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Political Points raised by LALIT at the SAIIA on voting systems and practices

31.08.2005

Following the participation of two LALIT members, Cindy Clelie and Ram Seegobin in the Southern African Institute for International Affairs on 27 July in Port Louis, on the theme "Assessing Governance in Mauritius: Finding Consensus on the Big Issues", in the course of evaluating the seminar, LALIT raised some points that caused interest. SAIIA organizers contacted Lalit for details. We are writing up one or two of these points for web-site readers.
Firstly, there was the philosophical question with practical political implications of "crossing the floor", a fairly common occurrence in the Mauritian Parliament, when this phenomenon is looked at in the context of possible future "proportional representation". While there is a fairly general consensus in the country that some form of proportional representation would be a good thing, and that it could at the same time replace the notorious Best Loser System, this question needs to be considered. If the Electoral Supervisory Commission will make all sorts of calculations to improve the representativity of the National Assembly, the whole system could be ridiculized if there is a good deal of floor-crossing. This point became news again recently when only some 50-60 days after the General Elections, M.P. Guimbeau has already resigned from the MMM and joined another oppostion party, the PMSD.
Secondly, details were asked for from Ram Seegobin on the phenomenon he had brought up of people who split their three votes in the three-MPs-per-constituency system between different parties. Some people may, in the last elections, for example, have voted two MMM-MSM candidates and one Alliance Sociale. How did they decide who to vote for out of the three in the MMM-MSM alliance and who to vote for in the Alliance Sociale. Ram Seegobin had brought up the persistent statistical proof that LALIT has found and published findings on since the 1982 elections that perhaps THE most important factor in explaining different scores for different colleagues in the same party in any one constituency, is the first letter of the surname of the candidates. People, statistics prove it, tend to vote for the candidates nearer the top of the bulletin. This is because many people cannot read and write, so vote by symbol, so vote for the first symbol they see, thus favouring the top. And others, because the bulletins are quite long, and they may intend to split their vote by the proportion to which they support a particular party, it does not matter which candidates they vote for, so long as the proportion they intend to vote for is respected. Ram Seegobin said how, despite all the clear and uncontrovertable evidence to the effect that this is the major generalized voting pattern that explains score differences between candidates of the same party, that many observers prefer wallowing in communal interpretations in order to "explain" everything.