Electoral Reforms and Democracy

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Senior CPI leader and party’s apparent choice for the Inner Parliamentary seat at the next Parliament elections, Dr Moirangthem Nara has been vociferously campaigning for electoral reforms throughout the state, strongly contending that the present majoritarian system of plurality based First Past the Post had made a mockery of the concept of representative democracy. During several meetings, bearing the characteristics of election hustings, the former minister had told potential voters on the importance of replacing it with the proportional representation system which is being followed in countries like Russia, Israel etc but very seldom in English speaking countries. The issue of electoral reforms is less likely to make significant impacts to the voters at the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, which incidentally will be conducted under the ‘failed system’. Also, the very evident lack of support from other political parties to the cause is an indication that its campaign for changing the existing electoral systems, or reformation as the party prefers to put it, is not readily agreeable. Despite the drawbacks, the persistence of the party on the issue is laudable and manifested the typical grit and gutsy attitude long associated with the left parties.
The CPI’s argument against the majoritarian system is simple. In the last Assembly elections, the Congress got under 30 percent of the voting share and successfully staked claim to form the government while other political parties who in combined won over 70 percent were compelled by the system to stay out. In fact, the MPP and CPI despite getting significant chunk of the vote-share were not even represented in the Assembly. Another point forwarded by the CPI is that the winner takes all aspects of the majoritarian system tempted voters to choose the parties likely to win the plurality, instead of wasting votes for third parties, posing a disadvantage to smaller and minority parties.  Let us not confuse the CPI’s perception on the existing system as a case of sour grapes by putting its campaign in the backdrop its performance at the last Assembly elections. Its leaders command conceptual clarity and commitment on why the proportional representation will be more beneficial in preserving the democratic values.
Electoral system and democracy are very closely linked. The ideal of democracy assumes concrete dimensions through the electoral process and for many people election is the only form of political participation. The exercise of electoral franchise also means recognition to being a citizen in a democratic society. Thus, if a section of the citizens feel that the electoral system is not fulfilling the expectations of the public, then does not it mean that democracy itself has been put in danger. In all logic, the CPI and MPP must have had hard feelings remembering that despite having thousands of supporters and potentially winning candidates they do not have a single representation at the House. Naturally, when a party or an individual begins to make assumptions that the legislatures following the elections is not reflecting the fair preference, then there will be a decrease in support for the system. Public support for the democratic system is swayed by their belief that the translation of votes into seat under the electoral system is fair. We believed that the issue of electoral reforms on its own strength qualifies for a political debate at the right platforms. Besides, has not India already adopted a style of PR system in the Upper House of the Parliament.  

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