Following the second consecutive clean-sweep in the January 19, 2022 Barbados General Elections and three clean-sweeps in Grenada, over a nineteen-year period, a leading Caribbean writer and diplomat is recommending Caribbean governments take a look at a Proportional Representation (PR) system, as a better reflection of the electorate’s will.
Antigua & Barbuda’s Ambassador to the Organization of American States (OAS), Sir Ronald Saunders, writing in his latest weekly column on regional issues in an article entitled Proportional Representation in Elections – Key to Democratic Representation, says the time has again come for Electoral Reform to return to the top of the Caribbean’s agenda.
According to Sir Ronald, “Electoral Reform in the English-speaking Caribbean has been discussed for decades without any attempt to reform the Constitution to make it possible.”
“Now that many countries are again considering constitutional reform in the context of changing from Monarchical to Republican status,” he says, “perhaps it is also time to consult the people of these countries on reforming the electoral system to ensure that all votes result in representation in parliament as government and opposition.”
Sir Ronald noted that “The New National Party (NNP) of Dr Keith Mitchell achieved this feat three times in Grenada” and “under the system of constituency divisions and first-past-the-post, which also exists in Barbados, the NNP won all 15-seats in 1999, 2013 and 2018.”
He opined, however, that “Winning all the seats in both Grenada and Barbados left opposition political parties without representation in the legislature, and, therefore, unable to question the laws being proposed or the policies bring pursued by the governing political party.”
“Thus,’ he added, “an important check on the actions of the ruling party does not exist.”
Pointing to his native Guyana as “the only English-speaking Caribbean country in which the British changed the electoral system to proportional representation,” Sir Ronald pointed out that “elections return representatives of several political parties, giving the governing party a majority in parliament and ensuring opposition representation.”
Against that background, Sir Ronald, who is also a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies at the University of London and at Massey College in the University of Toronto, says: “perhaps the time has come to consider a change of the electoral system to one of proportional representation in which the entire country becomes one constituency to elect contending parties to the House of Representatives.”
This system, he says, “would be guaranteed to elect both a ruling party and its leader, as well as opposition parties, in accordance with the proportion of votes they receive.”