By Laxminarayan Kanungo
Every now and then the rule of game ‘cricket’ is changing. Taking a cue of it why shouldn’t we change the rules of our electoral voting system in India suitably like Switzerland for ‘open-list proportional representation’ in place of our faulty ‘simple majority’/ ‘first-past-the-post ‘/ ‘winner-take-all’ system those are more in vogue in erstwhile British colonial countries.
In an open-list system, voters decide which candidates within a party win the seats. And in proportional representation, parties are assigned parliamentary seats proportionally to the number of votes they get. The Swiss system combines the advantages of both the proportional and the majority election system while avoiding their major shortcomings, which can be called Switzerland’s refined proportional election system.
Switzerland doesn’t have any opposition party to oppose in the name of opposition. 7-member federal council is considered the ‘collective head’ of the state. One of the members of the confederation becomes nominal head for one year, who don’t enjoy any extra power in relation to other members. It is a post for one year which is rotational in nature. Election takes place in every four years. Referendum is a vital tool in their direct democracy where people decide on fate of important issues. More than 550 referendums have occurred since the constitution of this federal republic after merger of 26 cantons in 1848.
Fast-past-the-post/ simple-majority system has a flaw in representing a true democratic will and rights of the people. There are many instances in India, where a party suffers despite having same percentage of votes or confidence they enjoy in public. In 2009 parliamentary election, Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) bagged 20 member of parliament seats from Bihar where was Chiranjibi’s Praja Rajyam Party(PRP) could not muster a single seat in Andhra Pradesh despite winning the confidence of approximately same no of voters.
In proportional representation, a small segment of voice can also be properly reflected as their representatives would share the pie in parliament/ assembly. Even the Maoists who generally do not put up candidates with a fear psychosis of losing elections in the conventional method and resort to undemocratic-violent activities can be minimized when they will find a space for themselves in the proportional system.
The writer had sent a submission in this regard to election commission of India (ECI) recently. Commission replied: Your proposal to switch over to “open list system of proportional representation” from the present simple majority system would require structural changes in the existing provisions of the Constitution and Election law. This would be for the Union Government and the Parliament to consider.
The question is from time to time election commission of India is sending reasonable recommendations to the government after getting recommendations from various committees. But at the end of the day, one will definitely be disturbed to see that the government in power does a little to change the existing flaws in the system, leave aside the ‘game changing idea on electoral reforms.’ A couple of cases can speak loudly the lack of will on the part of the government and political parties in large.
For electoral reforms, now-a-days, social crusader Anna Hazare is making a demand to include ‘right-to-recall’ or for ‘none-of-the-above’ option for voters. ECI had recommended about the same to the incumbent Prime ministers of this country in 2001 and 2004. Many countries viz., US, Greece, Spain, Ukraine, Colombia have adopted this method.
Inderjit Gupta committee on electoral reforms was formed in 1990. The present Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan singh was one of the members in that committee. They have recommended for ‘state funding of elections.’ When UPA came to power it had declared through its common minimum programme to implement state funding of elections at the earliest. But nothing has been done till yet to nip the corruption from the bud after 7 years.
In 1990, Dinesh Goswami committee on electoral reforms had suggested to repeal section-76(1) of peoples representation act, 1951 to block an escape route on hefty electoral expenses. He had detected this is a route by which candidates are spending huge amount of money in the name of ‘courtesy’. Secondly the expenses incurred by a party or any organization or individual is not added with candidate’s expenses which contravenes the Indian Penal Code (IPC) section- 171 (H). According to this penal section it is a criminal offence to make expenses of any sort without the consent of the candidate. This is the reason why Indian elections have become a high voltage drama of vulgar expenses.
Dynamic and efficient officers always haunt for good model of governance any where in the world. In the same vain we also expect our leaders would rise to the occasion for game changing ideas and do the best for the country.
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(The writer is a journalist from Odisha)