Someone rightly said: “Experience is the best teacher.” The outcome of the recent regional elections in Rodrigues has a lot to offer in terms of whether the PR (proportional representation) system in its actual form does real justice to the parties and the candidates who actually stood for the elections. The euphoria of the overwhelming victory has quickly been overshadowed by confusion and frustration on the winning side, while the distress of the defeated party, on the other hand, has been patched up with the allocation of five additional seats.
Serge Clair, leader of the OPR, expressed his concern over not being allocated any additional seats based on PR. He went even further with the grudge that the gap between his party and the opposition, which was eight just after the poll results, has been narrowed down to three after the allocation of PR seats to the opposition. Indeed he has a claim, but the law is such that there’s nothing he can do about it in the foregoing.
Conversely, Nicolas Von Mally, leader of the MR, said it was only legitimate that his party be allocated the additional five seats based on the formula adopted by the Electoral Commission in conformity with the legal provisions.
But the problem of the PR does not stop at these controversial stands. The issue is pertinent to the party that has got lesser number of returned candidates as it is to the winning one. It is still more pertinent, in my view, to the candidates themselves, especially those who have not been returned. The system doesn’t seem to do justice to candidates who had struggled hard to canvass people and who have not been able to get elected, some with a low margin, while those in the PR party list have found their way to the RRA without, so to say, substantial effort. So far so good. There’s nothing illegitimate in that. It’s the system. We need to abide.
The PR system has been introduced to restore balance between the winning party and the unsuccessful one. It’s a good form of checks and balances for democracy in aiming at preventing the route to dictatorship with an absolute majority. Democracy seems to function better when there are matching forces. So the PR system proves to be useful in making appropriate adjustments towards this end. The formula adopted is excellent in bringing the right balance.
Opinions and remarks are being voiced out from various quarters through the social media regarding the pertinence of the system. The people are getting more and more concerned in trying to understand the working of such system. It may appear simple and complicated at the same time. It’s not the aim of this article to probe into the mathematics of the system.
The system, as it is, seems to be discriminatory towards candidates who actually stood for the elections. Why stand for an election when you can have a seat without doing so, in particular if it may, rightly or wrongly, be anticipated that the party has a lesser chance of forming the “government”? This is a question that requires some attention and has a direct bearing on those in the PR party list.
I am not making any insinuations, but let’s figure out the following scenario. The PR party list candidates may not put in the required effort; worse, they may even campaign against their own party (although this is unethical – well, after all what is ethics in politics?) to ensure there is minimum number of elected candidates within their party so that they in turn can secure a seat through the PR. (The more the number of elected candidates in a party the lesser the chance of a candidate in that PR party list to be nominated and vice versa).
Such scenario was reported to have happened in previous elections. It’s very unfair towards those who stood as candidates, struggled hard in the field attempting to convince people to vote for them (with all the risks associated when faring in hostile grounds). These unreturned candidates find themselves outside the assembly (in “carreau cane” as we say in the Mauritian jargon or “dans bois” in the Rodriguan jargon). Don’t forget that the winner today may be the defeated tomorrow. There’s no room for complacency.
My intention is not to question the system out of the blue. I have no problem with the nominees of party list (congratulations for those nominated). It’s not a question of the “persons” in the list; rather the list itself. My concern is the “source” for the allocation of additional seats. The party list does not seem to be a fair source. It may be fraught with the issues highlighted earlier. The choice would appear fairer, in my opinion, if the allocation were made among the best losers.
It appears that we are confronted with a situation that seems to be unfair. If matters can improve for the betterment of democracy there’ll be no reason to make a creak. I’m just putting it to the political and electoral gurus to give some thought to such scenarios, most often than not unpredictable, with a view to coming up with a fairer and more equitable framework that will do better justice to those who are actually in the forefront of the battle field. I am of the considered view that the allocation of seats on the system of PR needs to take on board best losers. In other words, a system of PR based on BLS (best loser system). Remember it’s not a question of community or ethnic belonging here. It’s purely national.
“L’intérêt national doit primer” as they say.
Alfa King Memories
Mauritian residing in Rodrigues, Amanoola Khayrattee (pen name Alfa King) is contributing writer and journalist to La Gazette Mag de l’océan indien and This Week News Mauritius.
Retired, former meteorological cadre, trade unionist and OSH consultant, Amanoola has written for in-house union and other journals, publications and magazines. He runs two blogs since 2007: “Alfa King Memories”, and “Le Journal d’Alfa King”. When he is not reading or writing, he is on a 10+ km daily hike in anticipation of his monthly trails.
Amanoola may be reached at [email protected].