Electoral Reforms In India

A leaf out of New Zealand’s voting system


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : MMP

Mains level : public awareness and education campaigns to familiarize voters with the MMP system

Central idea

The article explores split voting trends in Odisha and the mixed member proportional (MMP) system in New Zealand. It highlights the benefits of MMP, such as local accountability and improved representation, suggesting that a similar system could address concerns in India’s electoral framework, allowing for nuanced and diverse choices in a mature democracy.

What is mixed member proportional (MMP) system?

  • The Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) system is a voting method where voters have two choices. First, they pick their preferred political party, indicating their overall preference for the Parliament’s composition.
  • Second, they choose a local representative from their specific area. This system aims to ensure a fair and balanced representation in the Parliament by combining both local and overall preferences of the voters.

Key Terms:

  • Split Voting: Voters choosing different parties for different elections.
  • MMP System: Mixed member proportional system used in New Zealand.
  • Tactical Voting: Supporting a party strategically rather than based on genuine preferences.
  • Compulsive Voting: Hesitation to vote outside preferred party or perceived winnable contenders.
  • Nuanced Choices: Distinguishing between candidate and party preferences for a mature democracy.
  • Switch Seats: Constituencies where voters pick a candidate from one party but give their party vote to another.

Key Data and Facts for mains value addition

  • Odisha 2019 Elections: BJD led in Lok Sabha votes in 88 out of 146 Assembly Constituencies but won 113 out of 146 in Assembly votes, showcasing split voting.
  • New Zealand MMP System: In the 2020 Auckland Central parliamentary election, 31.86% of votes were split votes, and 13 “switch seats” were created.

Key Highlights:

  • Split Voting in Odisha: Despite socio-economic differences, Odisha exhibits split voting, where voters choose different parties for Lok Sabha and State Assembly elections.
  • MMP System in New Zealand: New Zealand uses the mixed member proportional (MMP) system, allowing voters to cast separate votes for a party and a local MP. This results in diverse and mindful voting patterns.
  • Benefits of MMP: The MMP system provides local accountability, policy focus, improved representation for various groups, enhanced democracy, flexibility, and lower entry barriers for young politicians.

Advantages of the Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) electoral system:

  • Local and Overall Representation: MMP allows voters to choose both a local representative and a preferred political party, ensuring representation at both local and national levels.
  • Proportional Representation: It provides a more accurate reflection of the public’s overall preferences by allocating seats in proportion to the parties’ share of the total vote.
  • Flexibility and Voter Choice: Voters have the flexibility to support a party they believe in while also selecting a local representative, promoting a diverse range of political choices.
  • Reduced Wasted Votes: Fewer votes go to waste as the proportional representation aspect ensures that even parties with smaller followings receive some representation in the legislature.
  • Coalition Building: Encourages coalition governments, fostering cooperation and compromise among different parties for effective governance.

Challenges and concerns

  • Tactical Voting: Critics worry that MMP might encourage tactical voting, where voters strategically support a party not because it aligns with their true preferences, but to influence the outcome.
  • Example: In MMP, a voter might vote for a larger party, not because they truly support it, but to prevent another party they strongly dislike from gaining power. This strategic voting can distort the true reflection of public preferences.

Limited Accountability in MMP:

  • Explanation: Some argue that the MMP system might lead to less direct accountability of elected representatives to their local constituents, as they also rely on a party list for their position.
  • Example: If a local representative is assured a seat through the party list, they might be less motivated to address the specific concerns of their local voters, as their position is not solely dependent on local support.

Complexity for Voters:

  • Explanation: The two-vote system in MMP may be confusing for some voters, leading to potential errors or unintentional consequences in the voting process.
  • Example: Voters may find it challenging to understand the strategic implications of splitting their votes between a party and a local candidate, leading to unintended outcomes that don’t align with their true preferences.

Possibility of Minority Governments:

  • Explanation: MMP may result in coalition governments, and some argue that this can lead to instability and challenges in decision-making.
  • Example: If no party gains a clear majority, parties may need to form coalitions to govern. While this ensures representation, it may also lead to compromises and difficulties in implementing policies.

Way Forward:

  • Consideration of Split Voting in India: The article suggests that a split voting system in India could address concerns about compulsive voting, allowing voters to choose candidates based on merit while ensuring party preferences impact legislative composition.
  • Democracy Enhancement: Emphasizes the essence of democracy in offering diverse and nuanced choices, with split voting seen as a way to achieve this.
  • Public Awareness and Education: Emphasize the importance of public awareness and education campaigns to familiarize voters with the MMP system. This includes explaining the two-vote process and the impact of split voting, ensuring an informed electorate.
  • Continuous Evaluation and Adaptation: Implement a system of continuous evaluation and adaptation to address any challenges or shortcomings in the MMP system. This involves periodically reviewing the system’s functioning and making necessary adjustments to enhance its effectiveness.



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