The long and detailed process of reports, views of constitutional experts and debates on electoral reform in Mauritius enables Government to make its own firm proposals on issues where there is broad agreement, and to discuss various options where there is no broad consensus yet.
As mentioned in the Foreword, there is no need to re-open the whole debate on every issue that has already been canvassed.
We need to move forward.
Guidance for a plural society
In setting out the issues that need to be addressed, Government is guided by the following widely accepted criteria of a good electoral system for a plural society such as Mauritius, namely one that:
(1) Ensures Government stability: the electoral system must provide for stable, effective and decisive Government.
(2) Promotes party fairness: to ensure increased correspondence between the share of votes and the share of seats won.
(3) Fosters broad based socio-demographic inclusion: all the com-ponents of our rainbow nation must secure adequate Parliamentary repre-sentation.
(4) Promotes fair gender repre-sentation: the system should encourage the involvement of women in the political process and their enhanced presence in Parliament.
(5) Provides for accountability: the electoral system should maintain and indeed strengthen the link between MP’s and their constituents.
(6) Discourage communal parties: the voting formula should not exacerbate divisions in a multi-ethnic society like ours.
(7) Enhance transparency: the voters must know for whom they are casting their votes beforehand.
There is no perfect electoral system. It is almost impossible for one voting formula to satisfy all these attributes. In fact some of them are mutually exclusive and often it is possible to achieve one particular objective (stability) only at the expense of another (fairness). As a result an electoral system must necessarily balance various 64
objectives and values. Specialists differ on which criteria matter most when choosing an appropriate electoral system as the exercise involves many trade-offs and a careful balancing act.
The most appropriate voting system for a country is not one that satisfies only one criterion completely, but one that provides a fair balance amongst the attributes.
The most compelling consideration facing reformers of electoral systems is how to strike the right balance between stable, decisive, effective, responsive and accountable government that are considered the strengths of FPTP systems and fairness and representation which are the main attributes of proportional representation formulae. Often, these two sets of criteria move in opposite directions.
These are the Government’s firm proposals:
(1) Retention of the compulsory three votes in the 20 constituencies in the island of Mauritius and the compulsory two votes in Rodrigues
The electorate will, as before, have to vote for 3 candidates in the 20
constituencies in the Island of Mauritius and for 2 candidates in Rodrigues.
Therefore there is no change in the current FPTP system.
Consideration would then have to be given to the position of Rodrigues. Essentially there are two options. One would treat Rodrigues in the same way as any other constituency, with the votes of the unelected parties being aggregated and counted at the national level. Another would be to have a specific formula for the votes in Rodrigues.
On the one hand it could be argued that special measures are not necessary for Rodrigues which already has two MPs on the FPTP election and representation through the Regional Assembly. On the other hand there is a view that its votes should be aggregated equally with other constituencies.
Government is in favour of maintaining the current FPTP system with respect to the National Assembly.
(3) Accept unequal constituency size
Although there is quite a variation between constituency size and the number of voters per constituency, 65
Government believes that adjusting the number of electors per constituency will create more problems than it solves.
Government is well aware that since constituency size is not equal, this creates a distortion on the number of constituents per MP and this will also have a bearing on the wasted votes or UVE (Unreturned Votes Elect) which will be addressed later.
The next proposals are areas where there is no broad agreement, but nevertheless this document discusses the options and gives a view on Government’s position.
(4) "Subsuming the Best Loser System: Promote Inclusion, Foster Nationhood"
Government firmly believes that any new system must meet the aspirations of Mauritians who wish to see that the composition of Parliament reflects the diversity of the population.
The question as to how this could best be achieved was addressed by Dr Sithanen in the following terms,
Plural societies need policies and institutions that foster accommodation and encourage cooperation among different groups. They also require an electoral system that is inclusive from both a socio-demographic and a gender perspective. The key challenge is whether this should form part of a social compact, a consociational convention or it should be embedded in the constitution or another legislation.111
111 R Sithanen, “Roadmap for a better balance between stability and fairness in the voting formula” (January 2012) p 33
112 R Sithanen, “Roadmap for a better balance between stability and fairness in the voting formula” (January 2012) p 47
The proposed electoral system may indeed assist in reflecting the plurality and diversity of the Mauritian nation in the legislature. As Dr Sithanen said, the one difference will be that, instead of these seats being constitutionally entrenched, it will now form part of a social compact, a consociational arrangement where the responsibility rests with political parties especially their leaders. And it has to work because of the self-interest of political parties. All the major parties have a long tradition and practice of presenting a balanced slate to appeal to all segments of voters.112
We have a clear choice before us: either we resume the system of population census, which was abolished in 1982 or else we find a system which obviates the need for candidates to declare their ethnic origin.
To do so, we must find a way to subsume the Best Loser System as its 66
operationalisation depends on an up-to-date population census.
The census is at the heart of the Best Loser System. Without an up-to-date census, the Best Loser System becomes irrational and anachronistic as the courts have repeatedly said.
The main parties agree that to resume a new census would be divisive, more than ever and will be a retrograde step.
We want to unify our people around a single Mauritian identity not a system that will raise the ugly head of division and sub-division.
(5) How many PR seats ?
