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winsight 08 Elections 2009: Some reflections, and why we should change the system

The Campaign for Electoral Reforms India (CERI) is to make the electoral system more representative of the wishes of the electorate

Make Every Vote Count: Why and how to change our electoral system

Some reflections on the Indian parliamentary elections 2009

Anita Cheria and Edwin

1          The world’s largest democracy

1.1         The scale

India rightfully claims to be the world’s largest democracy, based on the number of its electorate. With a total electorate of 716 million, the elections to the Lok Sabha is by far the largest democratic exercise in the world—larger than all 50 countries of Europe combined, all 54 countries of Africa combined, all countries of North America combined and the entire British Commonwealth minus India.

It is easy to forget that independent India’s first election (for the constituent assembly) was not by universal adult franchise, but was restricted to about 10% of the population who were tax payers. Since then, not only has India opted for universal adult franchise, but has seen the population go from 350 million at independence to 1.2 billion now and reduced the voting age from 21 to 18 in the bargain.

This gargantuan exercise was conducted from 16 April—13 May 2009 in 5 phases. In those 28 days, 250,000 police were deployed, apart from the election officials and the agents of the political parties and candidates. The personnel deployed for this gigantic exercise alone make an army larger than the total population of many countries. In the 2009 general elections, 417,158,644 of the 716,676,063 strong electorate voted (58.21%).

More than a million electronic voting machines (EVMs) were deployed at 828,000 polling stations. The EVMs has reduced the enormity of the task to a degree, but the increase in population has more than compensated for that. Technologically it is possible to conduct these elections in a day. Due to a trust deficit in the local police the EC had to move around security personnel—either from central forces or state forces deployed elsewhere—to ensure a free and fair poll. This ‘turn around’ time is the chief cause of the rather long timetable.

The vulnerability mapping showed that about 87,000 of India’s 800,000 villages were vulnerable to caste, religious or Maoist violence. The election commission deployed 119 special trains to move around security personnel to ensure security. Constituencies considered vulnerable to Maoist violence were covered in the first phase of the poll to give security forces three weeks for preparation. In other areas they had two weeks. Little wonder then that the Chief Election Commissioner of India is often referred to as a Field Marshal, given the tremendous logistics involved.

1.2         The parliamentary election results 2009—A snapshot

Results by pre–poll alliance

 

Votes

% Votes

Seats

United Progressive Alliance, UPA

153,482,356

36.8%

262

National Democratic Alliance, NDA

102,689,312

24.6%

159

Third front

88,174,229

21.1%

79

Fourth front

1,892,420

5.1%

27

Independents

21,646,845

5.2%

9

Others

29,707,409

7.1%

7

The results of the elections were a total surprise. Most expected the verdict to be fractured. Many formations were tried out based on the projections. The Congress–led UPA emerged, by far, as the single largest formation, within striking distance of the magic 272 needed for government formation.

The detailed results are in annex 1 (results by pre–poll alliance) and annex 2 (full results). For primary data, see the website of the election commission http://eci.nic.in/Analysis/ .

1.3         Some reactions

The views on what the elections actually meant in terms of deciphering the voters message span the entire spectrum. There is virtually no consensus on the reasons, the causes or the effects.

Depending on the ideological perspective, or lack of it, of the commentator, the most striking feature was talk of a Congress ‘revival’ and an emerging ‘bi–polar’ polity despite the fact that the vote share of the two ‘national’ parties—Congress (28.6%) and BJP (19%)—has actually been decreasing. The vote share of the Congress in 2009 is only fractionally more than in 1999, when it won 114 seats with 28.3% of the vote.

BJP has been losing—in 1999 it got 23.8% of the vote; 22.2% in 2004, and now 18.8%. Despite the stark evidence of numbers, they claim to be the two ‘poles’ of the ‘bi–polar’ Indian polity even with a majority of Indians (52.6%) voting against them. Their vote share has been steadily decreasing from 52.1% in 1999 to 48.7% in 2004 to 47.6% in 2009.

