electoral reforms the need of the hour

24 March 2015 06:56 pm - 1     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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Three major issues that attracted wide public attention during the last presidential election were  
  •  Abolition of  the executive  presidency
  •  Re-establishment of independent commissions
  •  Abolition of preferential  voting system

The first 2 issues are certain to be included in some form in the amendment to the Constitution to be presented by the Government shortly. However, if the next general elections are to be held in June 2015 it is likely to be on the old system of proportional representation.

The one that seems to have the widest public awareness and support is the one to abolish the system of preferential voting. Yet, many of the present legislators as well as some of the political parties are not keen on the first-past-the-post system as this seems to be less favourable to them. Parliament is there to represent the wishes of the people and to act in their interest. Unfortunately, the present day parliamentarians are there to enrich themselves and protect their self-interest.

If the old electoral system of first-past-the-post is to be re-introduced, this will fail to reflect the wishes of a substantial section of the voters. Mixture of electoral and the proportional system have many advocates.

For the mix system to achieve its objective of representing a wider section of the voters, a significant number of seats has to be allocated under the proportional system. The number of MPs to be elected under the first-past-the-post system has to be reduced to keep the total   number of MPs to a reasonable number. De-limitation is needed to reduce the number of electorates. This will invariably take considerable time. There is a practical problem in introducing the mixed system before June 2015.



Electoral Reforms for the future

Provincial councils are already in place. They together with the local councils should play a vibrant role to ensure sovereignty really lies with the people and that power is not monopolised by the Parliament.
  •  Hence the number of Parliamentarians should be reduced. India has 650 MPs for 650 million voters
As proportional representation is a key component of democracy it will be appropriate to make the calculation
of the seats beginning with the proportional system.

 It is proposed that the total number of seats per district under the proportional system be on the basis of one seat per 200,000 voters
Proportional system to be meaningful, must have a minimum of 2 seats for an electoral district. On this basis the total seats under this system would be 76. (See Table 1)
 
  •  All the MPs elected under the proportional system will be allocated an electorate by the election commissioner (EC) in consultation with all the MPs from the district.
  • The seats under the first-past-the-post system would be around 100, making a total of 176.
  •  Grace seats
One seat may be allocated to each party which polled at least 2.5 % of the all-island valid votes and did not secure a single seat (number not fixed)




Bonus seats   

It is suggested that 5 bonus seats shall be given to the party, which forms the Government. These 5 seats shall be given to eminent professionals, so that the Parliament is   enriched. No defeated candidate shall be given a seat under this   category.




Appointed MPs

Two members may be appointed by the President to represent any communities which are not represented in the Parliament.
Total number of MPs will be around 185
There will be no national list as
i.this will result  in duplicate allocation for each vote (This is the main objection on principle)
ii.wishes of a substantial section of the voters have already been given representation
iii.will increase the number of MPs
Allocation of seats in an electoral district Method 1 (Recommended)
Step 1 - calculating the relevant votes(RV)
Relevant votes =    Total valid votes in the district - rejected votes



Rejected votes

a) total district votes of any party if it is less than 5% of valid votes in the district
b) votes of independent candidates (independent candidates are not entitled to a seat under proportional system)
Step 2- calculating the relevant
number (RN)
Relevant votes / number of seats in the district –any seat won by independent candidate on the first-past-the-post system
Step 3- calculating district seats entitlement of parties
Seat entitlement for the party for the district = Total number of party votes / relevant number
Step 4 – Seat entitlement for  parties under the proportional system
Total seat entitlement for the district - number of seats won under first-past-the-post
Step 5 – Declaring the winning candidates under the proportional system
These seats shall be allocated to the best losing candidates from the party entitled for this/these seat(s)
For example, there are 9 seats in Colombo under the proportional system. Let us say party A is entitled for 5 seats party B 3 and party C1. Best 5 loosing candidates from Party A, 2 from Party B and1 from Party C would be declared as the winning candidates. This will be on the basis of the percentage of votes the candidate polled in the electorate. An alternative would be on the basis of total number of votes each candidate polled.
Allocating seats under the proportional system (Method 2)
This does not take into account the winning votes of the candidates under the first-past-the-post system
Step 1 - calculating the    relevant
votes (RV)
Relevant votes =    Total valid votes in the district - rejected votes – total votes of the winning candidates
 Rejected votes
a) total district votes of any party if it is less than 5% of valid votes in the district
b) votes of independent candidates (no independent candidate is entitled for a seat under proportional system)
Step 2- calculating the relevant
number (RN)
Relevant votes / number of seats in the district on proportional basis.
Step 3- calculating district seat entitlement of parties
Seat entitlement for the party for the district = Total number of party votes excluding the winning votes of the party candidates / relevant number
  •  Having allocated the seats on this basis, if one or more seat(s) is/are yet to be declared elected, such seat(s) shall be allocated to the party with the maximum remainder votes.
Step 4 – Declaring the winning candidates
  •  These seats in a polling district shall be allocated to the best losing candidates from the party entitled for this/these seat(s)
  • All the MPs elected under the proportional system will be allocated an electorate by the Elections Commissioner (EC) in consultation with all the MPs from the district.

(The writer is a senior consultant physician attached  to Dr. Neville Fernando Teaching Hospital)
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  Comments - 1

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  • Psephologist Wednesday, 25 March 2015 03:43 PM

    Why do we have to re-invent the wheel? Why do we not adopt the New Zealand system of MMR - elected and nominated members, to suit us.


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