(BARBADOS TODAY) – A leading political scientist is calling for changes to the parliamentary system in the Caribbean to better reflect the will of voters in general elections.
Following yesterday’s poll in Grenada in which the Keith Mitchell-led New National Party (NNP) swept all 15 seats, Dr Tennyson Joseph, the head of the Department of Government, Sociology and Social Work at the Cave Hill campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI), said it was time to scrap the first-past-the-post system for one of proportional representation.
Preliminary results revealed that the NNP captured 33,786 votes, compared to its main rival, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) of Nazim Burke with 23,243 votes.
Joseph said the fact that the NDC scored a sizeable portion of the popular vote but still did not gain a seat in parliament was unfair and distorted the results.
“They [NDC] should, under a proper proportional representative system, be able to have some representation in parliament. But our first-past-the-post system, which we keep complaining about, does not sufficiently reflect the actual popular feeling. It doesn’t mean that nobody in the country is supporting the opposition, it just means that the opposition was not able to win a seat in any of the existing boundaries in parliament,” he told Barbados TODAY this afternoon, adding that the election results were therefore a distortion of the actual will of the people.
The UWI political scientist said yesterday’s result was further proof that electoral reform was even more urgent considering the fact that the constitution gives the opposition power to appoint members to the senate.
“When there is no opposition it raises questions . . . what about the minority? Our democratic systems have never learnt to address the question of minority rights. We are very big on majority rule, but we have not done enough in relation to the rights of minorities. And 22-something thousand votes as against 30-something thousand votes is a lot of votes. But yet it is not represented in any way in the lower house,” Joseph stressed, emphasizing that the Grenada election results had confirmed the need for electoral reform.
“What I am saying is that there is a discussion in the Caribbean about electoral reform and the Grenada election confirms that that discussion should continue and be deepened because the systems need reform on the basis that they do not reflect enough minority opinion,” the noted political scientist contended.
He also said the NNP won the election handsomely because over the last five years the Mitchell administration was able to pull Grenada from a tough economic position into a state of recovery.
“In the last five years, the current state of politics has suggested that the Mitchell administration has been able to engage in a set of policies that helped Grenada recover from the economic situation that it was undergoing. He has been able to solidify his hold on the country and the party and the opposition parties have not shown themselves sufficiently credible to offer an alternative to the Grenada people,” he said.
Joseph also explained that the opposition was splintered, having lost some key members who had left the party.
Immediately following the announcement of the preliminary results, a tired looking Burke congratulated Mitchell on what he acknowledged as resounding victory, saying his party had engaged in a “very difficult campaign”, with few resources.
“It was a very long and hard campaign in which we put forward our vision for Grenada, for Grenada’s development and for the governance of Grenada; ideas that we thought would find favour with the electorate. Unfortunately, this was not the case,” the NDC leader said, adding that he had accepted the will of the people.