Inequality in referendum

Inequality again. The peoples-initiated referendum needs a majority of all registered voters to pass but the political party government’s referendum on the constitution needed only a majority of the voters who actually vote!

So, in a politicians’ referendum in which say 40 per cent of registered voters actually vote, a referendum would pass by 21 per cent of registered voters.

There is no threshold in the Constitution (section 69) for a politicians’ referendum and it is left to the government to decide. Sadly, the new constitution was passed by less than 51 per cent of the registered voters and would have failed if it was a peoples-initiated referendum.

This is a practice of double standards and is wrong. How could the PPM Government set a higher and less attainable standard for such an important referendum right of the people who voted them in and a lower standard for the government’s referendum of the most important legislation, the new constitution and especially when the Bill of Rights is based on equal rights?

The Referendum (constitutional modernisation) Bill 2009 in section 4(3) originally provided for the constitution only to pass if “more than 50 per centum or more of…” the registered voters vote in favour ie. the same as the peoples–initiated referendum.

The then Kurt Tibbetts as Leader of Government Business moved a committee stage amendment to the said bill to reduce the threshold to “50 per centum of persons voting” in favour in order to get the new constitution approved. This is unfair to the public and created inequality in favour of the politicians.

The new constitution would NOT have passed if the threshold of the peoples-initiated referendum had remained in the law. Further, in the PPM’s drive to get the new constitution the “direction for guidance of electors” (form 24) provided in the referendum law and displayed at the election polling stations had an X in the “Yes” column. This was deliberate bias by the legislators, and in our view wrong. Why not in the “No” column? These columns are not necessary as an oral explanation of the voting process is given to voters by the election officials at the polls.

We urge the UDP Government to show the PPM that they believe in equality for the electorate and accept the peoples’ wish by calling a politicians referendum with 50 per cent of the voters who vote to pass it as in the PPM Government referendum on the constitution in 2009!

The inequality by the PPM Government -promoted constitution (with a bill of rights based on equality) and the constitution referendum shows the public the extremes political party governments will go to for increased power (the new constitution gives near absolute power to a Premier).

Truman Bodden

John McLean