Rodrigues Regional Assembly: The Need for a New Electoral System

The electoral system for Rodrigues Regional Assembly has been in the limelight for quite some time and, after its conception in 2001, there is an urgent need to bring a reform. The introduction of a dose of Proportional Representation (PR) in the electoral system has made the governance of this local authority very fragile and uncertain.

On Friday 19th August 2016, during a vote of no confidence against the Chief Commissioner of the local authority, it was a tie: 10 for and 10 against. It was the additional vote of the President of the Regional Assembly that saved the demotion of the democratically elected Chief Commissioner with a clear majority without the proportional adjustment in representation. This is not the first time that the balance of power in Rodrigues has been put at risk. It has been observed during the past three elections of the Regional Assembly (2002, 2007 and 2012) that the party which wins the election by a large majority according to the First Past the Post system (FPTP) is reduced to the strict minimum by the nomination of the PR members. This dilemma between the FPTP and PR has brought about many unstable situations and it has the potential to even topple any democratically elected majority at any time.

The Rodrigues Regional Assembly Act 2001, also known as Act No. 39 of 2001, governs the administration of the island of Rodrigues just like a District Council or a Municipal Council in Mauritius. According to this Act,

– 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.

– 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.

Therefore, each voter casts two types of votes, the local regions vote and the island region vote. For the local region vote, the elector votes for 2 candidates who are elected under the simple majority system (FPTP). The Island region vote is given for a registered political party having submitted a list of candidates for election as Regional Assembly members. The members for the Island region are returned under the system of proportional representation.

For the purpose of Proportional Representation, each registered political party submits a list of 6 candidates who do not contest the election as local region members. The persons who are to be returned as members for each of the ‘local regions’ must be elected before it is determined who are to be returned as members for the ‘Island region’. The list shall indicate the order of precedence of each of the candidates appearing thereon and if the party qualifies for additional seats in the Assembly, it is in this order that nomination occurs.

Calculation of Island region figures

In order to calculate the Island region figure 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

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

Composition of the Rodrigues Regional Assembly after 2012 Election.

Four parties contested the election and the result for the Local Region votes on the FPTP system was as follows.

 

Party

OPR

MR

FPR

MIR

No. of elected Regional Members

8

4

0

0

 

OPR had a comfortable and clear majority of 4 members in the Regional Assembly without PR. After the result of the local region was known, the percentage of island votes for each party were taken into consideration for the determination of the PR seats. The percentage of votes obtained were as follows:

 

OPR

MR

FPR

MIR

% of votes

46.78 %

42.08 %

10.67 %

0.47%

 

The threshold for the allocation of PR seats in Rodrigues is 10 %. So, three parties qualified, OPR, MR and FPR. The calculation used is to divide the percentage of votes obtained by each party and divide it by 1 + No of already elected members. The party with the highest quotient receives the first seat and the member in the first position on the list of the party is automatically elected. Recalculation is done to determine the nomination of subsequent member.

Divisor used

 

Party

OPR

MR

FPR

MIR

No. of elected Regional Members

8

4

0

0

Divisor

9

5

1

NA

 

Calculation of PR Seats

 

OPR

MR

FPR

WINNER

% of votes

46.78 %

42.08 %

10.67 %

1st seat

46.78/9 = 5.2

42.08/5 = 8.42

10.67/1 = 10.67

FPR

2nd seat

46.78/9 = 5.2

42.08/5 = 8.42

10.67/2 = 5.33

MR

3rd seat

46.78/9 = 5.2

42.08/6 = 7.01

10.67/2 = 5.33

MR

4th seat

46.78/9 = 5.2

42.08/7 = 6.01

10.67/2 = 5.33

MR

5th seat

46.78/9 = 5.2

42.08/8 = 5.26

10.67/2 = 5.33

FPR

6th seat

46.78/9 = 5.2

42.08/8 = 5.26

10.67/3 = 3.56

MR

 

