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Debate began yesterday (October 14), on a Bill to amend the Constitution, to increase the maximum number of constituencies from 60 to 65, for the purpose of electing Members of Parliaments.
However, Prime Minister Bruce Golding, who piloted the Bill, informed that “there was an expressed intention to limit the maximum number of constituencies to 63 at this time.”
“The Electoral Committee made these recommendations, which have formed the substance of the Bill that is before the House, but with the understanding, although this is not specified in the Bill, that the Electoral Commission (EC) would not at this stage consider more than 63,” Mr Golding said.
He explained that there is a need to increase the number of constituencies as the electoral population has grown, with the voters’ list having some 1.3 million persons registered to vote.
Mr. Golding said the Constitution speaks about an upper limit and a lower limit, and that no constituency must be more than 50 per cent above the electoral quota and no constituency must be less than two thirds of the electoral quota.
“The electoral quota has been increasing consistently over many years and this year the electoral quota is 22,270. When you have an electoral quota like that, you need to bear in mind that some constituencies are going to end up above the quota and some below. You do in fact have some constituencies that are either over or perilously close to the upper limit and at least one constituency that is perilously close to the lower limit. As a result, there is need for some adjustment to be made,” the Prime Minister said.
Mr. Golding emphasised that this is also necessary to avoid the possibility of a tied Parliament after an election, because of the even number of constituencies that exist.
Meanwhile, the Prime Minister informed that the Electoral Commission is proposing that a Boundaries Advisory Committee and a Boundaries Forum be established in each parish to which boundary changes are necessary.
“The Boundaries Forum will consist of the Members of Parliament, Councillors and Caretakers at both constituency and Local Government level of the two parties recognised by the EC, as well as members of civil society in the parish,” he added.
Mr. Golding explained that the Boundaries Advisory Committee, “elected by the Forum from among the constituent members, will be mandated to propose boundaries for constituencies within that parish, through a process of consultation with the forum.”
“The Electoral Office of Jamaica will facilitate the operation of the Boundaries Advisory Committee, including providing access to maps and geographic information systems technology, where available,” the Prime Minister said.
Debate on the Bill will continue at the next sitting of the House of Representatives.