Proposed amendment for Rodrigues Regional Assembly: Tread carefully!

At the cabinet meeting of 4th November 2016, Government has decided to come forward with a Rodrigues Regional Assembly (Amendment) Bill which is being forwarded to the Rodrigues Regional Assembly for concurrence. The proposals made by Government are as follows:

The Regional Assembly shall consist of –
(a)(i) 12 local region members elected on the first past the post basis(FPTP)
(ii) 5 island region members, instead of 6, elected under the current Proportional Representation system;
(iii) allocation of additional seats, where needed, to ensure an overall majority of 3 seats to the party which has won 7 or more local region seats;

(b) each registered party presenting more than 2 candidates at an ordinary election, shall ensure that not more than two thirds of the total number of candidates of that party in the 6 local regions are of the same sex;
(c) a registered party may file a Party List which shall contain the names of not more than 12 persons, and not include the name of a person whose name is included on any other list submitted by a registered party for election as a member for the Island, and who is a registered party candidate, other than Party Leader, for election as a member for a local region; and
(d) a registered party may file a Party List which shall not comprise more than two thirds of persons of the same sex.

Let us, first, have a look at the present electoral system in Rodrigues. The Rodrigues Regional Assembly has a mixed FPTP/PR electoral model. It was introduced in 2001 and was perhaps intended to be a test for the subsequent introduction of Proportional Representation in Mauritius. The ballot paper is in two parts, one part for the Regional Candidates and the other part for the designation of PR Members.

One election day, each voter has to cast 3 votes, 2 for the Regional Candidates and 1 for the party. The 2 Regional Members for a specific ward are elected on the FPTP basis. They are the people’s choice. There are six electoral wards in Rodrigues.

The votes obtained by each party island-wide is computed and the percentage obtained is used to determine the number of PR seats to be obtained by each party. 6 PR seats are at stake for the Rodrigues Regional Assembly. They are not elected by the people but chosen by the party Leaders. In actual fact, each party submits a closed list of 6 members who would be considered in case the party qualifies. The threshold for qualification is 10 %. The D’Hondt method is used and the formula for the allocation of each PR seat is the highest quotient satisfying the equation

Q = No of party votes island-wide/ No of elected members by FPTP + 1

The Problems Encountered with the Present system.

Rodrigues Regional Assembly elections are held every 5 years. Since its setting up, there has been three elections: in 2002, 2006 and 2012. After each election, the ruling party had its majority reduced to precarious margin. This insecure status of the ruling party is largely due to Proportional Representation. The party which wins the election on the FPTP system with an overwhelming majority is reduced to a strict minimum when the PR seats are allocated and has nearly lead to a “Hung’ situation many times and saved in- extremist by the President of the Assembly.

In 2002, OPR had polled 10 874 votes (55 %) and had 8 elected Regional Members. MR had received 8617 votes ( 43.6%) and had only 4 elected Regional Members. MR was allocated 4 PR seats while OPR was allocated 2 seats.
The final composition was: OPR – 10; MR – 8.

The next election which was due in 2007 had to be held prematurely in 2006 due to instability of the ruling party.

In 2006, MR polled 11 116 votes (53.4 %) and had bagged 6 regional seats while OPR had received 9484 votes (45.6%) and had also elected 6 regional members. MR received 4 PR seats while OPR got 2 seats. The final composition was: OPR – 8; MR – 10.

In 2012, OPR received 10 230 votes (46.78 %) and had elected 8 regional members. MR had 9202 votes (42.08%) and had elected 4 members. A third party was able to cross the 10 % threshold and was now eligible for PR seats. FPR got 2333 votes representing 10.67 %. The final result was as follows:

OPR

MR

FPR

No of Votes

10 230

9 202

2 333

No. of Regional Members

8

4

0

No. of PR Members

0

4

2

Total

8

8

2

It was a situation whereby the party that won the election with a majority of 8 to 4 being reduced to a minority of 8 to 10. Luckily, in the Rodrigues Regional Assembly Act, there is a provision in Section 11 Paragraph (9) which stipulates that, in case a party obtaining more than 7 Regional seats finds itself with less than 10 seats when the 6 Island PR seats are allocated, it should be allocated as many seats as needed from its PR List so that it can acquire a majority of but one. So, 3 additional Island Members from PR List of OPR were also nominated. Now, the ruling party, OPR had 11 members and the opposition (MR/ FPR) had 10 members. There is only one member who is providing the precarious stability to the party in power.

Very recently, with the demise of one member, the situation had been very difficult for the administration of Rodrigues. It is, therefore, observed that the system in place is giving rise to anomalies which are hampering the efficient administration of the island due to unstable political situations. Hence, there is a need for this amendment.

Comparison of the Present System to the New Proposals

Present System

Proposed

1

Mixed FPTP/PR

Mixed FPTP/PR

2

6 Regional wards

6 Regional wards

3

12 elected members

12 elected members

4

6 PR seats

5 PR seats

5

Threshold of 10 %

Threshold of 10 %

6

A slate of 6 members to be presented for the allocation of PR seats.

A slate of 12 members to be presented for the allocation of PR seats

7

Party having at least 7 regional members to be allocated that number of PR seats to enable a majority of but 1.

Party having at least 7 seats to be allocated 3 PR seats.

