Time to Consider Proportional Representation in the Eastern Caribbean States

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Within the past 10 years, the Eastern Caribbean has witnessed the installation of a number administration in lopsided electoral results. In the 2013 general elections in Grenada, the New National Party won all 15 sears despite garnering 59% of the popular vote. The identical results were seen in 2018 General Elections in Grenada with the New National Party, once again, winning all 15 seats despite no change in its share of the popular votes; the National Democratic Party maintained 40 percent of the popular vote, but still did not win any seats. Is this fair representation? Is this really democracy? What about the vote and representation for the 40 percent who voted for the opposition National Democratic Party?

The pattern in Grenada has been repeated in the March 2018 Antigua and Barbuda General elections where the Antigua and Barbuda Labor Party secured 59% of the popular votes but captured 15 of the 17 seats (88%).  These trend of disproportionate outcome was crystallized in Barbados where the Barbados Labor Party won 75% of the popular votes and all 30 constituencies. The aforementioned scenario highlight a major short coming of the electoral system currently in existence within the eastern Caribbean Countries. The question is whether this system of representation serves the populace of these islands or the politicians and their advisors?


In the aftermath of each election cycle, as recently witnessed in Barbados on May 24, 2018, there is euphoria and celebration for the winning party and their supporters. In contrast, those vanquished by this inequity usually envision gloom for the subsequent 4 ot 5 years. The despair is amplified if there is a regime, like that in Dominica, which will go to all ends to stay in power.  The consequences for the region are stark. The Eastern Caribbean seems incapable of moving forward, in part, due to the electoral system that these countries have adopted. This is not to disregard the shortcoming and corrupt behavior of elected officials, who rather than seeing their role as representatives of the people, see 'successful' parliamentary elections as opportunities to enrich themselves rather than serve the people who elected them to office.

So, what is the problem with this system of electing parliamentarians and, what is / are possible solutions? Wherever a single party holds all seats in Parliamentary System, democracy is imperiled. For, no matter what the original good intent, Absolute Power corrupts! Thus, while many supporters of the wining parties celebrate, they should always be mindful of the possibility that their votes may be laying the foundation for parliamentary dysfunction, corruption and abuse.  Proportional representation is a reasonable alternative. These Eastern Caribbean countries should consider this model of representative democracy; it is increasingly gaining a foothold across the globe. At present, there are about 85 countries, including many commonwealth countries, which have adapted various forms of proportional representation to ensure adequate representation for their citizens. Thus far, with the exception of Dominican Republic and Guyana, no other Eastern Caribbean country has adopted this model.  The pros of proportional  representation outweigh the cons. Overall, this system fosters balanced policies to benefit all. The shortcomings, relating to emergence of fringe parties and need for coalition governments are outweighed by the benefits. It is time for a change in the Eastern Caribbean. Otherwise, this group of small island states will continue to lag behind the rest of the developing world as they are persistently saddled by governments that do not reflect a balance consistent with the will of their people.
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