The Electoral Reform Bill that the government plans to introduce before the end of this year will propose major changes to the current system. However, for this reform to be adopted, the Constitution requires a three-quarter majority. News on Sunday gauged the views of political figures to know what actually needs to be changed in our electoral system.
The Electoral Reform will introduce the proportional representation and additional seating in the electoral system while maintaining the First Past The Post (FPTP) system.
The Prime Minister’s Office has set the month of November for the introduction of the Electoral Reform Bill and the Financing of Political Parties Bill. We will see the introduction of a proportional dose; that is the number of MPs which will be revised upwards. Rodrigues will have three MPs elected instead of two. Six corrective deputies will be chosen by leaders of the political parties while 12 other parliamentarians will be elected by Proportional Representation (PR). Up to now, the percentage of 5, 7,5 and 10 have been suggested as eligibility threshold. This means that the number of Parliamentarians will vary, among 80 to 90.
Moreover, the bill proposes that candidates in general elections will no longer be required to declare their ethnicity. This will mark a turning point in the political history of Mauritius. In an interview on Radio Plus last Saturday, Minister Nando Bodha explained that the proportional representation will ensure that one-third of women will be represented at the parliament.
The bill also proposes the replacement of the Best Loser System (BLS) with an additional seating formula. The introduction of the additional seating will involve the selection of beaten candidates by the leaders of the different political parties instead of the Electoral Commission. However, the number of candidates who will be subjected to a selection exercise to become parliamentarians has not yet been determined.
The additional seating selection exercise of beaten candidates by the political leaders has been vastly commented and criticised by politicians themselves as well as various stakeholders. News on Sunday has talked to some politicians to know what changes should be brought in the Mauritian political sky.
Bobby Hurreeram : “We need to promote a system which is more democratic”
According to the Deputy Speaker, there is the need for a modern electoral system. “We need to set up a platform which gives way to modern elections. We should mainly put a stop at the long and outdated folklore around elections which I trust creates more problems. We have to promote a system which is more democratic. Currently the cost of an election is inaccessible to the youth. If there are changes, the young politicians who wish to really work for the country and do politics in a different way will be able to do so.”
Booby Hurreeram adds that given that the political topography has changed, there is the need for a new system. “We should change the way political campaigns are done during an election. This is why we have to stop all the waste of time with the folklore where candidates come with big slogans but they lack sincerity and intensity. We need a platform where there are more debates among the politicians and diverse media and online platforms where politicians can share their ideas and beliefs and people can see their true worth,” he states.
Osman Mohamed : “People should choose the Best Losers through votes, not leaders of political parties”
For the Labour Party deputy, for a country like Mauritius, fair representation of all communities is vital as this concerns National unity. “Electoral reform is a very complex matter, which requires deep thinking. The same goes for the Review of the Boundaries of the Constituencies because of affinities constituents have developed over time. You cannot change the boundaries overnight. This is particularly true in the rural area constituencies, where population density is very high. All this matter requires debate and should not be done the haphazard way.”
Osman Mohamed trusts that giving the leaders of political parties the additional prerogative to choose the good losers, might not be a good thing. “Good losers, once appointed may become ministers, PPS, and may play important roles in the management of the affairs of the country. In this respect, I do believe that the percentage of vote from among the good losers is still the most appropriate criterion for choosing the Best Losers, rather than to have the leader choosing someone twice (i.e. as candidate and as good loser). Bottom line, it’s better that the people themselves through their votes, choose the good losers, rather than leaders of political parties.”
Adrien Duval : “A census will indicate if any form of discrimination still exists in our system”
Adrien Duval trusts that what is needed is a thorough electoral reform. “Our system dates back to 50 years and we have to question what is not working in the system. I trust that the main aspect which demands a major change is the electoral division there is, which amplifies the ethnical character of our system. If we go according to the logic of being a democratic country, we must review the delimitation of our constituencies. The electoral division is done based on a scientific calculation in order to keep a certain ethnic demography in our parliament.
If we want to get rid of communalism in our country and move forward, the first thing that needs to be changed is the delimitation of our constituencies.” The PMSD deputy states that the second aspect which should imperatively be reviewed is the Best Loser System (BLS). “The BLS is here to rectify the shortcomings of the electoral division. However, this system has been in place since 1972 while the delimitation of our constituencies is reviewed every 10 years. This is why a census is important as it will indicate if any form of discrimination still exists in our system.”
Jean Claude Barbier : “More provisions for women parliamentarians”
The deputy from Mouvement Patriotique states that an electoral reform is a must for the country. “There are major things that need to be changed in our system. Firstly, we wish that more provisions will be made to have more women parliamentarians. Secondly we have to put in place another system if we want to do away with the Best Loser System (BLS).
We must ensure that there is a good and fair ethnic representation because this plays a significant role in the society’s stability. It is a must that all ethnic groups are represented. A third aspect is to have the best equilibrium when it comes to the division of the constituencies.” Jean-Claude Barbier highlights that the reform is long due and that the changes should be officially announced so that not only the political parties but also the civic society have a clear idea what changes will be brought forward. “We must all have a say and have a national consensus about the reform,” he uttered.
Veda Balamoody : “We strongly need to consolidate the national unity”
The deputy of the MMM party trusts that the electoral reform should consist of three major aspects. “The first aspect is to remove the inequality that exits with the First Past The Post (FPTP) system and introduce a more equitable one with the proportional representation.
Secondly we need to introduce a system which will favour women participation in the elections and thus favouring more women parliamentarians.
Thirdly we strongly have to consolidate the national unity whereby all communities and our rainbow nation is represented in our parliament. This is why it is vital that we eliminate the requirement for a candidate to declare his/her ethnicity.” Veda Balamoody, however, underlines that the government should come forward with an official proposal within the coming weeks. “We need something official, as it will eliminate all confusions people have. It will also allow us to move forward and all stakeholders to work together to find a consensus regarding the electoral reform. The stakeholders should not only include politicians from all parties but also NGOs, those in the private sector as well as the Mauritian people who have to have their say and share their opinion on this matter.”