Year

BJP Seats / Vote%

INC Seats / Vote%

1989

85 – 11.36%

197 – 39.53%

1991

120 – 20.04%

244 – 35.66%

1996

161 – 20.29%

140 – 28.80%

1998

182 – 25.59%

141 – 25.82%

1999

182 – 23.75%

 114 – 28.30%

2004

138 – 22.16%

145 – 26.53%

2009

116 – 18.8%

206 – 28.6%

There was a near unanimous agreement that the verdict was a ‘thumping win’ for the Congress, despite the fact that it won far less than 50% of the seats and even that with allies. The Bahujan Samaj Party increased its vote share from 4.2% to 5.3% to 6.2%.

It was said to be a win for ‘development’, a rejection of the politics of extremism and against the Left Front—despite the win of the Trinamool Congress, which can arguably be said to be more anti–development than the Left if Singur and Nandigram are anything to go by. The only thing that can be said with confidence is that the composition of this parliament does not reflect the will of the people.

1.4         Some concerns

While we can pat ourselves on the back for the logistics, factors such as the quality of the candidates, increased use of money and muscle power with the politicisation of criminals are serious concerns. At least 150 MPs have criminal cases against them, with 73 serious cases ranging from rape to murder, up from 128 in the previous elections. The ‘party with a difference’ BJP has 42 MPs (36%) with criminal charges and the ‘party of the common man’ Congress has 41 (20%). Almost 40% of MPs from UP (31 of 80) have criminal cases against them.

However, the flaws in the system are much deeper. The electoral system itself is fundamentally flawed and the results do not reflect the ‘will of the people’ as expressed in the ballot box. As widespread ‘tactical voting’ has proved, political parties game the system to get ‘majorities’ and claim ‘mandates’ when the numbers show no such thing or, most times even the opposite. A deeper analysis of the results of the 2009 parliamentary election results provides some interesting insights. A sobering fact that emerges is that all the MPs put together got just 184,354,648 votes (25.72%) from the 716,676,063 strong electorate. The entire UPA got 21.4%, including losing candidates. So much for being representative of the will of the majority.

Now, 60 years after our republic was proclaimed, it is time to re-appraise the very basis of our democracy. Can we make it better? If so how? Are there other experiences that we can draw from?

2          The present ‘first past the post’ system

First, let us review the present system, assessing its strengths and weaknesses and identifying the gaps. Then we will move on to the correctives and the alternatives.

2.1         How the system works

The present system is called the majoritarian electoral system (MES) or the First Past The Post system (FPTP). It is the simplest possible.

·          Every adult (above the age of 18) has one vote. (Universal Adult Franchise)

·          The candidate with the largest number of votes in a constituency wins. (First Past The Post)

The system is a tremendous improvement from the feudal system where birth and military might decided representation and governance. It is an improvement from a system where only tax–payers and property owners could vote. However, it was developed at a time when the general understanding of mathematics was rather poor. (Law–makers tend to be rather poor at mathematics. The only section that has poorer understanding of mathematics are the bankers, as the 2007—8 financial crisis shows.) The science of representation was not as developed then as it is now.

At its basic level, the FPTP system does not take into account the need for representation of all sections of society. It just assumes that all are equally represented, and that ‘the will of the majority’ must prevail. Other nuances, such as the protection of human rights, the rule of law and advances in understanding of the nature and role of the state are left to other bodies and are sometimes absent. To make the system more representative, virtually all countries have some riders (called ‘reservations’ in India).

2.2         The distortion

The non–representative nature of this parliament becomes even more apparent when we correlate the vote share with the number of MPs. FPTP has highly distorted representation whereby Congress with 28.5% of the votes gets 38% of the seats, BJP with 19% gets 21%, but BSP with 6% gets only 4%, CPI(M) with 5% gets 3% and independents with 5% get only 1.66%. It results in Prajarajyam with 65.9 lakh votes (1.58%) not getting even one seat but Biju Janata Dal with 6,612,552 (1.59%) votes—a difference of just 0.01% (under 25,000 votes)—got 14 seats (2.58%).

