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Flaw in electoral system must be fixed forthwith

Published 04/12/2015

Alex Kane (DebateNI, November 27) correctly identifies an inherent flaw within the Northern Ireland electoral system that allows 22 unelected MLAs into office by the dubious co-opting back door route without them ever having to be directly elected. In order to understand how this ridiculous anomaly arises, one needs to consider the current electoral rules.

According to the Electoral Commission, the rules relating to the replacement of a MLA once a vacancy occurs are outlined in Part 6 (1) (b) of the Northern Ireland Assembly Elections Order 2001 and Part 6 of the Northern Ireland Assembly (Elections) (Amendment) Order 2009.

This means that when a vacancy arises the Chief Electoral Officer for Northern Ireland contacts the nominating office of the political party of which the former MLA was a member of at the time of their election and asks them to provide a substitute. Such a substitute must meet all the qualification requirements to be a candidate and MLA.

A by-election would only be required if the nominating officer failed to provide a substitute and/or if such a person declined to take the position of MLA.

Clearly, the Northern Ireland Electoral Commission urgently needs to amend the rules to prevent this desperate level of appointments by nepotism.

In the Republic of Ireland, for example, which has multi-seat constituencies, they manage to have by-elections, so why cannot Northern Ireland?


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