From: M C Raj <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Thu, Nov 10, 2011 at 8:24 AM
Subject: Berlin Workshop Statement
Sometime ago I wrote to you about this historic workshop in Berlin. We plan to bring this out as an expanded policy document to be placed in the Parliament of India next year. Please go through this Statement and join the CERI campaign by sending in your feedback. Thanks much.
The CERI Group
International Workshop of Electoral Systems Experts
17 – 19 October 2011, Berlin, Germany
India is the largest democracy in the world. One recognizes that it is a multicultural society, which is in need of very special measures for democratic governance. The complex reality of Indian State makes it difficult even for experts to develop a clear understanding of the undercurrents that guide its destiny. The praxis of the First Past The Post (FPTP) electoral system in India has further accentuated the intricacies of its governance. The international workshop of electoral systems experts, held in Berlin between 17 and 19 of October 2011 recognizes that the FPTP electoral system, vogue in India, is a legacy borrowed from the British. India has come a long way in its political life from the time it got independence from the British. It is now emerging as a major player in the global economic scenario. However, the representative character of its democratic governance leaves much to be desired in terms of the results it produces for more than a billion of its people.
2. Mixed Member Proportionate System (MMP)
Politically speaking India has arrived at an era of coalition politics. One may not see a reversal of this coalition politics in the near future. It is a well recognized truth that FPTP system of elections is best suited for countries that have two party system. India, a multicultural society, with its multi-party system and coalition politics is in dire need of changing its electoral system to a more inclusive representative system that also addresses the needs of coalition politics in a multicultural society. This workshop of electoral systems experts, after due diligence on complex realities of Indian democratic governance has come to the conclusion that the Mixed Member Proportionate Representation System with two votes per voter will address better the changing needs of Indian democracy. It must be recognized that most inclusive democracies in the world have already shifted their electoral system to one or other form of proportionate electoral system. In order to make democracy in such a huge multicultural society as inclusive as possible it is also recommended that India adapted MMP with a ratio of 30% direct seats and 70% party list seats.
3. Party List System
Reflecting on the most appropriate vote system, which is a significant dimension of any electoral system this workshop of electoral systems in the world has arrived at a consensus taking into consideration the predominant view of Indian delegates present that it will be good for India to adopt the two vote system with closed party list as against open party list system.
4. Counting System and Distribution of Remainder Seats
In order that votes may not be wasted in large proportion, as is the case in the present FPTP system in India, the proportional systems are the most adequate ones. Translating votes into seats, however, plays a significant role in establishing proportionality of representation. There are many counting systems in this process of translating votes cast into seats in representative democracies. To make the translation process most accurate, but equally avoiding 'surprise' outcomes, it becomes imperative that the Webster-System be used.
5. Size of Parliament
It is recognized that even comparatively small countries like Germany using MMP and Nepal with its Parallel System, another variant of proportionate electoral system, have more than 600 members in their respective parliaments. Introduction of MMP will call for an expansion of the size of the parliament of any country. India, being a huge country of more than one billion people will have to make an expansion that will be congruent to the size of its population without undermining the need for manageability and an acceptable relation between representative and voter in the seats allotted through the district votes. Therefore, this workshop of electoral systems experts likes to recommend to a later Parliamentary Committee of India that we hope will be set up, to consider all possible complex dimensions and arrive at a number that will be proportionally inclusive and professionally manageable. This will also simultaneously call for the empowerment of the Election Commission of India to determine the number of winnable candidates per constituency taking into serious consideration the size and composition of population and the latent diversity of each constituency.
This workshop of experts on electoral systems deliberated extensively on the question of reservation/separate electorate for Dalits, Adivasis/Tribals, Women and Minorities in the new MMP and took into serious consideration the historical exclusion of these communities of people in many spheres of governance. It is well possible to accommodate proportional representation in the party list system under the MMP and we suggest that at least the presently given reserved seats will have to be reflected in the list of any party, running in the election (e.g. every 4th candidate on any party list will have to be a SC-person, or every 3rd a woman etc.). The workshop was well aware that it is quite possible that political parties could manipulate this mechanism, but we trust that a healthy competition will emerge between the parties on which of them will take these reservations really seriously and try to be the most inclusive one in the choice of their candidates. The same reservation mechanism as with the party lists will also apply to the candidates running for election in the FPTP constituencies. Such a provision within the MMP can be continued till a time when proportionate representation of hitherto excluded communities becomes a natural reflection through the party list system.
A widespread healthy democratic practice in most countries with proportionate electoral system is the introduction of 'threshold'. This is done with the avowed purpose of discouraging unhealthy and unnecessary fragmentation of parties as well as to prevent the entry of small groups of undemocratic forces into a democratically elected parliament of any country. Taking into consideration the need for including legitimate aspirations of small communities of people in India and its large population, it is realized by this workshop of electoral systems experts that for India's MMP a threshold of 1% of overall polled votes or a win of three directly elected seats will be the most appropriate one.
