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Right to Representation and Participation English

Right to Representation and Participation English

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Published by: Priyanka Tisseverasinghe on Aug 26, 2010
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Electoral systems determine the rules according to which the voters may express their  political preferences and according to which is possible to convert voters into parliamentary seats (in the case of legislative elections) or into government posts (or executive positions) in the case of elections for the president.Electoral systems influence voting behavior and election results. They shape politicalrepresentation and party systems. The effect of electoral system should not beunderestimated: Electoral systems play an important role in determining political preferences and in the transfer of power (in the form of parliamentary seats or executive positions).Elections are the democratic methods of choosing representatives of the peoples throughtheir votes. Elections are a technique for forming representative bodies and/or for delegating authority depends on the type of political system or the system of elections.Elections constitute one of the forms of political representation towards participation.Elections are considered as the best source of legitimacy for the democratic politicalsystem. A government which has been chosen by universal suffrage through free and fair elections is recognized as legitimate and democratic. In the concept of liberal or representative democracy, the governing political elites must be chosen by elections in afree and fair manner.
Functions of Competitive Elections:
Elections may be thought of as an act through which:-
the electorate expresses its trust in the persons elected;-
a representative parliament or governing body is chosen, inclusive of parties,ethnic or religious segments, sectors and levels;-
the government of the day can be controlled, re-elected or defeated.Such assumptions usually correspond to view as to what function elections should fulfill.In countries characterized by social fragmentation, elections should fulfill the function of either giving fair political representation to the various ethnic, socio-cultural groups, or of  bridging the cleavages politically by bringing about parliamentary majorities. In a pluralsociety, elections should intend to lead to the representation of all ethnic-religious groups,and at the same time, to the formation of a majority Government (like in Malaysia). Thisimplies that the competition between political parties must be limited with in the normsof democracy.The design of electoral systems is a vital component of these processes. It cannot beconsidered in isolation from the wider context of constitutional and institutional design,and it can be critical for areas as diverse as conflict management, gender representationand the development of political party systems. Done well, electoral system design canadd to the momentum of political change, encourage popular participation, and enable theemergence of legitimate representatives who are capable of handling a wide range of 
2needs and expectations, immediately and in the future. Done badly, it can derail progresstowards democracy or even political stability.To be successful, electoral system design processes must build understanding and trust– not just among politicians and election administrators, but among civil societyorganizations, among commentators, and above all among the citizens belong to bothmajority and minority communities of a country undergoing democratic crisis andlooking for reform. Electoral systems must be designed not only to work under currentsituations but also to accommodate future changes in attitudes and behaviour as electoralincentives change. They can contribute to the development of stable democracy or theycan be a major stumbling block to it.There are a large number of different electoral systems currently in use and manymore permutations on each form, but for the sake of simplicity, electoral systems iscategorized into three broad families
plurality/majority systems, proportionalsystems, and mixed systems.
 Within these there are nine
First Past The Post (FPTP), Block Vote (BV),Party Block Vote (PBV), Alternative Vote (AV), and the Two-Round System (TRS) areall plurality/majority systems; List Proportional Representation (List PR) and the SingleTransferable Vote (STV) are both proportional systems; and Mixed Member Proportional(MMP) and Parallel systems are both examples of the mixed model. In addition, there areother systems such as the Single Non-Transferable Vote (SNTV), the Limited Vote (LV),and the Borda Count (BC) which do not fit neatly into any particular category and can beregarded as three further sub-families. Refer to the attached document for detaildefinition of each system.
The Principles of Representation:
There are two basic principles for classifying electoral representation systems: majorityrepresentation or proportional representation. The two electoral systems can be definedaccording to two criteria: The decision formula and the principle of representation.In majority systems, winning a seat in parliament or any elected body, depends on acandidate’s or political parties ability to win the required majority votes. The respectiveelection laws usually read as “the candidate who wins the majority of the votes cast shall be elected”. In the proportional systems, the gaining of a seat usually depends of theshare of votes which the various candidates or political parties can attain. Candidates or  parties who have been able to win a predetermined required number of votes will beelected. A political party is allocated as many seats as this required number of votes fitswithin the total number of votes gained in the elections. Majority as a decision principlemeans that the majority of the votes cast decide who wins the election. Proportionality asa decision principle means that the result of an election is decided according to the proportion of votes cast that is obtained by each candidate or party.
Political Effects of the majority formula:
The application of the majority formula means that only the votes cast for the winningcandidate count in political terms. Under the majority formula, different values andsuccess are attributed to the votes cast. Only those of the winning candidate lead tosuccess, those of the losing candidate(s) don’t. There is a difference in the numeric andthe ‘success’ value of the votes.The following results of the Sri Lanka Parliamentary elections conducted under themajority formula explain the relations between the votes cast and the seats gained:
Parliamentary Election – 1970
 Party Votes Seats % Votes % SeatsUnited Front 2,440,476 116 49 77UNP 1,895,341 17 38 11Federal Party 345,727 13 5 9TamilCongress115,567 3 2 2MEP 46,571 0 0.93 0
Parliamentary Election – 1977
 Party Votes Seats % Votes % SeatsUNP 3,175,991 140 51 83SLFP 1,683,753 8 30 5TULF 399,043 18 6 11LSSP 227,548 0 4 0CP 159,326 0 3 0CWC 35,743 1 0.5 0.6

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