By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE Progressive Liberal Party has agreed to amend its constitution to significantly increase the number of delegates that could participate and vote in its national conventions, a change that may impact future leadership races.
The change was confirmed to The Tribune by Terrance Bethel, a vice-chairman in the party and a member of the PLP’s constitutional revision committee.
The change was among many revealed yesterday that was agreed between last year’s constitutional convention and this week’s national convention.
Previously, only ten people per constituency had voting powers at PLP conventions. That number has been increased to 20 per constituency.
The national convention also agreed to appoint five convention delegates per every affiliate group. Such affiliate groups include organisations like the Progressive Young Liberals and the Women’s Branch Association. The convention also agreed to increase the number of possible affiliate groups. For example, previously there could only be one PYL organisation per island; now there can be a PYL group per every constituency.
Reformists in both major parties have long wanted increases to the number of voting delegates, believing the more people who vote, the likelier race outcomes would reflect demographic realities in the country. Officials also hope that the changes will better balance the impact stalwart councillors have on races with that of delegates, who generally skew younger.
Some in the PLP wanted even more ambitious changes to the number of people eligible to vote at conventions. Former PLP MP for Fort Charlotte, Alfred Sears, QC, has said voting powers should be expanded to include all registered financial members in good standing, not just delegates and stalwart councillors.
Nonetheless, the constitutional reform process did not yield results entirely backed by party leaders. Officials hoped to amend the document to allow the party to host conventions every two years rather than every year. Delegates, however, rejected that proposal and decided to maintain the status quo. As a safety valve, the party agreed last year to amend the constitution to allow the National General Council to postpone conventions until no later than April of the following year so long as two-thirds of the NGC supports the move. Conventions can be expensive to host and the PLP has struggled over the past two decades to host an annual event like its constitution demands. The PLP established a constitutional review committee in 2017 to recommend major changes for the first time in 65 years. The party hosted a constitutional convention last year and hoped to pass the draft prepared by the constitutional review committee. While changes were agreed, opposition to some of the changes forced the party to postpone the process until this year’s convention.