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Electoral Reforms In Sri Lanka: Tiny Parties & The Proposed 20th Amendment

By Sujata Gamage

Dr. Sujata Gamage

Dr. Sujata Gamage

We ultimately have some legislative language to start off a discussion on electoral reforms. Kudos to the SLFP for carrying out a draft on the 97th day of the 100-day program. What was the government doing all this time is a very good query, but, for the moment let us feel positively and concentrate on enhancing the draft.

Frustrated by the lack of action by the government half-way into hundred day program, a group of us joined by CaFFEsrilanka.org started a campaign to jump-start electoral reforms using an proof-primarily based approach. The first workshop was held at Nagarodaya, Borella. The workshop was based on what-if simulations of benefits of the previous 4 common elections for which variations of the method proposed in the 2007 interim report of the Parliamentary Pick committee (PSC) on electoral reforms had been applied.

The approach proposed by PSC is what we called the MMM-LK approach. In MMM or Mixed Member Majoritarian systems, the parliament is created up two elements &#8211 the initial-past-the post FPP component and the PR element.

To pick the FPP component, slates of candidates are provided by parties for electorates in 1 or a lot more of the 22 electoral districts. The distinction from the ‘PR with Manape’ familiar to us in Sri Lanka is the fact that a candidate is designated for every single electorate. There are no excess candidates except in the nominations for national-list MPs. Whether there must be a district list is not specified however. At the polling station you would get a single ballot with the candidates for your electorate, say, Borella. You mark your preference with a single “X” and drop the ballot in the ballot box and you are done. The candidate who gets the most votes, even by a margin of 1, gets elected for the FPP element. A variation of this process will apply to multi-member electorates.

Tamil Vote Photo CREDIT- REUTERS:DINUKA LIYANAWATTEThe PR element is typically primarily based on the benefits of a second ballot exactly where you vote for the party of your selection. The Sri Lankan twist in the PSC technique is that we have only 1 ballot (apparently, Taiwan started with 1 ballot prior to moving onto two). The tally of the votes cast in the FPP contest is also utilized to determine the PR component. The elections Commissioner allocates the PR seats to parties in proportion to the remainder votes or the total votes minus the votes of the FPP winners and these who got less than 5% of the vote in any electoral district. Given that these votes are basically votes received by the runners-up, the bulk of the PR seats go the ideal runners-up, with every celebration retaining some.

During previous handful of weeks we also place forward what we called the MMP-LK or a mixed member proportional technique primarily based on the New Zealand electoral system. In MMP, you essentially commence with a PR parliament and then accommodate FPP winners within it. Overhangs are an inevitable part of the MMP systems. Approaches to correct exist but, as we located out, politicians and officials are not comfortable with the overhang idea, even even though MMP will yield a final composition of the parliament which is essentially the same as what we presently have. According to our evaluation the MMM-LK as well offers a outcome close to the one hundred% proportional result thanks to the remainder vote notion, one more twist supplied in the PSC method, and we feel MM-LK is just as very good an option (though purists amongst us could be appalled).

What is the magic formula?

The original PSC formula was 140+70+25 = 225 for a 62% FPP element in a 225- member parliament. The 32% PR component is comprised of 70 District PR members returned on the basis of reminder votes and an additional 15 returned in proportion to the total votes. Tiny parties were not happy with a ratio 62:38. They felt it should 50:50.

The formula offered in the draft amendment is an expanded one particular, with 165 FPP seats, 65 District-PR seats and 25 National List seats for total quantity of members in parliament at 255 (or 165+65+25=255) and an ‘apparent’ FPP:PR ratio of 64:36.

At very first sight, the improve in size is disturbing, but, I believe it is a is excellent compromise contemplating that the percentage of FPP MPs not considerably higher at 64%, and modest parties, especially, those representing geographically dispersed minorities such as Indian-origin Tamils (IOTS), is to be accommodated through multi-member seats and other tools. This will in impact decrease the ‘effective’ FPP:PR ratio.

Modest parties will not be harmed, if the efficient PR percent is enhanced via multi-member electorates.

In MMM, the relative size of the FPP element determines the nature of the parliament. The greater the FPP %, greater is the FPP nature or majoritarian nature of the parliament. A significant complaint about majoritarian systems compared to the present PR method is the fact that small parties can’t get any seats in FPP contest. For example, the 2010 common election yielded a parliament with 144 seats for UPFA, 60 for UNP, 14 for ITAK and 7 for JVP, with the present 90% PR with 10% bonus strategy. All other parties came by means of on the lists place forward by key parties that they had been allied with. Judging by the vote count at every 160 polling divisions in the previous 4 elections, none of the parties except UPFA, UNP and ITAK, and SLMC marginally, would have won initial-past-the-post if they contested alone. In essence, if the proposed reforms are implemented and the voter behavior does not adjust substantially, only the UPFA, UNP and North and East Primarily based Parties (NEBPs) such as ITAK and SLMC would have a displaying in the FPP element, reducing the possibilities for little parties.

What precisely is a small celebration? Many parties or groups are registered with Elections Commissioner and they contest the elections, but, not all parties execute equally. If we take the benefits of four past common election final results and exclude the governing party or alliance and the principal opposition party or alliance, we discover ten ‘small parties’ and one particular independent group securing seats in the parliament. These parties are broadly of three kinds in terms of their voter base.

