I have listened with interest to the renewed debate concerning one person one vote and single member constituencies.
In my opinion, there are four things that are clear on this subject. The first is that the system of OPOV and SMCs is a much more fair system of voting compared to what we currently have; secondly, any one of us can take the results of last year’s national referendum on this issue and twist it to suit our particular position; thirdly, the people who turned out to vote on referendum day last year felt passionate about this issue and their votes ought to count; and fourthly, a very clear majority of those who voted in the referendum last year voted in favour of OPOV and SMCs.
Having said that, I agree with the Leader of the Opposition and the Supervisor of Elections that it is no longer possible to implement this new and more equitable system of voting in time for the next general election without postponing it. Indeed I gave that same advice to those who asked for it over a month ago.
However, as a former member of the PPM, a member of the Government’s Negotiating Team for the 2009 Proposed Constitution and as someone who closely followed and supported the 2012 campaign for OPOV and SMCs, I know that the public is right to question the sincerity of the Leader of the Opposition when he says that he fully supports the OPOV and SMCs system of voting. The public is also right to question whether the PPM will implement this new system of voting if the party is elected in a majority in May of this year.
I proposed amendments to the Elections Law in our party caucus from as far back as 2007 to change our system of voting to this new more fair system. The issue was also on the table during the constitutional negotiations but was negotiated out of the original draft constitution because the UDP objected to it and the PPM did not fight for it. It was then substituted for a constitutional provision, which basically preserved the status quo. So we had many opportunities to implement this during the PPM’s term in government but it never happened.
But with a minority government in office, there is an immediate solution to this issue and the Leader of the Opposition and his PPM team can convince us of their position on this by taking some simple action.
If they start by recognising the cliché that “politics is the art of compromise” there is a simple solution to this issue that flows from that.
The solution is for the Leader of the Opposition to immediately and in writing strongly encourage the minority government to bring to the final meeting of this Legislative Assembly the very simple amendments to the Elections Law to allow for the implementation of OPOVand SMCs for the general election, which follows the one that will be held in May 2013.
That election could be held in November 2016, May 2017 or November 2017.
We know that there are some members of the current Cabinet who say that they support this more fair system of voting. Be assured that with a minority government now in office, the opposition has at least equal control of what appears on the business and order papers of the Legislative Assembly.
The minority government has draft legislation that it would like passed before the dissolution of this Legislative Assembly in March 2013. So now is the time for both the minority government and the opposition to demonstrate that politics is indeed the art of compromise by the government bringing to the floor of the Legislative Assembly the necessary amendments to the Elections Law implementing OPOV and SMCs in exchange for the opposition’s support for the other draft legislation which will be brought by the government. And yes this will require some compromise on both sides.
Let us, the Caymanian people, see where our 15 MLAs really stand on this issue. This will be the real test! These are very simple amendments that can be drafted in one or two days.
My final request is that I am spared the “Shoot The Messenger” lecture, which will say that my proposal will not work because one government cannot bind a subsequent government and that laws can be changed by a new government or that the Opposition is not responsible for bringing legislation to the Legislative Assembly.
I am very confident that all MLAs are well aware of the vulnerabilities of a minority government and that once the amendments to the Elections Law are passed and assented to by the governor, any subsequent government that attempts to repeal the law implementing OPOV and SMCs will be committing political suicide.
So this is the way to ensure the implementation of OPOV and SMCs for the general election which follows the one that will be held in May 2013. There is no time like the present and we just might not have this opportunity again in the near future.
It’s time for the real test on OPOV and SMCs! The question is: Will they take the test?
Charles E. Clifford