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Tuesday, 23 April, 2024

A proportional representation system can break Bangladesh’s current political deadlock: Prof Tofail Ahmed

The political scientist believes the proportional allocation of parliamentary seats would shift the balance of power for the better
Express Report
  26 Dec 2023, 03:06

A proportional representation system can break the regular deadlock of boycotts and calls for a caretaker government that Bangladesh sees in the run-up to elections, says Prof Tofail Ahmed.

An analysis of Bangladesh’s most successful elections – which he described as those in 1991, 1996, 2001, 2008 – showed that even when the polls were conducted properly, the ones who take power have received only a minority of total votes, the professor of political science and public administration said.

“Either 35 percent of votes or a maximum 40 percent of the vote [allows the winning parties to] rule over the 65 percent of voters.”

This minority rule is a result of the first-past-the-post system or simple majority system, he said in an interview with bdnews24.com’s Inside Out.

A video of the interview is available on bdnews24.com’s Facebook and YouTube pages.

“If you change the system to PR, proportional representation, then the type of majority the BNP had - by getting less than one percent majority compared to the Awami League – would not happen. They ruled, but it would not have happened [under proportional representation]. They would have got 93-96 seats if it is proportional because in the proportional system every vote counts.”

The proportional representation system would allocate seats based on the percentage of votes received by each party.

A party that receives 20 percent of the vote, for example, will gain 20 percent of the seats in parliament.

This will break up the absolute power parties enjoy when they win under the current system, Tofail said.

“For our country also, I think this could be the best solution to get all parties in the election and also this boycott system, the violence, and other things will go,” he said. “In the past, the winner took all. That will not happen [in the proportional system] because nobody is the absolute winner.”

The political analyst said that a proportional representation system will make politics more responsive and help break up the domineering power of large parties.

“A small party with a definite ideology, now they are getting only one or two seats, but they cannot have much to say in this [current] system. In a proportional system, they will also become very important.”

“One party getting an absolute majority is rare, so that’s why big parties need small parties. They have coalitions.”

About 97 countries are currently practising some form of proportional representation system across the world, he said.

In the Indian subcontinent, Sri Lanka and Nepal are implementing a proportional representation system on a limited trial basis, he said.

“It is being discussed,” he said.

‘EXPATRIATES DESERVE A VOICE’

Bangladesh is disenfranchising a significant portion of its population by obstructing the ability of expatriate voters to vote by post, Tofail said.

“This is one of the very biggest issues,” he said. “Constitutionally, we are wrong.”

“We cannot disenfranchise about 1 crore 20 lakh (10.2 million) people, those who are working abroad.”

Many people still living in Bangladesh can also be left out of the electoral process due to illness, old age, and the distance from their constituencies.

“The legal provision is there for postal ballots. What you can do, you can open it for all.”

In this way, even those who are busy or indisposed get a chance to cast their ballots, he said.

The practice is becoming more popular in countries such as the US and in Switzerland about 90 percent of votes are cast by post, Tofail said.

“Now we have digitised our citizens’ identity, we have cards now, so from the next election – this election the time has gone – from the next election we should open the electoral system or postal ballots. For those who wish to exercise their voting rights through a postal ballot or any digital device, they should be given permission to do that.”

The challenge is to figure out how to implement it, but it is not impossible, he said.

“We are talking about participatory elections. How can it be participatory when you are keeping one-tenth of voters out of the polling system. You cannot do it.”

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A proportional representation system can break Bangladesh’s current political deadlock: Prof Tofail Ahmed

The political scientist believes the proportional allocation of parliamentary seats would shift the balance of power for the better
Express Report
  26 Dec 2023, 03:06

A proportional representation system can break the regular deadlock of boycotts and calls for a caretaker government that Bangladesh sees in the run-up to elections, says Prof Tofail Ahmed.

An analysis of Bangladesh’s most successful elections – which he described as those in 1991, 1996, 2001, 2008 – showed that even when the polls were conducted properly, the ones who take power have received only a minority of total votes, the professor of political science and public administration said.

“Either 35 percent of votes or a maximum 40 percent of the vote [allows the winning parties to] rule over the 65 percent of voters.”

This minority rule is a result of the first-past-the-post system or simple majority system, he said in an interview with bdnews24.com’s Inside Out.

A video of the interview is available on bdnews24.com’s Facebook and YouTube pages.

“If you change the system to PR, proportional representation, then the type of majority the BNP had - by getting less than one percent majority compared to the Awami League – would not happen. They ruled, but it would not have happened [under proportional representation]. They would have got 93-96 seats if it is proportional because in the proportional system every vote counts.”

The proportional representation system would allocate seats based on the percentage of votes received by each party.

A party that receives 20 percent of the vote, for example, will gain 20 percent of the seats in parliament.

This will break up the absolute power parties enjoy when they win under the current system, Tofail said.

“For our country also, I think this could be the best solution to get all parties in the election and also this boycott system, the violence, and other things will go,” he said. “In the past, the winner took all. That will not happen [in the proportional system] because nobody is the absolute winner.”

The political analyst said that a proportional representation system will make politics more responsive and help break up the domineering power of large parties.

“A small party with a definite ideology, now they are getting only one or two seats, but they cannot have much to say in this [current] system. In a proportional system, they will also become very important.”

“One party getting an absolute majority is rare, so that’s why big parties need small parties. They have coalitions.”

About 97 countries are currently practising some form of proportional representation system across the world, he said.

In the Indian subcontinent, Sri Lanka and Nepal are implementing a proportional representation system on a limited trial basis, he said.

“It is being discussed,” he said.

‘EXPATRIATES DESERVE A VOICE’

Bangladesh is disenfranchising a significant portion of its population by obstructing the ability of expatriate voters to vote by post, Tofail said.

“This is one of the very biggest issues,” he said. “Constitutionally, we are wrong.”

“We cannot disenfranchise about 1 crore 20 lakh (10.2 million) people, those who are working abroad.”

Many people still living in Bangladesh can also be left out of the electoral process due to illness, old age, and the distance from their constituencies.

“The legal provision is there for postal ballots. What you can do, you can open it for all.”

In this way, even those who are busy or indisposed get a chance to cast their ballots, he said.

The practice is becoming more popular in countries such as the US and in Switzerland about 90 percent of votes are cast by post, Tofail said.

“Now we have digitised our citizens’ identity, we have cards now, so from the next election – this election the time has gone – from the next election we should open the electoral system or postal ballots. For those who wish to exercise their voting rights through a postal ballot or any digital device, they should be given permission to do that.”

The challenge is to figure out how to implement it, but it is not impossible, he said.

“We are talking about participatory elections. How can it be participatory when you are keeping one-tenth of voters out of the polling system. You cannot do it.”

Comments

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