Both election blueprints – proportional representation (PR) and the constituency system (first-past-the-post – FPTP) have strengths and weaknesses. The Lib-Dem party in the UK wanted a referendum between PR and FPTP. They got it, but lost it. Britons rejected PR. Lib-Dems argued that they were picking up enormous votes spread over the entire UK, but because of FPTP, they acquired very few seats.
It is easy to understand. Your votes in all the constituencies are wasted, because only the person who brings first in each constituency wins the seat to parliament. One of the great sins of FPTP is that a party can get more votes overall than its competitors yet lose the election. That is because it did not bring first in every constituency.
This is where PR comes in. There is no constituency. All the votes you get at election time in the entire country are counted then divided into seats. Lib-Dems argued that if the UK had PR, they would have acquired in past elections, substantial numbers of seats. But once there is an election system whereby people vote for parliament, FPTP will remain a popular choice among people.
What is good about FPTP? What is bad about PR?
Let’s answer the second question first. In Guyana, we vote for a list. I voted three times (2006, 2011 and 2015 in the form APNU+AFC) for the AFC, but I cannot say I was happy with all the names on the AFC lists, but I wanted the AFC to win. I voted for the party of Khemraj Ramjattan and Nigel Hughes. I had no choice about the other names, because I voted for a PR list.
FPTP will always be attractive to people because of two reasons. There is a constituency, and a political party has to put someone that the residents know or admire. The party cannot take the gamble and put a jackass to run in a constituency. The competing parties will field likeable candidates.
The second thing about FPTP is if you do not like big parties and you want to give a small guy a chance, FPTP allows for independent candidates. I voted for Brian Mackintosh, an independent candidate in Turkeyen in the 2016 LGE. This year, I will vote for Mr. Hermanstein, another independent candidate.
If this country had FPTP in national elections, I doubt the PPP would have advanced the name of Bibi Shadick. Two GECOM commissioners have published letters this week very critical of Shadick. The first one is by Vincent Alexander. He made a deadly accusation against Shadick. He asserted; “Ms Bibi Shadick, has taken it upon herself to report weekly in the newspapers and other media, on the statutory meetings of GECOM. I consider her action unethical…. Given the nature of GECOM’s undertakings and what is chosen to be reported on, such reports may well put Commissioners and staff in harm’s way of overzealous political activists as well as they may discredit and undermine the work of the organization. In my 11 years of service at GECOM, I have never seen GECOM reduced to such a crass level of politicking.”
When the APNU+AFC came into power, Vincent Alexander became advisor to the Education Minister for tertiary education. At that time Bibi Shadick was pro-chancellor of UG, an appointment made in January 2015. Alexander sat in the UG council as the representative of the APNU+AFC government itself and spent three years in the Council, with Shadick as Pro-Chancellor.
The expectation was that with the change of government, the Education Ministry would have advised Cabinet on Shadick’s termination. Her appointment was received with shock and dismay throughout Guyana. The pro-chancellor of any university is a highly qualified academic. This was what the PPP had done to Guyana. Alexander took not one step to have Shadick removed from UG. But people with higher qualifications and who served Guyana for better and longer than Shadick were removed from state employment.
Here is yet another GECOM Commissioner on Shadick; this time Desmond Trotman. In a wide-ranging condemnation of Shadick, Trotman exclaimed; “Something is seriously wrong with this individual.”
The PPP knows this. The PPP knows many things are wrong with many of its cadres that it has foisted upon the Guyanese people. But Guyana has a situation that is far worse than the Republican Party under Trump. There are people in the Republican Party that criticize some of Trump’s appointments. Not so in Guyana. Bharrat Jagdeo controls the PPP and has no reservation in advancing some of the most untenable names ever seen in Guyanese politics. This is Guyana’s ongoing tragedy.
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