Saturday, October 11, 2014

Electoral reforms: Introduce proportional representation for 70% of Lok Sabha seats, demand activists

By Our Representative
The Campaign for Electoral Reforms in India (CERI), a network of NGOs working on electoral reforms and related issues, has put forward the demand which has been in air for quite for decades now. It wants proportionate electoral system (PES) to be implemented as the main cornerstone of electoral reforms in India. In Delhi, the event was organised at Mandi House, where activists formed a human chain. A CERI statement claimed, it had been “campaigning with this demand for the last seven years”, adding, “A similar human chain putting forward the demand was also formed in six other cities of India.”
The statement said, “Mandi House in Delhi circle saw jubilant and festive mood, when people holding hands with colourful banners and placards formed human chain. Political parties, students group, trade unions, and people from the marginalized communities living in slums, resettlement colonies, waste pickers and homeless gathered to demand their space in democracy.” The placards had slogans such as “PES ensures power in the hands of excluded people”, “PES is ideal for multi-party democracy”, and “Political participation of women is must for Nation Building”.
The term proportional representation (PR) characterizes electoral systems in which each party's share of the seats in an elected assembly approximates its share of the vote. If 30% of the electorate support a particular political party then roughly 30% of seats will be won by that party. The essence of such systems is that all votes contribute to the result, not just a plurality or majority of them. It requires the use of multiple-member voting districts, as it is not possible using single-member districts alone, according to experts.
Talking with newspersons, Dharmendra Kumar from Lok Adhikar said that India needed change in the electoral system, and the present system is not fit for multi-party democracy. Leena Dabiru, national coordinator, CERI added that denial of representation has already resulted in amassing resources of the country. 
“The marginalised and vulnerable sections of society are suffering due to non-representation. Only 10 per cent of the powerful communities have ruled India since independence. More than 89 democratic countries in the world have already adopted PES. Countries in western Europe with 20% and above women's representation in the parliament have adopted PES.”
The statement, however, believed that CERI did not want to completely do away with the present electoral method, which is called first-past-the-post (FPTP), under which the candidate receiving more votes than any other(s) wins. It said, there should be a mix of FPTP (30% of candidates) with PES (70% of candidates). It is not known why CERI wished such a mix. It further said that each voter should have two votes, one for the candidate and one for the party, and each party should prepare a list of candidates in the order of priority.
Campaigning for electoral reforms since October 2008, CERI said, those who participated included Praveen Pradhan, National, vice president of the Janata Dal (United) and Supreme Court advocate Ashwani Bakshi, apart from sveeral women from activist group representatives. Similar demonstrations were held at Imphal, Manipur; Bhubneshwar, Odisha; Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh; Raipur, Chhattisgarh; Ranchi, Jharkhand; and Bangalore, Karantaka.

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