Photo of voting

MHK predicts October date for local authority elections

Tue, 16 Mar 2021

By Chris Cave - Local Democracy Reporter
By Chris Cave - Local Democracy Reporter

Local authority elections on the Island are likely to be delayed until at least October, according to a former government minister.

Tynwald unanimously backed postponing the ballot, which was due to take place next month, following concerns over the coronavirus pandemic.

A number of options were discussed, such as pushing the vote back by three months or holding it on the same date as September’s House of Keys election.

Douglas Central MHK Chris Thomas feels it’s unlikely voters will head to the polls in July as suggested.
Infrastructure Minister Tim Baker had hinted the new date for the elections could be 22 July when he brought forward the motion at last week’s Tynwald sitting.

However, Mr Thomas, who was policy and reform minister until May last year, believes we could be looking at a six-month delay.

“[Mr Baker] basically got Tynwald’s consent to delay the election to an unspecified date and it was acknowledged that we needed to change some law to allow for that”, he said.

“I hope now the question will be asked who should be involved in making the decision when [the new date should be] and what factors should be taken into account.”

A near 50-minute debate took place in the chamber as members discussed alternative options.

Onchan MHK Julie Edge said a July date was “a bit premature” while Bill Shimmins, who represents Middle, told members authorities in his constituency supported the decision to postpone the vote.

Mr Shimmins added that those standing at local authority level may be at a higher standard if the ballot was pushed back until after the House of Keys election.

However, Mr Thomas insists any decision should be independent from politicians and government so as not to give any candidates an unfair advantage.

He’s also advocating using the modern election law framework developed for central government.
Local authority elections historically have a lower turnout, something Mr Thomas doesn’t want to see impacted further.

He added: “Personally I think that means we’re more likely to be having [the election] in October time rather than July, but I just want this to be apolitical.

“We’ve had a problem with turnout in local elections for decades. It would be such a shame if local democracy in  a local authority level was damaged further by very low participation.

“We need to do everything we possibly can to have a good, efficient, fair election for the local authorities.”

 

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