8

No gender barrier for regional candidates

Each registered party presenting more than 2 candidates shall ensure that not more than two thirds of the total number of candidates of that party in the 6 local regions are of the same sex;



9

No gender barrier for the party list for the allocation of PR seats

A registered party may file a Party List which shall not comprise more than two thirds of persons of the same sex.

9*

No barrier on crossing the floor. A member from one party could resign from the party and join another party if he/she so wishes.

Crossing the floor not allowed. If a member resigns from a party, he will lose his seat and will be replaced by a member on the party list.

10

No double candidature. A candidate who contests the election as a regional candidate cannot be on party list and is not be entitled for the allocation of a PR seat.

Double candidature allowed only for party leader. The party leader can contest the election and be on the party list for the allocation of PR seats.

A Critical Analysis of What Is Being Proposed

Gender Representation: The issue of gender representation is a valid point. Women representation is still very low and has to be encouraged. But, we also have to bear in mind, the Equal Opportunities Act.

Electoral Wards: Maintaining the 6 electoral wards with 2 elected members on the FPTP system per ward is also commendable.

PR: Proportional Representation is a variable which should not be encouraged and perhaps, it should have been given a second thought whether it should be maintained or not. This is a very controversial issue and needs a good debate. Let us see whether the maintenance of PR with the appointment of 5 members from a slate of 12 instead of 6 members from a slate of 6 is going to improve the system.

Let us apply it to the 2012 election.

The island votes obtained by each party for the election in Feb. 2012 were as follows:

OPR

MR

FPR

MIR

Total votes

10230

9 202

2 333

102

% of votes

46.78 %

42.08 %

10.67 %

0.47%

No of elected Regional Members

8

4

0

0

Divisor to be used for the determination of PR seats

8+1= 9

4+1=5

0+1=1

0+1=1

The threshold for the eligibility of PR is 10 %. So 3 parties are qualified-OPR, MR and FPR.

FPR has an advantage. It has no elected member. So its divisor is 1. Now any number divided by 1 will give the same quotient. So it is obvious that this party will have a very high quotient and will be allocated the first seat.

OPR

MR

FPR

WINNER

No of votes

10230

9 202

2 333

% of votes

46.78 %

42.08 %

10.67 %

1st seat

46.78/9 = 5.2

42.08/5 = 8.42

10.67/1 = 10.67

FPR

2nd seat

46.78/9 = 5.2

42.08/5 = 8.42

10.67/2 = 5.33

MR

3rd seat

46.78/9 = 5.2

42.08/6 = 7.01

10.67/2 = 5.33

MR

4th seat

46.78/9 = 5.2

42.08/7 = 6.01

10.67/2 = 5.33

MR

5th seat

46.78/9 = 5.2

42.08/8 = 5.26

10.67/2 = 5.33

FPR

OPR

MR

FPR

MIR

TOTAL

No. of Regional Members

8

4

0

0

12

No of Island Members (PR)

0

3

2

0

6

Total

8

7

2

0

17

OPR has crossed the barrier of 7 seats. Therefore, it will be allocated 3 PR seats. The final result would be as follows:

OPR

MR

FPR

MIR

TOTAL

No. of Regional Members

8

4

0

0

12

No. of Island Members (PR)

*3

3

2

0

6

Total

11

7

2

0

20

The ruling party will have 11 seats and the other parties will, together have 9 seats. This majority will continue to prevail because any member leaving the party will be replaced by another member from the party list. However, some fundamental questions arise. This can be illustrated by a case study.

Case Study 1

Party A has 8 elected members who are democratically elected by the people. The party has 3 PR members who are the choices of the party leader. This party has 11 members in all while the opposing parties have only 9 members. The stability of the party is ensured because any member who resigns from the party will be replaced by members on the party list.. The Leader of the party deviates from the original party line and wants to go in a direction which does not have the approval of 5 of the elected members. The 5 members resign as a sign of protest because action may be against the wish of the people. The party list had 12 members. 3 were nominated and 9 are still on the list. The 5 elected members are replaced by the leader’s choice from the party list. 4 are still left to be nominated from the party list. Now this party is left with the leader, 2 elected members and 8 nominated members. The remaining two elected members are frustrated because more responsibilities are assigned to the nominated members. They resigned as a sign of discourage and resentment. They are replaced by 2 other members from the party list and the party continues to govern in serenity. All the 7 democratically elected members are systematically eliminated and replaced by those on the party list.

Questions:

1. Have we not elevated the party leader to a very high rank?
2. Is the leader not going to have dictatorial attitudes?
3. Will it be democratic for a party to govern after replacing 7 elected members by 7 who are non-elected members chosen by the party leader?

My suggestion: If only 5 PR seats are to be allocated, the party list should have only 5 people and no more.

Double Candidature

Double candidature is also a very controversial issue and needs to be taken very cautiously. Democratically speaking, it should be curbed. How can we allow a candidate who is rejected by the people during the voting exercise to be recuperated through PR. Worst still, is it not discriminatory to allow only the leader of the party to have double candidature while depriving the other candidates this right?

At this stage, the idea of double candidature should be left for debate and not included in the proposed amendment. We are bringing a change for a better society. We have to be prudent and not introduce something which is not tested. There are some good proposals but controversial issues should be handled with great care.

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