External Relations Minister Ian Gorst said moving the Island’s election day to 22 June gave the States Assembly and Council of Ministers an extra month in office, and he could not see the public interest for doing so.
Senator Gorst said he did not believe ‘any parliament should extend its own period of office beyond that which the public believed it was voting for’, except in periods of crisis.
The Privileges and Procedures Committee have lodged proposals for debate by the States Assembly which would, if approved, push the 2022 election date back by around a month. The PPC raised concerns about the Easter period and Liberation Day impacting on election campaigns – potentially giving sitting Members an additional advantage during the annual Liberation Day sitting and celebrations which they said could turn into a ‘campaign launch day for all Members seeking re-election in June’.
Senator Gorst’s amendment also seeks to ensure that the Island would not be left without an Assembly due to the wording of PPC’s proposals. He said that under current proposals there would be a period between election day and the swearing-in of Members where Jersey would effectively not have a parliament for around two weeks as sitting Deputies would cease to hold office on the day of election.
‘This would cause a problem in emergency situations,’ his amendment stated. ‘Perhaps more importantly, it would mean that Islanders are left without official representation for the period between an election and Members taking their oaths of office.’
He said it was ‘perhaps more serious in respect of ministers’, stating that if the proposition was adopted unamended all executive power would be invested in the Chief Minister from election day until a Council of Ministers was appointed, which could take around three weeks.
Under his amendment, Members would remain in place until the swearing-in of the new Assembly.
In his amendment, Senator Gorst said he suspected his proposals ‘may cause contention in respect of the election date’ and that he respected that Members would have ‘strong and differing views on this matter’.
‘I believe a May 2020 election is the right, proper and correct course of action,’ he added.
The proposition and amendment is due to be debated at a States sitting on 20 April.