Posted by: J Starling | July 24, 2009

An Elected Senate & Fixed Term Elections

I think it’s important to state here that I personally advocate a complete devolution of power based on neighbourhood assemblies, then up to parish councils and then a national council, and a similar system based on the shop floor, and industrial council and then a national labour council, as the two pillars of our political system.

Having said that, I realise that there are a number of political reforms that would be a good deal easier to realise in advance of those more radical political reforms. Two in particular that I am fond of are the idea of an elected Senate and fixed terms for elections.

A related idea is that of proportional representation, although I think that deserves its own thread. All that I will say on it for this post is that I think an elected Senate would be an ideal area to introduce proportional representation and thus give a balance to the existing ‘first past the post’ results of the House of Assembly.

I have always disliked the concept of Senators (and by extension, Cabinet Ministers) being unaccountable to the people, and, at that, sychophantically loyal to the Party Leader that appoints them. While I can see the benefits of having ‘independent’ Senators appointed by the Governor (which is an altogether other issue), I would much prefer Senators elected by the people.

I personally would like to see a fifteen member Senate. I envision the current 36 constituencies being combined in Senatorial elections into twelve – so three proximal parliamentary constituencies form a single senatorial constituency. I would see the remaining three Senators elected via a list, voted on in each of the twelve senatorial constituencies (say three nominees – at least – from each Party) – as such these three Senators would be ‘national Senators’ in effect. An alternative would be to simply have the twelve senatorial constituencies, and one Senator appointed as the equivalent of the Speaker – voting only to break deadlocks like in the House. But I prefer the concept of an uneven number of Senators and a national list option.

In addition to the idea of accountable Senators, I would like to see fixed term elections – at different dates – for both the House of Assembly and the Senate. This is in many ways a replica of the US system, and would see the Senate elections every four years in such a way as to being held midway through a four year term of the House. Fixed term elections make the system much more rational, reduce the chances of voters being caught out on vacation, and makes the election more just for all Parties invovled. Furthermore, having different dates for both the House and the Senate would help keep the Government more accountable.


  1. I couldn’t agree more about fixed term elections!

    The current system puts WAY too much power in the hands of the ruling Government and has for years.

    It’s just not fair. It’s not fair now and it wasn’t then.

  2. Fixed term elections get my support. As do an elected senate and rotations of parliament elections 2 years after senate.

    15 senators in my view is too many for our island and just unnecessarily costly.

    I also question why it is necessary to again use constituencies as a basis for representation. Constituencies are already represented by a member of parliament, so why double represent.

    I would rather see us take a non-geographical approach. Even a popular vote would be better in my view for Senators.

  3. Also very much in favour of fixed term elections, and an elected senate.

    Denis is right that 15 is too many. I think 9 is more workable. I also think that having elected senators might give more scope for independents and possible other parties like the NLP to have some influence.

    While the appointment route currently employed does provide some oversight and balance, in fairness our senate is either parliament’s kindergarten, or a method of offering political favours for loyal service. Either situation is untenable, and does not serve the country’s best interests.

  4. So basically Ren Man, your supportive or making a sugestion that we change the Constitution to reflect our neighbors?

    Whats with all this conformity. Must be educational background achievement.

    Long live Bermuda College.

  5. Hey Rumster. You’re the first person EVER to call me a conformist. Talk about a unique perspective.

    There’s no reason that we shouldn’t take the best traits of every country, if we can. As a matter of fact, that’s exactly what we must do.

    Of all the countries in the world, we have the best opportunity. We have the duty to ourselves to chose the best of everything, irrespective of where it comes from. Canada, for example, has some similarities to both the US and the UK systems, and it works for them.

    Who’s to say we shouldn’t amend our constitution? After all, it was drafted to be a living document, it needs to grow and adapt to our society’s changing needs. But, it’s relegated to a short chain and ignored mostly, these days.

    Why not use the best parts of the US constitution? It’s a pretty good start on how to develop a country. Plus, they’re not really using it now anyway. Haven’t since 2000.

    Bermuda College is currently in dire need of reform, but that’s for another thread. Just like the rest of the education system. But it did serve me well twenty years ago as a student.

