ELECTORAL SYSTEMS
AND THE
COMPOSITION OF ELECTED ASSEMBLIES
IN
VARIOUS DEMOCRACIES
Arvind Sivaramakrishnan
Senior Deputy E...
There is no doubt whatever about the legitimacy of all elected assemblies in
India, at all levels from panchayats to the R...
Except for the respective elections of the
President and the Rajya Sabha
India uses

The Simple Majority or First Past the...
INDIAN GENERAL ELECTION 2009
543 seats in the Lok Sabha

272 needed for a majority
2009

Congress

BJP

Left Front

Seats
...
50%
45%
40%
35%
30%
25%
20%
15%
10%
5%
0%

Seat Share

Congress

BJP

Left Front

40.00%
35.00%
30.00%
25.00%
20.00%

Vote...
60
50
40
30
20
10
0
-10
-20
-30
-40

Under- or overrepresentation in
number of seats

Congress

BJP

Left Front

250
200
1...
THE LANDSLIDE THAT WASN’T

THE 2012 UTTAR PRADESH STATE ELECTION

Party

Seats
won

Seat
share %

Seats
contested out
of 4...
250
200
150
100

SP
BSP
BJP
INC
RLD

50
0
(Adapted from Ramani 2012)

8
PERCENTAGE VOTE SHARES U.P. 2012

Party

Overall vote
share %

SP

29.3

BSP

25.9

INC

15

BJP

11.7

RLD

2.3

9
30
25
20

SP
BSP
BJP
INC
RLD

15
10
5
0
Overall vote share %

10
IF U.P. HAD USED A PROPORTIONAL ELECTORAL SYSTEM
SEATS ACCORDING TO SHARE OF VOTE WOULD HAVE
LOOKED LIKE THIS

120
100
SP
...
AN INTERNATIONAL EXAMPLE
THE U.K. GENERAL ELECTION 2010
650 seats

326 needed to win

ACTUAL RESULTS
Conservative

Actual ...
Conclusion 1:
In the Simple Majority system:

No direct relation between votes cast and seats
won.
OR
Support among voters...
THE EFFECT OF CHANGES IN PARTY SUPPORT
INDIA 2004 and 2009

Party

Change in
support from
the previous
election (2004)
= S...
Conclusion 2:
In the Simple Majority system:
Small swings in voter support can produce very
large changes in the number of...
POLITICAL CONSEQUENCES

1.

The composition of the elected assembly does not
represent the range or spread of political su...
Advantages of the Simple Majority System


Simple.



The voter can express a view on which party should form the next
g...
Disadvantages of the Simple Majority system



A candidate can win a seat on a very small percentage of the vote.
In Indi...
AN ALTERNATIVE
A FULLY PROPORTIONAL SYSTEM
THE SINGLE TRANSFERABLE VOTE OR STV SYSTEM
Multi-member constituencies based on...
Typically, constituencies can have 4 or 5 representatives.

For large constituencies, there can be more.

E.g. My European...
Advantages of Proportional Systems


Voters have more choice than they do in any other electoral system.



The elected ...
o Representatives cannot be complacent after they are elected.



The most disliked candidate cannot win, as they are unl...
Disadvantages of Proportional Systems



Some MPs dislike STV because it makes them pay too much attention to
their const...
In India, proportional electoral systems were discussed only briefly during the
struggle for Independence,
e.g. by the Mot...
Bibliography
B.B.C. Election 2010.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/shared/election2010/results/ [Accessed 13 Oct 2013]
Beetham, D....
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Sivaramakrishnan electoral systems paper politics democracy and governance conf iit madras 2014 feb 15

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Prime Point Foundation and IIT Madras organised a seminar on politics, democracy and governance on 15th feb 2014. Mr Arvind Sivaramakrishnan, Sr. Deputy Editor of The Hindu made a presentation on electoral systems in various countries.

