Guernsey Press

Mounting opposition to plan for controls on by-elections

There is growing opposition to a proposal which would scrap by-elections unless three deputies’ seats become vacant at the same time.

Last updated
Deputy Tina Bury is one of a number of deputies who opposes the States’ Assembly and Constitution Committee’s proposal to hold a by-election for deputy only if three seats are vacant. (Picture by Sophie Rabey, 33238720)

Currently, a by-election is held if there is a single vacancy. But the States’ Assembly & Constitution Committee wants to save potential costs by raising the minimum threshold to three seats after next year’s general election.

The Guernsey Press has spoken to a number of deputies who said they would try to defeat the proposal at next week’s States meeting, and some who were increasingly confident that it would be kicked out.

Peter Roffey was not aware of anywhere else in the world that did not immediately fill parliamentary vacancies. He believed Guernsey’s constitutional arrangement of having 38 deputies should be respected.

‘If one of Sacc’s arguments for wanting to change things is cost, then we ought to be looking at whether we can afford our current electoral system and changing that instead,’ said Deputy Roffey.

His view was shared by Deputies Tina Bury and Andrew Taylor. They appreciated the financial argument for the change proposed by Sacc, but thought that all deputies’ seats should be filled at all times out of respect to the island’s democracy.

Christopher Le Tissier thought that waiting for three vacancies before holding a by-election was ‘over the top’. He hoped that the States would take great care before backing a change which he felt went against the principles of democracy and accountability.

‘If, for example, two of myself, Neil Inder and Liam McKenna were wiped out as deputies from the northern parishes, there would only be one deputy for those in the north to go to,’ said Deputy Le Tissier.

‘Even with island-wide voting, people still look to deputies living in their own parishes if they need to ask something. I never get people from Torteval calling me.

‘I’d keep it as one vacancy. Democracy has a price and you need to pay it.’

Deputy Aidan Matthews also considered three vacancies to be an excessive threshold to trigger a by-election.

He said it was unusual to have even one vacancy during a States term and, therefore, setting the threshold at three could see one or two seats being left empty for long periods of time, even years.

Deputy David De Lisle said that vacancies should be filled when required, especially if the departing member held a senior position on a committee.

However, if there was a desire for change, he thought that waiting for two vacancies instead of three would be a better idea.

Sacc has said that the introduction of island-wide voting in 2020 had changed the need for by-elections when there were only one or two seats vacant.

The committee believes that a single vacancy would not cause the same democratic deficit as it would have under the old district voting system and that the significant cost of holding a by-election should be avoided unless the Assembly falls below 36 deputies.


The last by-election held in Guernsey was in October 2016, when Deputy Neil Inder won a seat in the States following the death of Dave Jones four months earlier.

The election saw a turnout of 34%.

There have been a total of five by-elections since the turn of the century, with two occurring in 2003, and one each in 2005, 2015 and 2016.