Just a brief update with the letter I have sent to the JEP following Tuesdays vote not to implement Option B into law. I will do a full update when I have time.
Tuesday’s vote in the States not to implement Option B into legislation was a sad day for democracy. But we must rest assured that the alternative would have been a catastrophic day for democracy.
It was a sad day because it is utterly shameful that this state of affairs has ever been allowed to happen and that it got as far as it did. The public were presented with a flawed set of reform proposals in a sham of a referendum after the reform process had been hijacked by politicians with vested interests.
We were meant to have an independent Electoral Commission whose primary aim was to create a fair democratic system fit for purpose in the 21st Century. Instead we had three biased States Members (who had already declared their support for the retention of the Constables and lowering the numbers to 42 for some inexplicable reason) create a system that was judged by all expert observers as being less democratic than what we currently have and non-compliant with the Venice Commission Code of Good Practice on Electoral Matters (which therefore makes it a bad practice).
No self respecting democracy would ever have allowed that to happen (in fact our sister island the Isle of Man has just done the precise opposite).
The reform that was before the States was undemocratic in that it left the rural parts of the island totally over-represented at the expense of the urban areas. No number of referendums can legitimise that sort of gerrymandering and taking away the right to an equal vote of the residents of St Helier.
In fact, the majority of voters in April’s referendum actually voted against Option B! Even after 2nd preferences were counted only 8,190 people voted for it, when 16,779 came out to vote. That is less than half. That is not manipulation of figures, it is simple arithmetic. This still ignoring the fact that ¾ of population didn’t even vote. By no stretch of the English language can what the States did be described as “ignoring the will of the people”. The people were either totally ambivalent or totally divided. There was no mandate for this change, especially when the change itself was unfair and undemocratic on voters in St Helier who are not second class citizens.
28 States Members have stood up and risked a slating in the press and unpopularity because they actually stood up for the people of Jersey and said that we could not have an electoral system as ridiculously unfair and undemocratic as Option B for which there was no real mandate. Deputy Baudains described the reforms as an attempt to “consolidate power”. He was spot on and thank God it lost.
So long as those 28 retain their commitment to seek a fair democratic system for Jersey, then they deserve our congratulations and thanks, not our contempt.
For Reform Jersey, the campaign for equality and fairness in our electoral system carries on.
Sam Mézec - Chairman of Reform Jersey