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Sivaramakrishnan electoral systems paper politics democracy and governance conf iit madras 2014 feb 15

  1. 1. ELECTORAL SYSTEMS AND THE COMPOSITION OF ELECTED ASSEMBLIES IN VARIOUS DEMOCRACIES Arvind Sivaramakrishnan Senior Deputy Editor, The Hindu and Adjunct Faculty, Asian College of Journalism, Madras Presented at Politics, Democracy and Governance National Seminar Organized by Association for Democratic Reforms Prime Point Foundation ezines PreSense New Gen Thamizhan with IIT Madras 15 February 2014 Copyleft: freely quotable, copiable, and reproducible with attribution to the author and the event
  2. 2. There is no doubt whatever about the legitimacy of all elected assemblies in India, at all levels from panchayats to the Rajya Sabha. That legitimacy is ensured by the Constitution and sustained by at least two things:  The electorate’s commitment to the ballot box.  The quality of the Central Election Commission, which conducts and oversees elections. However – the electoral system used at all levels (except that of the Rajya Sabha) is such that questions arise:  About the composition of the elected assemblies.  About whether or not that has become such a problem that it calls into question the representative character of the elected assemblies, and therefore undermines their substantive legitimacy. This also raises wider questions about the relation between voters and their elected representatives. 2
  3. 3. Except for the respective elections of the President and the Rajya Sabha India uses The Simple Majority or First Past the Post electoral system.  Single constituencies.  One representative from each constituency; whichever candidate gets most votes in a constituency is elected to the assembly.  The party which wins the most constituencies forms or tries to form a government. 3
  4. 4. INDIAN GENERAL ELECTION 2009 543 seats in the Lok Sabha 272 needed for a majority 2009 Congress BJP Left Front Seats 262 159 79 Seat Share 48% 29% 15% Vote Share 37.22% 24.63% 21.15% Under- or overrepresentation in number of seats +60 +25 -36 (Adapted from Wikipedia) 300 250 200 150 Seats 100 50 0 Congress BJP Left Front 4
  5. 5. 50% 45% 40% 35% 30% 25% 20% 15% 10% 5% 0% Seat Share Congress BJP Left Front 40.00% 35.00% 30.00% 25.00% 20.00% Vote Share 15.00% 10.00% 5.00% 0.00% Congress BJP Left Front 5
  6. 6. 60 50 40 30 20 10 0 -10 -20 -30 -40 Under- or overrepresentation in number of seats Congress BJP Left Front 250 200 150 Hypothetical seats under PR 100 50 0 Congress BJP Left Front 6
  7. 7. THE LANDSLIDE THAT WASN’T THE 2012 UTTAR PRADESH STATE ELECTION Party Seats won Seat share % Seats contested out of 403 SP 226 56% 401 BSP 80 20% 403 BJP 47 12% 398 INC 28 7% 355 RLD 9 2% 46 7
  8. 8. 250 200 150 100 SP BSP BJP INC RLD 50 0 (Adapted from Ramani 2012) 8
  9. 9. PERCENTAGE VOTE SHARES U.P. 2012 Party Overall vote share % SP 29.3 BSP 25.9 INC 15 BJP 11.7 RLD 2.3 9
  10. 10. 30 25 20 SP BSP BJP INC RLD 15 10 5 0 Overall vote share % 10
  11. 11. IF U.P. HAD USED A PROPORTIONAL ELECTORAL SYSTEM SEATS ACCORDING TO SHARE OF VOTE WOULD HAVE LOOKED LIKE THIS 120 100 SP BSP BJP INC RLD 80 60 40 20 0 Party Seats under hypothetical PR SP 117 BSP 104 BJP 60 INC 47 RLD 9 11
  12. 12. AN INTERNATIONAL EXAMPLE THE U.K. GENERAL ELECTION 2010 650 seats 326 needed to win ACTUAL RESULTS Conservative Actual results under SM or FPTP Labour Liberal Democrats 307 258 57 (Adapted from the BBC) SEATS ACCORDING TO SHARE OF VOTES Conservative Seats under hypothetical PR Labour LibDem 235 189 150 12
  13. 13. Conclusion 1: In the Simple Majority system: No direct relation between votes cast and seats won. OR Support among voters does not translate directly into seats won in the elected assembly. Major parties tend to be overrepresented and significant third and even fourth parties tend to be severely underrepresented. 13
  14. 14. THE EFFECT OF CHANGES IN PARTY SUPPORT INDIA 2004 and 2009 Party Change in support from the previous election (2004) = Swing Congress BJP Third Front Up 3.96% Down 4.88% Down 1.06% 44 more seats 22 fewer seats 20 more seats Up from 218 to 262 Down from 181 to 159 Up from 59 to 79 Approx 20% gain Approx 11% loss Approx 33% gain (Adapted from Wikipedia) 14
  15. 15. Conclusion 2: In the Simple Majority system: Small swings in voter support can produce very large changes in the number of seats won or lost. 15
  16. 16. POLITICAL CONSEQUENCES 1. The composition of the elected assembly does not represent the range or spread of political support for different parties among the voters. 2. Parties tend to target their campaigns at so-called swing voters. Swing voters are often the most self-interested, and post-election policies may have to be tailored to their wishes irrespective of wider consequences. 3. Only one candidate per party – voters who like the party but not the candidate get no other choice. 4. Tactical voting – voters often vote not for a candidate or party but to keep another candidate out. (Adapted from Beetham 2007 and the Electoral Reform Society 2008) 5. In India, targeted campaigns are often aimed at particular castes or communities: causes divisive (and sometimes worse) campaigns and policies. 6. Local leaders are often expected to deliver blocks of votes. 16
