have electoral reform to rid the Island of racial polarisation, according to UBP MP Kim Swan.Mr Swan was reacting to a poll on Monday, for The Royal Gazette, which showed 38 percent of people said they would vote OBA in a general election, with 32 percent opting for the PLP.The Mindmaps poll was carried out shortly after the fledgling party’s debut conference.But the survey found that the OBA is attracting much of its support from whites and the older generation. The survey found that the OBA had 72 percent of the white vote and 16 percent of the black vote, but the PLP took five percent of the white vote and 49 percent of the black vote.In a statement yesterday Mr Swan said: “The Royal Gazette poll released on Monday, September 26, highlights that the repeated trends of racial polarisation, prevalent for the past four decades, continue in Bermuda in 2011.“The crippling and vexing racial polarisation that we have experienced in Bermuda has its origins on all sides of the political and racial divide and there is plenty of blame to spread around.“But instead of apportioning blame, we need to get to the root of the problem, and in this regard it is important to encourage those who are prepared to tolerate, benefit from and live with racial polarisation to change their mindset. Alternatively, we need to find ways to bring an end to this systemic problem.”Mr Swan said it was important for the people of Bermuda “of all races, income levels and backgrounds to develop the resolve to say no to racial polarisation and demand a change in approach from the political parties that benefit from it”.He said the time has come for Bermuda to consider reforms such as:Ÿ A composite system of first past the post and proportional representation;Ÿ The merits of a multi-tiered unicameral system a representative form of government with a single legislative chamberŸ The benefits of an elected Senate.“This vexing problem is a problem we need to overcome collectively as a people by demanding of our elected members to push for real electoral reform and be the change they often times claim to want.“In this regard, reform will require constitutional reforms and a move away from a system that guarantees a victory based on racial composition of a seat.“The irony is that those who benefit from the system and their respective parties are the ones required to push for this reform.“Consider that it has been readily accepted by the major political parties that as many as 25 of the 36 constituencies are predetermined based on race before an election is contested.“The results from every general election since 1968 supports this disturbing truth. Does this disparity in a system promote fairness and equity? If not, what does it or has it promoted in Bermuda?”He said the Country had made strides racially since 1968, but it was still experiencing deep divisions on social and economic levels.“Whilst, the causes are complex and multifaceted, it is counterproductive that the electoral system and boundaries reinforce racial divisions.“But what is most disconcerting, is that an electoral system that promotes racial polarisation and returns candidates to parliament, is tolerated and accepted by the same parliamentary members of the major political parties whose members occupy the safe seats.“It can be argued that there is a blind eye cast upon this flawed system even though the results of this system repeatedly yield poisoned racial polarisation decade after decade.”Mr Swan added: “To the credit of the current government, the current electoral system was revised at the turn of the century to produce one man one vote, with each vote intended to be of equal value; but there is evidence that proves the system remains flawed and inequitable.“Consider that in the immediate past two general elections the government majority in the House of Assembly was not in sync with the popular vote.“In 2003 and 2007 respectively 52 percent and 53 percent of the popular vote translated to 63 percent of the seats on both occasions. These results weakened the opposition and provided the government with a majority of seats which was inconsistent with the will of the people. Today we have one man one vote and that is good; but the end result is that we do not have an equal distribution of the seats in relation to the popular vote.“It is my opinion, electoral reforms are needed if Bermuda desires to move away from the counterproductive system that keeps us the people of Bermuda entrapped in and divided by a dysfunctional system.”