But even more appalling is the fact that Sikkim Democratic Front with just 159,351 votes (0.04%) got one seat. The Shivsena with 6,454,850 votes (1.55%) got 11 seats (2.03%) and the Janata Dal (United) with 6,331,079 votes (1.52%) got 20 seats (3.68%).

3          The negatives and the correctives

Most countries realised early on that the FPTP system would not be representative if implemented in its basic form. One of the first ‘reservations’ was to ensure regional representation by having constituencies. In India, the Rajya Sabha was supposed to be a council of states, despite the Supreme Court ruling to the contrary. Other countries too have such state councils, such as the Senate in the US. There are reservations for the excluded communities—the Dalits (Schedule Caste, SC) and Adivasis (Scheduled Tribes, ST). In the panchayat system there is reservation for women from 33–50% depending on the state.

Countries that have made a conscious choice and demonstrated political will for justice or those who have made the transition to electoral democracy later have got more robust systems. Some have multiple votes and constituencies. Some such as Aotearoa (New Zealand) even have a parliament specially for the indigenous population (Maori). Some parliaments, such as the Inuit and the Sami, span several countries and continents, and are legally recognised internationally.

The solution proposed is to have a proportionate electoral system (PES) that would have representation on the basis on the proportion of votes received by a political party or individual, while at the same time retaining the correctives (more listed below) that are needed to ensure balanced representation, if not social justice. The PES is in addition to the corrective mechanisms that we have already. It is only the FPTP component that has to be changed. Additional correctives, such as equal representation for women, can be incorporated before implementation. While lessons can be drawn from across the world, as was the case for the Indian constitution, it would need to be customised for the Indian reality—like the Indian constitution.

3.1         Majority mandate: total electorate

3.1.1        The issue: ABC: Apathy, Boycotts and Constituents

In the 2009 elections, 417,158,644 of the 716,676,063 strong electorate voted (58.21%). While this is within the ‘normal’ range, it suggests that two of five eligible citizens (41%) did not vote. While some could have genuine reasons, it indicates that either those not voting felt powerless (that their vote would not make a difference) or that they feel it better to just influence or buy the elected ‘representative’ meaning that they felt powerful enough to subvert the system. Both are clear evidence of a breakdown in governance, and certainly a democracy deficit.

Just five MPs out of 543 have got more than 50% of the votes. Therefore, even if we talk of the ‘will of the majority’ only these five have it, and that too only for their constituencies.

MPs with more than 50% votes of the total electorate

State

PC

PC Name

Votes Polled

TE

Percentage of TE who voted

Votes of winner

% votes of winner

% votes of winner to TE

Nagaland

1

Nagaland

1,189,601

1,321,878

89.99%

832,224

69.96%

62.96%

Sikkim

1

Sikkim

251,751

300,584

83.75%

159,351

63.30%

53.01%

Tripura

2

Tripura East

820,984

988,466

83.06%

521,084

63.47%

52.72%

Tripura

1

Tripura West

937,517

1,093,799

85.71%

563,799

60.14%

51.55%

West Bengal

30

Tamluk

1,148,206

1,271,233

90.32%

637,664

55.54%

50.16%

PC: Parliamentary Constituency; TE: Total Electorate

 

Two MPs actually got less than 10% of the votes.

MPs with less than 10% votes from the total electorate

State

PC

PC Name

Votes Polled

TE

Percentage of TE who voted

Votes of winner

% votes of winner

% votes of winner to TE

Bihar

33

Buxar

623,615

1,340,892

46.51%

132,614

21.27%

9.89%

Bihar

39

Nawada

581,583

1,397,512

41.62%

130,608

22.46%

9.35%

PC: Parliamentary Constituency; TE: Total Electorate

 

Sometimes voter apathy is not the reason for low turnouts but is an active protest against a dysfunctional state, or to question the very legitimacy of the election—and therefore the state that conducts them.

