Choosing the right electoral system in a plural society is a very difficult process as it is never neutral. It has very clear implications on the political development of the country. Historical, political, social, cultural, contextual and temporal factors have to be taken into account as the system and any reform do not take place in a vacuum. The exercise is complicated by the fact that electoral systems are not disinterested in their translation of votes into seats. At the end of the day, it depends on the willingness and the desire of political actors to compromise in order to reach an acceptable and a sustainable consensus.
Mauritius needs an electoral system that ensures government stability, guarantees equity to parties, promotes gender fairness, fosters broad socio-demographic representation, encourages accountable government, maintains constituency links between MPs and their constituents, shuns overtly communal parties and enhances transparency. It is not easy to have all these desired attributes in any electoral system, especially as all do not point in the same direction. There is an absolute need to balance one feature against another.
There is bound to be some trade off between these values, especially between stability and fairness. It is the nature and the extent of such trade-off that should constitute the basis of the discussions with a view to having a broad consensus.
The new system should be robust and sustainable. It is equally imperative, in the exercise, to acknowledge the dis-advantages of alternative systems in addition to their presumed virtues. And we must assess whether it is possible to avoid the drawbacks of the current system without introducing undesirable features and consequences in the new formula.
Never has the country been so close to reaching an agreement on reforming the electoral rules. All concur on the need for reform. It is plain that where there is no broad agreement yet, there should be further discussions. As in other countries that have embarked on the path of changing the voting formula, compromises must be made to reach an acceptable reform.
As Professor Norris of Harvard University has famously argued: CHAPTER 11: CONCLUDING REMARKS
“electoral systems are rarely designed, they are born kicking and screaming into the world out of a messy, incremental compromise between contending factions battling for survival, determined by power politics”.
In the case of Mauritius it is clear that it will have to be a combination of some ‘design’ and some ‘compromise’ between political parties. One can only hope that reason, informed judgement and long term national interest will prevail.
We must at all times ensure that whatever system we agree upon echoes the aspirations of our citizens. Together, we have to chart out a system that unifies the nation and provides for stable, responsible, fairly responsive and representative governments for the betterment of the nation.
This consultation paper precisely provides the opportunity for informed comments as Government strives to reach broad based agreement in order to modernise our electoral system as a first step towards modernising our constitution in line with the evolution and expectations of our nation. Together, we have built a modern nation !
Let us now together build a modern society !