Sunday, October 23, 2011

A floating voter looking for guidance

One of the great things about living in a democracy is that you get to regularly make decisions which affect your country. In general, I think that this is such an important privilege that I always take time to educate myself on the issues so I can make an informed decision. However, on Thursday next, I will be faced with 4 different ballot papers and it will be tough to educate myself on all 4 ballots.

Here is my position on each ballot (in descending order of certainty)
  1. The issue which has received most public attention is the election of a new President. I am delighted that we have 7 candidates to choose from - the complex nomination process often means that we don't get to choose. Unfortunately the campaign has degenerated into mudslinging which doesn't make any of the candidates look good (e.g.  Mary Robinson Tapestry for President group on Facebook gives a flavour of how juvenile the debating has become). I decided at the start of the campaign that I would vote for Michael D. Higgins and nothing during the campaign so far has made me change my mind on the topic.
  2. There are also two referendums being decided tomorrow. The first issue is fairly straight forward. When the constitution was being drafted it contained a clause that the government could never decrease the pay of a judge. At the time they probably wanted to avoid the possibility of a vindictive government arbitrarily reducing the pay of a judge who took an unpopular decision and so the clause made sense. They never considered the situation we recently encountered whereby the pay of all public servants was reduced and it is clearly wrong that Judges should be the only public servants exempted from these cuts.
  3. Despite the efforts of the referendum commission many people don't fully appreciate this second topic that we are being asked to vote upon. It seems that the government wants to increase the powers of parliamentary inquiries so that they can eliminate the need for expensive and slow tribunals of inquiry. This change has not been widely debated in the press, but the few articles and letters to the editor that I have read on the topic seem to be arguing against this change. It is hard to argue against making public inquiries more efficient, but some of the proposed new powers definitely seem to be open to abuse. It is important to also bear in mind that politicians are some of the people most likely to be the subject of a public inquiry so I don't think they are the best people to be put in charge of the subject. On balance I will vote against this change (but I could be easily persuaded to change my mind).
  4. In West Dublin, we will also have to decide who gets the Dáil seat left vacant by the tragic death of Brian Lenihan. After the last election we had 4 very high profile representatives from our constituency (Leo Vradkar - Minister for Transport, Joan Burton - Minister for Social Protection, Brian Lenihan RIP - former Minister for Finance and Joe Higgins who is probably higher profile than any Minister). I believe that there are 7 candidates to fill the vacant seat, but I couldn't honestly name more than 4 of them. Normally a by-election would be well covered in the media, but there has been so much coverage of the presidential campaign in the media that there has been hardly any space left for coverage of the by-election.  I guess I will be the ultimate floating voter on this ballot, because I might get a surprise when I see the full list of names.
If anyone wants to change my mind on any of these ballots, feel free to leave a comment below.

Update 26th/Oct: I just checked out the ElctionsIreland site for information about the candidates in our by-election and I found out that there were actually 13 candidates not the 7 I though. Clearly some of them have not been very scuessfull in making themselves know. 

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