This happened when elections were held in Assam during the students’ struggle. It happens in virtually all the elections held in Maoist controlled or dominated areas, Jammu and Kashmir, and areas were there are strong separatist movements. Sometimes boycotts are decided on by some sections to draw attention to their problems or to lack of implementation of the previous promises.

MPs from Jammu and Kashmir (‘boycotted’ elections)

State

PC

PC Name

Votes Polled

TE

Percentage of TE who voted

Votes of winner

% votes of winner

% votes of winner to TE

Jammu and Kashmir

3

Anantnag

318,726

1,176,474

27.09%

148,317

46.53%

12.61%

2

Srinagar

282,761

1,106,729

25.55%

147,035

52.00%

13.29%

PC: Parliamentary Constituency; TE: Total Electorate

 

In the 2009 elections, the MP from Anantnag in Kashmir was elected with 27% of the votes cast, and just 12.61% of the total electorate. Since this was an active boycott, it means 87% of the voters were actively against the particular candidate and 73% were against the electoral process. In Srinagar, 74% were against the electoral process and 86% against the candidate. Such ‘elections’ do not confer legitimacy nor mandate, but only confirm the democracy deficit.

3.1.2        The correctives: Recall, duty to vote and cut–offs

Countries have countered this feeling of helplessness with empowering the people with the right to recall their representatives after a year of the elections in a public referendum. The referendum can be requested every six months or a year. This puts potent power in the hands of the electorate, and keeps pressure on the representative to perform according to the mandate.

Boycotts can be countered only by good governance, and laws seldom have the power to enforce voting. But some countries do have laws that enforce the ‘duty to vote’. That means all citizens must vote. Those who don’t are punished by laws that make it a crime to abstain from voting.

This is balanced by the election being valid only if a certain minimum percentage of votes are cast (the cut–off). Below the cut-off, the election itself is invalid and the process starts all over again. If it is for a constituency, then the process is restarted for the constituency. If the cut–off is not reached for a national election (such as for a directly elected president) then the entire election process needs to be restarted. The Russian Federation requires a high 90% valid votes cast. Other countries have lower cut–offs.

Elections where less than a certain percentage (say 75% of eligible citizens) vote should be annulled and a revote conducted. If even in the second round there is not sufficient turn out, or a majority vote ‘none of the above’ then a breakdown of constitutional machinery, illegitimacy of the state, the candidates and the political parties must be recognised.

3.2         Majority mandate: voter choice

3.2.1        The issue

Of the 543 MPs elected, only 120 (22%) were voted in with more than 50% of the votes cast. This means that a majority of the MPs (78%) won with less than 50% of the votes cast. Almost one in three MPs (167, 31%) were elected with less than 40% of the votes cast—itself less than 60%.

28 representatives (5.16%) got elected with less than 30% of the votes cast—meaning 70–80% of those voting voted against them.

Vote % of winning candidates

% Votes

Number of candidates

% Candidates

> 50%

120

22.10%

< 50%

256

47.15%

< 40%

139

25.60%

< 30%

28

5.16%

Percentages are used since the number of voters differs widely across constituencies.

 

The highest was Sushma Swaraj of the BJP who won from Vidisha constituency in MP with 78.8% of the votes, with 45% of the constituency voting. The lowest was Jagada Nand Singh of the RJD from Buxar, Bihar constituency with 21.3% of the votes, with 46.5% of the constituency voting. Seven of eight MPs with lowest vote share (all less than 27%) are from the erstwhile Bihar.

3.2.2        The corrective

Some countries that follow FPTP have ‘run offs’. If no single candidate gets 51% of the votes, then the top three candidates are selected for the second round. Even then if no candidate gets 51% of the votes, then the top two have a run off. This is a little expensive, but then so is democracy.

Section 49(O) ‘none of the above’ of the Representation of Peoples Act does provide an option. But this is good only if there is a law about the minimum percentage of votes polled for the election to be valid, and the proviso that the winning candidate must get over 50% of the votes polled.

The electronic voting machines will need to be reprogrammed to include the ‘none of the above’ option. The election commission is already working on it. The duty to vote, and minimum vote percentages are required simultaneously to give legitimacy.