All ruling parties in almost all countries engage themselves in gerrymandering, if the FPTP-system prevails. It is to be noted that gerrymandering is not just a matter of redistricting, which may be necessary after some new census. Gerrymandering is always associated with manipulative redistricting. So there may be a "genuine need" for redistricting but never for gerrymandering. Therefore, this workshop is of the opinion that if there is a genuine need for redistricting, it should be done by the Election Commission, following only technical criteria such as population numbers, size of constituencies, administrative boundaries etc., but never political considerations. However, this problem is practically irrelevant under MMP, as the basis for the number of seats, won by a party will always be distributed according to the number of votes under the party-lists.
There are issues that pertain to the FPTP system and have no relevance to PR system and vice versa. However, in view of the fact that various issues were raised during the different State Conferences in India on electoral reforms it is the responsibility of this workshop to take stock of all such issues. This workshop wishes to inform the Indian public that certain issues like negative voting and recall of elected candidates will not have relevance in electoral politics if the Mixed Member Proportionate system is ushered in India.
9.1. Financing of Elections
This workshop of electoral systems experts is of the view that financing of parties in elections through direct Corporate funding will lead to unhealthy practices of democracy and negatively impact governance. In situations specific to India there are communities whose parties may be at a comparative disadvantage to campaign for legitimate success in elections. Therefore, it becomes imperative that State funding of elections is put in place to curb corruption by wealthy parties and to support resource crunched parties.
9.2. Internal Party Democracy
This workshop took into serious consideration that in a democracy, parties should have utmost freedom of how they want to conduct the affairs of their party without the government exercising much normative control. However, taking into serious consideration the existence of feudalism, nepotism and tendencies to perpetuate dynastic control over parties, this workshop also highlights the utmost importance of ensuring inner party democracy in every electoral system, be it FPTP or PR system.
9.3. Direct Democracy
This workshop realizes that the question of direct democracy is fast spreading in many countries of the world and India will have to face it sooner than later but as of now it is not an immediate need to add to the already ambitious shift from FPTP to MMP. However, It will be important to think of how some elements of direct democracy can be built in the MMP system.
9.4. Bicameral Parliament
This workshop takes note of the seriousness of the bicameral parliament in India. However, it desists from delving deep into this question in this workshop, as this is more of a Nation State subject and not an electoral system subject. We respect the wisdom of the Indian State to deal with this issue.
10. Other Related Issues
This workshop of experts on electoral systems dealt with certain specific issues taking into account the Indian situation and arrived at a consensus in the following manner.
10.1. Voting age: This workshop insists on the need for making the youth take part in electoral practices at an early age. However, the present praxis of 18 years as voting age is a universally accepted principle and there is no reason to change it as of now. However, this workshop is of the strong opinion that there should be no disparity between the eligibility criteria for voting and contesting. The eligibility for voting and for contesting should be same.
10.2. One Day Poll: This workshop is of the firm view that the present practice of polling on one day is an appropriate one for India. However, it recommends counting of votes at the earliest possible time after the voting day without efforts to prolong the counting of votes.
10.3. Electronic or Paper Voting: This workshop of experts on electoral systems is of the view that even if electronic voting system is in place, there should be a paper trail for the voter. Experience in countries with electronic voting machines has proved that it becomes extremely complicated in countries with two vote system.
10.4. Compulsory Voting: This workshop of electoral systems experts sets aside any recommendation on the issue of compulsory voting, as it is more an ideological and political question than a question of electoral procedures. The workshop is, however, of the opinion that the MMP itself will lead to more participation and, thus, a high level of polling.
This workshop of experts has agreed that despite differences of opinion on certain issues among experts, consensus has been reached on all the above listed dimensions of electoral systems that will be tailor-made for India. This workshop is also of the opinion that this Workshop Statement should be later developed in the nature of a full-fledged policy document. This workshop hopes very firmly that such a policy document will become a handy tool for the Parliament of India to further work on and ultimately usher in proportionate electoral system in India in the interest of the best practices of democracy.
Experts and Delegates
The following are the experts and delegates in the workshop of electoral systems experts held in Berlin, Germany from 17 to 19 October 2011.
01. Dr. Arshi Khan - India
02. Prof. Dr. Joachim Behnke – Germany
03. Mr. de Jong, Ron – The Netherlands
04. Prof. Fuchs, Martin – Germany
05. Mr. Hahn, Walter – Germany
06. Mr. Y L Jayaraj – India
07. Mr. Jeroninio Almeida, India
08. Mrs. Jyothiraj – India
09. Mr. Khorrum Omer – India
10. Prof. Krishna Khanal – Nepal
11. Dr. Krishna Swamy Dara – India
12. Mrs. Moll, Ursula – Germany
13. Mr. Muller, Philip – Germany
14. Dr. Nepia, Gaylene Huia – New Zealand
15. Dr. v. Prittwitz, Volker – Germany
16. Mr. M C Raj – India
17. Mr. D Raja – India
18. Mr. Rayalu Yugalkishore – India
19. Mr. Scheltens, Jerome – The Netherlands
20. Mrs. Sukanya Natarajan – India
21. Mr. Vivek Sakpal – India
22. Dr. Voll, Klaus – Germany
23. Mr. Vollan, Kare – Norway
24. Prof. Wagner, Christian – Germany
25. Mr. Wiek, Hans-Georg - Germany