Monday, July 12, 2010

Poll Reforms - Now is the Time

When India became independent, we adopted the British parliamentary system and electoral procedures. Little did we realize at that time that this system was full of flaws and needed to be replaced with a better system sooner or later. That time has come NOW.

One of the flaws of this system is the concept of “first-past-the-post”.

First-past-the-post voting means that the candidate who gets most votes in a constituency wins even if he or she falls short of 50 percent of the total votes cast.

In other words, such a candidate does not command the confidence of his constituency, let alone that of his State, country or region.

The second flaw is that the very political parties which form a coalition government at the Centre compete against one another at the regional level. This results in corruption and blackmail.

The third flaw is that the Prime Minister of a coalition government is often chosen on the basis of opportunistic political alliances before and after the elections rather than on the basis of his or her competence and acceptability by the majority of Members of Parliament. As if this were not enough, a Prime Minister chosen in this way has the power to dissolve Parliament and call for fresh elections to improve his or her chances of success in the next election.

To rectify these flaws the British government intends to hold a referendum on May 5, 2011 whether to keep “first-past-the-post” or to switch to another system known as the Alternative Vote (AV).

Under AV, if no candidate wins 50% of the votes, the second preferences of voters who picked last-placed candidates are redistributed until someone reaches the 50%. AV falls short of proportional representation, but is nevertheless an improvement on the current system.

Maybe the Indian political parties would like to follow the British precedent once again and try to improve our electoral system in the light of our experience during the last sixty years.

No comments: