A GROUP of civil society organisations are calling on Bahamians to help design an electoral system that is “less cumbersome, more transparent, more fair and more egalitarian” than the one the country currently has.
Civil Society Bahamas (CBS) yesterday launched a Citizen’s Task Force for Electoral Reform and appealed for the people’s engagement by planning a series of public meetings throughout The Bahamas to hear the views of citizens on seven recommendations.
The group is calling for the establishment of an Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IBEC), comprised of prominent Bahamian citizens, to manage all aspects of the electoral system. “IBEC would conduct national and primary elections; would be responsible for the registration, and eventual enumeration of voters; would maintain an online register of voters; would be responsible for the drawing of constituency boundaries, and regulate the amount of money spent by political parties and candidates,” a statement from CBS said.
The group contends that fundamental changes be made to the system of registration of voters. “Citizens should not have to establish their citizenship every five years, and there are no good reasons why citizens must register to vote every five years,” CBS said, recommending the establishment of a Permanent Register of Voters. Once registered, the citizen would be given a registration number, which he or she retains for a lifetime.
CSB also plans to reform campaign finance, including limiting the amounts of money candidates and political parties can raise and spend; limiting the amount of individual contributions to parties and candidates; a ban on contributions from non-national individuals and foreign-owned businesses, and regular reporting of contributions and spending to IBEC.
The group said it believes that the registration of political parties with IBEC is necessary, since IBEC will be responsible for the conduct of elections and the monitoring of political parties.
It suggests a process of primary elections which would ensure that the candidate has maximum loyalty to the people represented as they would choose the candidate for election. Further, constituencies should be able to recall their member of Parliament if constituents are unhappy with the representation provided. CBS proposes a petition signed by 25 per cent of registered voters, collected within ten consecutive working days, would force the resignation of the member of Parliament, and a by-election.
And the group said constituency boundaries should be redrawn less frequently, “if necessary, every ten years within a year, and after the national census”.
CBS urged all eligible citizens to register to vote as soon as possible in order to participate in the general elections this year. “Voting in elections and choosing the persons who will manage the affairs of the country are, arguably, the highest duty of the citizen. Citizens should register to vote despite the perceived difficulties that are part and parcel of the current system,” the group said.
In future, CBS said the Bahamas should “at least have a conversation around the issue of Proportional Representation” in light of its proposals and in view of the number of political parties entering this year’s contest.
Civil Society Bahamas (CBS) says it is an umbrella organisation representing the interests of all the non-profit and non-governmental organisations in the The Bahamas since 2005. It is a non-partisan, non-governmental, civil society organisation which focuses on the betterment of individuals through improvement of their general social, economic, spiritual and mental welfare.
For more information visit www.civilsocietybahamas.org