Wednesday 9th June 2004

 
Sat Maharaj
 
 
 
G-Spot
Sunshine Magazine
 
Letters
Online Community
Death Notices
 
Advertising
Classified Ads
Jobs in T&T
Contact Us
 
Archives
Privacy Policy
 
 
 

Bicameral vs unicameral

A Discussion paper on the issue of constitutional reform has been prepared for the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha at the request of Satnarayan Maharaj, the secretary-general. The paper addresses the specific areas of concern raised by Maharaj in the brief for the preparation of this document.

Constitutional reform—Part 2

A mixed system was proposed by the Wooding Constitutional Commission in its 1974 report. The mixed system was to be implemented alongside an abolition of the Senate and the introduction of an unicameral (or one-chamber) system for the Parliament of T&T.

This mixed system was to consist of all the existing 36 seats in the newly constituted National Assembly being contested on the first-past-of-post basis as exists currently. However, another 36 were to be allocated to political parties in proportion to the total number of votes cast nationwide under the party list system of proportional representation.

These allocations were to be made by each political party extracting its allocated number of names from its party lists that were published prior to the general election. A party would qualify for an allocation of seats if it won more than five per cent of the national vote or if it won at least one seat among the 36 constituencies.

There are two ways in which the issue of bicameralism versus unicameralism may be approached. One would be to embrace the Wooding proposal for a unicameral legislature that would retain some measure of constituency representation, while introducing a party membership in a separate category that would be proportional to the will of the electorate and have no constituency obligations.

Another way would be retain the bicameral system and keep the House of Representatives in its current form and provide for that House to consist of an uneven number of MPs, but revise the political arithmetic in the Senate so that the party list system of proportional representation could be utilised there to allocate seats in proportion to votes cast.

Additionally, the Senate should have the same number of members as the House of Representatives with no Independent Senator.

In such a reform the power of the Senate would have to be made equal to the House of Representatives. The Senate now only enjoys a power of delay.

Using the party list system with the Hare quota for the allocation of seats in the Senate, the composition of the House of Representatives (36 seats on first-past-the post) and the Senate (31 Senators on the presumption that all Senators were to be appointed based on allocation of seats to parties). Three of the last four general elections would have reflected as follows based on the ex post facto data that is available.

1995

House Senate

PNM — 17 PNM — 15 (256,159 votes cast)

UNC — 17 UNC — 14 (240,372 votes cast)

NAR — 2 NAR — 2 (240983 votes cast)

Under the party list system of proportional representation with the Hare quota, the total number of valid votes cast in the 1995 general election was 525,326. The quota would have been determined by dividing 525,326 by 31 = 16,946 ( to the nearest whole number.

The total votes cast for each party would have to be divided by 16,946 to determine the allocation in the Senate for each party.

The NAR would have earned two seats (instead of one) by virtue of the fact that it had the largest remainder of votes among all the parties (PNM—1,969: UNC— 3,128; NAR—8,037) for the one seats that would have remained outstanding after all of the sets had been allocated.

2000

House Senate

PNM— 6 PNM—15 (276,444 votes cast)

UNC—19 UNC—16 (307,791 votes cast)

NAR— 1 NAR—0 (7,409 votes cast)

Under the party list system of proportional representation, the total number of valid votes cast in the 2000 general election was 594,875. The quota would have been determined by dividing 594,875 by 31 = 19,190 ( to the nearest whole number).

The total votes cast for each party would have to be divided by 19,190 to determine the allocation in the Senate for each party. Both the PNM and the UNC would earn one seat for the two seats remaining as they had the largest remainders (PNM—7,674; UNC—751) after their allocations, while the NAR would not have earned any seat after the division of their votes by the quota which provided a total of less than one.

2001

House Senate

PNM—18 PNM—15 (260,075 votes cast)

UNC—18 UNC—16 (279,002 votes cast)

Under the party list system of proportional representation, the total number of valid votes cast in the 2001 general election was 559,175. The quota would have been determined by dividing 559,175 by 31 = 18,129 ( to the nearest whole number).

The total votes cast for each party would have to be divided by 18,129 to determine the allocation in the Senate for each party. Both the PNM and the UNC would earn one of the two seats remaining as they had the largest remainders after their allocations (PNM—6,269 and UNC—7,067), while neither the National Team Unity (14,207) nor the NAR (5,841) would have earned any seats after the division of their votes by the quota which provided a total of less than one in each case.

SATNARAYAN MAHARAJ is the Secretary General of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

©2003-2004 Trinidad Publishing Company Limited

Designed by: Randall Rajkumar-Maharaj · Updated daily by: Sheahan Farrell