5th March 2000
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Importance of a second chamber

The Liberal Party's suggestions for a new Constitution.

Continued from last week

The main purpose of this section is to emphasise the importance of a second chamber consisting of representatives of the people elected in a different way from those in the first chamber. Members of the Senate, which shall be established for the purpose of providing equal representation to each province, will be elected under the Single Transferable Vote system as explained below. This puts a premium on individual popularity while also allowing parties to have more than one representative. 

The system ensures that anyone elected has the support of at least 25% of the electorate in preference to other candidates. Presiding officers of Parliament shall also be elected on this system, to ensure plurality.

The proposals outlined here also reintroduce the idea of committees that are designed to ensure a stronger involvement in administration on the part of legislators. In particular they should monitor all activity, and should be empowered to call up ministers and officials to respond to their queries.

The central legislature Parliament

(1) The Senate shall be elected for four years. Elections to the Senate shall take place two years after elections to the House of Representatives, every four years. The Senate shall sit continuously during the period for which it has been elected. 

(2) The Senate shall consist of 40 members, of whom 36 shall be elected on the basis of four members for each province. These members shall be elected on the system of a Single Transferable Vote. Electors shall mark up to two preferences for candidates for election. The qualifying number for election shall be the total number of valid votes cast divided by 4, plus 1.

The first preferences of all candidates shall be counted first. Candidates obtaining first preferences equal or more than the qualifying number shall be declared elected on the first ballot. Votes in excess of the qualifying number shall be deemed 'surplus votes'.

(3) The second preferences of candidates with surplus votes shall then be counted, and if they are cast for a candidate not elected, they shall be allocated in proportion to the surplus.

(4) Any candidate who reaches the qualifying number at this stage shall be declared elected, and his surplus votes distributed as above. 

(5) If vacancies still remain, the candidate with the lowest number of votes shall be eliminated, and his second preferences counted insofar as they are cast for any of the candidates not yet declared elected. If no remaining candidate obtains the qualifying number, the candidate with the next lowest number of votes shall be eliminated and the above procedure followed. This shall be done until the number of candidates not eliminated equals the number of vacancies remaining, whereupon such candidates shall be declared elected. 

(6) Four members of the Senate shall be appointed by the President, with the concurrence of the President of the Senate, to represent interests under-represented in Parliament. Such members shall not have voting rights. Former presidents and former speakers of the House of Representatives shall be entitled to sit in the Senate but shall not exercise a vote.

Presiding officers

(7) The House shall, at its first meeting after a general election, elect by the system of Single Transferable Vote a Speaker and a Deputy Speaker and a Speaker's Committee of five members. The Speaker or in his absence the Deputy Speaker shall preside over meetings of the House. The Speaker shall not exercise a deliberative vote but may, in the event of a tie, exercise a casting vote. Members of the Speaker's Committee may preside in the absence of the Speaker or Deputy Speaker and shall otherwise assist the Speaker in the performance of his duties. 

(8) The Senate shall at its first meeting elect a President of the Senate who shall preside over all meetings of the Senate. The President may exercise a deliberative vote as well as a casting vote if necessary. The Senate shall also elect by STV a panel of three members who shall deputize for the President in his absence and otherwise assist him in his duties.

Committees of Parliament

(9) The House of Representatives shall divide itself into committees that shall monitor the work of each of the ministries specified in the Constitution. Each Committee shall consist of 40 members, half of whom should be constituency members and the other half national list members. A member should serve on two committees.

Members may opt to serve in committees as they choose. If committees are oversubscribed, allocations shall be made by the Speaker's Committee. 

(10) Members of the Senate should join in the deliberations of the House Committees, up to a maximum of five a committee. 

Each member of the Senate shall be entitled to serve on three committees, and the President of the Senate shall decide on allocations in the event of any House Committee being oversubscribed.

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