Blog: Danger of Proportional Representation
Much of the never-ending debates on electoral reforms have centred on the Best Loser System (BLS) and Proportional Representation (PR). On BLS it is clear that the so-called minorities bear a deep distrust towards the majority community, the Hindus. The Muslims have pushed it as far as asking the Prime Minister to apologise for having used the word wine at the Yaum-um-Nabi celebration at Phoenix. If that is the trend then no cows should be slaughtered in localities where a majority of Hindus live. The Muslim community should be careful in their attitude because we are not in an Islamic State but in a secular State where each component of the population is entitled to its beliefs and views.
Those who are defending the BLS in the name of national unity are pressing for PR. A study of the allocation of additional seats on the basis of PR will show how dangerous or inequitable the system may turn out to be if proper safeguards are not established to ensure that after the elections the winning party does not become the minority party or does not run the risk of having a drastically reduced majority. The elections in Rodrigues should be an eye opener.
The OPR led by Serge Clair won eight of the 12 seats at the polls on the First Past the Post (FPTP) basis and had a majority of four seats in the Rodrigues Regional Assembly. The MR won four seats under FPTP. Following the allocation of additional seats in compliance with the PR system the OPR was allocated three additional seats, the MR four additional ones and the FPR of Roussety got two seats having reached the threshold of 10% of the votes. The end result is that the OPR that had a majority of four seats now has an overall majority of only one seat. Was that the will of the electorate?
In 2002 the OPR won eight seats under the FPTP and the MR four. The OPR had won 55% of the votes and it was allocated an additional of two seats on a PR basis. The MR won 44% of the votes on FTPT and on a PR calculation it was awarded an additional of four seats. A majority of four was reduced to two for the OPR. In the 2006 elections both the OPR and the MR won six seats each after the FPTP contest. After allocation of seats on the PR calculation the MR obtained four seats while the OPR won two seats. While the electorate wanted a tie the PR made the MR the majority party.
In his thorough analysis Rama Sithanen, whose expertise in electoral matters cannot be disputed, has pointed out the dangers of the PR system proposed by the Sachs Commission. When we look at the figures worked out by Rama Sithanen on the results of elections held in 1967, 1983, 1987, 2005 and 2010 the dangers of the PR as contained in the Sachs report are manifestly clear.
In 1967 the Independence Party with 54.13% of the votes won 39 seats and the PMSD 23 seats with 43.99 of the votes. PR under Sachs would have resulted in the Independence Party having a total of 45 and the PMSD would have jumped from 23 to 37. The majority of 16 would have been reduced to eight.
In 1976 MMM won 30 seats with 38.64% of the votes, Labour 25 seats with 37.9% of the votes and the PMSD seven seats with 16.2% of the votes. If the Sachs PR formula had been applied the result would have been as follows: MMM with a total of 34, Labour with an equal 34 and the PMSD with 14. The majority of five that the MMM had on Labour would have been negated and the majority of two that Labour and PMSD combined had over the MMM would have increased to 14.
In 1983 the MSM/Labour/PMSD alliance won 41 seats with 52.22% of the votes and the MMM 19 seats with 46.4% of the votes. PR under the Sachs formula would have resulted in the following: the MSM/Labour/PMSD alliance would have ended with a total of 42 and MMM with 38 seats. A majority of 22 would have been reduced to four.
In 1987 the MSM/Labour/PMSD alliance won 39 seats with 49.86% of the votes and the MMM which styled itself Union then obtained 21 seats with 48.12% of the votes. Under the Sachs PR formula the MSM/Labour/PMSD alliance would have obtained a total of 41 seats and the MMM/Union 39. The majority of 18 would have been slashed to two.
In 2005 the Labour Party won 38 seats with 49.39% of the votes and the MMM/MSM won 22 seats with 43.3 of the votes. The Sachs PR would have given Labour a total of 43 seats and the MMM/MSM alliance a total of 37. A majority of 16 would have been reduced to six.
In 2010 Labour with 50.72% of the votes obtained 41 seats and the MMM/MSM with 42.88% of the votes obtained 18 seats, one going to an independent candidate. With PR under the Sachs calculation Labour would have ended up with a total of 43 seats and the MMM/MSM with 36 seats. A majority 22 would have been reduced to seven.
Rama Sithanen discusses the Unreturned Votes Elect formula (UVE) to conclude that it is a fairer system and "produces a working majority while lowering the huge distortion between seats and votes of the unsuccessful party". Let us see how the figures work out as calculated by Rama Sithanen.
In 1967 the Independence Party with 54.13% of the votes won 39 seats and the PMSD 23 seats with 43.99 of the votes. Under UVE the Independence Party would have obtained 46 seats and PMSD 36. A majority of 16 would have come down to 10.
In 1976 MMM won 30 seats with 38.64% of the votes, Labour 25 seats with 37.9% of the votes and the PMSD seven seats with 16.2% of the votes. Under UVE the MMM would have ended up with 37, Labour with 33 and PMSD with 12 seats. The majority of five that MMM had over Labour would have been reduced to four and the overall majority of Labour/PMSD combined over the MMM of two would have increased to eight.
In 1983 the MSM/Labour/PMSD alliance won 41 seats with 52.22% of the votes and the MMM 19 seats with 46.4% of the votes. Under UVE the MSM/Labour/ PMSD alliance would have obtained 47 seats and MMM 33. A majority of 22 would have come down to 14.
In 2005 the Labour Party won 38 seats with 49.39% of the votes and the MMM/MSM won 22 seats with 43.3 of the votes. Under UVE Labour would have had 46 and the MMM/MSM alliance 34. A majority of 16 would have been reduced to 12.
A look at both the Sachs formula and the UVE as worked out by the Sithanen study shows that a majority decided by the people would be literally slashed under Sachs but reduced on a lesser scale under UVE. But the bottom line is whether, in trying to rectify the so-called unfairness of FPTP and trying to reflect the real will of the electorate, we are prepared to destroy that very will of the electorate that voted for a clear majority for a party or alliance.
The case of the OPR is a vivid example of the dangers of just applying PR to save the votes of the losers in an electoral contest. The OPR that had a majority of four after the FPTP results were out now has a majority of only one. No wonder Serge Clair wants that injustice to be pronounced upon by the Supreme Court. How can OPR possibly lead a Rodrigues with a stable administration with such a slashed majority?
The leaders of the Labour Party and the MMM should give serious consideration to that aspect of the situation. We should not have a system that is bent solely on rectifying an alleged injustice of an electoral system while ignoring a specific will of the people that have voted for a specific majority.