One should acknowledge the rationale for the PR seats and also the constraints. In our case, they purport to achieve four important objectives:
(i) lower the vote/seat dispro-portionality by creating a fairer balance between the share of votes polled and the share of seats obtained;
(ii) avoid the infamous 60-0 by ensuring that a party that polls a relative high percentage of seats does not end up with no parliamentary representation at all;
(iii) ensure gender fairness by providing for a significant share of seats to women; and
(iv) subsume the 8 Best Loser seats within the new dispensation so as to comply with the pronouncement of the UNHRC whilst at the same time ensuring that all components of the population are fairly represented.
There is a balance to be struck.
We need to determine how many additional PR seats are required to satisfy our need for stability and fairness while subsuming the Best Loser System.
If there are too many PR seats, the stability of the system is likely to be challenged and it might be difficult either to have a clear winner or for the winner to govern effectively and efficiently for the duration of the mandate. However, if there are too few PR seats, it might be very hard to lower the disproportionality of the FPTP mode, to avoid near 60-0, to subsume the Best Loser System and to ensure gender fairness.
Sachs had proposed an additional 30 PR seats, which will mean a Parliament of 92 MP’s.
The MMM/MSM alliance are proposing 28, which will mean a Parliament of 90 MP’s.
Dr Sithanen has proposed 20 which will mean a Parliament of 82. 67
After careful consideration, Government proposes at least 16 additional seats to complement the 62 FPTP MPs. The final number will be determined after consultation / discussions with the various stakeholders.
Already, as mentioned, in Chapter 6, we have a higher number of MP’s per inhabitant.
In Spain the ratio is 1:132,000
In France the ratio is 1:112,000
In UK the ratio is 1:91,000
In Mauritius the ratio is 1: 18,500
Government feels that stability and governability are essential prerequisites for our democracy.
(6) Eligibility threshold to obtain PR seats
The choice of a given threshold will depend on the level of political fragmentation on communal and religious exacerbations we want to tolerate. The lower the threshold, the easier it is for small parties to cross the line and obtain Parliamentary representation. However there are two dangers with a low threshold. There would be a proliferation of small parties than can affect the stability of the system and there are real
risks to national cohesion with the rise of ethnic-based parties.
We recommend a threshold of 10 % of votes to reduce the danger of too much factionalism, to lower the likelihood of ethnically based parties from emerging, to preserve the system of strong and broadly representative parties and to prevent government instability.
(7) Formula to allot PR seats
There are three options. The parallel formula was found by all experts to be very insignificant in correcting the unfairness emanating from the FPTP system as it leaves huge distortion between seats and votes. The presence of the Opposition will be symbolical only and it will not be able to play a meaningful role in Parliament.
However, the compensatory mode of allocating PR seats could convert the electoral system into a proportional one in many cases and thus make it more difficult to have effective and decisive government.
Hence our recommendation to adopt the innovative formula proposed by Dr Sithanen to apportion PR seats on the basis of votes obtained by unreturned 68
candidates. It is a hybrid between the parallel and the compensatory formulae.
(8) How should the PR MP’s be chosen ?
There are two alternatives which need to be considered:
The first one is a closed, rank-based PR list as recommended by Sachs, Carcassonne, Collendavelloo and Sithanen. The panel of UK experts including Professor Curtice from the UK also proposed a closed list in order of priority.
The list would be in order of priority and has to be submitted to the Electoral Supervisory Commission on Nomination Day.
The reasoning is that the voters have a fundamental right to know for whom specifically they are casting their ballot.
This is also best international practice.
However, a second alternative is a closed unranked PR list published in alphabetical order and not necessarily in order of priority to be submitted at latest on Nomination Day to the Electoral Commissioner. And MPs will be chosen from that list by Party leaders after the elections depending on the number of PR seats allocated to their parties.
A third option is a combination of the two i.e. a closed rank list complemented by a
number of candidates in alphabetical order.
As there is an ongoing discussion on how to return PR MPs, we leave the final choice to an enlightened debate and an informed discussion among the various parties.
(9) Crossing the Floor and PR members vacating their seats
Government sees an important difference between MPs elected on a FPTP system and those additional members who would be elected on a proportional repre-sentation basis. The latter members’ mandate would stem from affiliation to the party. Accordingly, if a proportional representation MP choses to cross the floor or passes away or resigns his seat, Government proposes that the next candidate on the party list should be appointed. This proposal would not apply to MPs directly elected in the multi-member constituencies.
(10) Gender fairness
Women represent around 50.5 % of the population. Significant progress has been made in many fields by women. However their representation in Parliament remains low. Gender fairness therefore matters significantly and empirical 69
evidence suggests that the critical mass is at least 30 % of women in Parliament.
We therefore propose a simple gender neutral formula that respects the equality between men and women in politics along the following model:
(i) to provide that at least one third of the total number of candidates from the FPTP constituencies be of either gender;
(ii) to ensure on the Party list that neither gender represents less than 33 % of candidates,
(iii) to have at least one person of a different gender out of every 3 sequential candidates on the PR list; and
(iv) in case the second alternative is adopted, at least one third of the PR lists chosen by party leaders should be of either gender.
(11) Double candidacies
If candidates are allowed to stand in both the constituency and on the list, then the names of candidates who succeed in being elected as constituency candidates would be deleted from the list and the seat they otherwise would have won would be assigned to the next candidate remaining on the list.
Double candidacies will provide candidates with a second chance similar to what exists currently under the BLS.
We therefore recommend to allow the flexibility for parties to decide whether they would field the same candidate in both FPTP and PR modes. It is not mandatory. Parties will be free to decide on whether to use double candidacies.