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First Past the Post (FPTP) Vs Proportional Representation

Syllabus: Polity: Election

 Source: TH

 Context: In the recently concluded election to Lok Sabha, The ruling NDA won 293 seats with 43.3% of the vote, while the opposition INDIA bloc, with 41.6% of votes, secured only 234 seats. The article explores the potential benefits and challenges of adopting a Proportional Representation (PR) system in India’s electoral democracy.

 

First Past the Post (FPTP)Proportional Representation (PR)
An electoral method where the candidate with the most votes in a constituency wins. E.g., Used in the UK, Canada, and India for legislative elections.Allocates seats in the legislature based on the proportion of votes each party receives, unlike FPTP where the top candidate wins. It aims for an accurate reflection of voter preferences.
WorkingWorking
Single-Member Districts: Each constituency elects one representative.Party Lists: Voters vote for parties; seats are allocated based on vote share.
Plurality Wins: The highest vote-getter wins, not necessarily a majority.Multi-Member Districts: Allows proportional seat allocation.
Thresholds: Minimum vote percentage required to gain representation.
AdvantagesAdvantages
Simplicity: Easy for voters and straightforward counting.Fair Representation: Reflects voters’ preferences accurately.
Strong and Stable Governments: Often produce clear winners.Minority Inclusion: Better chances for smaller parties and minority groups.
Direct Representation: Ensures geographic areas have dedicated representatives.Reduced Wasted Votes: Most votes contribute to election results.
Accountability: Representatives can be easily voted out.Encourages Voter Turnout: Voters feel their votes have more impact.
DisadvantagesDisadvantages
Disproportionality: Vote-share may not match seat-share.Coalition Governments: This can lead to instability if coalitions disagree.
Wasted Votes: Votes for losing candidates don’t count.Complexity: Harder for voters and authorities to manage.
Minority Rule: Candidates can win with less than majority votes.Fragmentation: Many small parties can make consensus difficult.
Geographic Concentration: Can favour parties with concentrated support.Weaker Constituency Links: Representatives may not be tied to specific areas.
Encourages Gerrymandering: Boundaries can be manipulated to favour parties.Influence of Party Leadership: Party leaders control candidate lists, centralizing power.

 

Types of PR:

  1. List PR: Voters choose a party, and seats are filled by candidates from the party’s list based on vote share.
  2. Mixed-Member PR: Combines FPTP and PR; voters cast two votes—one for a candidate and one for a party.
  3. Single Transferable Vote (STV): Voters rank candidates in order of preference, with seats allocated based on the proportion of votes and transferred preferences.

 

Should India move towards a proportional representation?

Yes:

  • Vote wastage: There is little to no vote wastage of votes in this system as all parties get power according to to vote share.
  • Power sharing: Majority-based government demands power sharing among different parties which provides representation to all sections and voices within the country.
  • NCRWC: The National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution (NCRWC) had also recommended studying the feasibility of proportional representation to correct the downsides of the FPTP system.

 

No:

  • Representation: As there is no constituent representative in this system, people may have trouble holding leaders accountable.
  • Stability: Government would still require a majority which means changing alliances and complex coalitions can cause political instability. This can be seen in the case of Israel.
  • Methodologies: Complex methodology of voting puts pressure on voter awareness and turnout while deciding a threshold for minimum vote share can arbitrarily take out small parties from the picture.

  

International Practices:

  1. Brazil and Argentina: Use party list PR systems.
  2. South Africa, Netherlands, Belgium, Spain: Also use party list PR systems.
  3. Germany: Bundestag has 50% seats from constituencies (FPTP) and 50% from PR based on vote share (minimum 5% votes required).
  4. New Zealand: The House of Representatives has 60% seats from territorial constituencies (FPTP) and 40% from PR based on vote share (minimum 5% votes required).

 

Conclusion:

Therefore, it can be concluded that no one system is perfect and the selection of a suitable electoral system is important in deciding the nature of democracy in a country. India is often known as the survivor of dangerous decades and an island of democracy in the third world, showing the effectiveness of the FPTP system. Thus, reforms can be initiated within it rather than radically moving to an entirely new system.

  

What is Mixed Member Proportional Representation (MMPR)?

MMPR combines elements of both Proportional Representation (PR) and First Past the Post (FPTP) systems. For example, Germany’s Bundestag fills 299 of its 598 seats through FPTP, while the remaining seats are allocated based on PR. This system is also used in South Africa, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Spain.

 

Significance of MMPR

  1. Stability: MMPR balances the stability of FPTP with the fair representation of PR.
  2. Representation to Smaller States: It mitigates disenchantment among smaller states by avoiding purely population-based seat allocation.
  3. Law Commission Recommendation: The 1999 report by the Law Commission of India suggested introducing MMPR on an experimental basis.

 

Mains Link:

 Discuss the role of the Election Commission of India in the light of the evolution of the Model Code of Conduct. (USPC 2022)

 

Prelims Links:

Consider the following statements: (USPC 2017)

  1. The Election Commission of India is a five-member body.
  2. The Union Ministry of Home Affairs decides the election schedule for the conduct of both general elections and bye-elections.
  3. Election Commission resolves the disputes relating to splits/mergers of recognised political parties.

 

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 and 2 only
(b) 2 only
(c) 2 and 3 only
(d) 3 only

 

Ans: (d)