Examine the merits and demerits of the first-past-the-post election system? Do you think Proportional Representation system can be an alternative for India’s plurality electoral system? Substantiate your answer with relevant arguments.

Examine the merits and demerits of the first-past-the-post election system? Do you think Proportional Representation system can be an alternative for India’s plurality electoral system? Substantiate your answer with relevant arguments.

Approach

  • Introduce with FPTP and why it was adopted
  • Discuss merits and demerits of FPTP
  • Discuss proportional system and its drawbacks
  • Conclude appropriately
Model Answer :

India’s Constitution makers adopted the Parliamentary form of government with representative democracy in which legislators are elected by First Past The Post system (FPTP). When India gained independence, universal suffrage was immediately introduced, and FPTP was adopted as it is a simple election system that can be understood by common voters.

Merits of the FPTP system:

  • It is easy to understand.
  • The system gives clear choice to the voters to either vote for a candidate or a party.
  • In FPTP system, the voter knows whom they have voted for. They can hold him/ her accountable.
  • It has discouraged candidates to get votes from one community.

However, there’s been some criticism of FPTP as the number of political parties mushroomed. This resulted in the winning candidates often getting a much smaller percentage of votes compared to simple majority.

Demerits of the FPTP system:

  • It allows a disproportionate relation between the votes that a party polls and the seats it garners.
  • The winning candidate does not necessarily have a real (absolute) majority in the constituency.
  • The parties winning more than half the seats have often, in state and general elections, got only a few percent votes more than the second largest party.

Proportional Representation system

Alternatives to FPTP system were suggested, mainly the Proportional Representation (PR) system in which parties are allotted seats in proportion to the votes they poll. However, Proportional Representation system is not a solution due to some inherent drawbacks:

  • Our present system is based on the idea of constituency-level representation. The list system would nullify that and will craft huge multi-member constituencies.
  • With the list system, the relation between the voter and the candidate would be snapped.
  • Our present constituencies are already huge, making the relation between candidate and voter too tenuous.
  • The grip of the party over legislators would possibly become vicious because the candidature of a particular person would be less important than the party leader and the party brand name.

A true democracy cannot exist without reflecting majority aspirations. We need electoral reforms to ensure that the will of the people is reflected in a proper manner. The Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice is deliberating on electoral reforms. However a move to Proportional Representation system at present is not be a feasible move.

Subjects : Editorials

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