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Gorst Seeks To Save Senators

The External Relations Minister is making a late move to try and save the role of Senator.

The States voted last December for a new electoral system of 37 Deputies across nine districts, plus the 12 Constables.

It is described by the Privileges and Procedures Committee as a way to deliver 'fairer, better, simpler, and more inviting elections for candidate and voter alike'.

The agreed changes will come before the States later this month to be ratified.

But Senator Ian Gorst thinks the eight senators can be kept without impacting on the aim to achieve a fairer electoral system.

He says doing this will provide a more balanced, democratic, and representative assembly that would be achieved under the plans put forward by PPC.

"The office of Senator is the most democratic of all the elected offices in Jersey and offers the greatest level of accountability, in that Senators are elected by, and answerable to, every voter (and indeed every individual) in the Island. 

"Senatorial elections provide Islanders with an opportunity to collectively discuss and consider issues of interest to every person in Jersey, not just matters relevant to one Parish or District. The Island wide mandate gives us all a shared, direct and equal influence over the make-up of the States Assembly and, albeit more indirectly, the Government.

"I believe this is positive for engagement in politics and for turnout at elections, and it is my contention that our democracy will be poorer in its absence."

Fellow Senator, Lyndon Farnham, is also a supporter of keeping the role of Senator.

Another current Senator, Sam Mezec, tweeted back accusing Senator Farnham of 'double-standards'.

Senator Gorst argues that losing Senators would reduce the number of votes we have in an election, which 'unnecessarily reduces democracy in Jersey'.

If this is approved, one Deputy would be removed from each of the nine districts set out by PPC to be replaced with the eight Senators. It would reduce the number of politicians in the assembly from 49 to 48.

"I cannot be accused of seeking to create, through this amendment, greater unfairness in terms of relative voting rights and voting power – these are unchanged from what is proposed by PPC. The amendment only serves to increase the ability of each elector to shape the constitution of the States Assembly (as compared to what would be the case if the draft Law passes unamended).

"I ask Members to think carefully before abolishing a role which is fair, democratic and has served Jersey and its people well since 1948. An Assembly of 48 Members, with 8 Senators, 28 Deputies in the new Districts and the 12 Connétables will still be more equitable whilst retaining the balance in representation which I believe the public have come to value. 

"In finally achieving electoral reform, and a more equal system for our representative democracy, I ask Members not to lose the most representative office of all and thus inadvertently reduce the power of the electorate to directly shape and influence what is, ultimately, their Assembly."

This will be debated at the next States sitting on Tuesday 20th April.

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