  17. 17. Advantages of the Simple Majority System  Simple.  The voter can express a view on which party should form the next government.  Usually results in a two-party system.  One constituency, one representative – a direct link between the representative and the constituency.  The candidate with the greatest support wins the constituency.  If electoral processes in a democracy are functioning, why change them? (Adapted from the Electoral Reform Society 2008) 17
  18. 18. Disadvantages of the Simple Majority system  A candidate can win a seat on a very small percentage of the vote. In India, 30% of the turnout vote is usually enough to win a seat. On a 60% turnout, this means 18% of the total electorate in a constituency. In 2005, only 2 British MPs gained over 40% of the votes in their respective constituencies. One candidate won with the votes of 18.36% of the electorate in their constituency.  Wasted votes. Votes for any losing candidates count for nothing, even if the winner wins by only 1 vote. Supporters of losing candidates end up unrepresented. Also wasted are the votes forming the winner’s majority, minus one. In the UK in 2005, this meant 70% of the turnout, or 19 million wasted votes on a turnout of 61.4%  Parties tend to choose ‘safe’ candidates. In India, the selection of candidates often depends on the religious, caste, or ethnic composition of constituency populations.  One representative per constituency – the representative becomes the sole gatekeeper. 18
  19. 19. AN ALTERNATIVE A FULLY PROPORTIONAL SYSTEM THE SINGLE TRANSFERABLE VOTE OR STV SYSTEM Multi-member constituencies based on population in each constituency. No need to redraw constituency boundaries – eliminates gerrymandering. Population changes can be accommodated by increases or decreases in the number of seats for any given constituency, e.g. South-East England used to have 11 Members of the European Parliament and now has 10. The ballot paper shows a list of candidates; any party can field more than one candidate. Voters rank the candidates in order of preference, eg 1, 2, 3, etc. Every candidate who gets a minimum quota of votes is elected. The most common formula for the quota is the Droop formula: Q = Total valid ballot papers received Number of seats +1 +1 Q is the minimum quota a candidate must achieve in order to be elected. Every candidate who reaches the quota figure on first preferences is elected. If not enough candidates reach the quota to fill the available seats, the count continues with second preferences. If a candidate gets more votes than the quota on first preferences, then their second preference votes are distributed appropriately to the other candidates, in a sort of ‘top-up’ procedure; an arithmetical weighting can be given to these distributed votes. Counting stops when all the seats are filled. (Wikipedia 2008) 19
  20. 20. Typically, constituencies can have 4 or 5 representatives. For large constituencies, there can be more. E.g. My European Parliament constituency, South-East England, has 10 Members of the European Parliament from a range of parties. 20
  21. 21. Advantages of Proportional Systems  Voters have more choice than they do in any other electoral system.  The elected assembly gives a much more accurate representation of the range of support among voters.  Far fewer votes are 'wasted' (i.e. cast for losing candidates or unnecessarily cast for the winner). Most voters can identity a representative whom they personally helped to elect. This can enhance the voters’ and the representatives’ sense of the link between them.  Parties have an incentive to present a wide field of candidates in order to maximize the number of second and third preferences – makes negative or hate-campaigning an election risk.  Removes the need for reserved constituencies – that system already has many inconsistencies (Jensenius 2011: 17-18).  This helps women and minority candidates, who are often overlooked in favour of a 'safer' candidate.  After the election, voters have a choice of representatives whom they can approach over constituency issues.  Voters in a constituency can compare their elected representatives over the quality of response provided.  No safe seats. o Parties must campaign everywhere, not just in marginal seats. 21
