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Electoral Systems

Proportional Representation System for India

M C Raj

A Brief

M C Raj’s latest work on Electoral Systems with specific reference to Proportional Representation System comes at a very relevant time when many intellectuals and policy makers are grappling with this issue in India.

This book is the result of two parallel processes over the last five years. The first process started off with Raj’s research on the German electoral system, followed by research on the Sami Parliament and Norwegian electoral system. Norway has enacted a very special legal provision for safeguarding the rights and culture of the Sami people, including a separate Parliament for them. Along with his wife Jyothi, Raj began researching the electoral system of New Zealand, which has a provision for separate electorate for the indigenous Maori people in its Mixed Member Proportional System. His frequent visits to Nepal also enabled him to study the Nepalese Parallel Electoral System that has brought about drastic changes in the democratic set up of Nepal. Finally, Raj also researched the electoral system of the Netherlands.

A common feature of all these countries is that all of them have proportional representation system as their electoral system. Also, all these countries have their own unique feature in the PR system. Germany has reservation for the Danish people in its Mixed Member PR system while New Zealand, following the German model of PR, has made a special provision of separate electorate for the indigenous Maori people within the MMP. Nepal is a pioneer in Asia in adopting the parallel system of elections, which is a semi-proportional representation system. The Netherlands has a full PR system without the Mixed Member PR system as in the other four countries.

The second process in Raj and Jyothi’s research is that they initiated a major Campaign for Electoral Reforms in India (CERI), which has now taken roots in more than fifteen states in India and has also made inroads into the Parliament of India. India has borrowed its electoral system from the British, which is a colonial residue. The First Past the Post (FPTP) electoral system is fit for any democracy with two parties. India, being a multicultural society with a multiparty system, is badly in need of shifting to proportional representation system, as it provides inclusive space for minorities. Here the term minorities will imply Dalits, Adivasis/Tribals, religious, ethnic and sexual minorities, women and also the Working Class. The CERI campaign is specifically focused on bringing about this change in India. However, the knowledge bank in India on PR system is abysmally low. It is in this context that M C Raj has brought together all the questions that were raised by Indian participants in more than fifteen State conferences on the PR system, combined it with his untiring researches and has brought out the present book on Electoral Systems.

The book has three sections and is presented through eleven chapters. Section 1 deals with the conceptual dimension of Democracy and Governance, especially in the way it developed from the period of Enlightenment in the 16th century and led to the present modern and postmodern democratic governance. It has a heavy analytical angle in its presentation. The attempt is to wake up the readers from their slumber on a naïve assumption that democracy is ‘good’ without even knowing its inner personality and character. This section also deals with the way Indian democracy evolved especially through the different types of nationalist discourses. Both the global and the Indian democracy converge on one common dimension, which is representative democracy. The question of representation immediately throws up the challenge of inclusion and share in power. Both these are supposed to be realized through an appropriate electoral system. When there is no inclusion and no share in power it must be realized that there is an unfit electoral system.

Section 2 deals with the Majoritarian Electoral system. It lays bare the different variants in the Majoritarian Electoral System, one of which is the First Past the Post system that is in vogue in India. The systems are dealt with as much academic discipline as possible. Care is also taken to explain the different terminologies of the system that are used in the procedures.

Section 3 deals with the Proportional Representation System and its application to India. The variants of PR system are explained to enhance the general understanding of readers and particularly place the reality of India. The choice of the Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) system and its various dimensions are not only explained but also the logic of developing India specific electoral system is brought into focus. Being a unique country India cannot afford to borrow any country’s electoral system as it is, without applying the same to India’s unique social and cultural context. This has been done by a group of international experts on electoral systems whom M C Raj brought together in Berlin, Germany. The proposal for PR system in India by M C Raj and CERI are heavily supported by the National Law Commission Report of 1999, which has also recommended strongly PR system for India.

Both the technical and the explanatory dimensions of the book make it appealing to all types of readership in many countries. However, this book will be unique in the sense no such book on electoral systems has been written in India till now. The academic understanding of PR system in India seems to be abysmally low and this book is bound to fill in a lot of empty spaces and avoid many pitfalls in Indian democracy and governance. This book is also bound to create a lot of unprecedented dialogue and healthy argumentation that will go to strengthen the theory and praxis of democracy in India and can lead to unplanned levels of national integration.

Dr. J. Lyngdoh, the former Chief Election Commissioner of India has written the Introduction to the book. There is also another international introduction by Mr. Kåre Vollan of Norway who is an electoral systems expert. There is a section on References and on Glossaries at the end of the book.