  6. I don’t have any issue with moving to fixed term elections; what would be some of the arguments against switching to that model?

    Regarding elected Senators as opposed to appointed ones, that takes some thought. There are a number of ways one can go, as illustrated above.

    With all due respect to the Independent Senators appointed by the Governor, I think Jonathon has a solid point about unelected party senators being ‘sychophantically loyal to the Party Leader that appoints them’ and that could be troublesome. Also, the notion that serving in the Senate as a ‘training ground’ for politicians, still doesn’t sit well.

  7. “How to develop a country”.

    Hello…where you been for 400 years.?

    Then again, thats another thread. Your input is quite edible. It’s the toothpicks that make it hard to swallow…..( ok ..I know, take the olive off and throw it away).

    Cut, paste, google..what a life…….

  8. Who said anything about changing the U.S. constitution?

  9. Rummy, we are far from developed as a country.

    We don’t have basic human rights for certain people, and our elected officials conveniently ignore our constitution to suit their wants. The standards of accountability and transparency are severely lacking, and our laws are inadequate protection against unethical behaviour. Have you even heard what passes for political debate and discourse?

    I can’t imagine why anyone would think that these conditions could not be indicative of a need to develop ourselves.

  10. Sorry Ren. Conformist? Just depends on who’s porch you sit and who paid for the becks.

    Nice beard by the way.

    Gotta run…Farrakan needs me. Were meeting Ottie on Sunday in Ghana..or is it Tel avi, or Dubai. Must be Israel… topic but you know the deal…………………

  11. What you smoking UE.? You are you addressing? What comment statement?

  12. Well, seeing as you don’t live in Bermuda, when you say “we” and “our constitution”, one can only assume you mean America.

  13. Ren

    Understand – and you are right. Mind you, it could be worse – this could be the UK with the House Of Lords.

    Now there’s a funny farm if ever there was one.

    Then there’s the whole thing about being governed by Europe with offcials who are not voted in by the people.

  14. One comment – if you want to move to fixed term elections AND an elected Senate you have to somehow insure that Senate remains a check on the House – that means that Senate elections can’t happen at the same time that Parliamentary elections are happening – means four year terms for both with a two year offset.

    Downside is that parties will be running in full time election mode 100% of the time.

  15. Never mind UE. Never mind. As your ansestors about “We”.

  16. I don’t understand, Rummy. Are you living in Bermuda now?

  17. No I am not and that is not relevant. I spent 40 years of my life there and still have financial interests and a parent there.

    So I am correct in saying “we” and “constitution”.

    Have a blessed day.

  18. I just found it a little misleading, that’s all.

  19. UE, “misleading” ? Bermuda Jewel, what happened to it?

    Where have all the flowers gone…long time passing…………..

    Gotta run………….


    Ps too all…um nut running anymore….um fayed hup…….gonna maik ah stained……..hooze wiff me?

  20. “Downside is that parties will be running in full time election mode 100% of the time.”

    The ruling party has been in election mode non-stop the past 6 years or so, so nothing’s likely to change on that front anyway.

  21. Try, you’re absolutely right. All election mode, all the time. This is one of the reasons I feel term limits are so important. So we all know when it’s coming and can prepare for it. This 24/7/365 “Silly Season” nonsense is exhausting.

    And, yes, Rummy. Misleading. I found it misleading that you, an American resident, used “We” and “Us” without defining which group you meant.
    That’s all. There’s no need for… whatever that was.

  22. Bawahahaaaaaaaaaaaa

    Have a great day UE.

  23. Not sure how – if at all this fits into this – but I like the European idea of rotating the Presidency.

    Keeps the ideas fresh – the politics balanced – and should stop the ‘control’ issues we hear about today in Bermuda.

  24. That would be tricky, I think. The EU is a completely different animal, and when I think of a rotating leadership, I’m envisioning say the top rep from St. George’s running the country for 8 months, then Southampton, then the next parish (chosen arbitrarily here), and so on. Seems like that would be a difficult process when we have to deal with ministry assignments and the like and some consistency is required. Shoot, Education has had its own revolving door and nobody’s happy about it.

    But maybe there’s a place for something along those lines in some facets of government leadership. House Speaker or Senate chair, perhaps?

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