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Poll reforms crucial: Ansari

Special Correspondent
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For enhancing representativeness and incorporating more safeguards

Debates on electoral reforms should focus on enhancing representativeness and incorporating constitutional and international safeguards to vulnerable groups, Vice-President M. Hamid Ansari has said.

Inaugurating a national seminar on electoral reforms organised by the C. Achutha Menon Study Centre and Library and the Indira Gandhi National Open University here on Thursday, Dr. Ansari said the debate should give due importance in providing accountable, stable and efficient governance, promoting societal accommodation and conciliation, enhancing legislative oversight and encouraging the evolution and development of effective and internally democratic political parties.

Electoral systems are important since they translate votes into exercise of political power. Their credibility and representativeness are crucial in bringing about stable polities that are essential for socio-economic progress. Electoral systems have an undue influence on the evolution of party systems, their role and cohesion. It encourages inner-party democracy and suppresses dissent and influences the nature of political mobilisation, alliance formation and societal accommodation. The systems can spark societal conflict or facilitate conflict management too, he said.

Referring to the first-past-the-post system, Dr. Ansari said electoral records of Lok Sabha elections showed that in the past five general elections, the number of winning candidates who secured 50 per cent or more of the valid votes varied between 121 and 221; it was 121 in 2009. The M.N. Venkatachaliah Commission which surveyed the record of three general elections concluded that over two-thirds of the Lok Sabha members and almost 90 per cent of the MLAs in some States were elected on a minority vote.

Such discussions should focus on the representativeness of the elected representative. The system works on the principle of plurality rather than on majority.

Debates must

Debates are imperative on the merit of the suggestion that the government and the Election Commission conduct a thorough examination in consultation with political parties on the introduction a two-round system, with the second round conducted between the two leading candidates in each constituency on the day after the first round.

Similarly, the question whether the present electoral system encourages a politics defined by ‘who you are' and ‘where you live' rather than ‘what you believe in' and ‘what you what to achieve' has to be discussed. What can be done to address the grievance of under-representation and unequal access to political power emanating should come up for debate. The data are disturbing, he said.

Due thought should be given to find out how to overcome the implications in terms of the principle of one person, one vote, one value of the 84 {+t} {+h} Amendment that froze the number of seats in the Lok Sabha and State Assemblies till 2026, he said.

Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan presided. Governor R.S. Gavai was the guest of honour. Shashi Tharoor, MP, and Leader of the Opposition Oommen Chandy offered felicitations. Mayor C. Jayan Babu was also present. Centre president C.K. Chandrappan welcomed the gathering. Seminar committee general convener K. Raman Pillai proposed a vote of thanks.

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