Commonwealth Parliamentary Association elects new chairperson

Rt. Hon. Sir Alan Haselhurst MP has been elected the new chair of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association’s executive committee after a hard fought, three-corner contest for the key position.

Sir Alan, chair of the CPA UK and a former Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons, won the election against Ms Fiamé Mata’afa, Samoa’s Minister for Justice and a veteran parliamentarian, and Ms Kashmala Tariq, an MP from Pakistan, in a two-round runoff vote.

Sir Alan told delegates to the 57th annual Conference of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association in London that he was both honoured and moved by his win: “We all know about winning elections, it is a funny emotional moment and my heart is really quite full as I accept the great honour you have conferred on me and the enormous responsibility that goes with it,” he said.

“I’d like to thank those that voted - especially if you voted twice - and also thank those of you who voted for other candidates. I aim to represent everyone without fear or favour.”

The campaign for leadership of the executive committee has come at a critical time for the CPA as the body – which celebrates its centenary this year – works to re-fashion itself into a more modern, vibrant and responsive organization able to play a significant role in an increasingly globalised world.

More than 170 legislatures, national, state and territorial, are represented by the CPA and more than 600 delegates – including 416 MPs and speakers – from 54 nations visited London for the five-day conference this week.

The status of the CPA as a registered charity in the United Kingdom is also under review – with much, spirited debate about its future standing and role continuing, and a report and recommendations now due next year.

Sir Alan said that he would work to ensure that the Commonwealth’s view of itself as a large family would be nurtured: “We are a big and I hope happy family and I will do everything I can in the three years ahead. My first task is to train the Secretary General in the pronunciation in of my name,” he laughed.

“I would of course also like to pay respects to Kashmala and Fiamé for the honorable contest they have fought. I say to them - and I say to you all I - that I would be very disappointed if after my three year [term], we don’t have more women in Commonwealth Parliaments than we do today.”

Sir Alan pledged that during a Pacific visit early next year, he would not only visit Tonga – as planned – but now extend his itinerary to visit Samoa as well.
Ms Mata’afa earlier told delegates that she had joined the campaign for the chair’s position later than other candidates but felt strongly that the voice of small nations, particularly islands in remote parts of the world, needed to be heard and heeded more.

“Being here in London is a salient reminder of where our parliamentary traditions began,” she told delegates.

“But it is important to remember that while democracy began here, it does not end here. Our nations big and small need to bind together in unity, in purpose and in strength.”