What we can learn from other electoral systems

In Mauritius, we are still in quest of an electoral reform that can find a solution to the pronouncement of the Human Rights Commission of the United Nations in August 2012 on the issue of declaration of ethnicity by candidates taking part in a general election. For the sake of clarity, it should be noted that during the general election of 2010, the political party Resistans ek Alternativ had many of its candidates being refused to stand as candidates by the Electoral Commission because they did not declare their ethnicity contrary to the provisions of our Constitution. According to First Schedule [section 31(2)] paragraph 3 on Communities, ‘(1) Every candidate for election at any general election of members of the Assembly shall declare in such manner as may be prescribed which community he belongs to and that community he belongs to and that community shall be stated in a published notice of his nomination’.

Resistans ek Alternativ filed a case against the Government of Mauritius with the Human Rights Commission of the United Nations. This prestigious organization gave its verdict in the form of a pronouncement which gave “gain de cause” to Resistans ek Alternativ. The Mauritian government was asked to provide an effective remedy.

Till now no solution has been found. The previous government came forward with a White Paper but failed to comply. A mini amendment was brought to our Constitution in July 2014 just before the 2014 general election in which the word SHALL declare his community was replaced by the word MAY declare. So, those candidates who did not wish to declare their ethnicity were able to take part in the general election of 2014. All the three candidates of the Alliance Lepep who contested the general election in Constituency No 8 and who also won did not declare their community. Hon Pravind Jugnauth was one of those candidates. The present government has set up a Ministerial Committee which is chaired by the ex-Prime Minister and present Mentor Minister Sir Anerood Jugnauth and we are still on the wait for a solution.

It is worth noting that the abovementioned amendment made in 2014 held good for only that election, after which we are back to square one. We are again not in compliance with the pronouncement of the Human Rights Commission of the United Nations. If a general election is to be organized tomorrow, we risk to be under a legal imbroglio and it may not be good for our democracy.

The solutions include carrying out a census to determine the composition of the Mauritius population to update the community status as the one we have dates back to 1972. This is not recommendable as it may affect our social fabric. The second option to avoid any reference to the ‘community’ to which a candidate belongs, will jeopardize the system of nomination of the Best Loser candidates. Time is running out and the next general election is not too far away.

Some people are asking insistently that a dose of proportional representation (PR) should be introduced to ensure better representation in the Assembly, but PR has proved to be a destabilizing factor in all the elections of the Rodrigues Regional Assembly since its introduction in 2001. This is, therefore, not recommendable and we must think twice before making proposals for the introduction of PR which can turn a majority win into a minority.

The recent State Assembly elections in India have provided some useful information. Elections were held in the states of Uttar Pradesh (UP), Uttarkhand, Punjab, Goa and Manipur. In India, we have single-member constituencies. Each constituency returns only one MLA unlike Mauritius where each constituency returns 3 MPs. In India, one voter votes for one candidate only while in Mauritius, one voter votes for 3 candidates. There is no proportional representation in the election of these State Assemblies and yet stable governments are formed. BJP has an overwhelming win of 324 seats out of the 403 seats in the UP Assembly and has a comfortable majority. Similarly, in Uttarkhand, BJP has bagged 57 of the 70 seats in the Assembly. In Punjab, Congress has a large victory with 77 seats out of the 117 seats in Punjab Assembly. In Goa and Manipur, however, the election has produced a “hung assembly”. This is a situation whereby no single party or alliance has been able to cross the majority mark and cannot form the government unless it obtains the support of other parties or independents.

In Goa, out of the 40 seats, Congress has obtained 17 seats while BJP has obtained 13 seats. In Manipur, out of the 60 seats that were contested, Congress has 28 seats while BJP has 21 seats. The rest of the seats have been won by small regional parties or independents. It is with the help and support of these small regional parties and some of the independents that a stable government will be formed in the latter states.

In conclusion, we may say that democracy can prevail without proportional representation, as these State Assemblies in India show. We still have to learn a lot from other electoral systems.

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