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Re : The Lyngdoh Solution

Posted by RB Kollannur on April 8, 2009

I came across a proposal (via @b50) by former Chief Election Commissioner, J.M. Lyngdoh (The article was written by Karan Thapar), who has proposed a hybrid system for elections, combining First Past The Post system (FPTP) and the Proportional Representation system.

The candidate winning in each constituency needs to have 50% of the votes which, in most likelihood, will lead to a Presidential run-off sort of situation, where the top candidates in the first round are taken to a second round, if no one gains majority in the first round.

In such a situation, the smaller parties get marginalized because they are likely to get squeezed in a run-off. Hence, Lyngdoh has come up with the hybrid system.

These elected candidates will represent only half of the legislature. The other half will be decided by proportional representation based on what I assume is the votes of the first round of election. As per Lyngdoh (or Karan Thapar, I am not sure) if a party secures 1% vote in the legislature, they will receive 1% of the legislature thereby giving representation to these parties in the legislature.

I am not clear of the context in which Mr. Lyngdoh has made this recommendation, but Mr. Thapar has written it in the context of hate politics. Here is my concern :

Hate politics is not about a single constituency. It caters to people across constituencies. Consider a hypothetical scenario where a party manages to garner support from a section in every constituency in a large enough state like Maharashtra or Tamil Nadu, but do not have the ability to gain majority in a single seat by its own. In a proportional representation system, they may have the votes to get into the legislature, even if the effect is halved.

The issue with a proportional election system is that it tends to coalitions at a quicker pace than FPTP. So, by introducing proportional representation, the hybrid system may not be able to take away the market for hate politics.

Mr. Thapar sites the example of Germany which follows a similar system. Going by the information from wikipedia (which by no means can be considered 100% credible), this system has been successful in keeping the representation of small, extremist parties to two.

However, India is not Germany. With a considerably larger population and an even more diverse cultural, regional and religious backgrounds, the German analogy can get magnified in India. Also, Germany has a 5% threshold to keep parties with minimal votes out of the legislature.

On a personal note, my main concern in an election is the regional fragmentation of the nation and stability of the government. Given the history of India, neither bears well for the long term integrity of the nation. This system cannot tackle either problem. With regional parties having already established their base in India, they will not have difficulty in continuing status quo, which means fractured verdicts and unstable governments are just as likely with this system in comparison with the current.

My view for electoral reform is still the same. First, take away the power of a fractured house to decide the government and give it to the people. There will be clarity of leadership and the executive will need to have a national appeal to form the government and hence make use of divisive politics. Second, increase the power of the legislature to represent their constituency (and not their political party)  by repealing the Anti-Defection Act, which will give the public more freedom in judging the ability of their representative.

Correcting a system that is tending towards too much plurality should not be done by introducing further complications to the system, but by reversing the sentiment of the people.


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