Friday, 22 June 2012 02:30
By caribarena news
Antigua St John's - Until the blueprints for proposed changes to the electoral boundaries in Antigua and Barbuda are finalized and tabled, there is no way that analysts for the opposition Antigua Labour Party (ALP) or others can make reasonable accusations of gerrymandering against the United Progressive Party (UPP) government.
According to analyst Linley Winter the legality of the approach adopted by the Boundaries Commission is a question that should not exist since the commission is established under the Constitution to propose these changes, and is acting within its mandate so to do.
“Whatever it is they (the commission) come up with is not illegal. However, (the Boundaries Commission) ought to function in such a manner that it, as a constitutionally established body, is not under the influence of, or under any duress from, or display any cohesion to, parties of influence.
That is very clear as far as the constitution is concerned,” Mr. Winter said.
As it stands, the statistical analyst noted that there is nothing to suggest that the commission is violating any laws, which provide for the body to consult with whomever or whatever it deems relevant as it goes forward with deciding upon proposed changes.
“Persons with such expertise cannot in any way at all influence the course events,” says Linley Winter. “The Boundaries Commission has to, among its own membership, determine what actions it needs to take based on the advice that it has received.”
Winter posited that the opposition’s concerns about gerrymandering could not be established until the proposed changes are made public. He also pointed out that the changes to boundaries made in 1984 by the then ruling ALP could well be considered to qualify as such, that is:
Speaking to the general idea of constituency boundary reform, Mr. Winter said that the whole idea of boundary reform is a necessary one that would always garner his support as long as it remains in keeping with the best interests of the country and moves towards creating a balanced system.
He said that at no point in Antigua’s political history during the period of competitive party politics has there been anything close to an attempt of balancing the voter sizes per constituencies.
“If what the Commission is taking on right now in its approach to review the boundaries results in there actually being reform in the relative sizes of constituencies with a more balanced system, then that is what I think would be a benefit to the state. But if their approach results in one that brings tremendous variations in the sizes of the constituencies outside of the actual size, then that is something that we should be afraid of,” he said.
Referring to the 1984 attempt, Winter said that approach can safely be deemed, based on the numerical record, as representing nothing more than a boundary change or realignment. And while he reiterated that the notion of gerrymandering could be conceivably applied to this action, it should not be loosely applied since the “intention” of the Commission at that time is unknown.
“But clearly, changes were made, and what existed after those changes were made in no way at all resulted in a balance of voters per constituency across the landscape,” Winter opined.
There have been no changes to the boundaries since 1984, according to Winter, and based on the comments reportedly made by the ALP and some members of the commission, there is now some thought being given to reviewing the size of the constituencies.
He said the boundaries revision is not a problem, but thought must be given to what those changes would imply, whether balance of lopsidedness in the constituency sizes.
“If there is a more equitable outcome then it means that a reforming process has been taking place. But if we still have imbalance then it would mean we would have only had a realignment of boundaries without intention of making it better,” Linley Winter said.
That means that the whole process is one of “wait and see” which stance must necessarily include the entire parliament. And while the proposals might be there, they must be discussed and decided upon within the Commission itself.
So far it is understood that certain proposals have been made regarding the boundary lines, but nothing has yet been presented on paper. Linley Winter is urging that the public move to pressure the Boundaries Commission to produce something that is “much better” than what exists today.