Island election could take place in November
A GENERAL election in November is one of options now on the table, after States members voted for a review of their decision only last month to hold it in June next year.
An attempt to guarantee polling in September proved unsuccessful after warnings from Health of the possibility of Covid-19 ‘bubbling up again’ in the summer, leaving November, March, April or May still in play.
Despite efforts to curtail the debate and comments about it being ‘Groundhog Day’ all over again and how this must look to the public, the Assembly spent all day yesterday talking about a subject it had last discussed five weeks ago.
The States’ Assembly and Constitution Committee had come back to the States with a draft of the law which would give effect to the April decision, but many members felt that they had all acted in haste due to fears about the impact of Covid-19 and wanted an alternative. One option came in the form of a ultimately successful amendment from Deputy Emilie McSwiggan, a Sacc member, who wanted her committee to be directed to look at bringing the election forward to November this year, or March, April or May of 2021. While this attracted a lot of support, some members felt that June next year remained the best option.
Deputy Rhian Tooley said the earliest she could see the election taking place was in April, which was only a couple of months ahead of what members had already decided, while Deputy Mark Dorey urged the Assembly to stick to its decision since he did not think it worth the uncertainty of change for the sake of having it two months earlier.
One of the main arguments supporting the amendment was that to continue to hold power for another year was undemocratic: ‘Democracy can’t be served if we don’t have a renewal of our democratic mandate,’ said Deputy Sarah Hansmann Rouxel.
Deputy Barry Paint said that after June this year the States should consider itself to be a ‘caretaker government’ and should not do anything too controversial but just manage the island.
‘What is undemocratic is for a government to extend its term without justification,’ said Deputy Carl Meerveld.
Concerns were also raised about the impact of an earlier election on those who want to stand, but it was pointed out by some members that people who were keen to stand had already started to prepare for an election this year.
Despite several pleas to stick to the June 2021 date, the amendment was approved by 24 votes to 11 with four abstentions.
Dire warnings about an election in November had earlier come from Policy & Resources member Deputy Lyndon Trott, whose main concern was the impact this would have on the 2021 budget.
He was one of several members who wanted to vote against the November option and accept the rest, but Bailiff Richard McMahon said that the wording of the amendment meant this was not possible.
Cue Deputy Lindsay de Sausmarez drafting a quick amendment to remove November from the choices – but the Assembly chose to leave it up to Sacc to decide and voted this amendment down by 22 votes to 14 with three abstentions.
Deputy Trott said he would be happy to have an election in September or October, but these were not mentioned in any of the amendments.
He was challenged by Deputy Jennifer Merrett to put up an amendment himself if he wanted a different option, so he did, backed by P&R president Deputy Gavin St Pier, and this sought to direct Sacc to prepare for a September election and to report back soon with a date and how to hold the election bearing in mind health advice.
This was approved by 19 votes to 17 with three abstentions.
As this was now a proposition, Deputy Matt Fallaize was concerned that this ‘directed’ Sacc to prepare for the election, and said that if the president could assure members in his summing up that the September option would be considered, then the amended proposition could be rejected.
Deputies Tooley and Andrea Dudley-Owen were also worried that the States was in danger of going against the advice of the director of public health that it would not be wise to have an election so soon.
However, HM Procureur Megan Pullum assured members that if the proposition relating to September passed and Sacc found itself unable to comply with the direction, it would be incumbent upon it to inform members of that fact as soon as possible.
Deputy Gavin St Pier said that it was to be anticipated that the island could be in phase five of the recovery from Covid-19 in September, at which point islanders would be in a ‘Bailiwick bubble’.
When it came to the vote, the amended proposition was lost by 20 votes to 15 with four abstentions.
But the proposition arising from the McSwiggan amendment was successful, with 30 votes in favour, seven against and two abstentions.
Sacc president Deputy Neil Inder had earlier said that under the terms of this proposition, the committee will bring a report back to the Assembly by the end of July only if it thinks a November election is feasible.
If the committee concludes that March, April or May of next year is better, it must report back at least six months before its proposed date.