Friday, 17 February 2012

CERI National Conference Statement

Conference Statement

More than 250 delegates from 22 States of India gathered together for two full days at the Vishwa Yuvak Kendra at the National Conference of the Campaign for Electoral Reforms In India (CERI) and have arrived at the following Statement of the Conference, after due deliberation for the consideration of the Election Commission, the Parliament and the Government of India.

Indian Democracy is still in a state of emergence though democracy at the global level is at crossroads today. From distribution of values for the larger welfare of all it has altered to the accumulation of values in the hands of a few. The emergence of nation state also saw the evolution of new forms of concentration of power and new concepts of individualism and liberalism intruding into spaces of governance. These concepts also gave birth to capitalism as a powerful social and political system. The contours of democracy in modern times emerged as a systemic dominance over the powerless, a major shift from people’s power to concentration of power in the hands of a few people. On the other hand, among the ordinary masses there also evolved a quest for power as resistance and power as participation. The flame of democracy is kept alive in such communities of peoples.

India, supposedly the largest democracy in the world, is a multicultural society, which is in need of very special measures for inclusive democratic governance. The undercurrents of India’s complex reality make it difficult for any form of democracy to function freely. The First Past The Post (FPTP) electoral system in India has further accentuated the intricacies of its governance. It challenges the premises of representativeness of citizens in democratic governance, as it is neither proportional nor inclusive. In political terms India has moved to an irreversible phase of multi party system and coalition politics. Many countries in contemporary world that are genuinely concerned about inclusive representation to their citizens in governance have taken up the Proportionate Electoral System, which takes care to give representation to all voters. PES ensures that generally indigenous and minority communities get their proportional representation in the Parliament.

Campaign for Electoral Reforms in India (CERI) initiated this process in 2008. We are delighted that the Chief Election Commissioner of India Dr. S.Y. Quraishi released the CERI Policy Document for Proportional Representation System and has promised the formation of a Committee to look into Proportional Representation system in India. We are also happy that CERI will be made a part of such a Committee when it is formed. This National Conference adopts the Mixed Member Proportionate Electoral System with a ratio of 30% direct seats and 70% party list seats and also two votes system with closed party list. In counting and distribution of seats the Conference confers with the Webster-System.

Introduction of MMP may call for an expansion of the size of the parliament. The Conference is of the opinion that India, being a huge country with more than 120 crores and 74 crores voters will have to make an expansion of the Parliament in congruence with the size of population without undermining the need for manageability. Therefore, this Conference expects that the proposed Expert Committee by the Election Commission would take up this matter and recommend to a later Parliamentary Committee of India that we hope will be set up, to consider all possible complex dimensions and arrive at a size of the Parliament that will be proportionally inclusive and professionally manageable. This Conference seriously debated on bicameral parliament in India and has decided to respect the wisdom of the Indian State to deal with this issue.

This National Conference took the question of reservation/ separate electorate for Dalits, Adivasis/ Tribals, Women, BCs and Minorities in the MMP and suggests that the present arrangement of reservation to be continued and be integrated in the party list system of all parties contesting elections as it is reflected in the CERI Policy Document. A widespread healthy democratic practice in PES is ‘threshold’. This Conference discussed on aspect and suggests a threshold of 1% of overall polled votes or a win of three directly elected seats. Under the pretext of delimitation India generally witnesses gerrymandering. This conference opines that there will be a need for redistricting after national census but not before elections.

This conference discussed on the question of internal party democracy and opines that parties should have utmost freedom of how they want to conduct the affairs of their party without the government exercising much normative control. However, taking into serious consideration the existence of feudalism, nepotism and tendencies to perpetuate dynastic control over parties, this Conference also highlights the utmost importance of ensuring inner party democracy in every electoral system, be it FPTP or PR system. This Conference strongly recommends that the State should be responsible for all electoral financing.

This National Conference firmly believes that issues like negative voting, right to recall etc. make themselves irrelevant in PR system and issues like corruption, violence, communalism and casteism will be drastically reduced in PR system as witnessed in all countries that have taken up to PR system. Therefore, this National Conference of CERI appeals to the President of India, the Prime Minister of India, to the Parliament of India, to the Election Commission of India and to all citizens to make all possible efforts to usher in Proportionate Electoral System in India at the earliest possible time. Passed unanimously at the end of the Conference.