3.3         Negative voting: The cruel choice

3.3.1        The issue

Sometimes a voter would like to vote for a party that has no reasonable chance of winning in that particular constituency. The voter then has to make a difficult choice:

·          Not vote at all.

·          Exercise the ‘none of the above’ option as per section 49(O) of the Representation of People Act.

·          Vote for a party that is closest to the position.

·          Vote against a party to ensure that it doesn’t come to power (tactical voting).

·          Vote for the party of choice, so that the vote gets registered, and maybe the party will put up a better candidate and campaign harder in this ‘no–win constituency’ the next time.

3.3.2        The corrective

An electoral system that apportions seats to parties based on their overall vote share nationwide would ensure that these votes don’t get ‘lost’. They will all be counted to make sure that the result is representative of voter preference.

In the 2009 parliamentary elections, it would mean that anyone getting 7,68,245 votes (0.18%) would be assured of a seat since there are 543 seats and 41,71,56,494 valid votes. The important point is that this 7,68,245 votes can come from any part of the nation.

3.4         Representative (gender)

3.4.1        The issue

Though the Chairperson of the ruling UPA, the President of India and the Speaker of the Lok Sabha are all women, the political empowerment of women is woefully inadequate in India. A total of 556 women contested, just 6% of the total 8626 candidates. There were 8070 male (94%) candidates. 213 constituencies (39%) did not have a single woman candidate, 179 had a single candidate (33%).

Of the ‘national parties’ only two even had 10% women candidates. Of their 1623 candidates, only 134 (8.26%) were women. 20 of 34 state level parties did not put up any woman candidate. Of the 760 candidates put up by them, only 51 (6.71%) were women. The Janata Dal (Secular) (33 candidates), Biju Janata Dal (18 candidates) and Muslim League Kerala State Committee (17 candidates) did not put up even one woman. 232 of 327 other registered parties (parties not ‘national’ or ‘state’ did not put up any women. 14 other registered parties put up only women candidates (16 candidates in all). Interestingly, the United Women’s Front put up 2 men and 4 women (six in all).

Candidates by party (National Parties only)

Party

Candidates

Percent women

Male

Female

Total

Rashtriya Janata Dal, RJD

42

2

44

4.55%

Bahujan Samaj Party, BSP

472

28

500

5.60%

Communist Party of India, CPI

52

4

56

7.14%

Communist Party of India (Marxist), CPI(M)

76

6

82

7.32%

Indian National Congress, INC

397

43

440

9.77%

Bharatiya Janata Party, BJP

389

44

433

10.16%

Nationalist Congress Party, NCP

61

7

68

10.29%

Despite protestations to the contrary, the only way to get representation of the un– and under–represented into parliament seems to be reservation. It is rare for a Dalit or Adivasi to get elected from a non–reserved seat for the parliament or legislative assembly elections. For women, the record is dismal. They seldom get elected from non–reserved seats in district or taluk panchayats. The record is better in the gram panchayats, but not by much.

3.4.2        The correctives

It is time to ensure 50% representation for women in parliament. The reservations need to be ensured till such time the focus of these reservations—women, Dalits and Adivasis—regularly get elected from non–reserved constituencies, or in greater proportion than their numbers in the overall population of the nation. Making it mandatory for all political parties to field 50% women is another option.

Other options are dual constituencies, where every constituency elects one man and a woman. The flip side is that then there might need to be other reservations in each constituency. For instance Dalits, sexual and religious minorities, indigenous and tribal peoples could all demand separate constituencies or multiple constituencies for themselves.

4          A fundamental change: Proportionate Electoral System

The first past the post system was good—and a revolutionary method of selecting our representatives. But now there are better ways. We have progressed since the time when the person who got the most votes must become the representative. Hybrid systems are in place in most electoral democracies.

