Origin of nation state and modern democracy established the rights of individuals embedded in a form of governance. This was a transition from the earlier form of governance under kingship, empire, monarch, feudalism and other order where governance was the power as domination. Therefore in the new format, in order to have democratic modus of governance, the only possible option was the adoption of one or other form of representation.
Howbeit this representation engineered through electoral processes was processes in such a way that accumulation and concentration of wealth in the hands of a few remain intact. This continued in the postmodern era, despite the compulsions of multiculturalism as an inevitable reality. Thus democracy in postmodern phase not only incorporated it into the electoral mechanics but also consolidated the core the trajectory of accumulation. Multiculturalism also turned an engineered process to further accentuate the need for individual identities as inalienable component of democratic governance.
This deprived millions to people particularly the socio-economic, ethno-cultural, religious and linguistic minorities in every nation. This gradually reduces the respect and essence of democracy and compels them to take recourse to undemocratic means of fulfilling their needs. Hence participation of citizens in the instruments and mechanisms of governance at all levels is the need of the hour. Such participation in decision-making should ensure proportional democratic space for all people so that no one group becomes the absolute owner of material and spiritual values.
Indian democracy, hailed as the largest one in the world, is at the crossroad with almost no space for the minorities like Dalits, Adivasis, Indigenous groups, Women, Working Class, Religious and Linguistic Minorities in true governance. Electoral systems being the signature method of enhancing democratic space in a given democracy it needs a complete restructuring in India. Instead India’s democracy at present is in a vigorous effort to follow her western masters to find impunity of immunized oppression. This has also been successfully brought into the instruments and mechanisms of governance from the dominant world.
The current electoral system is only a tool to master this oppression. In such a situation any responsible citizen has to stand for a fundamental shift and change in democracy, governance and electoral system. India, being a multicultural society with a multiparty system, is badly in need of shift in her electoral system, which provides inclusive space for minority social groups like Dalits, Adivasis/Tribals, religious, ethnic and sexual minorities, women and also the Working Class.
The FPTP and its limitation
The current electoral system, First Past the Post (FPTP) or Majoritarian Electoral System (MES), is fit for any democracy with two parties.We still live with the British legacy of FPTP resulting in enormous role corruption, violence, casteism and communalism. Generally candidates with less than 30% of votes get elected in this system. Parties with about 25-30% of votes capture power. Accordingly approximately about 70% of votes are waste in elections and only make a woefully minority to govern. Majority is understood to be the one who gets more number of votes than other contestants instead of being over 50%. There are members in the present Lok Sabha who got less than 10% votes but won the seat as others did not manage to get that many votes.
The percentage of votes that a party gets is not the same as the percentage of seats it gets in this electoral system. Parties with less percentage of votes can gain more number of seats and parties with more percentage of votes can gain less number of seats in this system. This does not give a true representation of the voters’ choice. It is only a token representation. Under FPTP only one member can be elected from one constituency. It is called single member constituency. This leads to alienation of representation instead of being inclusive. Apart from promoting extreme rivalry and violence, it systematically excludes the losing voters from participating in governance.
The present electoral system in India encourages corruption, use of muscle power, communalism etc. to gain the slight margin of winning votes. The citizens do not mandate the parties that come to power. Only parties that have the power to manipulate voters are able to come to power. These are generally parties that have dominant, fascist, communal and casteist ideology.
This results in cumulatively ineffective governance. This is against the spirit of democracy as well as electoral practices where a sizeable majority of the voters’ opines do not find any space and value as well as majority votes are wasted in the current electoral practices. They are systematically sidelined.
India is in a constitutional crisis because its electoral system does not respond to the vast changes that have taken place in her political landscape. India in the last few decades has seen the emergence of a rather large number of regional parties who have been able to garner a lot of votes in their respective regions. This clearly indicates that India has ultimately arrived at the era of coalition politics.
Proportionate Electoral System – the logical alternative
India has ultimately arrived at the era of coalition politics. It is the indicator that FPTP has lost its base as an electoral system. However it is essential that the multi-cultural reality of India needs to be appropriately captured in the synthesis of democracy. This is the context where one needs to learn from other progressive democracies across the world. Such democracies have shifted to Proportionate Electoral System (PES). PES is one of the best electoral systems in the world and the various experiments and experiences speak volumes of its inclusive character.
The most popular states with one of the variants of PES are Mixed Member Proportional System (MMPS) of Germany, the Sami Parliament in Norway. Norway has enacted a very special legal provision for safeguarding the rights and culture of the Sami people, including a separate Parliament for them. Another innovative variant is that of New Zealand, which has a provision for separate electorate for the indigenous Maori people in its MMPS. Nepal has a Parallel Electoral System that has brought about drastic changes in the democratic set up of Nepal. Netherland is one of the most exceptional case with full PES.
A common feature of all these countries is that all of them have proportional representation system as their electoral system. Also, all these countries have their own unique feature in the PR system. Germany has reservation for the Danish people in its MMPR. New Zealand followed the German model of PR, with a special provision of separate electorate for the indigenous Maori people within the MMPR. Nepal has adopted the parallel system of elections, which is a semi-proportional representation system. The Netherlands has a full PR system without the MMPR system as in the other four countries.
It might be over ambiguous to simplify the problems faced by Indian democracy that it would change just by turning its electoral system to PES. In order to grow into a matured democracy, one needs to work on other nuances. Till now 90 countries have adopted PES as their electoral system, while almost 60 countries still stick to FPTP. Among the FPTP countries, most of them are former colonies of the British, are still sticking on to FPTP.The law commission of India in 1999 suggested the PES based on German model, which is a welcoming effort.
However, CERI finds it to be problematic, as it might not have the all-inclusive character required to fulfill the hopes and aspirations of the minority groups in India. However, the knowledge bank in India on PR system is relatively low. In this regard CERI gathered cross-cultured thinking and opinions from the Indian academia, activists, intelligentsia, civil and political leadership and citizens in order to arrive at a better-informed process on PR system. During these exercises the objectives condition of Indian society with its’ complexities were taken up with utmost seriousness.
Certainly with PES, extra space for Dalits, Adivasis, Women, minorities and working class will be created, but the question still remains how will the marginalized ones among these groups surface in that list.
The most popular citizen journalists' reports on merinews chosen automatically on the basis of views and comments
View more jobs