An Effective Electoral system

Electoral system or voting system is a system by which voters can make a choice between the options put forward before them. It is often used in an election or when passing a policy referendum. In a democratic state, the electoral process determines who will in charge of the political office. It is the electorate which confers the power to govern and calls government to account. A voting system contains rules for valid voting, and how votes are counted and aggregated to tally the final result [1] .

According to Encyclopedia Britannica, electoral system, method and rules of counting votes is used to determine the outcome of elections. Winner may be determined by a plurality, a majority (more than 50% of the vote), an extraordinary majority (a percentage of votes greater than 50%), or unanimity. Candidates for public office may be elected directly or indirectly [2] .

In this question, it was asked whether a proper electoral system would be able to uphold rights. Well, first we shall look at what is a proper electoral system? A proper electoral system or also known as a proportional electoral system is a principle which attempts to ensure that the outcome of the election reflects the proportion of support gained by each competing parties. In easier words, a proportional electoral system occurs when there equal amount of votes and seats in the parliament.

Proportional electoral system is totally different from the Majoritarian principle. In majoritarian system, party or candidates obtain a plurality of votes within that certain constituency wins that election.

Examples of a proportional system are Single Transferrable Vote (STV) and Party List System. A single transferrable vote is a method of election where a voter ranks the candidates in order or preference. This system does not depend on the candidate being grouped into their political parties [3] . The votes would be transferred between candidates in a manner similar to instant run off voting, but in addition to transferring votes from the candidates who have been eliminated to the next candidate on the list. This method is being applied in Australia, Ireland, Malta, New York, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Toledo, and Boulder. [4] This system is a good system as it prevents votes from being wasted; this is because all the votes given by the voters would be taken into account. And through this system, the citizens of that specific area would have more voice to voice out their opinion and problems in the Parliament, as they have not only one representative but a larger choice of representative. STV also protects the minorities. This is because the minority voters may split their votes across party lines. They can also exercise choice among candidates from the same party. However, STV has disadvantages. One of it is that this system is extremely complex, as it requires a large amount time and meticulous mathematical calculations.

Party List System on the other hand, is method in which the voters vote for the parties, rather that voting for the individual candidates [5] . For each of the quota of votes a certain party receives, one of their representatives wins a seat in Parliament. This system is being used in most European democracies and also in most newly democratized countries, like South Africa. This system is simple, easy to understand and it works in any uncomplicated manners. It does not require any complicated and time consuming calculations. This system is extremely fair and equitable from the whole distribution of seats. However, the disadvantage of this system is that no single party can secure an absolute majority in the Parliament. It also destroys the valuable local link between the MP and his constituents, as the constituents may not even know their representative. Party List System also places too much power in the hands of those at the top of the party hierarchy.

It is very important to have a strong and proper electoral system. A proper electoral system ensures an effective parliament. By having equal amount of opposition and government in the Parliament, the discussion there will definitely be more effective and law being passed would be checked well. Law being passed in the Parliament should not be blindly passed. When we have a proper Parliament, the bill would be debated well on the principles applied, law involved, affordability, and effectiveness. And a strong Parliament can also help in making sure the rule of law and separation of power in the country is rightfully carried out. The Parliament should be able to carry out a good check and balance with the Executive and Judiciary.

Thus a more effective Parliament would be able to uphold people’s rights and liberties. As the Parliament has a good question time with the Executive, they can help question the policies brought forward. And if the Executive tries to infringe people’s right, the Parliament can prevent it. By having a strong Parliament, even the Judiciary does not have to be that scared of the Executive.

Australia applies the Single Transferable Vote System. The Single Transferable System is used in Senate election there. And it increases the chances of minor parties and independents winning seats, produces closer results in the struggle between the major parties, and makes it difficult for a major party to gain control of the Senate. STV systems were devised to produce a more proportional election results. The parties should win parliamentary seats roughly in proportion to amount of their votes. For an example, if a party has 40 percentages of votes, they should be able to get 40 percentages of the seats in Parliament.

STV was first used in the 1949 Senate election. And in this election, 77 of 937 Senate contests have been won by the candidates from not the ruling party. By things like this happening, it is for sure that a greater range of views could be heard in the upper house [6] .

Thus this shows that, Australia by applying this STV system were and still are able to uphold their citizen’s rights. When citizens of a certain country get to choose their representative and even if their representative loses, by still giving a value to that representative, would allow the opinion of the citizen to be heard. And by hearing this citizen’s opinion could help in uphold the rights of these people.

The electoral system practiced in the United Kingdom is the Simple Majority System. This system is also known as the First Past the Post system [7] . This system refers to an election which is won by candidate which is highest amount of votes. The origins of the voting system lie in tradition, and the voting system is not a matter of law, but of past political practice. One principal merit of the system lies in its simplicity. The candidate with the largest amount of votes in the election wins the seat, irrespective of the proportion of votes cast for himself or his opponents. This system preserves a good local link between the MP and the constituency. In this way, it is easier for the constituent to voice their opinion to their representative. This system also provides a stable government. This is because First Past the Post produces stable majorities and strong government with a reasonable amount of support. This also means that that selected government can rule that certain amount of time with much comfort. By using this system, the people can easily hold the government responsible for any errors or problems. Minority parties would not be blamed by the ruling party if there have been any form of coalition. However the disadvantage of it is that it wastes votes. It is undemocratic as the votes which were making for the party which didn’t win the election would go for waste. This system is also unrepresentative. This means that the candidates who did not win that election do not get anything. In easier words, the winner takes it all. And by applying this system, it may produce minority government. This is because the voters who did not get their representative to the Parliament would need revenue to voice it their opinion so that they can get their rights.

In the United Kingdom, they have unwritten constitution. And they apply parliamentary supremacy. This means their parliament already has the powers to protect their citizen’s rights. The candidates voted by the people have the power to now protect the people who voted for them and make them a member of the Parliament. The Executive are not able to make policies as they wish. However, this can also be look in the opposite way. As they do not have a clear constitution, the Parliament might make law as they wish and these laws can infringe the rights of the people. Lucky, the people of the Human Rights Act 1998, in which all their rights are clearly stated and the Parliament cannot simply pass law inconsistent with it.

Malaysia also applies the same system as used in the United Kingdom. The current voting system being practiced in Malaysia in electing the members of the Dewan Rakyat is the “First Past the Post" system. This means that the candidate with the most amount of votes in each constituency is be selected, even though that candidate may not have won more than half of the votes casted. And with the application of this, the party with the majority seats in Dewan Rakyat is the ruling party, not the party with the most votes. Malaysia applies the Simple Majority System. But difference between United Kingdom’s application and Malaysia’s application, is that Malaysia is country which applies constitutional supremacy. This means the constitution provides fundamental rights and liberties to its people. And if the Parliament tries to pass a law against the Federal Constitution, it would be consider ultra vios.

In the Federal Constitution, Art 5 until Art 13 provides us our fundamental liberties. It is a good thing that we have our rights clearly stated, so that we know what we are allowed to do and what we cannot do. But together with our rights, there already many exceptions.

To top it off, law can be passed under Art 149 (Legislation against subversion, action prejudicial to public order, etc) and Art 150 (Proclamation of emergency) which can infringe our rights.

Basically, all electoral system has advantages and disadvantages. A good electoral system is important to uphold people, their rights. The people of country would only choose people who they know can voice out their opinion well. Their representatives can the ones who they trust to provide them their rights. And it is proven that by having a proper electoral system, the rights and liberties of the people can be upheld well, like seen in the Australian Legal System.