The former Chief Election Commissioner, James M. Lyngdoh, has said state-funding of elections is a “useless thing,” and that switching over to proportionate representation of the electoral system will help curb the influence of money in the long-term.

Mr. Lyngdoh was speaking to journalists after chairing a session on ‘Free & Fair Elections - The Soul of Democracy' on the concluding day of the 17th Commonwealth Law Conference here on Wednesday.

He pointed out that in a proportionate representation system, the parties would be competing against each other and not candidates, and “so much money is not going to be spent.”

Asked about state-funding of elections, he said: “That is a useless thing. It is a red herring. It doesn't help anybody.” He added that proportionate representation was the right thing in the long run.

‘Open competition’

To a query on the suggestion he made earlier for open competition in the selection of leaders and candidates by parties, Mr. Lyngdoh said: “If you have independent observers when elections are held in political parties, something could be done.” He added that if there was somebody to look at the criteria for the selection of candidates, it could be straightened out.

Speaking at the session, Mr. Lyngdoh said: “Democracy is all about open competition; if you don't have open competition you can't have free and fair elections in that sense.”

He said “free and fair elections” was not the soul of democracy and was just a precondition for legitimacy of an elected government.

Mr. Lyngdoh mentioned how the Election Commission in India had consistently delivered results, which the people were happy to accept.

Model countries

Senior Advocate of the Supreme Court P.P. Rao said Australia, New Zealand and South Africa were stated to be model countries in holding free and fair elections, and wanted all other Commonwealth nations to emulate their example.

Yusuf Ali SAN, advocate from Nigeria, said that in most of democracies less than 50 per cent of eligible electors voted. It was a case of a minority electing other minorities to rule over the majority.

Expressing concern over the phenomenon of rigging, he said “free and fair elections” was the sine qua non of a democratic government.

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