That the present political system and process marginalises the broad masses of workers, peasants, women, youth, and other disadvantaged people from political power is stating the obvious. In any discussion amongst people of different classes and strata, one gets this response that it is those political parties who have the backing of money power who will come to power through elections and rule.
The need for money power starts with the requirement that a candidate must deposit 25,000 Rs to contest for the Lok Sabha election. This is four to five times the official minimum wages in many states. It is more than what an average peasant family makes in Punjab in a whole year. Candidates are allowed a "maximum expenditure" of Rs 70 lakhs. According to the EC, candidates of the main political parties hoping to win the elections spent at least 4-6 crores in the states of Tamilnadu, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Punjab, AP. This is excluding the expenses of the political parties, which run into an additional tens of thousands of crores. Who can make this kind of investment in elections, running into at least 1 crore per candidate? Furthermore, the monopoly media carries on 24/7 propaganda for its preferred parties.
Many political parties and various electoral reform committees have advocated a combination of proportional representation (PR) with the present first-past-the-post (FPTP) system as one solution to curb money power.
Proportional representation is a particular form of representation, in which people vote for political parties and not for individual candidates. The seats in the national parliament or state assembly would then be divided on the basis of the percentage of votes received by each party. Each party puts forth a pre determined list of candidates. There are broadly two kinds of lists put forward in different countries — a closed list or an open list. In the closed list, the party decides the order of preference of who will represent it in parliament. In the open list, voters can indicate their order of preference of the candidates in the list. There are many other variations of the proportional representation system, including its combination with first past the post system. A large number of countries of the world follow one or other model of the proportional representation system. The proportional representation system in many countries is combined with a cut-off percentage. In Germany for example the cut-off percentage is 5%. In other words, a party must get at least 5% of the votes polled to qualify for seats in the German parliament.
For example, CPI(M) is proposing is that half the MP’s should be elected on the basis of party-list proportional representation and the other half be elected on the basis of the existing first-past-the-post system, with a unspecified threshold cut-off for parties to qualify for seats in parliament.
What has been the result of elections by proportional representation in different countries? In all the European countries that have followed this system, including Germany, Italy etc, it has made no qualitative change to the fact that it is the parties representing the interests of the ruling class that invariably come to power. All that proportional representation have ensured is that coalitions become more often the norm, then the exception. They have not changed the fact that people remain marginalised from power. This is the reason in the countries of the world wherein proportional representation form of elections is held, there is deep dissatisfaction amongst the electorate.
The argument advanced in favour of proportional representation is that it will result in a parliament that would more accurately reflect the electorate’s preference and it will reduce the money spent by candidates. What is the reality?
As long as the economy is dominated by monopolies and the political system is dominated by parties representing the monopolies, the monopolies will use their money power to bring into power a party or coalition that will implement their program best. Both the FPTP system currently in place in our country, and the proportional system in place in various capitalist countries of the world, result in parties or coalitions coming to power which defend the interests of the ruling class.
Can the masses of people who are currently marginalised from power, get empowered in the system of proportional representation? No. In fact, the PR system specially discriminates against candidates who do not belong to a party. It also discriminates against parties which have backing in one small nationality, or in one or two constituencies, but do not have a country wide following.
There will be no qualitative difference, as far as the electorate is concerned, in the direction of people being enabled to govern themselves, and setting the orientation of the economy. It will be the parties that represent the biggest monopolies and faithfully implement their program that will be in the driver’s seat as far as government is concerned. Once the votes are cast, those elected are beyond the control of the electorate. The executive power is not subordinate and accountable to the elected Parliament; and the Members of Parliament are not subordinate or accountable to those who elected them.
Lok Raj Sangathan believes that vesting sovereignty in the people is the task of the times. This demands that the executive must be accountable to the legislature and the legislature to the electorate.
For sovereignty to vest in the people, the right to select and elect candidates must be taken out of the hands of political parties and vested in the electorate of each constituency.
The electorate must also have the right to recall, and the right to initiate legislation as well as to get a existing law like AFSPA or UAPA annulled.
People must be able to establish a new fundamental law, which harmonises individual interests with collective interests, and individual and collective interests with the general interests of society. It cannot be that the interests of a minority, the biggest monopolies, can determine the economic and political system of our country, and its foreign policy, It must guarantee and ensure enforceability, of the human, democratic and national rights of all. The reality that India consists of many nations and nationalities and tribal peoples, each with a right to self determination must be clearly declared, with rights enforceable.
Prof. Bharat Seth