The PR seats were allocated as follows:

 

OPR

MR

FPR

MIR

TOTAL

No. of Island Members
(PR)

0

4

2

0

6

 

The final result gave the following composition:

 

OPR

MR

FPR

MIR

TOTAL

No. of Regional Members

8

4

0

0

12

No. of Island Members
(PR)

0

4

2

0

6

TOTAL

8

8

2

0

18

 

It was going to be a dramatic situation of majority being turned into minority. In fact, the party which won the election had only 8 seats while the opposition, which had won only 4 seats under the FPTP, now had 10 seats after PR adjustment. Luckily, there is a safety valve in the Rodrigues Regional Assembly Act which states the following:

“Where following the return of the Island region members in accordance with subsections (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.”

Accordingly, 3 additional seats were allocated to OPR to allow it to have a strict majority of only 1 seat in the Assembly. Therefore, the present Rodrigues Regional Assembly is composed of 21 instead of 18 members.

The final composition stands as follows:

 

No of Seats

Ruling Party (Opr)

11

Opposition Parties

10

 

If not corrected, this unstable situation will continue to affect the political outcomes of Rodrigues in the future. This is why the present Government has set up a Ministerial Committee to look into the matter and, based on the answers given by the Right Honourable Prime Minister to the PNQ of the Honourable Leader of the Opposition during the Parliamentary Debate of 19 July 2016, it is noted that Government will soon come with a bill to bring a new election system to Rodrigues which will do away with the shortcomings of the PR system.

What may be proposed

We do not know what will be proposed but any attempt to increase the number of members in the Rodrigues Regional Assembly may still not solve the real problem. Besides, such a system will not be strictly comparable with the other local authorities in the Republic of Mauritius. The figures below provide a comparison.

 

Local Authority

No of Voters

No of Wards

No of Councillors

Port Louis

110 916

8

32

BB/R Hill

76 239

6

24

Curepipe

60 632

5

20

Vacoas/Phoenix

80 330

6

24

Quatre Bornes

57 175

5

20

Rodrigues

28 797

6

????

 

As at present, there is a provision of a minimum of 18 members for Rodrigues. The actual Regional Assembly has 21 members. If increased from 2 per ward to 3 and the 6 PR seats are maintained, we may have a Regional Assembly of 26. We believe that this would be too many for a local authority which has less than 50 000 inhabitants and less than 30 000 voters. The deviation from the normal will be excessive if 26 members were to be appointed in Rodrigues.

What we propose

Below is a suggestion which may go some way to bring some balance of representation in the Rodrigues Regional Assembly, without departing excessively from the practice in other local authorities of the Republic.

1. Leave the present system as it is, i.e, have 2 regional members per ward but increase the PR island members to 8.This will give a total of 20. Simultaneously, change the calculation for the allocation of the PR seats.

How to allocate the PR seats

1.Increase the minimum qualifying threshold from 10% to 12.5 % to give the correct weightage.

100 % divided by 12.5 gives 8.

2. The number of PR seats to be allocated according to the percentage of votes obtained island-wide.

Let us simulate it by reference to the 2012 election in Rodrigues.

 

OPR

MR

FPR

MIR

% of votes

46.78 %

42.08 %

10.67 %

0.47%

No of pr seats

4

3

0

NA

 

OPR would have obtained 4 seats and MR would have obtained 3 seats. FPR should have made some effort to have been allocated 1 seat.

The final result would have been:

 

OPR

MR

FPR

MIR

Total

No. of Regional Members

8

4

0

0

12

No. of Island Members(PR)

4

3

0

0

7

Total

12

7

0

0

19

Conclusion

1. The suggested formula will give due weight to the vote of each elector.

2. Each party would have to do its best to secure the PR seats. The more votes you get, the more PR seats will be secured.

3. The smaller parties will thus be encouraged to put in more effort to secure at least a seat.

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