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‘Once in a generation’ chance to change our electoral system

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ISLANDERS have a ‘once-in-a-generation opportunity’ to change the way deputies are elected in next month’s referendum.

The Guernsey branch of the Institute of Directors hosted yesterday’s sold-out debate on the island-wide voting referendum. (Picture by Steve Sarre, 22533436)

John Clacy, chairman of the local branch of the Institute of Directors, made the comments at a sold-out public debate where supporters of the different voting options spoke to a 100-plus crowd.

‘It is very important that we as a community engage with this referendum,’ said Mr Clacy.

‘It is potentially a once-in-a-generation opportunity to change how deputies are elected.

‘People have said to me that what is important is the quality of candidates.

‘However, the way we vote will turn on and turn off people from putting themselves forward. I believe the way we elect our deputies has a direct impact on the quality of candidates.’

Option A campaigner Peter Ferbrache said island-wide voting was the only way to attract candidates with business experience, which he said the States was crying out for.

‘This States has been inept in the extreme. We are not making decisions,’ he said.

‘If we want people like Doug Perkins to set up a world-class business in Guernsey, we have got to have a world-class government.’

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‘We need more people in government who don’t just talk the theory. We need people who walk the practice.’

Option B campaigner Caroline McManus said the status quo was proven, personal and would ensure a stable government.

She said candidates in an island-wide voting system would not be able to walk their districts and hustings would cease to exist in their current form.

She said deputies would end up being selected based on their public profile.

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‘It will become a populist parade,’ she said.

Deputy Chris Green spoke in favour of Option C, which is for a mix of 10 island-wide representatives and 28 district deputies elected every four years.

‘It is the best of both worlds. It avoids the worst fears of other models and to that end I would say it is a very desirable model,’ he said. ‘A hybrid model is very familiar in the Channel Islands. It works in Jersey and it can and will work here.’

He said the make-up of Jersey’s Council of Ministers showed that island-wide politicians were not afforded any greater status than their district counterparts.

Nigel De La Rue argued for Option D, which is for four larger electoral districts with an election every four years.

He said voting in 38 deputies on an island-wide basis was impractical at this stage. As a voting system, he said it would work better if and when a sufficient number of political groups have formed.

‘Option D enables further progress towards island-wide voting in the future,’ he said.

It also doubles the number of States deputies that electors are able to choose from.

MC for the event Paula Kontelj gave a summary of option E – island-wide voting with an election every two years for a third of the States – which was unrepresented.

The States’ lead referendum officer Liz Dene said 40% voter turnout was needed to make the results of the referendum binding. That equates to 12,192 people.

She said momentum was building behind the referendum.

‘We have processed just over 700 postal votes this week alone.’

If 40% voter turnout is not achieved, the decision over whether to change the way States members are elected will be passed on to the States Assembly.

Speaking at the end of the meeting, Mr Clacy urged people on every side of the debate to vote with their feet on 10 October.

‘If you believe the current system is the right way, then it should it should be reaffirmed by voter choice rather than voter apathy.’

Aaron Carpenter

By Aaron Carpenter
News reporter

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