By Professor Singfat Chu
With the government having to decide on the fate of the BLS before the expiry of the 180-days deadline granted by the United Nations Human Rights Commission, we need to contribute objectively to the debate.
Sadly, Mr Yousuf Mohamed made several emotional and factually incorrect statements in the interview published last Friday (Sep 28). I condone anyone who makes statements like, “… Si vous voulez abolir, allez y, mais attention! Ce sera la pagaille, il y aura des bagarres… ». Not only is this emotional and a deterrent to any serious debate, but it is vacuous unless Mr Mohamed has a crystal ball which allows him to see the future. Could he be looking at the wrong side of the rainbow?
Has BLS made a significant difference to the representation of communities in our National Assembly? Let’s examine the statistics. In the 10 general elections held between 1967 and 2010, the communal split among the 620 (=10 x 62) “First Past the Post” elects has been 368 : 156 : 85 : 11. After the application of BLS which brought in another 67 elects, the respective split became 371 : 203 : 102 : 11. Clearly, one community has never obtained any BLS seat but Mr Mohamed incorrectly states that it is among the two that have benefitted the most from BLS!
The above splits which translate into 59.4% : 25.2% : 13.7% : 1.8% pre-BLS and 54.1% : 29.4% : 14.8% : 1.6% post-BLS indicates that BLS has hardly made a significant difference in the representation of communities. Beyond statistics, has BLS ever made a difference in the deliberations in the National Assembly? Has anyone dissented from party stand and voted along community line? The fact is BLS has benefited individuals rather than communities! And it is these very individuals who are now unsurprisingly among the most vocal to maintain it.
I concur that BLS provided assurance at the time of Independence but in 44 years of existence, it has yet to make any significant difference to the representation of communities or in the articulation of “communal” opinions at the National Assembly. There is no little reason to fear its retirement. Moreover, some constituencies are deliberately carved to favour the election of minorities. I submit that there is greater shortfall potential in the representation of communities in “equalizing” constituencies across the country than in removing BLS.
If an electoral reform takes place in the form of a mixed Proportional system comprising FPTP and Party List elects, fair and even enhanced minority representation will take place as long as parties place say 6 minority candidates in the top 8-10 positions in their party lists. Beyond fair community representation, party lists can bring in more women and representatives of interest groups e.g. handicapped, unions, etc.
In conclusion, I concur with Mr Yousuf Mohamed that, “…Nous sommes tous des Mauriciens malgré le Best Loser System.” But I invite him to reflect and just envision how Mauritianism, which we have been striving for since Independence, can leapfrog without BLS.
* Published in print edition on 5 October 2012