By Chula Goonasekera, Bernard Fernando and Janaka Ranasinghe Sagara –
Sri Lanka’s current election system has installed a Parliament that has only brought misery to its people. Some MPs have no people’s mandate. The country is bankrupt, and no resolution is in sight. There is a need to have a people’s Parliament to resolve people’s problems. Installing a Proportional Representation and electoral district-wise meritocratic (PR-DM) election system via a referendum will ensure electoral district representation in Parliament for a brighter future. The candidate numbers elected will determine the winning party.
The current party-based election system is based on party leader nominations with inflator bonus seats for the winners and national seats for ‘backdoor’ entrance. The 2/3rd in the Parliament is a mockery as MPs switch sides for covert self-profitable reasons. They do not represent public voter proportions or aspirations. Their interest is to engage in corrupt business deals to serve themselves and their stooges at people’s expense. The current election system is almost impenetrable by a young, innovative, honest grassroots representative with a different political mindset. Despite 21 amendments, our Constitution remains largely non-democratic with no checks and balances and allows even a convicted murderer to continue to enjoy parliamentary privileges. Neither our election system nor our Constitution has ever faced a national referendum for approval.
What is a PR-DM Election system?
An electoral district-wise meritocratic selection system with proportional representation in the Parliament will provide a sustainable solution for Sri Lanka to recover from its current misery. The Parliament is a place of constructive debate, a lawmaker and the guardian of our sovereignty and welfare. The Parliament is not a place of ‘business’ for personal gain. The elected policymakers need to be knowledgeable, people-friendly, empathic and moral to honour the interests of the public who voted them in. They should offer unbiased best resolutions for the country’s future.
The proposed new election system will represent the popular vote accurately in the Parliament and allow nominees at the grassroots level to reach the Parliament without having to run an obstacle course.
What are our gains?
It recognises and respects the equality of vote to promote trust and unity.
The election would produce a government that serves national interests.
It uses a simple, uncomplicated, transparent method understood by everyone.
The elected Parliament reflects district accountability.
The election design is robust and not favourable to divisive politics and exploitation of different communities using race, religion, descent and other forms of casts.
It seals the openings of corruption and voter intimidation through violence, decoy candidates, ‘Mushroom’ Parties and abstention.
Methods for selection of MPs
Party nominations must be made by the ‘party branch’ in the electoral district and not by the party leader. This will prevent bias based on family dynasty, corrupt mindset, religion, race or gender.
All candidates should fulfil minimum eligibility criteria defined by the election commission (at least a minimum educational qualification and no criminal records). False declarations shall be a reason for dismissal even after the election and conduct of a by-election.
Phase 1 – Electoral District meritocracy based selection process
Currently, there are 22 electoral districts in Sri Lanka. This PR-DM methods uses the same.
* Construct the total number of valid votes cast nationally (A)
* Divide (A) by 196 = the average value of each MP in polls (B)
* Divide the total valid votes cast district-wise by (B) = number of MPs for each district
* In other words,
* Apply above to all 22 districts.
* ‘Number of MPs in each district’ (D) may not be a whole number. Consider the integer part of it as the number of MPs to be elected from that electoral district. Use electoral district meritocracy in each district (candidates ranked by votes received in the district they are contesting) to select the winning candidates.
* The total number of MPs winning from all districts will be 196 or less. If it is less than 196, the remaining seats (E) will be used in Phase 2 (see below).
Phase 2 – National meritocracy based selection process
* The number of seats available for national meritocracy (F) = 29 + remaining seats from phase 1 (E)
* Prepare a national merit list of all candidates based on the number of votes (score) received by them in their contesting districts.
* Delete winning candidates of Phase 1 from this list.
* The result is a rank of the unelected candidates’ through a National merit list.
* Select the (F) number of MPs from the National unelected merit list.
Any vacancy arising in the parliament should be re-instated by a by-election held within 60 days. The selection process will be a meritocracy in the indexed electoral district.
Constituting the Parliament and the winning Party
1. Collate the total number of elected candidates by Party vs. Independent.
2. This will determine the winning party, and they can elect the prime minister.
3. All independent candidates will be collated as one group. If they have the highest number of MPs, they will be considered the winning party (even if they did not belong to a party at the outset)
4. In the event of an absence of a majority, parties may come together to form a shared government.
1. This will curtail the ‘parachuting’ of MPs and party leader favourites and relatives.
2. A grassroots representation is guaranteed at the district level.
3. No covert discrimination of candidates by party leaders.
4. There are no bonus seats or backseat entrances via a ‘national’ list.
5. Promotes district representation. MPs not popular in the district will never get through.
6. Minimal opportunity for intimidation of voters during the election.
7. Voter corruption practices become damaging to the offenders and not others.
8. Electoral district borders are not an issue, as the election of candidates is based on votes cast in each district and not the number of votes registered.
9. Simple meritocracy replaces the corrupt Manapé system.
10. National representation of women and youngsters in the Parliament will increase.
Make this a reality.
*Authors: Chula Goonasekera, Bernard Fernando and Janaka Ranasinghe Sagara on behalf of LEADS forum.