St Helena Online

Tag: by-election

Christine wins by-election on a 19% turnout

Christine Scipio-O’Dean has emerged as the clear winner of the by-election to choose a new legislative councillor on St Helena, following the resignation of Tara Thomas.

She becomes one of only two female councillors, alongside Bernice Olsson.

She polled 101 votes, more than the combined total for her opponents Eric George (54 votes) and Lionel Williams (30 votes) – both of whom are former councillors.

After the result was declared, she told Tony Leo of Saint FM she was “very tired”.

She said: “I am glad it is all over, and looking forward to the challenges ahead.

“I would just like to stick to my main principles, and that is to provide better educational opportunities, make sure the vulnerable are protected against the rapid increases were are seeing [in the cost of living], and enhance the partnership between government, civil society and the private sector.

“I would like to thank the people in the east who have given up their valuable time to vote today, despite bad weather. I would also like to thank people on the west for their kind encouragement.

“I look forward to working with my new colleagues for a short period – a very difficult period. Tough decisions will have to be made to ensure a better life for St Helena.”

Eric George said he was “disappointed, obviously, but the best man wins – best woman in this case. She did a good job by the look of it and she came out on top.”

Asked whether he would stand in the 2013 general election, he said: “I will see how my health is.”

Lionel Williams said: “Everybody is disappointed in the turnout. The weather isn’t all that good outside for election day.”

SEE ALSO:
Voter apathy on St Helena: ‘There’s something seriously wrong’

In Levelwood, ten people vote in by-election; 105 don’t bother. Well, it was raining…

There are 115 registered voters in Levelwood, but only ten of them made it to the polling station on by-election day. There were grumbles about the weather.

Democracy had been rained off.

At the end of what must have been one of the world’s shortest-ever election counts, presenter Tony Leo told radio listeners on St Helena: “For those of you who were eligible to vote and didn’t, shame on you.”

The turnout in the October 2012 by-election was 19.37%. Across the East ward, only 185 people voted to choose a new legislative councillor in place of Tara Thomas, out of an electorate of 955.

As Mike Olsson observed in the on-air discussion that followed the count in the Castle, only about half the people entitled to vote were even on the electoral register.

So the true scale of voter apathy was twice as bad as it appeared.

Christine Scipio-O’Dean was a convincing winner, but her tally of 101 votes represented just over 10 per cent of the total that could have been cast on the day

And by Mike Olsson’s reckoning, she was voted in by only about five per cent of the potential electorate – that’s one person in 20.

He said: “You can start doubting the democracy.

“Democracy is not 100% credible because of the low turn-out.

“It is dropping election by election. Karl Marx would have said something like alienation: people don’t identify themselves with what’s going on in society.

“There is definitely a big rift between the people and the corridors of power. I don’t think anybody can disagree with that.”

Vince Thompson, taking part in the radio discussion, said: “When you think of the full page inserts that have been put into the papers in the week’s preceeding this by-election, telling people how to vote, where to vote, answering every imaginable question, there can’t be anyone who doesn’t know there’s a by-election.

“There’s something seriously wrong: a big disconnect between government affairs and the private person in the street.

“My view is that until we find out what that is, why should we expect the percentage turn-out to increase?”

SEE ALSO:
Christine wins by-election on a 19% turn-out
Democracy campaign

Keywords: Freedom of information

Earl Henry wins election, but 80% fail to vote (comments added)

Governor Mark Capes shakes hands with Councillor Earl Henry
Governor Mark Capes shakes hands with Councillor Earl Henry

Earl Henry has been elected to St Helena’s Legislative Council in a by-election held on 13 June 2012, following the resignation of Michael “Newpence” Benjamin.

Results were: Earl Hilton Henry 155 votes, Eric Walter George 70 & Lionel George Williams 40. Altogether 265 votes cast, from an electorate of 1,232 registered voters: 127 from St Pauls, 33 from Blue Hill, 32 from Sandy Bay and 73 from Half Tree Hollow.

Vince Thompson, commentating on Saint FM radio station, said: “He got 60 per cent of the vote but without detracting in any way from Earl’s success we do have to talk about the terrible turnout which was 20 per cent.

“The question is why did 80 per cent of those who could vote not bother? They have got to think their vote will count for something.”

Only just over half the people eligible to vote were even on the electoral register – meaning the true turn-out was as low as 20 per cent.

Tony Leo, a former councillor himself, said: “From time to time the Castle says the register needs to be updated. That needs to be plugged away and parents need to make sure their children are registered.

“As people go overseas or get old they are no longer quite as interested in politics. They need  younger people and there must be a way to get people on the register.

“Eighteen months from now there will be a general election and you want a higher turn out.

“I think somebody should be analysing why it is like this. I have not seen any excitement – I didn’t see any posters, anything stuck in windows, and it does help.”

Vince Thomspon, who was a councillor in the UK for 12 years, said: “My experience of elections in the UK is very different from what happens here.

“I was amazed at the lack of activity and councillors trying to involve people they wanted to vote for them. I am used to going out knocking on doors.

“I do genuinely have sympathy for councillors because they are on their own. Each councillor is on their own and they have no back-up. They can only go to officers for information and that’s their only source, so they become mouthpieces for the officers.

“People say, ‘I don’t like politics,’ but politics is everything.

“There’s got to be more differences of opinion where people respect each other’s opinion but can engage in genuine debate.

“There’s just edicts and announcements.

“I was chatting to one councillor about tinkering about with the constitution, I was talking about a chief councillor, he was talking about a chief islander.

“At the moment you have an Exco appointed by the governor. That can’t be right.”

COMMENTS:

I disagree that the by-election lacked excitement. Despite the low turnout it was still very exciting!

– Joy Lawrence, St Helena
via Facebook

[You] only need to win by one vote.

– Leslie Ben Thomas
via Facebook

People should not ignore their right to vote – otherwise they could lose it!

– Hee Young Ra
via Facebook

Candidates wanted for ‘difficult job’ on council

A Writ of Election has been published following the resignation of legislative councillor Michael Benjamin.

Anyone on the register of electors can be nominated to replace him, but voting will only be open to people in the West electoral area.

In his new column in The Sentinel, Michael said: “Being a councillor is an extremely difficult and complicated job.

“You must balance the immediate needs of your constituents whilst trying to establish strategies and policies that will benefit the island as a whole, both now and in the future. They do this with limited funds and a paymaster that is continuously looking over their shoulders.”

He says new policies on land reform, tax and immigration, though unpopular, are vital to the island’s future wellbeing.

Nominations for the vacant council set close at noon on Wednesday, 16 May, 2012. If an election is needed it will take place on Wednesday 13 June.

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