Electoral Reforms In India

Is it time for Proportional Representation?     


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: First Past the Post (FPTP) and Proportional Representation (PR) System

Mains level: Pros and Cons of FPTP and PR System

Why in the News?

India should contemplate proportional representation to ensure fairer political outcomes, given NDA’s 293 seats (43.3%) compared to INDIA bloc’s 234 seats (41.6%).

First Past the Post (FPTP) System

  • First Past the Post (FPTP) is a voting system where the candidate with the most votes in each constituency wins, regardless of whether they achieve an absolute majority.
  • Simple and feasible method used in large democracies like India, the U.S., the U.K., and Canada.
  • Provides stability to the executive as the ruling party/coalition can enjoy a majority in the legislature without obtaining a majority of the votes across constituencies.
  • Criticized for potentially resulting in over or under-representation of political parties compared to their vote share.

Proportional Representation (PR) System:

  • Ensures representation of all parties based on their vote share. Commonly implemented through party list PR, where voters vote for parties rather than individual candidates. PR system applied at each State/Union Territory (UT) level in federal countries like India.

Pros and Cons Comparison between FPTP and PR

First Past the Post (FPTP):

  • Pros: Simple, stable majority governments, clear constituency representation.
  • Cons: Disproportionate representation, underrepresentation of minorities, many wasted votes.

Proportional Representation (PR):

  • Pros: Fairer representation, inclusivity of smaller parties, fewer wasted votes.
  • Cons: Complex, potential for unstable coalitions, weaker direct constituency representation.

International Practices:

  • The PR system is used in presidential democracies like Brazil and Argentina, as well as parliamentary democracies like South Africa, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Spain.
  • Mixed Member Proportional Representation (MMPR) system employed in Germany and New Zealand.
  • Germany: Germany uses MMPR for elections to the Bundestag. Half of the seats are filled through FPTP constituencies, and the other half are allocated to ensure proportional representation based on party votes, provided parties receive at least 5% of the vote.
  • New Zealand: New Zealand’s House of Representatives is elected using MMPR, with 60% of seats filled through constituency elections and 40% allocated proportionally based on party votes.
  • The Mixed Member Proportional Representation (MMPR) system is a hybrid electoral system that combines elements of First Past the Post (FPTP) and Proportional Representation (PR) to ensure both local representation and proportionality in election results.

Way Forward:

  • The Law Commission, in its 170th report titled ‘Reform of the Electoral Laws’ (1999), recommended the experimental introduction of the Mixed Member Proportional Representation (MMPR) system. It suggested that 25% of seats in the Lok Sabha could be filled using a Proportional Representation (PR) system by increasing the total number of seats.
  • Incremental implementation of MMPR system for additional seats during delimitation exercises to address population disparities while ensuring fair representation for all regions.

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