The electoral system in Rodrigues revisited

Electoral Reforms in Mauritius

At the Cabinet Meeting held on Friday 18 December 2015, Government has agreed to the setting up of a Ministerial Committee to make recommendations on electoral reforms in Mauritius. It has been stated that this committee will look into: the introduction of a dose of proportional representation in the National Assembly, and anti-defection measures, better women representation, mandatory declaration of community, the widening of the powers of the Electoral Supervisory Commission, the financing of political parties and amendments to the electoral system in Rodrigues.

The most important of these issues is the mandatory declaration of community. Amendments to the electoral system in Rodrigues is also very important. The introduction of proportional representation is a very controversial issue and will require debates and consultations. A very pertinent issue which is of prime importance and has not been included is the unequal size of our constituencies.

The Electoral System in Rodrigues

We’ll address this week the electoral system in Rodrigues, and we will come back to the other issues in subsequent articles.

The administration of Rodrigues is a major concern due to the fragile majority held by the ruling political party. This insecure status of the ruling party is largely due to Proportional Representation (PR) which was introduced when the Rodrigues Regional Assembly Act was passed by the MSM-MMM government in 2001. It was like a litmus test for the introduction of PR in Mauritius. This PR has nearly turned a majority into a minority and will create more unstable situations in Rodrigues if not corrected.

The last Rodrigues Regional Assembly election was held in 2012 and the next one is due in 2017. Time is running out.

According to the Rodrigues Regional Assembly Act,

  1. The Regional Assembly shall consist of 18 members, 12 of whom shall be local region members and the other 6 shall be Island region members.
  2. For the purposes of a Regional Assembly election, Rodrigues shall be divided into 6 local regions and each of which shall separately return 2 local region members. These members are elected by the people. The six other members are nominated through PR and are called island region members.
  3. The Regional Assembly, unless sooner dissolved, shall continue for 5 years from the date of the first sitting after any ordinary election.
  4. Any registered political party may submit to the Electoral Commissioner a list of candidates for election as numbers for the Island region.
  5. The list shall include the names of 6 persons who shall be the registered political party’s candidates for election as members for the Island region.
  6. The list shall indicate the order of precedence of each of the candidates appearing thereon.
  7. The list shall not include the name of a person –

(a)    whose name is included on any other list submitted for election as a member for the Island region;

(b)    who is an individual or a registered party candidate for election as a member for a local region.

Calculation of Island region figures (extracts from Rodrigues Regional assembly Act)

“In order to calculate the Island region figures of a registered political party having submitted a list of candidates for election as members for the Island region, the total number of Island region votes given for each such registered political party shall be divided by the aggregate of one and the number of candidates of the party returned as members for the various local regions.”

Return of Island region members (extracts from Rodrigues Regional assembly Act)

“(1)  The first seat for the Island region shall be allocated to the registered political party with the highest Island region figure.

(2)    The second and subsequent seats for the Island region shall be allocated to the registered political party with the highest Island region figure after any recalculation required by subsection (3) has been carried out.

(3)    There shall be a recalculation of a registered political party’s Island regional figure under section 10 – (a)    for the application of subsection (2) if the application of subsection (1) resulted in the allocation of a seat to the party; or(b)    for any subsequent application of subsection (2), if the previous application of that subsection did so, provided that for any recalculation of a party’s Island region figure, the dividing figure shall be the aggregate of one and the previous aggregate figure used to calculate the Island region figure of the registered political party.

(4)    Seats for the Island region allocated to any registered political party shall be filled by the persons on the party’s list in the order of precedence in which they appear on the list.

(5)    Once a registered political party’s list has been exhausted by the return of persons included on it as members for the Island region by the previous application of subsection (1) or (2), the party shall be disregarded.

(6)    Where on the application of subsection (1) or subsection (2), the highest Island region figure is that of 2 or more registered political parties, the subsection shall apply to each of them.

(7)    Where the application of subsection (6) would result in the allocation of more than the full number of seats for the Regional Assembly Island region, subsection (1) or (2) shall not apply until a recalculation of the Island region figure has been carried out after adding one to the number of votes given for each registered political party with that Island region figure.

(8)    Where after the application of subsection (7), the highest Island region figure is still that of 2 or more registered political parties, the Electoral Commissioner shall decide between them by lots.

(9)    No party shall be entitled to any seat for the Island region unless it has scored at least 10 percent of the total number of Island region votes expressed for all the parties.”Let us now compare data of past elections in Rodrigues to have an insight of how PR has destabilized the Rodrigues Regional Assembly.

Rodrigues Regional Assembly Election –  2002

Party

MR

MSR

OPR

RRR

TOTAL

Total No of Votes Received

8617

177

10874

115

19783

% of Votes Received

43.6 %

0.01 %

55 %

0.5 %

No of Elected Region Members

4

0

8

0

12

No of Island Members (PR)

4

0

2

0

6

Total Number of Members

8

0

10

0

18

The party which won the election by 8-4 having a comfortable majority of 4 seats was reduced to 10-8.

Rodrigues Regional Assembly Election – 2006

Party

FPPR

MR

OPR

RTR

TOTAL

Total No of Votes Received

123

11 118

9484

90

20 815

% of Votes Received

0.6 %

53.4 %

45.6%

0.4 %

100%

No of Elected Region Members

0

6

6

0

12

No of Island Members (PR)

0

4

2

0

6

Total Number of Members

0

10

8

0

18

The election was a tie but PR helped to give majority to a party.

Rodrigues Regional Assembly Election – 2012

 

Party

FPR

MR

MIR

OPR

TOTAL

Total No of Votes Received

2333

9202

102

10230

21867

% of Votes Received

10.67%

42.08%

0.47%

46.78%

1005

No of Elected Region Members

0

4

0

8

12

No of Island Members (PR)

2

4

0

0

6

Total Number of Members

2

8

0

8

18

The party that had won by an overwhelming majority of 8-4 was in minority after the allocation of the additional seats. Luckily, there is this clause in the Rodrigues regional assembly Act which helped to save the situation:

“Where following the return of the Island region members in accordance withsubsections (1) to (9), a registered political party having obtained 7 or more of the 12 local region seats, finally finds itself with a total of less than 10 of the 18 seats, there shall be allocated to that party such number of additional seats as may be necessary to ensure that it disposes in the Regional Assembly of a majority of 50 percent plus one of the total number of seats.”

So, in accordance with the above clause, 3 additional seats were allocated to OPR to enable the party to have a majority of but 1. The final result stands as follows:

PARTY

FPR

MR

MIR

OPR

TOTAL

Total No of Votes Received

2333

9202

102

10230

21867

% of Votes Received

10.67%

42.08%

0.47%

46.78%

1005

No Of Elected Region Members

0

4

0

8

12

No of Island Members (PR)

2

4

0

0

6

Total Number of Members

2

8

0

8

18

Additional Seats

0

0

0

3

3

Final Total

2

8

0

11

21

 PR has converted the vast majority of the winning party from 8-4 into a knife-edge majority which has made the administration of the island very fragile politically.

In conclusion, we shall say that so long as there was no contest between the two major parties of Rodrigues and the other smaller parties, PR was able to give some stability but with the rise of a smaller party securing the threshold of 10% to be eligible for a PR seat, the whole scenario has changed. The winning party has been potentially reduced to a minority. Such an unstable situation is not good for democracy. Any unstable government will not be able to govern the country in serenity and put its program into practice. The Rodrigues Regional Assembly Act needs to be amended to make good the political autonomy that was preached.

 

* Published in print edition on 19 February 2016

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