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An electoral reform is never an easy task. Should we shift radically from the First Past The Post (FPTP) to Proportional Representation (PR) or have a mixed FPTP-PR system?  Should there be a shift to a presidential regime or a semi-presidential regime? How to ensure the adequate representation of minorities in Parliament and equal chances for women to stand as candidates in the general elections?
Pre-independence, there was no consensus on PR, a system that generated more fear than comfort at the time. Amongst others, it was feared that PR would weaken the working class and uphold colonialism.  For a country on the brink of independence after more than 200 years of colonialism, and with the concentration of most of the country’s resources in the hands of a few, that fear was not unfounded. Given the complexity of PR and the fact that the majority of the population was still uneducated, it was believed that thrusting PR on the people would have been tantamount to chloroforming them into political oblivion. However, over time, we have witnessed the weaknesses of the FPTP and the flaws in the Best Loser System as set out in our Constitution.
There seems to be a consensus today that the mandatory requirement to declare one’s community in order to be eligible to stand as candidate in the general elections is discriminatory and undemocratic. This certainly shakes the foundations of the Best Loser System’s implementation as set out in our Constitution.  However, one point is of essence – if the process is flawed, it does not mean that the concept is flawed.  In effect, if on one hand, the process is tainted by the mandatory requirement to declare one’s community, on the other hand, in a multi-ethnic society like ours, the intention behind the BLS remains justified.  
There are two ways of looking at how we want to build a nation.  One way is to advocate the erasing of cultural and ethnic differences in favour of one common identity – the Mauritian identity.  Another way is to consolidate the common purpose of a strong sense of belonging to the nation, in short, adherence to a culture of Mauritianism, through the maintenance and promotion of distinct ethnic and cultural identities.  As much as the first impresses by its idealism, as much does the second stand by the realism of our time through its capacity to conserve diversity and build unity simultaneously.
That brings us to another major issue that has been the subject of debates since long – should there be ethnic census in a modern Mauritius?  The first reaction, ideally speaking, would be to advocate for the abolishing of ethnic census in an effort to promote the common identity.  But realistically, in the absence of ethnic census, it potentially becomes more difficult to ascertain that justice is done to each component of the society in an electoral process.  Wouldn’t it sound a touch of hypocrisy to assert that the adequate representation of our citizens from all ethnic origins in Parliament may be ensured, even without an ethnic census?  It is more likely that the uncertainty generated in the absence of an ethnic census results in the harbouring of a fear of insecurity, that would in turn impact on our effort to breed a stronger sense of belonging to the nation through the upholding of individual cultural and ethnic identities.  
There are many misunderstandings around ethnic census.  Ethnic census is not equal to communal voting.  We have not had any census for years in Mauritius, but that has not prevented parties from placing their candidates in constituencies on the basis of their community or caste nor has it prevented people from voting on a communal basis.  It is a fact that people have a tendency to cast their votes in line with their ethnic affiliation, an attribute that more often than not, overtakes ideas and ideologies.  What leads people to vote on a communal basis?  It goes far beyond a mere innocent sense of belonging to a particular community.  It is all too normal and absolutely psychological that as humans we have the tendency to associate more with what is known to us.  However, what underlies communal voting is also a strong fear – fear of under-representation; fear of not being empowered enough to be an active part of political decision-making.  This is where ethnic census assumes its importance.  It does not stop at the election process. It extends to ensuring that no ethnic component of the society is left behind in the process of sustainable development. We are still in the process of economic and social democratization and we are not yet a population rid of all its fears of being left out. Transparency is a better guarantee of stability than assumptions.
The best way of maintaining the concept behind the BLS while doing away with the flawed procedure of mandatory declaration of community would be to have a mixed PR- FPTP system, whereby a dose of PR is injected for the purpose of filling the eight seats, which are at present allocated on the Best Loser System.  This would imply a separate ballot for the eight additional seats. The list of candidates for this separate ballot would be set by the political parties. As it is, there are no protected minorities under our law.  It would be to the parties to decide upon their list of candidates, in order of preference, for this separate ballot, with a view of ensuring that no community is left unrepresented.  It would therefore be up to the political parties to ensure the eventual adequate representation of all communities via their list – it goes to the credibility of the party.
If we are undertaking electoral reform, it is with the perspective of rendering the electoral process more fair. This fairness would remain unachieved if we leave outside the ambit of the reform the representation of women in Parliament.  With only 19% of women in Parliament today, we lag behind, not only on the world map, but also on the regional level.  The 2011 Local Government Act and amendments to the Constitution have been a fresh breeze.  Can we extend this gender-neutral amendment to the general elections? It certainly deserves consideration. As much as it is important to ensure the adequate representation of minorities in Parliament, it is that much essential to ensure the adequate representation of women in the political decision-making process.  
The electoral system cannot be static.  It has to evolve with time.  At one point in our history, there were property, salary and education qualifications to satisfy before one could cast his votes. Today, we are miles ahead, with a fully-educated population that can potentially understand the various intricacies of an electoral reform and contribute in the debate, reason why the White Paper assumes all its importance! 

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