The Possible Consequences of the Proposed Electoral Reform

The choice of an electoral system is one of the most important institutional decisions for any democracy because it will have a profound effect on the future political life of the country. Once chosen, it will remain fairly constant over a very long period of time. Any change in the electoral system must therefore be a calculated risk.

Circumstances and reasons that would lead a country to change its electoral system

1.     Accidental, the result of an unusual combination of circumstances

2.     A passing trend

3.     Effect of influential neighbours.

4.     The present system is producing a frequent unfairness in representation of the various components of the society or the various parties.

5.     Rise of gerrymandering over a period of time due to unequal demographic growth.

6.     The insurgence of a legal issue of democratic principles that may arise over a long period of time.

The need for an electoral reform in Mauritius

The trigger for electoral reform in Mauritius was created in the aftermath of the pronouncement of the Human Rights Commission of the United Nations on the issue of declaration of ethnicity by candidates taking part for the general election, following a petition filed by Resistans ek Alternativ after the elections of 2005 and 2010. This party and others had seen their candidacies rejected by the Electoral Commission on the grounds that they had not indicated the ethnic/religious appurtenance in their electoral forms.

Being a member-state of the United Nations and a signatory of its Convention for Democratic Principles, the Government of Mauritius is bound to comply with the ruling given by the UN body.

What has been done so far

Government has come forward with a Consultation Paper and a mini amendment to the effect that it will be optional for candidates filing for election to decline or not their ethnic/religious appurtenance. This amendment holds good only for this general election. Just after the election, an effective remedy will have to be made. This is why the PTr and the MMM state having entered into an electoral alliance based on an agreement for an electoral reform and the establishment of the Second Republic

The electoral reform proposed by PTr-MMM Alliance

1.     The 20 constituencies to remain with their present unequal sizes and each returning 3 MPs.

 

This is a discriminatory measure which goes against the Constitution of Mauritius which guarantees that there shall be no discrimination against caste, creed, colour, sex and geographical position of our country. The prevailing system contains disparities, as shown in the table below:

Constituencies

No of Voters

No of MPs

NO 3

23 112 Voters

3 MPs

NO 14

62 524 Voters

3 MPs

NO 5

62 092 Voters

3 MPs

NO 2 + NO 3

48 582 Voters

6 MPs

NO 5 + NO 14

124 616 Voters

6 MPs

This unequal size gives advantage to one region of the country on other regions and one community of the country on others. In the modern world, when a system based on the abovementioned compositions gives the above outcomes, this may amount indirectly to what is called gerrymandering and should be seen as a basically unfair system.

The introduction of Proportional Representation: It is being proposed that 20 MPs be nominated through PR. These MPs may or may not contest the election and will be chosen by Party Leaders. A closed list will be submitted to the Electoral Commission before or on Nomination Day. If the party qualifies by securing at least 10% of national votes, it will be allocated that number of seats that will be in proportion to Unreturned Votes Elect’ (UVE) or wasted votes.

Wasted Votes PR

The total number of votes of all unelected candidates of a party from all the constituencies is computed and a percentage of the total national vote is obtained for each party. For example, in 1987, all the 3 candidates of MMM were elected in a specific constituency. So, the wasted votes for MMM in this constituency is zero. All the 3 candidates for MSM-PTr-PMSD alliance lost. So the wasted votes for this alliance was 9105 + 9051 + 8823 = 26 979.

Similarly, in Constituency No 4, 2 MMM candidates won while 1 MSM-PTr-PMSD candidate was elected. The wasted vote for MMM was that of a single candidate who lost and it was 14 342. The wasted votes for MSM-PTr-PMSD was the total votes of the 2 candidates who were not elected, and it was 28181.

The final computation for 1987 election with the proposed PR system will be as follows:

MSM-PTr-PMSD

MMM

OPR (Rodrigues)

% of votes (Actual)

49.86 %

48.12 %

2.02 %

NO OF ELECTED MPs (Actual)

39

21

2

TOTAL WASTED VOTES (under new PR system)

224 764

492 468

N.Q

% OF WASTED VOTES (under new PR system)

31.3 %

68.7 %

N.Q

NO OF PR SEATS
(under proposed electoral reform)

31.3% of 20= 6

68.7 % of 20 = 14

TOTAL MPs WITH PR (under proposed electoral reform)

45

35

2

The MSM-PTr-PMSD which won the election with a comfortable margin of 39-21 had the required stability to govern but with the advent of PR, this would have been reduced to 45-37 and with the crossing over of only 4 MPs, we can get a Hung Parliament. With the crossing over of only 5 MPs, the Opposition could have taken the Government by surprise in such a model. As crossing over is a common commodity of Mauritius politics, government instability will be a perpetual feature with the proposed PR system. Therefore, Wasted Votes PR is unacceptable and is a destabilizing element. It is not good for a healthy government and hence for the socio-economic development of the country.

Wasted votes favour the best Opposition party on many fronts:

–       It receives more wasted votes in large constituencies where the party loses. In 1987, in Constituency No 3 MMM won all the 3 seats, and MSM-PTr-PMSD would have received only 10 998 wasted votes. On the other hand, MSM-PTr-PMSD won all the 3 seats in Constituency No 5 and MMM would have bagged 40 895 wasted votes.

–       The votes going to independent candidates and parties scoring less than 10% would enhance the chances of the best Opposition party securing additional PR seats to a maximum.

How the reform proposals will ultimately alter the political landscape and the balance of power in Mauritius?

 Let us objectively and fairly see what kind of an election outcome the reform proposals can produce in the future. Let us assume that electoral reform has been done and PR has been introduced. There is a new alliance PTr-MSM-PMSD against MMM-ML-OTHERS. Let us produce a simulation of the general election that may be held. Below are the First Past the Post (FPTP) results under this scenario:

CONSTITUENCY

PTr-MSM-PMSD

MMM-ML-OTHERS

RODRIGUES

NO 1

0

3

NO 2

0

3

NO 3

1

2

NO 4

1

2

NO 5

3

0

NO 6

3

0

NO 7

3

0

NO 8

3

0

NO 9

3

0

NO 10

2

1

NO 11

3

0

NO 12

3

0

NO 13

2

1

NO 14

1

2

NO 15

1

2

NO 16

2

1

NO 17

0

3

NO 18

2

1

NO 19

0

3

NO 20

0

3

NO 21

0

0

3

TOTAL

33

27

3

Now using the same statistics for wasted votes as for 1987 election, we come to the following PR adjusted results:

PTr-MSM-PMSD

MMM-ML-OTHERS

RODRIGUES

No of Elected MPs (FPTP)

33

27

3

No of PR Seats

6

14

TOTAL

39

41

3

* Published in print edition on 6 December 2014

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