Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : September 16th 2013 Contents What other interesting
changes can we look
Under the new rules,
the FPTP councillors and
PR aldermen may be in
vastly different propor-
tions. Take 2010 again: in
Arima and San Fernando, the Partnership won the
councillor seats 6-1 and 7-2 respectively. But under
the new rule, the aldermen in each case would be
evenly split at 2-2. Point Fortin shows the same effect
in reverse: The PNM won the councillor seats by a 5-
1 margin, but again the aldermen elected would have
The mechanics of coalition politics will also be
affected since two parties cannot “pool” their support
or share a common list. In the last Sangre Grande
Borough Corporation election, the UNC received 53
per cent of the vote share, and the COP received ten
per cent. Together, the 63 per cent of the vote share
would have resulted in three Partnership aldermen
elected. But since each party must earn its own alder-
men, the PNM would have been able to split the allo-
cation 2-2. We may therefore see candidates running
under the banner of a coalition partner to allow a
single coalition party to contest all the seats in a given
Post-election coalitions fare even worse: if the votes
were split 17-17-2, the “2” would have no say in who
controlled the corporation.
Seems like a lot of change coming our way?
Not really, at least not yet. With just four aldermen
per corporation, the new rules would rarely change
the majority party in any corporation. In fact, in the
2010 counter-factual, the absolute number of repre-
sentatives on each side would change very little. In
most cases, the result is that two aldermen would be
added—one from each major party.
But again, the balance will still be actually closer
to the numerical “will” of the electorate, especially
for the five City and Borough Corporations. For exam-
ple, in Point Fortin, which went 43-57 in favour of
the PNM in 2010, the PP’s 43 per cent rounded down
to 13 per cent representation, and the PNM’s 57 per
cent rounded up to 88 per cent representation. In the
new system, this will be more balanced at 30-70.
The system does in fact lower the numerical bar to
gain representation. Once a party hits the “magic
number” of 121⁄2 per cent of the corporation-wide
vote, even if it does not win any district, it can secure
the election of an alderman, in a two-party contest.
The proposed PR system will increase the presence
of minority voices who have earned a sizable share of
the vote. However, in most cases, an otherwise dis-
enfranchised party will merely receive one alderman,
and at most two aldermen, out of a total of ten to
nineteen elected officials in the corporation.
The LR-Hare formula will allow for an easily com-
prehensible introduction to PR for Trinidad and Tobago,
and may be a low risk trial for more expanded PR,
since it will make only very minor changes to the
composition of each corporation, and will have little
or no bearing on who controls which corporation.
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Monday, September 16, 2013
This Q&A was developed by Nigel Henry
of Solution by Simulation following the
parliamentary debate on proportional rep-
resentation, which concluded in the Senate
last Wednesday. Local government elections
will take place on October 21. Solution by
Simulation accurately predicted the outcome
of the Tobago House of Assembly election,
published in our January 14 edition.
Q: So, let’s start with the basics. What
exactly is proportional representation, and
what’s the big deal about it?
A: Proportional Representation (PR)
describes a method of deciding the winners
of elections in which multiple members from
one district are elected in proportion to the
votes recorded for each party or candidate.
It contrasts with the “first past the post” sys-
tem (FPTP) in which a single member is elect-
ed from each district.
As of September 11, Trinidad and Tobago
will now use PR to elect aldermen to the
municipal corporations, with exactly four
aldermen elected in each corporation by PR.
The resulting system is more properly called
a Parallel Voting system, since FPTP and PR-
elected members will sit in the same chamber
(the city, borough or regional corporation
So exactly how does PR work?
Our version of PR will be implemented
using what is called a closed-list system in
which an elector’s vote will count in favour
of a party’s list of candidates for aldermen.
The list is “closed” because electors choose
the list on the whole, and cannot influence
which candidate on a given list is elected first.
We will use the so-called “largest remain-
ders” (LR) method of calculation, and more
specifically, the Hare version. In formal terms,
the LR method is calculated by dividing the
number of votes each party gets by a “quota.”
But I find it easiest to think of LR as awarding
a party an elected candidate for each time its
vote tally surpasses a fixed benchmark, in our
case 25 per cent. Any remaining seats are then
filled by the party or parties that are closest
to their next benchmark.
In other words: If Party A captures at least
25 per cent of the vote, it is awarded at least
one alderman, if it captures at least 50 per
cent of the vote, it is awarded at least two
aldermen, and so on. Once these first-round
aldermen are awarded, the party that is closest
to its next 25 per cent benchmark will receive
one of any remaining aldermen positions.
Can you use real numbers to illustrate?
Consider the following example: Party A
gets 49 per cent, Party B 35 per cent and
Party C, the remaining 16 per cent. Party A
and Party B will be awarded one alderman
each for crossing 25 per cent. Then Party A
is awarded a second alderman for being closest
to the next benchmark; having one per cent
less than 50 per cent. Party C will be awarded
the final alderman with its 16 per cent being
counted as its “remainder.”
The LR-Hare formula is the easiest of all
the PR systems to understand, and is the most
“fair” since its results most closely approximate
the underlying vote distribution.
So who will be the winners and losers in
this new system?
Well, like any PR system, smaller parties
will receive larger representation compared
to in a FPTP system. However, since only four
aldermen will be elected to each regional cor-
poration, a “small” party will therefore be
required to earn a significant number of votes
across the entire corporation to elect an alder-
man. In practice, therefore, the “winners”
will be the runner-up parties in each corpo-
ration. In practice, there will almost always
be at least one minority or “opposition” voice
in each corporation.
For example, in the 2010 local government
elections, the PNM was completely eliminated
from four of the 14 corporations entirely.
However, under the LR formula they would
have retained a presence in the form of an
alderman—on the Mayaro/Rio Claro, Princess
Town and Couva/Tabaquite/Talparo Regional
If the 2010 local government elections were
rerun using the following system, the com-
position of the corporations would have been
significantly more balanced than at present.
What PR system means to T&T
6.1000 6.2659 6.4445
5.7826 6.0869 6.4217
9.4135 9.9089 10.4440
7.9098 8.3261 8.7840
2.1126 2.2963 2.4570
for SEPTEMBER 13th
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