The bill was passed in the House yesterday morning and is expected to go soon to the Senate for debate.
Speaking in the debate in the House, before Congress of the People (COP) Tunapuna MP Winston Dookeran declared he could not vote for the bill, Cox said, “I have no fear with regard to these amendments. I have no fear of what the electorate will do to me in 2015.”Questioning the Government’s rationale for including the provision for run-off elections in the legislation, Cox asked, “What are the costs associated with these elections?”
“We need to look at that extra stress on the Elections and Boundaries Commission. Run-off polls place considerable pressure on the electoral administration by requiring it to run a second election a short time after the first,” she said.
Saying this will significantly increase the cost of the overall election process and the time that elapses between the holding of an election and the declaration of a result, Cox warned, “This, of course, could lead to instability and uncertainty.”
Claiming Government had not carefully considered whether runoff elections can work in this country, Cox said there are cases in Angola (1992), Republic of Congo (1993) and Algeria (1992) which show that runoff elections can undermine a country’s stability if they are poorly conceived.
She also said Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar presented a flawed argument for runoff elections in TT by citing countries that held successive runoff elections. “What she did not say is that these polls are used to elect a President, not in constituencies to elect a Member of Parliament,” Cox said.
Reiterating the view that runoff elections signal the death of third political parties in this country, Cox observed, “From 1962 to now, there has always been room for three or sometimes four parties, although the elections, of course we know that they were dominated by two main parties.”
She added that the proposed amendment to the Constitution to facilitate runoff elections “now brings pressures on third parties and independent candidates. So instead of empowering the electoral process, this runoff weakens it.”
Expressing her disappointment in the COP, which she recalled promised before the 2010 general election to be the conscience of the People’s Partnership, Cox scoffed, the party “has been unconscious since.”
“All those who chose to remain silent because they are eating a food, I hope that when they decide to talk, it will not be too late,” she said. She informed Government and Opposition MPs that former Canadian prime minister Lyon McKenzie once said, “where there is little or no public opinion, there is likely to be bad government.”