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Mia suggests changes to elections


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BARBADOS should have a fixed election date – not one that Government can determine as it sees fit.Leader of the Opposition Mia Mottley, made this suggestion in the House of Assembly yesterday.But during a speech in which she called for some changes in the laws governing elections and other elements of governance, she ruled out changing Barbados’ “first-past-the-post” electoral system to proportional representation.Mottley told the House the time was ripe for Government to consider an “an appropriate framework” on governance, taking into consideration such factors as the timing of elections as well as the financing of political parties and political campaigns.She said British Prime Minister David Cameron and his deputy Nick Clegg had pledged new fixed-term, five-year parliaments — replacing a system in which the prime minister decided on the date of elections.Trinidad and Tobago and other Commonwealth countries were also considering the shift, she reported.However, Mottley said she did not favour dumping the “first-past-the-post” or “winner-takes-all” electoral system because proportional representation placed too much power in the hands of political parties and a few people.Mottley made the comments as the House debated two bills introduced by Prime Minister David Thompson, who is also the Minister of Finance: the Income Tax (Amendment) Bill and the Charities (Amendment) Bill.Taking up a point raised by Opposition MP, Dr William Duguid (Christ Church West), Mottley said she was worried about the possibility of charitable donations being abused to benefit politicians.She called for a cap on political donations so that no one person had disproportionate influence. Mottley suggested that the review of governance legislation consider the fact that parliament failed to be an “effective check” on the executive arm of government, with the largest block in the House being the Government’s front bench. This meant, she argued, that Prime Ministers “get their way effectively in Cabinet, the Cabinet then gets their way in Parliament and Parliament ceases to be an effective check and balance on the Executive”.She wanted a joint select committee established to look at parliamentary reform, campaign financing and political party financing, saying there was a need to secure democracy for future generations. (TY)