Electoral system : Not quite on the mark

The electoral system for the Constituent Assembly polls, which the Maoists fought tooth and nail to change, even getting a resolution passed in the interim parliament with a majority vote against the requirement of two-thirds majority to amend the provisions of the constitution, has ultimately helped the party garner a substantial lead in the Constituent Assembly (CA) election. An electoral system may affect the final outcome as so much rests on its inherent dynamics. It is, therefore, essential to deliberate at length before settling for a particular system. However, experts were aghast at the choice of Mixed System against the full Proportional Representation (PR) system with regional lists.

It seemed that the electoral system was being chosen merely for the formation of a new government, and not the Constituent Assembly. The fact that the Mixed System alone could never guarantee proportionality in the elected House was blatantly overlooked. Theoretically, the results of the CA election would have been definitely different from what has come about so far had either a fully Proportional Representation (PR) system or Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) system been adopted for CA polls. Instead, the Parallel System in which First Past the Post (FPtP) and Proportional Rrepresentation systems work separately and independently, and which cannot check disproportionality under First Past the Post system and if anything even widens the gap through the PR component, as is evident from the results available so far, was chosen. Under PR component, the Maoists are securing nearly 31% of votes, whereas, under FPtP they got exactly 50% of the total numbers of seats.

It is needless to remind the seven-party alliance leaders that CA election has been conducted with a view to providing safe and smooth grounds for resolution of the decade-old armed conflict on the basis of Nov. 2005 12-point understanding and the 19-day people’s movement of March/April 2006. However, it is reported that the top Maoist leaders have already initiated discussions with other political parties to form a government under their leadership even when the final results are yet to come. But the common people are concerned about more serious issues regarding constitution making and peace process. Ironically, the Maoists who tried their level best to change the electoral system in favour of a completely proportional system are now reaping the fruits of FPtP system so much so that the former rebels are now busy fashioning a new government instead of working towards constituting the much awaited Constituent Assembly.

The Nepali Congress, which was for out-and-out FPtP system, is biting the dust now. It is PR system, the second part of Mixed electoral system, that is providing consolation for the losses it has suffered under the FPtP component throughout the country. Unluckily, the Communist Party of Nepal (CPN-UML) that was opposed to FPtP from the very beginning has had to suffer the most under this dispensation. All three parliamentary elections post-1990 have proven that FPtP facilitates smooth formation of government as it allots a large number of seats in the House even to the parties that get a comparatively less percentage of popular votes.

In the first general election held in 1991, the Nepali Congress had acquired 110 seats (about 53.55 per cent of all seats), even though it only got 36.75 per cent of the total votes. The Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) acquired 88 seats (42.92 per cent) with just 30.85 per cent of total votes. Similarly, in 1999 election, the Nepali Congress bagged 111 seats (54.15 per cent) against 36.14 per cent of the total valid votes cast in their favour.

Roughly, with the FPtP vote count completed and about 9.8 million votes counted under PR, the final result may come along following lines: the CPN-Maoist, around 220 seats (100 seats under PR+120 seats under FPtP). The NC, about 117 seats (70 seats under PR+37 under FPtP). The CPN-UML, 98 (66 seats under PR+33 under FPtP). Similarly, the MJF may have about 51 seats (20 seats under PR+30 seats under FPtP). The TMDP, about 18 seats (9 seats under PR+9 seats under FPtP). The SP will have about 9 seats (5 seats under PR + 4 seats under FPtP). The PFN may secure 7 seats ( 5 seats under PR and 2 seats under FPtP). The Nepal Workers’ and Peasant Party, 4 seats (2 under PR and 2 seats under FPtP). The other parties who could not open their account under FPtP will have proportional seats under PR component, as the Rastriya Prajatantra Party may get 8 seats, the CPN-ML 7 seats, the CPN-United 6 seats.

Independents have two seats under FPtP. It is hence suggested that while choosing the electoral system for future parliamentary election in the new Constituent Assembly, serious deliberations be carried out to minimise the errors committed during the selection of electoral process for Constituent Assembly polls.

Prof Mishra is ex-election commissioner