Thu | Dec 3, 2020

‘One member, one vote is a better system’

Published:Friday | October 23, 2020 | 12:17 AMPaul Clarke/Gleaner Writer
PNP supporters at a major meeting in St Mary.
PNP supporters at a major meeting in St Mary.

People’s National Party (PNP) presidential aspirant Mark Golding wants an overhaul of the party’s constitution as it relates to how its leaders are elected.

Apart from potentially making the 82-year-old political party a lot more attractive, Golding believes the time is right for a constitutional amendment by giving all members the right to vote for its leader.

According to him, the party’s constitution and the structure it provides for need to be made to work as they were designed to.

He said PNP members have seen over the years that workers have failed to put enough effort into some aspects of the structure and “make sure that they are delivering what the party needs from them”.

“On the other hand, I think the constitution needs some reform, and I have already said publicly that one of the things I would like to see is that we move away from a system which is like an electoral college, where groups appoint a member to vote at a conference, and we give the franchise, the voting rights, full delegate status to all members of the party,” said Golding.

He told a Gleaner Editors’ Forum yesterday that he believes that “one member, one vote is a better system”.

Questionable practices

Golding stated that such a system is more democratic and would eliminate some of the questionable practices creeping into the PNP’s internal elections that people have complained about.

“A move towards such an amendment would be better for the party because you would have a much bigger body of persons who are making the decision,” said Golding, adding that he would support constitutional reform along those lines.

The last time the party’s constitution was amended was back in 2017.

Paul Burke, the former PNP general secretary who served from May 2014 to September 2016, has been one of the foremost advocates for a constitutional change giving more members a say in who is elected president of the PNP and for every single member to have a vote.

“I believe the party has reached a stage where the majority of its members will accept that amendment for every member over a certain number of years’ standing to have that vote,” Burke said.

“I certainly believe it should be for two years. You can’t just join the party this year and have a vote this year. I really believe in a two-year pause in the same way that it takes two years for a group to get a second delegate, so there’s precedent for that two-year period,” he added.

Burke said such a move would help to strengthen the party’s democratic process and the buy-in, where more members are directly involved in the running of the party.

He said the resolution to amend the constitution for greater voter participation has been before the party since 2004 but has not been debated.

“It resurfaced in 2018 when Peter Bunting raised it, then Dr Peter Phillips supported it for 2019, and the conference said it should have been put to the NEC (National Executive Council) for further discussions. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it never happened,” Burke said.

The resolution to amend the constitution allowing members to vote directly for party president was first drafted by the New Foundations Group at a meeting of East Kingston.

It was carried jointly by East Kingston and Port Royal MP Phillip Paulwell and Angela Brown Burke, then councillor for the Norman Gardens division, in 2004 to the PNP conference.

paul.clarke@gleanerjm.com