THE HIGHLY anticipated meeting of the Electoral College – which on Friday saw Christine Kangaloo designated President – did not result in the expected fireworks. That is a source of relief.
In fact, the sitting was so regular as to border on the tedious, particularly the process by which votes were taken and ballots counted. In this day and age, it was something of a quaint spectacle to witness the Clerk of the House count and sort each vote picked up from a pile of ballots on a desk before her.
The margin of the overall vote, as well as the fact that there were three spoiled ballots, will also trigger some degree of speculation. Attention will understandably turn to the issue of whether party ranks were broken in any way.
With the Opposition’s total membership in the Electoral College at 25, the fact that its candidate received 22 votes raises questions. There were exactly three spoilt votes, which may account for the difference, with two of them blank and one filled in with four Xs. Were the spoilt ballots meant as protests of the process? Or were they repudiations of both candidates?
The secrecy of the vote means we may never be entirely sure what has occurred. And that secrecy, relating to the selection of an official who must serve highly public functions, is also a matter that should be considered for reform when next this process is undertaken.
If all goes according to plan, that should be five years down the road.
Meanwhile, the attention naturally falls on Ms Kangaloo.
Whatever the nuances of the margin of her election, which is also such as to suggest the possibility of support from the independent senators, she has a clear enough mandate.
That mandate, however, will not be a straightforward one given several hot-button issues that will soon fall for her attention.
The issue of presidential pardons – including their appropriateness and the procedures surrounding them – has arisen spectacularly in the Vincent Nelson fiasco. There is also the looming matter of the Police Service Commission and the selection of a Commissioner of Police.
Most immediately, Ms Kangaloo also will likely be called upon to appoint a new slate of independent senators, with the last slate having a tense relationship with the Opposition.
The Prime Minister’s emphasis on her life of service, including 33 previous stints as acting President, was a reminder of past political associations that Ms Kangaloo will have to navigate.
The Opposition has already put the nation on notice that they will hold this office accountable. But it is not only them who will be looking to see whether the new President has what it takes to act impartially. She will have to bend over backwards to prove that she can.