Proportional representation system is most appropriate electoral system for us

On October 30, as a last minute stand-in for Prof. Frederick Sempebwa, I gave the Benedicto Kiwanuka Memorial Lecture on “Electoral Systems and Implications on election results what is the most appropriate electoral system for Uganda”.

During the same event, there was also a launch of Dr Paul Kawanga Ssemogere’s book on Political Party Financing in Uganda a Critical Analysis in Reference to Other Countries.

An electoral system comprises of the laws, rules and procedures through which votes cast in an election are translated into seats in parliament or any other elected body. Even with exactly the same number of votes, one system can lead to a minority or a coalition government or a single party forming a government. The key variable is the formula used to calculate the seat allocation and how many seats a constituency elects.

I made a case for a change from the current First Past the Post (FPTP) to a Proportional Representation (PR) electoral system, which reduces the disparity between a party’s share of votes and its share of seats and eliminates the need for candidates to spend much money or to facilitate voters. A country in democratic transition, like Uganda, needs a system that facilitates inclusiveness, simple for voters to understand, fair in results, simple or easy to manage and transparent.

In addition to the Electoral Commission, the electoral system is the most important mechanism for shaping political competition because it can be purposely designed (special interest groups) to achieve a particular outcome or result. An electoral system can determine who is elected and which party gains power.

An electoral system affects the way constituency boundaries are drawn, how many voters are registered, the design of the ballot papers, how votes are counted and who runs the elections.

Electoral systems influence the type of party system that develops, the number and relative sizes of parties in representative bodies, the internal cohesion and the discipline of parties. The FPTP promotes confrontational, hostile, monetized politics, especially at candidate level whereas PR promotes accommodation, inclusiveness and reduces the influence of money and the potential for conflicts.

Although the current electoral system significantly favours the ruling party, it does not promote cohesion in parties as candidates largely struggle on their own to get elected. Proportionally translating votes cast into seats won by parties is the important reform that could solve a lot of the problems encountered in campaigns and elections.

Botswana held elections on October 24 that illustrate clearly the shortcomings of an FPTP electoral system, which is the system in Uganda and in most of East Africa. The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) has formed every government since independence in 1965 with a majority of votes and seats in Parliament.

Then in 2010, the BDP split, leading to the formation of the Botswana Movement for Democracy, which contested the elections as part of an alliance of parties called Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC).

For the first time, the BDP share of votes fell below 50 per cent to 46.7 per cent, i.e. 37 out of 57 or 64.7 per cent of all elected MPs. However, 44 per cent (25 out of 57) of all MPs got less than 50 per cent of the votes cast and 14 of these were BDP.

The UDC alliance got 30.9 per cent of the votes and only 17 seats and the Botswana Congress Party, which got 19.6 per cent of the votes and only got three MPs. There are four specially elected MPs and all of them have gone to the BDP, pushing its majority to 67 per cent. Unresolved pre-election tensions, followed by unfair FPTP election results and succession maneuvers could lead to political turbulence.

Mr Ruzindana is a former IGG and former MP.

SOURCE: Daily Monitor

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