In spite of the current electoral system being called Proportional Representation (PR) system, in fact there are elements in the very system that disturbs the proportional representation. One is the bonus seats awarded to the party that gets the highest number of votes in a particular district while another being the appointment of members to the parliament through the national list.
Both elements further extend the gap between the winning party and the other contenders which is the outcome of the proportionate division of seats, according to the votes each political party or independent group had secured. The bonus seat does it at the district level and the national list at the national level.
None of the terms bonus seats and the national list are in the Constitution. These are terms that have come into use with the passage of time, as the Constitution explains them in length and in a confusing manner.
There are no recorded explanations in the Constitution as to why these two elements have been tagged with elections. Yet, one has to surmise they have been introduced to avert any crisis situation where the collective strength of all Opposition parties being higher than the ruling party, as happened in many local government bodies after the 2018 local government election. Had there been bonus seats in local government bodies, the crises over appointing the chairmen of some of them could have been averted in that year.
The Constitution indicates only one purpose of the national list - maintaining the country’s ethnic ratio in Parliament - despite it being not clearly articulated. In a confusing Article it calls on the Election Commission to “request the Secretary of such recognized political party or group leader of such independent group in so nominating persons to be elected as Members of Parliament to ensure as far as practicable, that the representation of all communities is commensurate with its national population ratio.” However, this is too clearly a watered down request as parties are required to heed it only “as far as practicable.” Therefore, currently that requirement is totally forgotten.
There was a notion among the people at the beginning that the national list had been introduced for the parties to appoint experts in various fields to Parliament. Nevertheless, it is another aspect that has been ignored when appointing members of Parliament through the national list. There had been occasions when the list had been so filled with elderly politicians who had been left out by party leaders when nominating candidates or by the people at elections that people called it a home for elderly.
After almost every election there has been a dogfight within one or more political parties over the seats so allocated to them according to the votes they had secured at the national level. There have been occasions when political parties have split over these seats. This time conflicts have arisen in three parties, Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB), Tamil National Alliance and the Ape Jana Bala Pakshaya or Our People’s Power Party (AJBP or APPP). SJB and TNA have somewhat managed the situation while Ven. Vedanigama Wimalatissa Thera, the monk who held the Secretary post of the APPP during the election has gone underground, over the issue.
At the same time, there is a group who are unhappy over the ministerial portfolios they have been assigned to. Some seem to be grumbling over them not being appointed as Cabinet ministers rather than State ministers while another group being hurt due to them being not considered at least when appointing State ministers. Another group is heartbroken over not receiving ministries with institutions that handle large amount of State funds or that can absorb large number of new recruits so that they can provide jobs to their supporters.
No sane person would argue that people fight over these parliamentary seats or portfolios due to over enthusiasm on serving the people or the country or a particular community. This is sheer greed for power and money making opportunities. This points the level that politicians have stooped to. Their exalted claims over their aspirations and commitments to the country, people and sometimes a particular community during the election campaigns is a far cry from their real motives which emerge after the elections. Finally, always ordinary people are the ultimate losers. However, these issues are food for thought and help understand politics and politicians.