Towards A Policy For Proportionate Electoral System
By Campaign for Electoral Reforms in India
12 February, 2012
More than 250 delegates from 22 States of India gathered together for two full days at the Vishwa Yuvak Kendra at the National Conference of the Campaign for Electoral Reforms In India (CERI) and have arrived at the following Statement of the Conference, after due deliberation for the consideration of the Parliament and the Government of India.
Indian Democracy is still in a state of emergence though democracy at the global level is at crossroads today. From distribution of values for the larger welfare of all it has altered to the accumulation of values in the hands of a few. The emergence of nation state also saw the evolution of new forms of concentration of power and new concepts of individualism and liberalism intruding into spaces of governance. These concepts also gave birth to capitalism as a powerful social and political system. The contours of democracy in modern times emerged as a systemic dominance over the powerless, a major shift from people’s power to concentration of power in the hands of a few people. On the other hand, among the ordinary masses there also evolved a quest for power as resistance and power as participation. The flame of democracy is kept alive in such communities of peoples.
India, supposedly the largest democracy in the world, is a multicultural society, which is in need of very special measures for inclusive democratic governance. The undercurrents of India’s complex reality make it difficult for any form of democracy to function freely. The First Past The Post (FPTP) electoral system in India has further accentuated the intricacies of its governance. It challenges the premises of representativeness of citizens in democratic governance, as it is neither proportional nor inclusive. In political terms India has moved to an irreversible phase of multi party system and coalition politics. Many countries in contemporary world that are genuinely concerned about inclusive representation to their citizens in governance have taken up the Proportionate Electoral System, which takes care to give representation to all voters. PES ensures that generally indigenous and minority communities get their proportional representation in the Parliament.
Campaign for Electoral Reforms in India (CERI) initiated this process in 2008. We are delighted that the Chief Election Commissioner of India Dr. S.Y. Quraishi released the CERI Policy Document for Proportional Representation System and has promised the formation of a Committee to look into Proportional Representation system in India. We are also happy that CERI will be made a part of such a Committee when it is formed. This National Conference adopts the Mixed Member Proportionate Electoral System with a ratio of 30% direct seats and 70% party list seats and also two votes system with closed party list. In counting and distribution of seats the Conference confers with the Webster-System be used.
Introduction of MMP may call for an expansion of the size of the parliament. The Conference is of the opinion that India, being a huge country with more than 120 crores and 74 crores voters will have to make an expansion of the Parliament in congruence with the size of population without undermining the need for manageability. Therefore, this Conference expects that the proposed Expert Committee by the Election Commission would take up this matter and recommend to a later Parliamentary Committee of India that we hope will be set up, to consider all possible complex dimensions and arrive at a size of the Parliament that will be proportionally inclusive and professionally manageable. This Conference seriously debated on bicameral parliament in India and has decided to respect the wisdom of the Indian State to deal with this issue.
This National Conference took the question of reservation/ separate electorate for Dalits, Adivasis/ Tribals, Women, BCs and Minorities in the MMP and suggests that the present arrangement of reservation to be continued and be integrated in the party list system of all parties contesting elections as it is reflected in the CERI Policy Document. A widespread healthy democratic practice in PES is ‘threshold’. This Conference discussed on aspect and suggests a threshold of 1% of overall polled votes or a win of three directly elected seats. Under the pretext of delimitation India generally witnesses gerrymandering. This conference opines that there will be a need for redistricting after national census but not before elections.
This conference discussed on the question of internal party democracy and opines that parties should have utmost freedom of how they want to conduct the affairs of their party without the government exercising much normative control. However, taking into serious consideration the existence of feudalism, nepotism and tendencies to perpetuate dynastic control over parties, this Conference also highlights the utmost importance of ensuring inner party democracy in every electoral system, be it FPTP or PR system. This Conference strongly recommends that the State should be responsible for all electoral financing.
Proportionate Electoral System – An Urgent Need
There is a huge crisis as we are in the phase of politicization of criminals and this has badly impacted the electoral system of this country. The ideological and morale basis of the parties have declined. The current phase is that it is none of the parties have any political ideology, agenda or programme. Once elected, they tend to forget their subjects – the people. Certainly there is a need for change and reforms in the Electoral System, said Justice Rajendir Sachhar. Justice Sachhar said this while inaugurating the National Conference of Campaign for Electoral Reforms in India (CERI). More than 250 delegates from 22 States of India gathered together for two full days at the Vishwa Yuvak Kendra on 10-11 February 2012.
Presenting the key note address, MC Raj said that Indian Democracy is still in a state of emergence though democracy at the global level is at crossroads today. From distribution of values for the larger welfare of all it has altered to the accumulation of values in the hands of a few. The emergence of nation state also saw the evolution of new forms of concentration of power and new concepts of individualism and liberalism intruding into spaces of governance. These concepts also gave birth to capitalism as a powerful social and political system. The contours of democracy in modern times emerged as a systemic dominance over the powerless, a major shift from people's power to concentration of power in the hands of a few people. On the other hand, among the ordinary masses there also evolved a quest for power as resistance and power as participation. The flame of democracy is kept alive in such communities of peoples.
Guest Speaker Additional Secretary to the Rajya Sabha Mr. Satyanarayan Sahu said that today Indian democracy is under fragile situation. If Proportionate Representation is introduced, it would succeed as it would provide space for people from marginalized sections. It would provide stability, curb corruption. He was of the opinion that as India heads towards the goal of universal education and literacy there is a real possibility now to bring in PES. PES would preserving the integrity, unity and stability of India , continued Sahu.
Chief Guest Justice D S Tewatia said that money and muscle power had hijacked democracy and democratic institutions of the country. Electoral system, the very basis of democracy is at the behest of a minority Stability at the centre can't come around with more than 400 registered political parties. Only national parties should be allowed to put up candidates for the parliament. Others could put up candidates for the state. Then only we could have a stable government. Communal, caste forces are the most divisive factors of India social reality. All these needs to be overcome for which Electoral reforms are essential, said Justice Tewatia.
The other topics and panels were on contours of democracy, electoral systems, FPTP, Proportionate Electoral System, Mixed Member Proportional Representation, Party List System, Two Votes system, Size of Parliament, Bicameral Parliament, Reservation, Threshold, Gerrymandering, Internal Party Democracy, Financing of elections, Negative Voting, Right to Recall, Compulsory Voting, Pre-poll or Post-poll Alliances. Towards the end the conference came up with a statement of the conference addressing all the issues and concerns.
There was a galaxy of speakers from all over the country. Delegates of the national conference were from a wide variety of representatives from political parties, community organizations, people's movements, civil society organizations and varied socio-cultural groups. Some of the key speakers were D. Leena, Hyder Ginwalla, Raktim Mukhopadhayay, Sebastian, Prof. Kamal Mitra Chenoy, Jawaharulla, Shaji Krishan, Goldy M. George, P. Mohanty, Rayalu Yugal Kishore, Manas Jena, Iban Kumar, Sinthanai Selvan, Vishnu Baghel, Livnus Kindo, Dr. Narasingh, V. B. Rawat, Ashwani Bakshi, Jyotiraj, M. C. Raj, Jeroninio Almeida and Sheeba Aslam Fehmi.
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