Ensure that the EBC operates in an independent and transparent manner.
Ensuring that the body charged with overseeing the election process (at present, the Elections and Boundaries Commission) operates in an independent and transparent manner. This can be achieved by putting in place specific requirements for the composition of the Commission which would ensure balance and accountability. In the first instance, as is the case in Jamaica, the Commission could be comprised of an independent chair; a representative from each political party represented in the Parliament; and thirdly by a set number of professionals from relevant fields. Alternatively, Commission members can continue to be chosen as presently occurs, save for an additional component to include, an oversight committee comprising representatives of civil society. The Commission would be required not only to report to the Parliament but also to the oversight committee.
No political gerrymandering of Electoral Districts
Ensuring that when necessary, adjustments to the electoral boundaries are carried out in a transparent manner. The process to change constituency boundaries must not be seen as giving any particular party an advantage over other parties and must be done by consensus.
Use a mixed system for electing the House of Representatives
We propose that a mixed system should be put in place for the election of MPs to the Lower House. We further propose that it be weighted 60 per cent of MPs elected by ‘first-past-the-post’ and the remainder of seats in the Lower House (40 per cent) would then be distributed via PR, based on the total number of votes cast for each party. For instance, under the current system where there are 41 constituencies, this would represent 60 per cent of the Lower House. Therefore, in addition there would also be 27 seats (40 per cent) which would be occupied by MPs elected via the PR system, based on the total number of votes attained by the respective parties. A party would be eligible to be allocated seats via PR as long as it was able to secure at least 5 per cent of the total votes cast nationally.
PR elected MPs should be the primary soure for appointing Cabinet Ministers.
The PR elected MPs who belong to the ruling party would be the primary source for appointing Cabinet Ministers. Those PR elected MPs who belong to the opposition or some other minority party would carry out the non-constituency duties of MPs such as serving on Parliamentary oversight committees. This would also have the added advantage of allowing the elected MPs to have more time to dedicate to constituency work, allowing for more effective representation.
Improve efficiency of elected MPs by ensuring that constituets concerns are addressed.
Improving the efficiency of elected constituency MPs to ensure that constituents’ concerns are addressed. This can be achieved by having MPs work much more closely with local government bodies. Specifically, MPs should meet regularly with these bodies in order to be appraised of the concerns of the constituents. Additionally, MPs should serve as ex-officio members of local government bodies and attend council meetings at least once monthly. Furthermore, MPs should serve on a full-time basis.
A Senate of the People
In the Senate, in addition to government and opposition senators we propose that there should also be a certain number of senators from bona fide civic organisations – once again promoting wider and more effective parliamentary representation. These organisations would include business chambers, trade unions, farmers’ organisations, religious, youth and women’s groups, amongst others. In our view the role of the Upper House is to provide checks and balances with respect to the work of the Lower House, where party interests dominate. These checks and balances would be achieved through the presence of civic organisations in the Upper House. Furthermore, this would allow for the voice, and therefore interests of the people to be directly heard in the Parliament through the representatives of these organisations. With representatives of civil society forming part of the Senate, the national interest could be more effectively voiced in the Parliament, as opposed to having only party positions and interests being put forward. This wider representation in the Parliament would see all major interests being represented and pursued. In this context, real politics will take place, as politics is the pursuance of interests. This would of course represent a new process and no longer would politics and representation be only a contest of power between political parties. Instead, both government and opposition would have to persuade interest groups on the basis of policy and interest groups would be correspondingly in a position to influence and change policy. In this way, the Parliament would be able to work more meaningfully towards finding solutions for the numerous challenges with which our country grapples.
Establish term limits and fixed dates for elections
In addition to voters casting two votes (one for the Prime Minister and one for their MP), we further propose that there be fixed dates for elections and also a term limit of two, five year terms for the Prime Minister.
Establish right to recall MPs and the holding of referenda
The right to recall MPs and the holding of referenda on national issues must be put in place. MPs would face a recall vote in circumstances where a petition requesting same has been circulated, having been signed by at least 20 per cent of the electors in the given constituency. Referenda are especially important as they allow the voice of the population to be heard on issues of fundamental national importance and facilitate broader participation in the governance process by citizens, given that at present our involvement is limited to voting once every five years in general elections and once every three years for local government representatives.