Proportional representation is most appropriate electoral system (Part 2)

Last week, I made a case for replacing the current electoral system with a proportional representation system and this is a follow-up that explains the various electoral system options used elsewhere in the world. Electoral systems are grouped according to how they translate votes won into electoral seats (parliamentary or local council) won.

Uganda’s current electoral system is First Past the Post in which elections are held in single member constituencies and the winner is the candidate with the most votes, but not necessarily majority of votes. This system produces geographical (Jinja, Mbale, Gulu, Kabale, Kamuli etc) representatives and majority single party governments. This is the system in Kenya, Tanzania, UK, India etc.

The Uganda system is spiced with electoral colleges for the Youth, Workers, Persons with Disabilities and UPDF MPs, where the same principle of most not necessarily majority votes applies. Some of the prominent features of this system are the use of lots of money by individual candidates, the large scale use of State resources and agencies such as the civil service, military, security and police and during elections the country seems to be in a conflict situation.

Electoral reforms should include introduction of a system that eliminates the problems and the malpractices that are consequential to the current electoral system. In Australia, a variation of the same system allows voters to rank candidates 1,2,3 etc., and if no one gets 50 per cent of the votes cast, then lower ranked preferences are transferred until a majority winner emerges.

The proportional electoral systems aim at reducing the disparity between a party’s share of the national votes cast and a share of parliamentary or council seats won. The commonest Proportional Representative (PR) electoral system is the List PR system in which each party presents a list of its candidates to the Electoral Commission and to the electorate.

Voters vote for a party rather than a candidate and parties receive seats in proportion to their overall share of the national votes cast. If there are 200 seats in Parliament and a party gets 10 per cent of the votes it will get 20 seats. Winning candidates are taken from the list in order of their respective position on the party list. Where there are individual candidates, this system includes a second round if no candidate gets a majority of votes.

This system is used in most of Europe, South America, South Africa and former French and Portuguese colonies. Individual candidates do not spend money and there are no by-elections, the electoral commission fills vacant seats with the next person on the party list.

This system makes it easier to include women, youth and minorities. If there was a First Past the Post system in South Africa, women, youth, the whites, Asians and Coloureds would have been marginalised politically like women, youth and Asians are marginalized in East Africa.

This system also enforces discipline in parties so that the phenomenon of the NRM rebels would not have arisen because the party can remove from Parliament and they too could easily go out and form a party of their own. This is a fair system to all players and difficult to manipulate.

In the Botswana election last October, the ruling party got 46.7 per cent of the votes but has 67 per cent of the seats in Parliament. Similarly in Uganda, the collective opposition gets more than 40 per cent of the votes in every election but has about 20 per cent of the seats. There is no belief in the fairness of the system and this raises issues of legitimacy and this is a recipe for instability in the country. This situation needs to be changed.

Mr Ruzindana is a former IGG and former MP.

SOURCE: Daily Monitor

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