Yesterday, 19 December, Ram Seegobin of LALIT made his first comments on the Carcassonne Report on electoral reform. The political relevance of the report is, as yet, unclear. Ram Seegobin will also be on Top FM on Wednesday at 5:30 pm.
Here is what Ram Seegobin writes: Professor Guy Carcassonne, a very close friend of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the notorious “DSK” himself, has produced a report which takes into consideration the political preoccupations of the Prime Minister Navin Ramgoolam (“Il a clairement exprimé ce que devaient être les principaux objectifs à atteindre dans cette réflexion, et nous avons tenté d’y être fidèles.”) From the contents of the Report, we can assume that Ramgoolam’s preoccupations are roughly:
1. Introduction of a system of Proportional Representation
2. Elimination of the present communal Best Loser System
3. Better representation of Women in the National Assembly
4. How to deal with the “crossing the floor” phenomenon
5. The possibility of naming ministers from outside the National Assembly
6. Some protection for the Prime Minister from a vote of “no confidence”
7. Proxy voting for members of the National Assembly who are absent
8. Maintaining, or even increasing, the political powers of the Prime Minister
The Report accepts the analysis contained in the Sachs’ report, regarding the shortcomings of the present system, but categorically rejects all of Sachs’ recommendations. Instead Carcassonne makes the following recommendations:
There will be a drastically reduced number of constituencies, all bigger than the present ones, and of different sizes in terms of number of inhabitants. The new electoral boundaries will be established by a commission which includes the President of the Electoral Supervisory Commission, the Electoral Commissioner, the Director of the Central Statistics Office, and possibly two others. The new constituencies will take into consideration geographical, cultural, and communal factors, and will need Parliamentary approval; the rejection of the proposal, however, will require a 2/3 majority.
Each constituency will elect 4 to 7 members of the National Assembly, depending on the size of the Constituency (except Rodrigues where only 2 will be elected). The total number elected will be about 68, reaching 70, in case some constituencies increase in size.
Electors in each Constituency will express a single vote for a blocked Party List of between 4 and 7 candidates, and depending on the % of votes each Party gets, a proportional number will be elected from its list, from the top downwards. Each party will establish its order of priority, provided the list contains a prescribed number of women candidates.
Up to 1/3 of the Cabinet members can be made up of “personnalités de qualité” who are not elected members of the National Assembly because they find it inconvenient or distasteful to participate in an electoral campaign.
A member of the National Assembly who leaves his/her party will sit as an independent, and another candidate from the list of that party will be nominated.
The Prime Minister keeps his powers of dissolution of the National Assembly at any time before the end of the mandate.
Although the Carcassonne Report states that it is in favour of national parties (“A cet égard, il nous paraît essentiel que les partis politiques mauriciens soient et demeurent avant tout nationaux.”) , it does not seem to address the possibility of regional or even communal parties gathering strength and acceding to the National Assembly through the PR system at constituency level. The campaign could become very communal, and he has no proposal to counter-act this possibility.
Carcassonne does not seem to agree with a mixed PR system, where there are 2 different categories of members of Parliament: some that are from constituencies, and others from a national list. Yet he proposes that there should be 2 different categories of Ministers: some who were elected, and others who are simply in the good books of the PM. LALIT is against non-elected Ministers.
He equally does not think it is necessary to increase the number of members of Parliament, and his argumentation is based on a comparison with the ratios in UK, France, and Germany. He seems to be blissfully unaware of the fact that the present Ramgoolam regime has hardly any backbencher whatsoever. Lalit believes that a greater number of MPs, and indeed a greater number of smaller constituencies, would be more likely to reduce communalism.
But perhaps Carcassonne has been very badly briefed, otherwise why would he refer on several occasions to “l’Ile Maurice”, “population de l’Ile”, “besoins de l’Ile”, when he is making recommendations that apply to Mauritius Island, Rodrigues Island, Agalega, St.Brandon, the Chagos Archipelago!
Electoral Reform is a democratic process, not an academic exercise that takes place in some learned university faculty. A few years ago, the PM Ramgoolam announced publicly that there would be debates and consultations involving all political parties. But then perhaps the PM needed “his” Report, since the MMM and MSM already had their Sach’s Report.