Amendments to the Rodrigues Regional Assembly Elections

At the Cabinet Meeting held on Friday 18 December 2015, the Government of Mauritius had decided to set up of a Ministerial Committee to make recommendations on electoral reforms in Mauritius.

As the Rodrigues Regional Assembly election is due for 2017, the committee has worked on “Amendments to the electoral system in Rodrigues” and submitted its proposals.

At the cabinet meeting of 4th November 2016, Government has decided to come forward with a Rodrigues Regional Assembly (Amendment) Bill which is being forwarded to the Rodrigues Regional Assembly for concurrence. The proposals made by Government are as follows:

The Regional Assembly shall consist of –


(a)(i) 12 local region members elected on the first past the post basis (FPTP)
(ii) 5 island region members, instead of 6, elected under the current Proportional Representation system;
(iii) allocation of additional seats, where needed, to ensure an overall majority of 3 seats to the party which has won 7 or more local region seats;


(b) each registered party presenting more than 2 candidates at an ordinary election, shall ensure that not more than two thirds of the total number of candidates of that party in the 6 local regions are of the same sex;


(c) a registered party may file a Party List which shall contain the names of not more than 12 persons, and not include the name of a person whose name is included on any other list submitted by a registered party for election as a member for the Island, and who is a registered party candidate, other than Party Leader, for election as a member for a local region; and
(d) a registered party may file a Party List which shall not comprise more than two thirds of persons of the same sex.

Comparison of the Present System to the New Proposals

PRESENT SYSTEM

PROPOSED

1

Mixed FPTP/PR

Mixed FPTP/PR

2

6 Regional wards

6 Regional wards

3

12 elected members

12 elected members

4

6 PR seats

5 PR seats

5

Threshold of 10%

Threshold of 10%

6

A slate of 6 members to be presented for the allocation of PR seats.

A slate of 12 members to be presented for the allocation of PR seats

7

Party having at least 7 regional members to be allocated that number of PR seats to enable a majority of but 1.

Party having at least 7 seats to be allocated 3 additional PR seats.

8

No gender barrier for regional candidates

Each registered party presenting more than 2 candidates shall ensure that not more than two thirds of the total number of candidates of that party in the 6 local regions are of the same sex;



9

No gender barrier for the party list for the allocation of PR seats

A registered party may file a Party List which shall not comprise more than two thirds of persons of the same sex.

9*

No barrier on crossing the floor. A member from one party could resign from the party and join another party if he/she so wishes.

Crossing the floor not allowed. If a member resigns from a party, he will lose his seat and will be replaced by a member on the party list.

10

No double candidature. A candidate who contests the election as a regional candidate cannot be on party list and is not be entitled for the allocation of a PR seat.

Double candidature allowed only for party leader. The party leader can contest the election and be on the party list for the allocation of PR seats.

A critical analysis of what is being proposed

Gender Representation: The issue of gender representation is a valid point. Women representation is still very low and has to be encouraged. But, we also have to bear in mind, the Equal Opportunities Act.

Electoral Wards: Maintaining the 6 electoral wards with 2 elected members on the FPTP system per ward is also commendable.

Proportional Representation: Proportional Representation is a controversial variable in an electoral system and which should not behave been encouraged. The maintenance of PR with the appointment of 5 members from a slate of 12 instead of 6 members from a slate of 6 is not going to improve the system.

Let us apply it to the 2012 election.

The island votes obtained by each party for the election in Feb. 2012 were as follows:

OPR

MR

FPR

MIR

Total votes

10230

9 202

2 333

102

% of votes

46.78%

42.08 %

10.67 %

0.47%

No. of elected Regional Members

8

4

0

0

The threshold for the eligibility of PR is 10%. So, 3 parties are qualified-OPR, MR and FPR. The allocation of the 5 proposed PR seats will be as follows;

MR will receive 3 PR seats while FPR will receive 2 PR seats. OPR will not receive any PR seat. The final result will be as follows;

OPR

MR

FPR

MIR

TOTAL

No. of Regional Members

8

4

0

0

12

No. of Island Members. (PR)

0

3

2

0

6

TOTAL

8

7

2

0

17

OPR has crossed the barrier of 7 seats. Therefore, it will be allocated 3 PR seats. The final result would be as follows:

OPR

MR

FPR

MIR

TOTAL

No. of Regional Members

8

4

0

0

12

No. of Island Members.
(PR)

*3

3

2

0

6

TOTAL

11

7

2

0

20

The ruling party will have 11 seats and the other parties will, together have 9 seats. This majority will continue to prevail because any member leaving the party will be replaced by another member from the party list.

However, some fundamental questions arise. This can be illustrated by a case study.

CASE STUDY 1

Party A has 8 elected members who are democratically elected by the people. The party gets 3 PR members who are the choices of the party leader. This party has 11 members in all while the opposing parties have only 9 members. The stability of the party is ensured because any member who resigns from the party will be replaced by members on the party list.

Let us consider this scenario and then come to a conclusion. Let us suppose that the Leader of the party deviates from the original party line and wants to go in a direction which does not have the approval of 5 of the elected members. The 5 members resign as a sign of protest because action may be against the wish of the people. The party list had 12 members. 3 were nominated and 9 are still on the list. The 5 elected members are replaced by the leader’s choice from the party list. Now this party is left with the Leader, 2 elected members and 8 nominated members. At a point of time, the remaining two elected members of the party are frustrated because more responsibilities are assigned to the nominated members. They resigned as a sign of discourage and resentment. They are replaced by 2 other members from the party list which still had 4 remaining members on the list and the party continues to govern in serenity.

In the end, the leader remains the only democratically elected member of the party while all the 7 other democratically elected members are systematically eliminated and replaced by those on the party list.

Questions that arise

1. Does it sound ethical to replace 7 of the democratically elected members and govern with 10 members from PR?

2. Have we not elevated the party leader to a very high rank?

3. Is the leader not going to have dictatorial attitudes?

4. Will it be democratic for a party to govern after replacing 7 elected members by 7 who are non-elected members chosen by the party leader?

If this is the case, is it not going to encourage the Central Government to “buy” only the Leader and impose its own policy on the island.

If only 5 PR seats are to be allocated, the party list should have only 5 people and no more so that not more than PR seats can be obtained by any party.

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