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May 18, 2010


Stephen Aranha

One strength of the German model (where the first-past-the-post element is not as important as it may sound, and the Constitutional Court has demanded to further weaken its importance), is the lesson learned from the Weimar years, to make it more difficult for radical fringe parties: you may get proportional representation, but first, your party has to poll 5% of the votes cast, otherwise they won't make it into parliament.

Rick Lowe

The problem I've seen with Constitutional Reform efforts to date is the politico's seek more power, not less, and I don't think this is the objective.
The debate is certainly worthwhile.

larry smith

Rick, the constitutional referendum and the constitutional commission of 2002 are the only attempts at reform here to date that I am aware of.

Both initiatives proposed some degree of redistribution of power, including more checks and balances.

larry smith

Stephen, it is worth noting that under the 5% rule no Bahamian third party would make it into parliament based on the record for the last 30 years.

Rick Lowe

@ Larry
The 2002 referendum was very specific. If I remember correctly there were four or five amendments proposed, but were not really a redistribution of power/more checks and balances. They were more to correct difficiencies in appointing judges and granting citizenship right?
I'll have to check my notes on the more recent attempts, but do not recall any radical suggestions to give up power.
Do you have a brief over view handy?

larry smith

Rick, as I mentioned in the above article, the 2006 interim report of the constitutional commission recommended:

"the appointment of non-party senators from various community groups, a reduction in the prime minister's powers of appointment, and the strengthening of parliamentary oversight committees. The commission also called for an independent electoral and boundaries commission, as well as limits on campaign spending and donations to ensure transparency and accountability."

As also noted above, "one of the proposals (of the 2002 constitutional referendum) was for an independent electoral and boundaries commission."

Rick Lowe

Thanks Larry.
Good steps, but how about adding:
1. The Prime Minister be subject to term limits of 10 years?
2. Members of Parliament be subject to term limits of 15 years?
3. A Constitutional limit for the National Debt and Budget Deficits be set? Maybe as a percentage of GDP.
4. Limit the number of Cabinet Ministers and Members of Parliament based on the population count?
5. Ensure that Cabinet Ministers, Members of Parliament, and various Chairmen appointed give reasons when a request or license application is denied?
6. Enshrine a formal consultative process for new legislation to ensure checks and balances?
7. Ensure that any law passed by Parliament automatically applies to Government, its agencies, departments and corporations as it applies to the country’s citizens and businesses?

larry smith

Well, I have no objection to those ideas, but the subject of the article was electoral reform. And I am simply responding to your first comment.

larry smith

I might add that the commission's 2006 preliminary report dealt with many more items than the ones I mentioned above.

They included citizenship, fundamental rights and freedoms, entrenchment, the judicature, the public sector, abolition of the position of governor-general and creation of a republic. The sections on parliament and the executive are the most interesting, however, and the most relevant to the subject at hand.

The commission was essentially the PLP's response to the Ingraham administration's failed referendum. The interim report's recommendations included some of the same proposals that were voted down in the referendum.

But the PLP could not find the strength to complete the commission's work, much less follow through on its proposals.

Rick Lowe

Thanks again.
I forgot to mention should implement meaningful local government for New Providence and the Family Islands.

Stephen Aranha

@ Larry - Noted. But isn't part of the argument made that one of the reason so few voters vote for third parties is their fear of "throwing away" their vote, and that the voting behaviour would change with a proportional system?

If you don't have some minimum threshold (IIRC, on some local elections, it's been lowered from 5% to 3%), every fringe nutter can register their own party, enter parliament, which would become bloated, and use the big stage for their weird ideas... (and at this point a very cynical thought crossed my mind, so I shall stop right now.)

larry smith

Oh I agree with the threshold. I'm just not sure that PR would have any impact, given our track record. However, I am still in favour of reform.

drew Roberts

@Rick & Larry,

has no one proposed instant runoff voting.

Vote for who you really want without taking the chance of wasting your vote.

Fairly simple in concept and seems an improvement over what we have.

Perhaps we need to set our sights lower and not go for comprehensive reform efforts but rather for simple isolated changes that will in themselves make things better. ???

all the best,


larry smith

Drew, there are many forms of proportional representation, including the one you mentioned. Their application in the Bahamas would have to be carefully examined.

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