Thursday, February 28, 2008

Jersey's democratic deficit

From The Economist:

At the root of many of the island's problems is its halting democracy. Though politicians are elected, voters have no say in who forms a government, since assemblymen are voted into ministerial posts by their peers. That is true in Westminster too, of course—but in Jersey almost all parliamentarians are independents, making it hard to know what sort of coalition will emerge from elections.

Frank Walker, chosen as chief minister in 2005, had won fewer votes in the island-wide elections than Mr Syvret, who is now a backbencher. Voters are giving up: at the last election, in 2005, six deputies were elected unopposed, on a turnout of less than 40%. (On neighbouring Guernsey it was 63%.)

The arrival of dozens of journalists on Jersey is not welcomed by all, though it is good news for hoteliers and publicans. But there may be benefits to opening up the island to outside scrutiny. Links between government and the local media have caused many islanders unease before now.

Until 2005 Mr Walker was chairman of the company that owned the island's only newspaper, the Jersey Evening Post. (Its reporters deny any bias, but say that there were regular arguments with Mr Walker over content.) Disaffected readers can always tune into local radio, of course—where they may hear the news read by one Fiona Spurr, who also goes by the name of Mrs Frank Walker.


Anonymous said...

Interesting. I visited Jersey for a short break around 20 years ago and remember that even back then the local establishment was rather proud that assemblymen were all independent.

However, what struck me was how uninspired and uninspiring the island was considering its wealth. My impression was that it had slid into a kind of tired, run down conservatism that desperately needed a a kick up the backside to wake it up.

Maybe this is that kick but the circumstances of it are tragic.

Dan Marsh said...

It's good to see that the outside world is beginning to expose the short-comings of our local government. I'm using the word government very loosely here!