The People’s Republic: Constitutional basis

CONTINUED FROM LAST WEEK

Under this system, it may well turn out, as is often the case in Britain and in other countries where this system is in vogue, that when the results for all the constituencies have been declared, the party which controls an absolute majority of members in Parliament actually scores an absolute minority of votes.

In the example of A, B, and C which we made above, it will be seen that A, who was declared the winner, scored only about a third of the total votes cast. This is not an uncommon occurrence under this system. Even when the contest is only two-cornered, it might well happen that the winning party has only a minority of votes. Suppo-,e D, F, H, and K belong to the same party as A, whilst E, G. J. and L are in the same political camp as B, with D, F, H, and K oppoxmg E, G, J, and L in four constituencies respectively.

Suppose further that their scores are as follows:

 

D             5,000                     E              4,500

F              3,500                     G             8,000

H             10,000                   J              6,000

K             6,000                     L              6,100

24,500                                   4,600

 

It will follow that though the party of A wins three of the five seats, yet it has scored only a total of 31,500 votes as against an aggregate of70,070, and as against the total votes of38,570 scored by the losing parties. In relative terms, the winning party scored 44.9% of the votes cast; B’s party 45.1% and C’s party 10%, butwithout a seat in Parliament.

If the scores in these five constituencies represent the trend in all the other constituencies in the State, then the winning party will control three-fifths of the total seats in Parliament for only 44.9% of the votes.

This anomaly has led many countries in Western Europe to evolve the proportional-representation system. If this system had been employed in the above example, out of a total of, say, 500 seats, A’s and B’s parties would have had 225 members each in Parliament, whilst C’s party would have had 50.

Under the absolute-majority system, which may be described as the Gaullist system, C would have been eliminated in the first round of election, and there would have beenanother poll in which the contest would have been confined to A and B. Those who had previously voted for C would be free to vote for either A or B in the second poll. Granting that A and B retained their original supporters, that only 5,000 of C’s supporters cared to vote in the second poll, and that, out of these 3,000 voted for A and 2,000 for B-then in these circumstances, the final results in terms of votes scored would be different. A’s party would then score 34,500 votes as against 33,590 ofB’s or 50.7% as against 49.3%.

Each system has its merits and demerits. The relative-majority system has the merit of ensuring that one single party does hive a working majority in Parliament. This, subject to the willingness of the majority of the citizens to operate the system, makes for . political stability, which is often absent under the proportional-representation system. While a party with a majority in Parliament more often than not emerges under the relative-majority system to form a Government which usually remains in office for its full term, under the proportional-representation system it is more often than not the case that two or more parties have to come into coalition before a Government can be formed at all; and even then it is the exception which proves the rule when such a Government lasts its full term of office. Indeed, the rule is that such a Government will break up, and the dominant party in the coalition will begin all over again to negotiate with ‘orne other party or parties for a new coalition, which will invariably exclude that party whose action has brought down the outgoing Administration. The chief merit of the proportional-representation system lies in the fact that all shades of political opinion in the State are fully represented in Parliament. In contrast, one of the demerits of the relative-majority system consists in the fact that under it only the majority shades Of political opinion have any chance at all of being represented in Parliament.

Furthermore, whilst the proportional-representation system encourages irresponsibility in party politics, the relative-majority system inculcates a strong sense of responsibility. The direct outcome of the one is a large number of political parties none of which alone can form a Government, while that of the other is the emergence of two main political parties each of which in its turn is capable of forming a Government.

The absolute-majority system seeks to combine the merits, and avoid the demerits, of both the relative-majority system and the proportional-representation system. This system seeks to ensure the emergence of a single party with an absolute majority not only of all the seats in Parliament, but also of all the votes cast. If this is achieved – and we sincerely think that under normal circumstances it should be achieved; if this is achieved, then it can be said that the members in Parliament of the party in power represent an absolute majority of the electorate. As we have seen, under this system, those who voted for the candidate with the least number of votes, in a three-or-more-cornered contest, are given the chance for a second thought. Even though some or many of such people may refuse to vote during the second poll, the fact remains that they are given the chance, arid that those who do vote for the winning candidate in the second poll do regard him as their accredited representative in Parliament.

CONTINUES NEXT WEEK

 

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