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CEC for proportional representative system

Thursday 7 December 2006

Special Correspondent

Experience showed "health of our democracy is not that good"

Kumbakonam: The time has come to shift to proportional representative system of elections, Chief Election Commissioner N. Gopalaswami said.

Delivering the second V. Narayanan Memorial Lecture (Narayanan was the former Chairman of City Union Bank) at Shanmugha Arts Science Technology and Research Academy University, Mr. Gopalaswami said 60 years of election experience had shown that the "health of our democracy is not that good." Voting pattern, winning seats in elections, background of candidates, their behaviour as legislators made people ask "Is this really a representative democracy?"

Election statistics were disturbing and called for reforms and changes. A candidate, who wins a seat in the election, polls less than 50 per cent of votes. Those who lose , collectively get more votes than the winner. But he wins the seat. This, Mr. Gopalaswami said, was not really representative democracy. The shift should either be to proportionate system of seats on the basis of votes polled, or a winner should get 50 per cent plus votes.

He said that statistics revealed that the voting percentage was much higher in the local body elections compared to Assembly and Parliament elections. Again the polling percentage in general elections was less than that in Assembly elections.

Of the 543 Lok Sabha seats, candidates in 325 constituencies won, polling less than 50 per cent of votes.

Stating that people with criminal background contested elections, he said in this connection that the Election Commission had recommended to the Government that those chargesheeted and likely to be imprisoned for not less than five years should be prevented from contesting. But, the necessary amendment to the law had not come into force. In the 2004 general elections, in 19 States, 511 candidates with criminal records contested.

With a view to preventing candidates with criminal backgrounds from contesting, the EC had suggested that candidates should file an affidavit giving details of criminal cases. But, here also candidates did not mention the truth and many hid their criminal records.

The Chief Election Commissioner called upon the people to be vigilant and ensure that those who misused powers of legislators were not elected.

Answering questions, he said that the election system in the United States was far more superior. Prof. Col. R. Sethuraman, Vice-Chancellor, SASTRA, spoke.

See online : The Hindu

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