GIS - 01 October, 2018: Government has once again reasserted that the main objective of the Electoral Reform is to ensure a balance between stability and fairness. This follows the numerous comments, some erroneous and some confusing regarding the proposals of Government for amending the electoral system, hence, the need to refocus the debate.
The Prime Minister, Minister of Home Affairs, External Communications and National Development Unit, Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Mr. Pravind Kumar Jugnauth, presented the proposed electoral reform on 21 September 2018.
The objectives of the proposed electoral reform are to introduce a dose of proportional representation to provide for fairness, inclusion and a more equitable representation of parties in the National Assembly while maintaining the First Past The Post (FPTP) System so as to ensure STABILITY in Government and to do away with the mandatory declaration of community by candidates. It also aims to ensure a better gender representation so as to guarantee an enhanced representation of women in the National Assembly.
Ensuring stability in Government
It has been alleged that the provision to restore the mathematical difference in seats as it exists after the FPTP elections, subsequent to the allocation of the 12 Proportional Representation (PR) and the 6 neo Best Loser seats, negates the very objective of the reform.
This represents a serious misunderstanding of the prime objective of the reform. Government has maintained that its key concern is that the majority arising from the FPTP system should remain the same after the allocation of PR and Best Loser Seats, so as to ensure stability in Government.
Any attempt to further reduce the disparity between the number of seats and the number of votes will directly affect the majority formed following FPTP elections. The majority can be made dangerously slim when FPTP results are tight. A slim majority becomes even slimmer, thereby creating a situation of permanent instability. This can pose a real threat to stability in Government. What happened in Rodrigues is a clear evidence of that threat.
Maintaining the Majority
The proposed mechanism is aimed at ensuring that at all times, the majority ensuing from the FPTP results remains exactly the same after allocation of PR and Best Loser seats.
Under the proposed system, the losing party too is compensated by the allocation of Best Loser seats, if it receives less PR seats than the winning party.
Number of Members of Parliament (MP)
The number of MPs has remained the same since the General Elections held in 1967- that is a maximum of 70 (62 FPTP + 8 Best Losers). Yet, the number of electors has nearly tripled since then. It has increased from 314,004 in 1967 to 923,316 in 2018.
The proposal of Government, viz. a Parliament of 81 MP’s (63 FPTP + 12 PR + 6 “Best Loser seats”) is the lowest, as compared to proposals made in previous reports on Electoral Reform (Sachs Model C – 100 MPs; Sithanen’s Report – 82 MPs; Labour-MMM Alliance 2014 – 83 MPs).
The proposed increase in the number of MP’s is 15.7%.
Role of Party Leaders
It is to be noted that our Constitution already provides for party leaders to designate, in certain circumstances, MPs under the present Best Loser System.
The proposed reform ensures that all minorities are adequately represented in the National Assembly. Party leaders will be entrusted with the responsibility of ensuring that PR lists provide for broad-based and inclusive representation. It stands to reason that leaders will field candidates who are likely to correct any under-representation.
Method of Allocating PR Seats
As a matter of policy, Government is proposing the parallel mode of PR, which allocates seats on the basis of the percentage of votes polled by each eligible party. This system is practical, simple and more importantly guarantees political stability, the more so in closely contested elections.
The review of boundaries of Constituencies is a function performed by the Electoral Boundaries Commission under the Constitution and not by Government.
Preserving National Unity While Fostering Nation Building
Government will never agree to a new population census being conducted on the basis of communal appurtenance.
Government considers STABILITY as being the pillar of our socio-economic progress. This is why it has adopted the present proposals for electoral reform.
Government will continue to consider all reasonable and constructive proposals in order to obtain a broad consensus.
Government Information Service, Prime Minister’s Office, Level 6, New Government Centre, Port Louis, Mauritius. Email: email@example.com Website: http://gis.govmu.org