4.1         A simple PES system

In a simple PES system, the entire country is one constituency. All parties put up a list of candidates, and people vote for the party. Once the votes are counted, parties are allotted seats according to their vote percentage. The candidates are selected from the party list in order of seniority on the list. For instance, if a party gets 11 members, then the first 11 candidates on their list are chosen.

In this note, the simple PES is used since the figures are for illustration only. Better systems are used in practice by different countries, to ensure that the most number of votes are counted, and representation best reflects voter preference.

4.2         Correctives

PES is not a magic bullet that will correct all the distortions and make representation perfect. The ‘pure’ PES would need to be value loaded. A hybrid system could be an option too.

To ensure that the lists are representative, there could be a mandatory listing of women in every alternate position, so that it would ensure 50% women candidates and translate into 50% women’s representation. Similarly for other under-represented sections.

Of course, this would need to be balanced by a minimum cut-off percentage of votes for the elections to be valid, and enforcement of the duty to vote.

4.3         Hybrid systems

Different systems can co–exist, and many have found that for true representation of the will of the people, they must co–exist. PES and direct election for candidates is the norm in many places. It is felt that such a system would allow the voter to indicate correctly which policies they support (therefore a vote for the party) and which candidate best represents that position (the direct vote).

Some countries, such as the Netherlands restrict the voters’ choice to the candidate of the party that they choose. First the voter has to choose a party, and then from within the party they have to choose a candidate. Some countries allow the voter to choose a candidate who need not be in the party of their choice. Nepal follows a mixed system. 335 seats are filled by PES, 240 by FPTP and 26 nominated members. The party list representation is calculated using the Sainte-Laguë method (see http://www.election.gov.np).

India follows a hybrid system. Most members of the Lok Sabha (People’s Assembly) the lower house are elected by FPTP. Some are nominated. The members of the Rajya Sabha (Council of States) the upper house, are elected by MLAs of the different states through a single transferable vote method, a variant of PES. The Rajya Sabha also has nominated members. The president is elected by weighted votes of the MPs and MLAs.

4.4         Can the people understand these complexities and nuances?

The argument is that ‘the people’—read the vast majority illiterates—will not be able to understand the nuances of the proportionate voting system, with multiple options for individuals and party lists. That is also convincingly disproved by the Dalit Parliament of Tumkur District in Karnataka where the list and PR system has been in force.

A hybrid system with PES, FPTP and nominations was followed in Nepal for their constituent assembly, with good results and robust participation. If a country with even lower HDI (Human Development Indicators) ranking—in health, literacy and virtually everything else—can do it, there is no reason why India cannot do it.

It is only the elite gatekeepers who have this apprehension. It is the elite who cannot handle these complexities—witness the frequent calls for having fixed term parliaments and legislatures, and having all the elections from the panchayat to the parliament at the same time since, in the words of a former deputy prime minister ‘frequent elections make governance difficult’. The clincher is that India already follows a hybrid model—even for the Lok Sabha. When the world has progressed to better representation systems, Indian cannot remain behind.

5          The consequences

5.1         Who would lose or gain?

The following table shows how the parliament looks like today, and how it would look if each front, party or individual got seats in proportion to the votes they won. The UPA and the NDA—both claiming to be the ‘poles’ of Indian polity would lose the most—90 seats between them. It means that in the present parliament, they are over–represented by that many seats. All others would gain by the same amount. Smaller parties and independents gain the most.

Comparative Seats FPTP and PES

 

Party/front 

Votes

% Votes

Seats

PES Seats

Gain/Loss

1

UPA

153,482,356

36.8%

262

199

–63

2

NDA

102,689,312

24.6%

159

132

–27

3

Third front

88,174,229

21.1%

79

115

36

4

Fourth front

21,892,420

5.1%

27

28

1

5

Independents

21,646,845

5.2%

9

28

19

6

Others

29,707,409

7.1%

7

29

22

Votes: Votes polled; Seats: Seats in the present parliament; PES Seats: Number of seats they would have got if a proportionate electoral system was followed; Gain/loss: The number of seats gained or lost if seats were allotted in proportion to the votes gained as compared to their position in the present parliament.

5.1.1        Those who would lose seats

The biggest losers amongst the parties are again the two claimants to pole position. The Congress would lose 51 of 206 seats presently held (25%) and the BJP 14 of 116 (12%). ‘Kingmaker’ DMK would lose 8 of its 18 seats (44%), as also the fellow riders of the communal forces Janata Dal (United), which would lose 12 of 20 presently held (60%) and Biju Janata Dal which would lose 5 of 14 seats held (36%).

Comparative Seats FPTP and PES

 

Party/front 

Votes

% Votes

Seats

% Seats

PES Seats

Gain/Loss

1

Muslim League Kerala State Committee

877,503

0.21%

2

0.37%

1

–1

2

All India Majlis–E–Ittehadul Muslimeen

308,061

0.07%

1

0.18%

0

–1

3

Bahujan Vikas Aaghadi

223,234

0.05%

1

0.18%

0

–1

4

Sikkim Democratic Front

159,351

0.04%

1

0.18%

0

–1

5

All India Trinamool Congress

13,355,986

3.20%

19

3.50%

17

–2

6

Jammu & Kashmir National Conference

498,374

0.12%

3

0.55%

1

–2

7

Shivsena

6,454,850

1.55%

11

2.03%

8

–3

8

Rashtriya Lok Dal

1,821,054

0.44%

5

0.92%

2

–3

9

Samajwadi Party

14,284,638

3.42%

23

4.24%

19

–4

10

Biju Janata Dal

6,612,552

1.59%

14

2.58%

9

–5

11

Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam

7,625,397

1.83%

18

3.31%

10

–8

12

Janata Dal (United)

6,331,079

1.52%

20

3.68%

8

–12

13

Bharatiya Janata Party

78,435,538

18.80%

116

21.36%

102

–14

14

Indian National Congress

119,110,776

28.55%

206

37.94%

155

–51

Votes: Votes polled; Seats: Seats in the present parliament; %Seats: Percentage seats won; PES Seats: Number of seats they would have got if PES was followed; Gain/loss: The number of seats gained or lost if seats were allotted in proportion to the votes gained as compared to their position in the present parliament.

5.1.2        Those who would gain seats

24 parties and independents would gain almost a hundred seats between them. Independents would gain the maximum number of seats, 19, followed by the CPI(M) with 13 and the BSP with 12. Thirteen parties which do not have a single seat in the present parliament would win 29 seats between them, with the Praja Rajyam alone winning 9 seats.

Comparative Seats FPTP and PES

 

Party/front 

Votes

% Votes

Seats

% Seats

PES Seats

Gain/Loss

1

Independent

21,646,845

5.19%

9

1.66%

28

19

2

Communist Party of India (Marxist)

22,219,022

5.33%

16

2.95%

29

13

3

Bahujan Samaj Party

25,728,889

6.17%

21

3.87%

33

12

4

Praja Rajyam Party

6,590,026

1.58%

 

 

9

9

5

Telugu Desam

10,481,348

2.51%

6

1.10%

14

8

6

Communist Party of India

5,951,736

1.43%

4

0.74%

8

4

7

Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam

3,126,117

0.75%

 

 

4

4

8

Pattali Makkal Katchi

1,944,619

0.47%

 

 

3

3

9

Rashtriya Janata Dal

5,279,059

1.27%

4

0.74%

7

3

10

Nationalist Congress Party

8,521,349

2.04%

9

1.66%

11

2

11

Indian National Lok Dal

1,286,573

0.31%

 

 

2

2

12

Lok Jan Shakti Party

1,892,420

0.45%

 

 

2

2

13

Assam United Democratic Front

2,184,556

0.52%

1

0.18%

3

2

14

Maharashtra Navnirman Sena

1,503,872

0.36%

 

 

2

2

15

Janata Dal (Secular)