  22. 22. o Representatives cannot be complacent after they are elected.  The most disliked candidate cannot win, as they are unlikely to obtain second-, third-, and lower-preference votes.  No need for tactical voting to keep a candidate or party out.  A more sophisticated link between a constituency and its representatives. (Adapted from the Electoral Reform Society 2008) A possible advantage of STV for India: Successful candidates will generally not know whose votes have got them in because they may have needed second- and thirdpreference votes in order to reach the quota. Could reduce vote-bank campaigning. 22
  23. 23. Disadvantages of Proportional Systems  Some MPs dislike STV because it makes them pay too much attention to their constituencies. In the Irish Republic, politicians have twice tried to scrap STV for this very reason, but both times they were defeated in the referendum on scrapping it.  Some people find voting with anything other than a solitary 'X' too complicated - can lead to an increased number of spoilt or voided ballot papers. The evidence is that voters learn the new system very quickly. E.g. Scottish local elections 2012.  Risk of ‘donkey voting’, where after the first one or two choices, voters rank the rest of the field arbitrarily. Not much evidence of this in existing STV systems. Scottish local elections in 2012: In constituencies with 11 or more candidates, 65.3% of voters used at least three preferences (Curtice 2012).  In large multi-member constituencies, ballot papers can be big and confusing. (Electoral Reform Society 2008) STV usually gives significant third parties considerable weight. So the two largest parties have fewer opportunities to agree the political agenda with one another. A possible advantage for the Indian context: STV would enable the election of assemblies which represent many more sections of society than they seem to do at present. Could widen the social range of electoral participation. 23
  24. 24. In India, proportional electoral systems were discussed only briefly during the struggle for Independence, e.g. by the Motilal Nehru Committee in 1928: We feel strongly attracted to this method [a PR electoral system] and are of the opinion that it offers the only rational and just way of meeting the fears and claims of various communities. There is a place in it for every minority and an automatic adjustment takes place of rival interests. We have no doubt that proportional representation will in the future be the solution of our problems. (cited in Jensenius 2011: 18) I suggest that a proportional electoral system could at least be the solution of some of the electoral problems we face, not only here but in any country that uses the Simple Majority system for major elections. -------------------------------------------------------- 24
  25. 25. Bibliography B.B.C. Election 2010. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/shared/election2010/results/ [Accessed 13 Oct 2013] Beetham, D. 2007. How Should We Vote? Democratic Audit. http://www.democraticaudit.com/issues/electreformbrit.php [Accessed 2 April 2008] Curtice, J. 2012. 2012 Scottish Local Government Elections. Electoral Reform Society. http://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/images/dynamicImages/file512f4e5ae047f.pdf [Accessed 20 October 2012] Electoral Commission. 2007. Scottish Elections 2007: The independent review of the Scottish parliamentary and local elections. www.electoralcommission.org.uk/files/dms/Scottish-Election-Report-A-Final-For-Web_2762220316__E__N__S__W__.pdf [Accessed 24 April 2008] Electoral Reform Society. Voting Systems. First Past the Post. http://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/votingsystems/systems2.htm#First [Accessed 3 April 2008] Electoral Reform Society. Voting Systems. Why STV? http://www.electoralreform.org.uk/article.php?id=103 [Accessed 3 April 2008] Jensenius, F.R. 2011. Mired in Reservations: The Path-Dependent History of Political Quotas in India. Paper presented to the Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association. Keele University. 2008. British Government and Politics on the Internet. School of Politics, International Relations and Philosophy, Keele University. http://www.keele.ac.uk/depts/por/ukbase.htm#elections [Accessed 3 April 2008] Keele University. 2005. Results and Analysis: General Election 2005. http://www.psr.keele.ac.uk/area/uk/ge05/wvote.htm [Accessed 2 April 2008] Ramani, S. 2012. A Flawed Democracy – the Case for Proportional Representation in India. http://kafila.org/2012/03/15/a-flawed-democracy-the-case-for-proportional-representation-in-indiasrinivasan-ramani/ [Accessed 9 February 2014] Scottishelections.org.uk. N.d. Scottish Local Elections 2012. http://www.scottishelections.org.uk/scotland/l12/ [Accessed 20 October 2012] Wikipedia. Local Government in Scotland. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Local_government_in_Scotland#Election_results.2C_2007 [Accessed 3 April 2008] --------------------------------------------------------------------- 25

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