Overdue electoral reforms
Hestor De Souza
It is no doubt a daunting task for the Election Commission of India to periodically organize elections in the country. In view of the legislative elections that will ensue in some states, including Goa, in the coming weeks, I take the liberty of offering my following suggestions to strengthen the rules for the conduct of elections and ensure a level playing field:
(1) A few years ago, ECI decided to ban political parties from using animal icons as election symbols. Many political parties and civil society in general supported this decision. However, I observed that the ECI did not implement its decision in the subsequent elections. I think with the proliferation of political parties (national and state) and independent candidates running for office, there might be a growing demand for animal icons as election symbols. Furthermore, even if the ECI does not assign animal icons to candidates as election symbols, it will be unfair to continue to allow some parties to use animal icons as symbols.
(2) Once elected, MPs/independent MPs should not be allowed to resign (before the expiry of their term) to join a political party and challenge the party symbol. In case they resign for reasons of political expediency, they should be barred from standing in the by-election to be held, but only after the expiry of the term of the House/Parliament. These restrictions will prevent a colossal waste of taxpayers’ money, as well as rid the unease of horse-trading and bribery (money power) should the House hang.
(3) Parliament and State Assemblies should not be able to be dissolved before the expiry of their respective terms of office. This will avoid unnecessary expenses, as well as the disengagement of the administration because of the electoral code. Also, elections should not take place during months when the weather impedes voter turnout.
(4) Finally, I have another suggestion which is fair, simple and cost effective electoral reform instead of the current first past the post system.
Scenario 1: If a candidate obtains 50% + 1 vote of the total votes cast, he must be declared the absolute winner.
Scenario 2: If a candidate does not obtain 50% + 1 vote of the total votes cast, the 1st and 2nd place candidates must be declared duly elected, but with a caveat. The first candidate will serve for the 1st semester, and the “second” will serve for the rest of the term. The second will not be entitled to his salary/benefits until he takes office. Likewise, the retirement benefits of both will be equal to half of their rights. It will not increase the burden on taxpayers. Should any of these MPs/MPs fairly win (50% + 1 vote) in the next general election, then they should receive their full emoluments.
The above suggestion will make elections more competitive as candidates will strive to reach all voters, in order to cross the 50% threshold. I understand that my proposed system may result in a change in the composition of the House/Parliament, so be it! We all know that in most sports/games the “runner up” is also rewarded.