The 2014 parliamentary election results may have restarted the debate over proportional representation, but The Hindu ’s analysis shows that the 16 Sabha is actually more representative at the constituency-level than its predecessor.
The issue of proportional representation instead of a first-past-the-post system was first considered by the Constituent Assembly before being dismissed at the time. The Single Transferrable Vote system used by countries like Australia — which involve ranking of preferences — has been deemed to be too complicated for a country with limited education. The system used to elect half the German Bundestag where seats are, by and large, proportionate to a party’s voteshare, would theoretically give more seats to parties like the BSP, as >The Hindu>showed in a graphic on Tuesday. But if implemented as in Germany, where parties must get at least 5 per cent of the voteshare to be eligible for seats, it would have left out all parties but the BJP and the Congress in this election.
Instead of these systems, some recommend that representativeness be improved at the constituency-level. The Law Commission of India’s 170 into electoral reform, submitted in May 1999, zeroed in on an alternative method; it recommended that to win the seat, a candidate must win at least “50% +1” of the votes in a constituency; if no one candidate reached that mark, the two leading candidates would compete in a further run-off. Prof. Jagdeep Chhokar, co-founder of the electoral-reform focussed advocacy group, the Association for Democratic Reforms, also recommends this approach. “The issue at hand is that our MPs are not representative enough, and this would be the simplest way to ensure that the majority of the people in a constituency have voted for their MP,” Mr. Chhokar said.
In this election, The Hindu used raw constituency-level data compiled from the ECI website by Pratap Vardhan, a member of the open data group, Datameet. The Hindu calculated winners’ voteshares and found that 201 of the 543 MPs elected on Friday won over 50% of the votes in their constituency. Of these, four got over 70 per cent; all four are from the BJP and include PM designate Narendra Modi for the Vaododara seat.
M.R. Madhavan, co-founder and President of PRS Legislative Research, similarly worked out the numbers for 2009. He found that 120 — a substantially smaller number than in 2009 — won with over 50% of the vote.
The “50% solution” has two key arguments against it, Mr. Madhavan said. “The first, as former election commissioner S.Y. Quraishi has said in his new book, is that adding run-offs to an already long election schedule is a logistical nightmare. The second is that if the election goes to a run-off, the top two candidates who make it to the run-off may not necessarily be the two most preferred as such by the electorate. That would require the STV,” he said. If the aim of the election is to produce a candidate that most of the electorate believes is a fair choice, then FPTP does well enough, he said.