(Retired Deputy General Manager-Bank of Ceylon)
The results of the recent parliamentary election have spotlighted some shortcomings, arising from the basis adopted when applying the existing Proportionate Representation (PR) arithmetic. However, at the outset, it must be categorically stated that it is not a drawback of the most democratic PR System which ensures a ‘shared-democracy’.
Many good governance supporters ask the question why the JVP having polled a national vote of 543,944 votes won only four seats while the TNA with a lesser total vote of 515,963 confined to the Northern and Eastern Provinces garnered 14 seats out of 196 contested seats.
It is clear that this situation has arisen due to the allocation of seats based on 22 unequally-populated districts along with bonus seats to elect a single National Level Parliament. As a result, the JVP which obtained as many as 35,000 votes in some Districts (Galle and Matara) with a higher voter density, was deprived of a single seat in such districts, while the TNA operating in only four districts with a lesser density of voters in the Northern and Eastern Provinces obtained more seats in the Parliament than the JVP without much contest.
This is tantamount to voters in the Northern and Eastern Provinces, enjoying a value of more than one for their votes, while it remains as one for voters in other areas of the country. If we analyze the figures deeper, it will be seen that the value of one also will get diluted according to the higher-voter density of each district. The arithmetical ‘rounding- off ‘ of votes happening in as many as 22 places has led to a substantial number of votes belonging to smaller parties like the JVP in several districts going into the ‘waste paper basket’!
The simple and the only solution to rectify this anomalous situation is to apportion the 196 seats on the basis of the total National vote obtained by each contesting party without fixing a minimum limit. Thereby, all votes garnered by the main seat winning parties will get an equal value of one to each vote whether it is cast in the North, South, East or West. Also, since the exercise is to elect members for one National body and not for 22 District level entities, it is most logical and rational to adopt this basis of National vote when applying the proportionate arithmetic. The district level allocation of seats in the new Parliament is incongruous as illustrated in the Table below.
NOTE: This new % has been calculated after removing the total votes under ‘Others’(who are not entitled to a single seat) from the National total vote, in order to distribute the total of such unallocated seats among main parties.
It is seen from the Table that the JVP’s seat entitlement is increased from the present four to 10, while that of TNA is reduced from 14 to nine seats when the basis for applying proportionate arithmetic is changed. A minor adjustment also occurs with the two main contenders.
Readers will recall that the writer recently brought up this issue of applying national vote, through several articles and letters to the press and they were copied to all concerned authorities to of no avail. Let us face facts and if we want to consider ourselves as ‘Sri Lankans’ irrespective of race, caste or creed, we should strive for ‘equal status’ and not for ‘preferred status’.
On that premise, I would again exhort, (as brought up in my previous letters to the press) that the PR Arithmetic should be applied to the ‘now- specified’ number of Cabinet of ministers too, so that smaller parties like the JVP and TNA are represented in the highest decision making body of the Country.
We could then boast of a genuine ‘Peoples’ Govt.’ that presents itself as a model to the world. Towards this end, I as a ‘good-governance’ advocating citizen, earnestly appeal to all political parties to support these two most democratic proposals when debating the 20th Amendment in the New Parliament.