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We do not need BLS

The outstanding hurdle to an electoral reform is the Best Loser System (BLS). A lot has been opined about BLS but unfortunately, figures have hardly been used to substantiate arguments. Ex-President Cassam Uteem, for example, opines that BLS provides a “psychological” assurance. The figures that I will demonstrate in this article should convince all Mauritians that the effect of BLS is benign, akin to a dose of Panadol to cure a migraine.  This will most likely go by itself with Panadol only offering marginal relief.
I begin with hard statistics based on the past 10 general elections between 1967 and 2010. The communal split (as defined in Schedule 1 of our Constitution) for the 620 constituency (or First Past the Post) seats is as follows: 59.4%, 25.2%, 13.7% and 1.8%. After the addition of 67 BLS seats, the split becomes 54.1%, 29.4%, 14.8% and 1.6%. Grosso modo, the communal split before and after BLS is about the same.  The small differences are hardly worth the emotion especially since no-one in Mauritius knows the precise communal demographics of today!
The electoral reform that is being proposed by Dr. Rama Sithanen consists of tagging to the current 62 FPTP seats an additional 20 seats to be allocated to Party List candidates. These additional seats will be allocated according to the number of votes tallied by un-returned candidates from all parties.
I will now illustrate that as long as parties present a list of candidates where gender and community are BALANCED, the outcome will be better than with the current BLS. For simplicity, assume that there are 2 major parties or alliances.  Party lists can be designed in many ways.  I will illustrate with 2 possible Party Lists: one more conservative than the other.
Here, Party List X is “conservative” as it places a woman in every block of 3 and allocates a majority of the seats to community D. Party List Y is more progressive on both gender and communities. It has one man and one woman in successive blocks of 2. It also has more minorities.  The gender and community split for various possible seat allocations from 20-0 to 10-10 are as follows:
Parties will decide in their own wisdom how to design their lists but as long as they are BALANCED, an acceptable distribution of the seats should emerge as demonstrated above. Thus if a woman appears in every block of 3 candidates, there will be at least 6 women elected out of 20. If parties put a woman in every block of 2 candidates, this number will likely be 10. There are infinite combinations with respect to community split and the above can obviously be refined to the satisfaction of all. A mathematical tool known as Linear Programming can give parties an optimal  Party List which meets their constraints with respect to gender and communities!
Can parties afford not to present a BALANCED Party List? If they do, they face the real risk of voters not supporting their constituency candidates and in the process, they can lose out both on constituency and Party List seats. It is therefore in their own interest to present a BALANCED Party List for electability.  
In conclusion, there is little to lose or to fear WITHOUT BLS in the proposed electoral reform. Let’s view this electoral reform as an exercise in extending our home. Do we want a neat (i.e. without BLS) or a messy (i.e. with BLS) extension? Let’s have faith that things will work out finely with a neat extension.

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