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COMMENTARY ON THE OVERSEAS VOTE by Charles Wilkin QC 18th May, 2016

I heard the Attorney General say recently that preparations are underway for an electoral review process to be initiated via the National Assembly. I therefore looked at the Unity manifesto for the 2015 election. I note that the manifesto has several proposals for electoral reform but does not state a specific position on the overseas vote, despite it being a continually controversial issue. I think it logical and democratic that the people have a direct say on that issue by way of an issue ballot or as some call it a referendum.

This would have a second significant purpose and that is to pave the way for a new direct democracy where more major decisions are based on direct consultation with the people by way of periodic ballots. It would help to promote issue based politics and wean the country off the prevailing tribal culture.

The Constitution does not prohibit direct ballots on specific issues. It gives the National Assembly the power to make laws but it does not say that the government cannot consult the people in a legislated process.

In its preamble the Constitution says that the People of St. Kitts and Nevis “ believe in the concept of true democracy with free and fair elections ”. Well we certainly do not have fair elections and what could be more truly democratic than a vote of the people on this controversial issue to guide their representatives in the National Assembly.

All parties have expressed the need to improve our very flawed democracy. This would be a good way to start.

CHARLES WILKIN QC 18TH  MAY 2016

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