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Proportional representation UPSC NOTE

 What is proportional representation?

  • The Proportional Representation (PR) system ensures representation of all parties based on their vote share

  • The most commonly used PR system is the ‘party list PR’ where voters vote for the party (not individual candidates) and then the parties get seats in proportion to their vote share

  • There is usually a minimum threshold of 3-5% vote share for a party to be eligible for a seat

International practices

  • Presidential democracies like Brazil and Argentina have the party list PR system

  • So do parliamentary democracies like South Africa, the Netherlands, Belgium and Spain

  • In Germany, that follows the Mixed Member Proportional Representation (MMPR) system, out of the 598 seats in the Bundestag (their equivalent of our Lok Sabha), 299 seats (50%) are filled from constituencies under the FPTP system. 

  • The voters also provide their preference for a party in the ballots. 

  • The balance 299 seats (50%) are filled by apportioning them amongst parties, that secure at least 5% votes, based on their percentage of votes. 

  • Similarly, in New Zealand, out of the total 120 seats in the House of Representatives, 72 seats (60%) are filled through the First Past the Post System (FPTP) system from territorial constituencies. 

  • The balance 48 seats (40%) are allotted to various parties, that secure at least 5% votes, based on their vote share.

Will it work in a large and diverse country like India?

  • India is a federal country and this principle if implemented should ideally be carried out at each State/Union Territory (UT) level.

  • The main criticism against the PR system is that it could potentially result in instability as no party/coalition may obtain a majority to form the government in our parliamentary democracy

  • Further, it may result in the proliferation of political parties based on regional, caste, religious and linguistic considerations that may promote casteist or communal voting patterns

  • However, the second criticism is not well founded since the present First Past the Post System (FPTP) system has also not inhibited the formation of parties based on caste or communal considerations

  • This issue can be addressed by specifying minimum threshold for votes polled in order to make a party eligible for seats in legislative houses.

  • In order to maintain balance between stability and proportionate representation, the system of Mixed Member Proportional Representation (MMPR) can be considered

  • Mixed-member proportional representation (MMPR) is a mixed electoral system which combines local majoritarian elections with a compensatory tier of party list votes, which are used to allocate additional members in a way that aims to produce proportional representation overall

  • In most MMP systems, voters get two votes: one to decide the representative for their single-seat constituency, and one for a political party

Way forward

  • The law commission in its 170th report, ‘Reform of the electoral laws’ (1999), had recommended the introduction of the MMPR system on an experimental basis. 

  • It had suggested that 25% of seats may be filled through a PR system by increasing the strength of the Lok Sabha

  • While it had recommended to consider the entire nation as one unit for PR based on vote share, the appropriate approach would be to consider it at every State/UT level considering our federal polity. 

  • It is also pertinent to note that the delimitation exercise for increasing the number of seats is due based on the first Census to be conducted after 2026. 

  • The population explosion that happened in our country during the last five decades has been uneven among various regions. 

  • Determining the number of seats in Lok Sabha solely in proportion to population may go against the federal principles of our country and may lead to a feeling of disenchantment in the States that stand to lose through such representation.

  • In the event of increasing the seats during the delimitation exercise, the MMPR system may be considered for incremental seats or at least 25% of the total seats to be filled from each State/UT

  • This could assuage the apprehension of southern, northeastern and smaller States in the northern region by limiting the domination of larger States with increased seats solely through the FPTP system.

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Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam: Proportional representation UPSC NOTE
Proportional representation UPSC NOTE
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