The States Assembly has swatted away a last-ditch attempt to save the role of Senator.
Yesterday, States Members voted by 31 votes to 16 to end the 72-year-old island-wide mandate, endorsing a decision made in December to move to a two-role Assembly and introduce ‘super-constituencies’ for Deputies.
Two long-serving Senators – External Relations Minister Ian Gorst and Economic Development Minister Lyndon Farnham – tried, but failed, to amend the law that will bring in significant electoral reform in time for next year’s election, proposed for 22 June 2022.
They got more support than December’s 43-3 vote on the principles of the law, winning the backing of Chief Minister John Le Fondré along the way, but it was not enough to turn the tide of parliamentary opinion to eject the eight Senators in favour of an Assembly of 49 Members, made up of 37 elected deputies from nine new districts of comparable population size, plus the 12 Constables.
Pictured: Senators Ian Gorst and Lyndon Farnham led the fight to keep the Senators in the States.
The Senators argued that those who hold the highest office should be chosen by – and be accountable to – the whole island. They also argued that the Senator role was the fairest and most equitable way of choosing a politician, it was the easiest role to understand, and most islanders did not want to lose the island-wide mandate.
They said that once the Senators were gone, the Constables would be next for the chop.
“We have one Assembly – there is no 'upper house' and the Senators represent national interests in the Chamber,” said Senator Farnham. “The system has been carefully thought out to provide sustainable form of government with one chamber.
“Instead, we have a rush to embrace anglicisation of our political system and, I’m afraid, some people will not be happy until we have a carbon copy of the UK.”
But a majority of Members spoke in support of the electoral reforms, many arguing that the Assembly was ending 20 years of inaction and finally enacting the winning ‘Option B’ of the 2013 referendum, which proposed losing the Senators and moving to larger constituencies.
Deputy Carina Alves, whose Privileges and Procedures Committee (PPC) proposed the changes, said: “In December last year came a breakthrough – the strongest vote in support of real electoral change the Assembly has seen in decades.
“It is now within our grasp to demonstrate that we are listening, we can put the voter first by offering a fairer, simpler system and we will repair the damage done to this Assembly’s relationship with its people, when their referendum vote was ignored."
Pictured: Deputy Carina Alves’ Privileges and Procedures Committee proposed the reforms.
She continued: ”The change to the composition of the Assembly and the electoral districts represents a significant shift. International standards and best practice dictate such change should be implemented no later than 12 months before the date of the next election, which we can comfortably do today.
“PPC is poised to launch a campaign informing the electorate of what the changes mean to them, and how the new system will work.
“We want to reach out to potential candidates, well before the election, to let them know what is involved so they are as prepared as possible.
“We want to urge all those who have given up on us after the 2013 referendum – to come back into the fold.
“We want to explain the new simplicity to those who found the old system confusing and off-putting. And, nearer the election time, we want to encourage everyone to do their duty – and vote.”
While Senator Gorst did not succeed in his bid to save the Senators, States Members did agree this morning with him that States Members should remaining office until new or re-elected Members are sworn in, and Ministers until a new Council of Ministers is formed, to ensure continuity.
However, they rejected his proposal to hold Election Day on 18 May 2022.
In a final vote around midday, politicians finalised plans to legally change the constitution of the States Assembly, meaning Senators will be removed, the number of Deputies will increase to 37 and the General Election will be held on 22 June 2022.
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