By Norbert Mao
It is urgent for Uganda to deal with the problem of political domination, marginalization and polarization. DP believes that Proportional Representation (PR) is the answer. Dr. Paul Ssemogerere has been the most consistent advocate of this electoral system. During the presidential debates in the last general elections, Col. Kizza Besigye argued strongly for PR. This prompted President Museveni to concede that the system should be considered.
Under the PR system, legislators are elected in large, multi-member electoral areas, such as regions or a group of districts. Each party generates a list of candidates, through internal democratic means, equal to the number of seats in the electoral area. On the ballot, voters indicate their preference for a political party (not candidate) on the basis of the party’s manifesto. The party then gets seats in proportion to the share of the votes it receives.
Under the PR System, the number of seats won by a political party or group of candidates are approximately proportionate to the number of votes received. For example, if 30% of voters vote for a particular party then that party is entitled to get roughly 30% of the seats competed for in that electoral area.
PR has many advantages. It promotes issues-based democracy. Voters vote for a political party on the strength of its policies and programmes as opposed to individuals and this has the potential to promote policy/issue based politics and curb election violence and vote buying.
PR ensures that every vote matters. There are no ‘wasted’ votes in PR, since the election is for the political party and not for an individual candidate. Under the First Past The Post (FPTP) winner-take-all system, if a candidate gets 30% of the votes counted and is declared the winner, the remaining 70% of the votes are rendered redundant. It also means that the views of 70% of the electorates do not matter and will not be represented. In PR system the excess votes, beyond what a candidates needs to qualify for a seat, are transferred to other candidates elsewhere who have stood on the ticket of the same party. A popular candidate with nationwide support can collect votes all over the country and every vote will matter.
PR strengthens institutions. It facilitates the evolution of strong political parties, as institutions and hence multi -party democracy blossoms with party discipline. Undisciplined and non-loyal party members will find it difficult to get high on the party list and legislators will respect party positions in the legislature.
PR eliminates the need for by-elections. Once the party list is submitted to the Electoral Commission, it cannot be changed before the end of that election cycle, hence nobody can jump the queue. There are no bye elections. If an MP dies, the Electoral Commission (EC) will simply look at the original party list and announce the next person in the queue to replace the deceased legislator. If an MP resigns from the party, since he/she was not elected as an individual, he/she automatically loses the seat the next person in the party queue automatically takes up the vacated seat.
PR promotes equity and fairness. It shifts the cost of election away from the candidate to the government and the political party and can reduce the burden on women whose constituencies are the district.
For a country like Uganda burdened by too many Members of Parliament, PR can reduce the size of the parliament. Rather than basing representation on the number of constituencies and districts it can be based on population. For instance the law can prescribe that an MP will represent roughly 100,000 people.
PR also caters for minorities. The seats for special interest groups are integrated into the structure of party lists rather than reserved constituencies which have bloated the Parliament of Uganda. Political parties can be regulated by law to ensure that for every ten candidates they put on the party list, a certain proportion reflects special interest groups and women. This can guarantee minority seats and help reduce the size of Parliament.