Closed list here, party control quite unique

-US governance expert

American Professor Dr David Lublin yesterday noted that while it is not unusual for countries to use proportional representation as its electoral system, Guyana’s system is more unique than most because of its closed list system which is controlled by the head of the list.

Speaking at a public lecture at the Theatre Guild, Lublin said that proportional representation is common worldwide and identified South Africa and the Netherlands as two nations where this system is utilized. “What is maybe a bit more unique is the list system where it is very closed and that essentially…the list is determined primarily by who the party leader wants to put on the list and, what order  and could even change it a bit after the elections,” Lublin said.  He was at the time responding to a question about the “pros and cons” of Guyana’s electoral process.

Lublin told the gathering, which filled less than half the auditorium, that in most of the countries there is some sort of “pre-selection” process where members of the party determine the order of the list, providing more inclusion to members of the party.  In Finland, he said that there is an “open list” system of proportional representation where the electorate not only votes for a party, but for a candidate.  He said the votes are then tallied up as normal, but instead of the list being ordered by the party leader, the list is made up of the persons who got the most votes.

“This has some maybe positive effects, in that it encourages politicians to worry just not what the party leader thinks but what people think because they want to get the votes from the people,” Lublin opined.  He said too that it also allows for more persons to become involved in politics.

Questioned about ethnic voting in Guyana, Lublin said that such patterns are not unusual to Guyana and noted that similar concerns exist in other states. He said that there could also be incentives in the electoral system which could break this pattern. He said that it is imperative that the citizenry starts to demand that both the government and opposition deal with the issues that matter.

Regarding the use of state resources for campaigning, Lublin noted that it is not unusual for a government to do nice things for areas across the country, adding that the question of motive could always be raised.

“A key aspect of democracy is, obviously, that more than one party has to have access to resources to campaign.  And at the same time, it is not unknown for the government of the United States to do nice things for areas of the country,” Lublin said.

Lublin is a Professor in the Department of Government, School of Public Affairs, American University, who is here to conduct a series of lectures. He is also the Mayor of Chevy Chase, a town in Maryland, USA. He is scheduled to hold meetings in the Upper Corentyne, New Amsterdam today and another in Linden on Friday.

Concerning campaign financing, Lublin noted that it was illegal to buy votes from anyone and that there is a limit to how much an individual can give to a politician. A candidate is also required to reveal how much he got from campaign donations, he said. (See other story on page 10.)

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