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Campaign for Electoral Reforms in India

(Towards Proportionate Electoral System)

CERI Policy Document Release Ceremony

February 9, 2012 Constitutional Club, New Delhi


National Secretariat: REDS Road, Shantinagar, Tumkur, Karnataka, India- 572102 Mobile: +91-98451-44893, Fax: +91-816-2272515 Email: ceri.reds@gmail.com Website: http://www.ceri.in

CERI Policy Document Release Ceremony

C E R I

Report of Policy Document Release Function


I. Welcome & Introduction The meeting began with a formal welcome as well as introduction by Mr. Khurram Omer to the Chief Election Commissioner Dr. S.Y. Quraishi, K. J. Rao the former adviser to the CEC, Mr. M. C. Raj, the Founder of CERI, Ms. Jyotiraj one of the founders of CERI and others present in the function. Mr. M. C. Raj also welcomed both the guests with floweret bouquet. Leena D, who moderated the function, gave a brief introduction of Campaign for Electoral Reforms in India (CERI) and the importance of the policy release function. II. Understanding PES & the Policy Document Mr. M. C. Raj Mr. M. C. Raj Founder of CERI introduced the policy document. He said that CERI had come a long way since its formation in 2008. So far CERI has organized several national, regional and state conferences to take forward the scientific approach of Proportionate Electoral System to the intelligentsia, academia, civil society, political class and ordinary people. These helped to generate a larger debate on PES at the national level. Prior to the formation of CERI substantial research was done in countries that have implemented different variants of PES. The first major breakthrough was the study on German electoral system, which has a provision for reservation within PES. Comparing it with the experience of the Dalit Panchayat was immensely fruitful which gave birth to Dalitocracy. Later researches were taken up in Norway, New Zealand, Nepal and the Netherlands. Experiences of most such countries with multi-party system and coalition politics have proved PES to be the best one to provide inclusive and proportional representation of the voters and also to provide representation of the underrepresented. In many cases it has provided multifold representation to the indigenous people in each of these countries. This is the background under which CERI was formed to usher in the agenda of Proportionate Representation (PR) in India, particularly to augment the representation of Dalits, Adivasis, DNTs, Minority Ethnic Groups, Women, Most Backward Communities (MBCs) and Religious Minorities. India with its multi-culture and varied multiplicities has already moved into multi-party system of governance and coalition government, which may not see a reversal in near future. It is essential to mention that the current electoral system of Indian democracy, popularly known as the First Past The Post (FPTP), is inappropriate to address the problems, hopes and aspirations of the majority population of this nation, particularly those from downtrodden and marginalized sections. It is not representative of the majority population as parties with less than 25% of votes win most of the seats and form governments. Further the percentage of votes gained by a party and the percentage of seats gained do not match. Thus there is a huge wastage of votes resulting in declining voter interest in elections. PR system does not allow wastage of votes, by providing representation to all voters.

This system is widely practiced in many democratic nations and they have shifted to PR including our neighbor Nepal. In PR the party gains seats only in proportion to the votes gained by the party. PR system consists of multi-member constituencies. This will enable two or more members being elected from the same constituency in order to provide representation to different parties. Thus it provides opportunities for smaller parties as well as opens the plank for coalition polity in a win-win spirit. The Indian version of PR system enshrined in the CERI Policy Document is not a copy of any system that has been adopted elsewhere. It is a tailor made model of PR addressing the complexities within India. We suggest the Mixed Member Proportionate (MMP) Electoral System with a ratio of 30% direct seats and 70% party list seats and also two votes system with closed party list. Mr. Raj expressed his hope that this document may serve as the guiding principles to push for a policy change towards PES by bringing in a bill at a later stage. He pointed out that it falls within the authority of the Election Commission to bring about changes in the electoral system of India without necessarily making a constitutional amendment. He requested the CEC to form an expert committee to have a serious study of the issue.
III. Electoral Reforms: A real need Mr. K. J. Rao

Mr. K. J. Rao, former adviser to the CEC said that today the biggest difficulty is providing fair and stable governance. India got independence in 1947 and since the first elections we had been following the system that was left by the British commonly known as the First Past The Post (FPTP). Today the entire political process is filled with the filth of criminals. I have observed this in many elections and the Election Commission has been making all efforts to bring in changes till 1970s. As early as 1977, the Election Commission made a proposal before the Government of India to bring in reforms and even it has spoken about changing the entire system to PES from the FPTP. But the government did not take much notice of what we proposed and it went on from bad to worse. Today more than half of the parliamentarians are billionaires. How did these politicians become billionaires? What is the type of ideology propagated by the political parties? There was a time when political parties used to talk and work for the poor, underprivileged and marginalized, but these days all those talks are no more in political parlances. The present elections have become occasion of showcasing ones money and muscle power. Several candidates are funded by the corporate and even some of them hail from corporate sector too. For a long time the Election Commission has been demanding subsequent governments and all the parties to bar the criminal from contesting elections? Look at the amount of violence involved in elections. Even the lowest election in India is not fought on fair means. No party or government is interested to address these issues. I am not sure if all problems are due to the limitations of FPTP, but I am certain there is a need for change from the present rotten electoral system to a better one. Reforms in Electoral System would also mean a shift in the fabric of democracy. PES is one of the options that have been experimented in various countries. It is a better option than FPTP but every system has its advantages and disadvantages. In the given context this could be one of the options but we need