3,434,082

0.82%

3

0.55%

4

1

16

Shiromani Akali Dal

4,004,789

0.96%

4

0.74%

5

1

17

Telangana Rashtra Samithi

2,582,326

0.62%

2

0.37%

3

1

18

Asom Gana Parishad

1,773,103

0.43%

1

0.18%

2

1

19

Communist Party of India (Marxist–Leninist) Liberation

1,044,511

0.25%

 

 

1

1

20

Kongu Nadu Munnetra Kazhagam

579,703

0.14%

 

 

1

1

21

Lok Satta Party

557,366

0.13%

 

 

1

1

22

Peace Party

537,638

0.13%

 

 

1

1

23

Jammu & Kashmir People's Democratic Party

522,760

0.13%

 

 

1

1

24

Apna Dal

495,032

0.12%

 

 

1

1

25

Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangha

492,470

0.12%

 

 

1

1

Votes: Votes polled; Seats: Seats in the present parliament; %Seats: Percentage seats won; PES Seats: Number of seats they would have got if PES was followed; Gain/loss: The number of seats gained or lost if seats were allotted in proportion to the votes gained as compared to their position in the present parliament.

5.2         The win–win

Ensuring that the parliament is more inclusive and representative ensures that more citizens have a stake in it. While there would be some extreme Left and Right representation, the centrist parties will be dominant. Shifts would be minor, and gradual.

Given a realistic chance, more of those who choose to boycott would want to influence the system from within. With those outside being brought in, they would then have a stake in the system and be within democratic polity. A system where every voice has an equal chance of being heard would be much more representative of the rich diversity of the country than the present system which promises so much but delivers so little. It would immeasurably strengthen the nation to have the entire political spectrum and diversity of opinion represented at the highest levels of governance. In an age when we are moving swiftly towards air war with our own citizens, we can do no less.

5.3         The constitutional position

In India we already have different systems of voting that are mandated by the constitution. While most members of the Lok Sabha are directly elected through FPTP, the president may nominate 2 Anglo Indians. The Rajya Sabha members are elected by the state legislatures (MLAs) in a single transferable vote system, where there is weightage for the votes according to the preference. There is a different system for the election of the president, where there is different weightage for the votes of the MPs and MLAs. As mentioned earlier, the regional and community reservations exist.

It is self-evident that PES is fully in consonance with the constitution, and is already practiced in certain elections to the parliament. While a constitutional amendment is required for some of these reforms, fuller and better representation is certainly possible without changing the ‘basic structure of the constitution’ as stipulated by the Supreme Court of India. PES for the Lok Sabha would only be an extension of the existing system.

6          Some efforts at moving forward

There are many campaigns for electoral reforms in India. Most have been from civil society, and restricted to closed room seminars, and have been more on administrative and judicial reform of the political system (voter ID card, EVMs, barring criminals from contesting and the like) rather than reforming the political system as such. Few have been from parties in parliament. None have been sustained nor have they been transformed into a mass movement or an advocacy campaign. Some political parties did talk of reforms when in the political wilderness, but swiftly changed their position on sniffing victory in even a few seats.

The Campaign for Electoral Reforms India (CERI, http://www.ceri.in) is one recent attempt to make the electoral system more representative of voter preference. It seeks to bring in proportionate representation whereby the composition of the parliament and assemblies reflect the number of votes cast. The campaign was launched on 10 October 2008, and positive opinion is being created amongst different sections of society ranging from political party leaders, sitting and former MPs and MLAs, academics and social activists.

The question now is not if India will move to PES. PES is already practiced for the elections to the Rajya Sabha and the president. It is a question of when PES will be extended to cover the Lok Sabha, and which correctives will be incorporated into it while the shift is made to ensure social justice. It is a question of when India wants to have the best representation of voter preference in the Lok Sabha. A system were the ‘will of the majority’ is just 25% simply cannot retain legitimacy in the long term. While the form of the alternative can be discussed, the necessity for reform and urgency of systemic change cannot be denied. The tools exist. Experience exists. Now for the vision, political will and statesmanship.

7          References

All figures are from the website of the election commission http://eci.nic.in/Analysis/ and wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_general_election,_2009 (both accessed 3 October 2009).

 

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