Solomons leaning towards preferential voting system
An academic from the Victoria University in Wellington says Solomon Islands is leaning towards preferential voting as a replacement for its first-past-the-post system.
An academic from the Victoria University of Wellington says Solomon Islands is leaning towards preferential voting as a replacement for its first-past-the-post system.
Professor Jon Fraenkel has been in Honiara for a seminar looking at proposals to change the electoral system.
He told Jamie Tahana a preferential voting system is shaping up as the likely replacement.
JON FRAENKEL: I think there has been a growing concern about whether the constitution generally and the electoral system in particular is suitable for the circumstances Solomon Islands finds itself in in the twenty first century. So there has been a lot of debate here about alternative electoral systems and preferential voting and proportional representation systems, two round systems. A discussion about whether these different electoral systems could work in the Solomon Islands context and if they did and if they were adopted what there implications would be.
JAMIE TAHANA: And what is it about the Solomon Islands context that makes it unique with the challenge of political systems?
JF: Well firstly you have got a very heterogeneous country, far flung around nine provinces and many different islands with people from very different ethnolinguistic backgrounds. You have a very fluid party system and often there is difficulty because of no confidence votes. And a lot of the participants at the seminar focused on those kinds of issues of instability in parliament. So the discussions ranged more broadly than the electoral system which wouldn't necessarily resolve those difficulties.
JT: The government has itself mentioned that it would prefer a proportional voting system, would that make a difference in this context?
JF: It is difficult in the context of the Solomon Islands because although there are political parties here they are very fluid and people change allegiances regularly. So many of the best established systems of proportional representation internationally, would probably not work in the Solomon Islands context. So we have been talking about whether they want a more party centric system which would entail something not quite as experimental as the New Zealand system but something that perhaps promoted political parties to a greater degree. But ultimately of course its the Solomon Islanders themselves that need to look at these issues carefully and decide what is most appropriate in the setting here.
JT: And did the conference, did it come to any sort of idea of what would be better for Solomon Islands? Because the government has mentioned that it would like one by the 2018 election and is that realistic at all?
JF: Well some participants thought that it should be later at the election afterwards but I think the Prime Ministers view and the view of many at the for most at the conference was that they wanted an electoral system changed this side of an election. And yes I think that probably the majority of participants there, of course that is not the majority in the whole country, where keen particularly on some kind of optional preferential voting system. One or two were keen on a two round system as is used in Kiribati and those were the main options that were discussed. There didn't seem to be much option for a more far reaching shift to some kind of proportional representation system.
Professor Fraenkel says there were also many concerns raised about political integrity and stability in Solomon Islands. He says these issues will not be resolved by changing the electoral system.
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