Two of the much more visible modest parties are the Janata Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) and the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) which may well be known as ideological parties. For the duration of the past four elections, JVP secured a maximum of 10 seats and JHU a maximum of 7 seats. Since their voter base is a larger Sinhala-Buddhist constituency, if their ideologies are nonetheless eye-catching, these parties will continue to be represented in Parliament even under the proposed system, although in slightly smaller sized numbers, if past voting patterns persist.

Parties such as the Eelam People&#8217s Democratic Party (EPDP), Illankai Tamil Arasu Kachchi (ITAK), Tamil Eelam Liberation Organization (TELO), Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) and Sri Lanka Muslim Congress represent geographically defined communities in the North and the East. Even though SLMC also represents geographically dispersed Muslim communities to some extent, in term of its overall performance in the past elections, it has proved itself to be a lot more of an Eastern Province primarily based celebration. These NEBPs collectively account for 20-23 seats out of the 225 seats in parliament or about 10% of the seats, though they acquire a small less than in term of total votes.. This is by virtue of district-wise determination of the number of members returned below the present PR technique. These parties would not be affected unduly by the proposed reforms because they can win a substantial percent of the 20-30 FPP seats in the North and the East (and some of district-PR seats if their candidates drop some seats but do properly as runners-up). NEBPs also would get many national-list seats.

Thirdly, we have parties such as the Ceylon Workers Congress (CWC), Up Nation People’s Front (UCPF) and Democratic Men and women&#8217s Liberation Front (DPLF) representing geographically dispersed minorities such as Indian-origin Tamils (IOT). SLMC also belongs in this category, presumably representing dispersed Muslims. Judging by the votes received when SLMC contested on its own, the party received its highest percent of votes outdoors the Eastern Province in Harispattuva and Udunuwara electorates in the Mahanuwara District. It had a smaller sized presence in Colombo, Beruwela, Puttalam, Horowpotana, Welimada, and Mawanella electorates in six other electoral districts.

We estimate that the parties representing dispersed communities stand to drop the most beneath the proposed Amendment 20 and therefore need to be provided protection in there by way of multi-member electorates.

Multimember electorates require to be defined far more strongly

Take the case of Indian origin Tamils (IOTs) who are now dispersed across the Central Province and beyond. Beneath the PR technique, leaders of IOT and Muslim communities have been in a position to negotiate with key parties to include their representatives in the candidate lists of these parties. They are able to negotiate due to the fact of their capacity to tap into this district-wide voter base and they get a reasonable representation by way of these negotiations. Beneath the mixed member method, which is largely primarily based on FPP contests in smaller sized electorates, the position of dispersed communities is weakened. An unfortunate outcome of proposed reforms, since dispersed communities, segments of the IOT neighborhood in particular, are amongst the most disadvantaged in our society.

The very best answer for dispersed communities is a sufficiently big and appropriately defined number of electorates returning two or a lot more members. These multi-members electorates are critical for other communities such as Sinhalese who live in majority Tamil or Muslim locations as properly. Caste concerns too may possibly nonetheless be relevant in some areas.

Whilst the larger aim of any sort of reform ought to be the integration of ethnic communities into 1 Sri Lankan neighborhood, the path to integration ought to be marked by respect and concern for differences. Unless a enough number of multi-member electorates are created in Mahanuwara, Kegalle, Badulla and other districts, the IOTs, for example, might shed representation. Therefore, I believe that an improve in the number of FPP units and hence the total quantity of seats in parliament to 255 is justified IF the increase is utilized to accommodate those who may get marginalized under the new technique.

The crucial report for IOT and other dispersed communities is the proposed new insertion in to Section 96Aof the constitution exactly where it says “it is acceptable to generate multi member electorates”, but the cause offered as follows:

“In order to avoid the number of members entitled to be returned to represent any electoral district from becoming excessive, it is appropriate to produce multi member electorates which are entitled to return a lot more than a single Member or the motives that led to the creation of a multi member electorate in the past are nevertheless valid and applicable.”

The multi-member situation is presented in the above section more as a solution to a technical dilemma than a human dilemma. An additional example is the clause which apparently is intended to steer clear of excessive creation of multi-member constituencies:

“Delimitation Commission shall have the energy to create a multi member electorate or multi member electorates, as the case may be. The Delimitation Commission nonetheless, shall make certain that the number of multi member electorates created, shall be kept at a minimum level.”

In contrast the language in the now repealed 14th amendment to create zones is virtually poetic. Beneath the Division of Electoral districts into Zone section in the 14th Amendment, dispersed communities are articulated as follows :

“a substantial concentration of persons united by a community of interest , whether racial, religious or such other like interest but differing in 1 or much more respects from the majority of electors in that electoral district

Inclusion of such language to define the beneficiaries of multi-member constituencies is a have to in the proposed amendment 20A.

The devil is in the details

There are more specifics that need to have to be expanded or clarified in the draft amendment. For instance, how are the district PRs seats to be awarded? What percent of the 65 district PR would go to the ideal runners-up and what percent would go to the parties? Will there be a district list or will there be extra persons in the National List designated for every single electoral district? I hope to address those issues in the next few articles based on our analysis.

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