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Call for the public to elect Chief Minister

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OVERHAULING Jersey’s electoral system so that Islanders can directly elect the Chief Minister would boost engagement in Jersey politics, which is ‘seriously lacking’, two States Members have said.

Picture:DAVID FERGUSON. (26876398)

Earlier this week Professor Claire De Than, a specialist in the law of the Crown Dependencies and British Overseas Territories, called for the Island to consider modelling the election of its Chief Minister on a system used in the Pacific republic of Kiribati, where holders of the post are directly elected.

Under the current Jersey system the Chief Minister is chosen in a poll of States Members following a general election.

But in Kiribati, which is a similar size to Jersey, the parliament nominates three or four candidates following a general election and the public chooses the Chief Minister in a further poll.

Privileges and Procedures chairman Deputy Russell Labey said the proposals were ‘very interesting’ and echoed a proposition he lodged three years ago.

‘What I proposed was a public run-off between the top two candidates, chosen by the States, immediately after an election, in 2017 and it was defeated 26-12 in the Assembly,’ he said.

‘The reason they were against was because they thought that it would mean the Chief Minister becoming too presidential, but to that I said: “So what?”

‘I think a directly elected Chief Minister could really help with political engagement. Voter turnout is a real problem in Jersey – it is seriously low and lacking.

‘But I won’t bring back a proposition on the matter because I have a huge workload until 2022 already and the last time I tried to do it it was soundly defeated.’

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Deputy Labey said that for the time being he would prioritise his proposed reforms to create equal-sized multi-member voting constituencies in the Island, which are due to be debated next month.

‘It is undemocratic and unfair that people across Jersey do not have the same voting rights,’ he said.

‘We need equal-sized constituencies and it is not right that people take a seat in the States Assembly after an uncontested election. The Constables should not have an automatic right to sit in the Assembly. If they want to they should stand for election.’

He added: ‘Comparisons with Kiribati are informative, given our similar population size. Interestingly, Kiribati has a legislative assembly of 46 members elected for a four-year term in single-seat and multi-seat constituencies.

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‘I am proposing Jersey’s Assembly numbers 46 elected for a four-year term in single-seat and multi-seat constituencies.’

Meanwhile, Senator Kristina Moore, who came second in the 2018 Senatorial election behind Senator Tracey Vallois, also showed enthusiasm for Professor De Than’s suggestions.

‘Claire put forward interesting proposals. There is a lack of engagement among people in Jersey politics and I think that this could help lead to better engagement,’ he said.

‘We have very low voter turnouts and that needs to be addressed and needs to be at the core of reforms.’

Ian Heath

By Ian Heath
author

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