Gibraltar has had serious self-government since the 1968 Constitution. It has also had exactly the same electoral system since that date, despite endless promises from politicians over the years that they would reform it. Beyond vague references to the possible introduction of a system of proportional representation, which is not descriptive of a single system but rather a generic name for a variety of electoral systems, and vague promises to look into change, no reform has either taken place or is on the cards.
An opportunity to make a change at the time that the 2006 Constitution was under consideration was lost. There does not seem to have been any appetite either on the part of our politicians to make a change nor was it an issue, so far as is publicly known, that the UK government put on the agenda. The effect is that, once again, it is left for Gibraltar's elected politician to reform the system. They will not. It is not in their interests to do so.
It is not in their interest to do so because the existing system works in their favour and for their selfish ends and not for the achievement of the better government of Gibraltar. The 10 (previously 8) votes for one Chief Minister system means that we end up with a cult of personality, Sir Joshua Hassan, Sir Robert Peliza, Joseph Bossano and lately Peter Caruana. Most other candidates elected into government over the years have hung onto the coat tales of the personality in vogue from time to time and, guess what, they get status (the "Hon", wow!), a whopping salary and such power as the incumbent Chief Minister allows them to have.
It is not that each of these Chief Ministers have not done good things for Gibraltar. Each, in his day, has done much for Gibraltar, each has also made mistakes. The point is that one person alone cannot and does not have the ability to govern generally and have answers on every subject. Gibraltar prides itself on having excellent and well qualified individuals. The electoral system should encourage and not discourage, as the present system does, these individuals from standing for election.
Party politics means that potential candidates have to decide who they will support prior to standing for election. A decision that is not so much based on political ideology but rather on personality and on fine distinctions of policy based on the need to oppose or be different rather than policies that are designed exclusively for the betterment of Gibraltar and its people.
The electoral system that is in place at present encourages party politics. Undoubtedly party politics cannot be prohibited nor will it likely disappear. However, there are known and well researched electoral systems that encourage individuality and promote coalition politics. In Gibraltar there should be no fear of coalition government. Coalition government in a territory the size of Gibraltar with the talent that it has will promote better governance for the benefit of a wider electorate. It will provide more individual accountability. It will provide a wider choice of candidates. It will mean that elected members will choose the Chief Minister, making him more accountable. All in all it will deliver more democracy.
The belief that governance and the democratic process will be improved by imposing an eight year limit on the time that any one person can serve as Chief Minister is misconceived. Such a system institutionalises the cult of personality and is presidential in style. This is not our system of Government. It is the USA system. The USA system has checks and balances that we do not have in the form of a separate legislature and a Supreme Court with more extensive constitutional powers.
One additional change that would be necessary to improve the separation between the executive and the legislature, however, is to increase the number of MP's and place a limit on the number of ministers. This will ensure that MP's will counterbalance the power of the executive and help to prevent executive abuse.
What is strange is that the 2006 Constitution has come about without a review of the electoral system to enhance good governance. This begs the question that possibly the cult of personality also suits others better. It delivers one very powerful individual, the Chief Minister, with whom all international relations and defence requirements can be negotiated. Perhaps, the convenience of that system is what militated at the time of the 2006 Constitution against the type of change that is advocates in this blog.
Future promise by politicians that they will reform the electoral and ministerial system will not be credible unless the promise includes a detailed exposition of the proposed reform and commits to the introduction of the reforms within the first 2 years of election into government. Failure to reform the system in that time will allow the electorate to see the lack of sincerity and vote that government out of power at the next election.
I live in hope of electoral reform but not in expectation of it.