more study and research as well as preparations at the experimental level if applied. We need to generate larger debate on these aspects as there is an urgency to change the current format.
IV. Its time to look at other formats of Electoral Procedures Dr. S.Y. Quraishi

The Chief Election Commissioner Dr. S.Y. Quraishi released the policy document of CERI on Proportional Representation. In his document release address he said that India is supposed to be the biggest democracy in the world. We are very proud of being the biggest democracy. The Election Commission of India is recognized as the best Election Commission in the world for conducting free and fair elections. Our credibility as a democratic institution lies here. We are perhaps the only country where with such vast population elections are conducted with electronic machines without any technical flaws and the results being declared in record time. Today there are more than 740 million registered voters in India. We are internationally recognized for this and are also invited in various countries to be as observers of their elections. We are also requested by various countries to suggest different formats of Elections too. However when questions of corruption, involvement of money, violence, allurement, etc. are raised before us, we remain dumbfound without any answer. Therefore it is clear that there are problems within our electoral system, despite the various steps of checks and balances being brought in place by the Commission. No doubt that money and muscle power have overpowered Indian electoral politics. In some cases we hear about 70-100 million rupees being spent for one constituency. Many people would ask to stay away from voting. Yet one cant love democracy and hate politicians. Corruption is the real issue and so is the engagement of criminal elements in politics. The Election Commission had repeatedly asked consecutive governments to bring in a rule in order to bar criminals from contesting elections. We have come up with several practical formats and procedures, yet they were unwelcome. It has to be decided by the Parliament, not Election Commission. When we speak of such reforms, all parties come together to prevent any such reforms. Lack of introspection has created the phenomena of voter apathy. But the danger becomes more intensive when educated sections would sit in their drawing room and pass comments that all politicians are thieves and criminals. This is very risky in any format of democracy. The question is where they are when the government is formed. What is their role and participation in the formation of government? Some would advocate for compulsory voting, but in democracy one cannot compel someone to vote, which goes against the principle of democracy. In Delhi during the last Legislative Assembly elections we initiated the campaign Pappu under which we were able to increase the percentage of vote. Therefore such among the illiterate and lowly educated class needs to be overcome with persuasion, facilitation and voters education leading to better, higher and quality participation. I am sure that the more powers are bestowed with the Election Commission it would lead to a better process. Election Commission as an institution needs to be strengthened. The control of parties and government over the EC has to be limited without any question. The appointments and promotions, budgeting process, politically oriented appointments are always demoralizing. The Election Commission is a vital institution in democratic set up and it needs its freedom to function freely. There is an urgency to initiate institutional reforms and strengths institutions like

Election Commission. Its high time that we look into these concerns seriously and bring in the essential shifts and changes. I am not sure if PES is a panacea for all electoral ills that India faces. I am not sure if PES would be the best. I dont think that taking the examples of Switzerland or Germany, we could work on an Electoral Reforms in India. In most of such countries the total population would be less than that of Delhi or even a small portion of Delhi. Further the process of PES is highly complicated. In the present FPTP system many contestants pose various difficulties in fulfilling the essential formalities. Further it is also not clear how it would bring in a realistic shift in the paradigm of election and governance such as banning criminals from contesting, limiting the exercise of money, applying caste and communal voting patterns, fair governance, etc. How could PES address such issues and concerns needs a lot of discussions and deliberations. Therefore, as requested by Mr. M. C. Raj the Election Commission would form an expert committee on PES and would also want CERI to be part of the Committee. V. Gratification and Conclusion Mr. Raktim Mukhopadhaya expressed vote of thanks to all the speakers and the participants from across the country. As a gesture of honor and gratitude Ms. Jyotiraj presented the book DYCHE, a volume of 1100 pages written by M C Raj and Jyothi to the CEC Dr. Quraishi and to Mr. Rao while Mr. V. B. Rawat presented shawls. The function was well attended by representatives of political parties, members of civil society, media persons, and CERI delegates from across the country. More than 300 people took part in the policy release function.