Notes of Ch 3 Election and Representation| Class 11th Political Science

Election System in India

• India is a constitutional democracy with a parliamentary system of government, and at the heart of the system is a commitment to hold regular, free and fair elections.

• These elections determine the composition of the government, the membership of the two houses of parliament, the state and union territory legislative assemblies, and the Presidency and vice-presidency.

• Elections in India are events involving political mobilization and organizational complexity on an amazing scale.

First Past the Post

Under this system:

• The entire country is divided into 543 constituencies

• Each constituency elects one representative; and

• The candidate who secures the highest number of votes in that constituency is declared elected.

• It is important to note that in this system whoever has more votes than all other candidates is declared elected.

• The winning candidate need not secure a majority of the votes. This method is called the First Past the Post (FPTP) system.

• This method is also called the Plurality System.

• This is the method of election prescribed by the Constitution.

Proportional Representation

• Each party fills its quota of seats by picking those many of its nominees from a preference list that has been declared before the elections.

• In this system a party gets the same proportion of seats as its proportion of votes.

• In India, we have adopted PR system on a limited scale for indirect elections. The Constitution prescribes a third and complex variation of the PR system for the election of President, Vice President, and for the election to the Rajya Sabha and Vidhan Parishads.

Comparison of FPTP and PR system of election

FPTP

• Country is divided into small geographical units called constituencies or districts.
• Every Constituency elects one representatives.
• Voter votes for a candidate.

• A party may get more seats than votes in the legislature.

• Candidate who wins the election may not get majority.

• Example-UK and India

PR

• Large geographical areas are demarcated as constituencies.

• The entire country may be a single constituency.

• More than one representative may be elected from one constituency.

• Voter votes for the party.

• Every party gets seats in the legislature in proportion to the percentage of votes that it gets.

• Candidate who wins the elections gets majority of votes.

• Examples: Israel and Netherlands.

Why did India adopt the FPTP system?
• The reason for the popularity and success of the FPTP system is its simplicity.
• The entire election system is extremely simple to understand even for common voters who may have no specialized knowledge about politics and elections.

• A clear choice presented to the voters at the time of elections.
• Voters have to simply endorse a candidate or a party while voting.

• Depending on the nature of actual politics, voters may either give greater importance to the party or to the candidate or balance the two.

• The FPTP system offers voters a choice not simply between parties but specific candidates.

• In constituency based system like the FPTP, the voters know who their own representative is and can hold him or her accountable.

Why not PR System?
• PR based election may not be suitable for giving a stable government in a parliamentary system.

• This system requires that the executive has majority in the legislature.

• The PR system may not produce a clear majority because seats in the legislature would be divided on the basis of share of votes.

• In a diverse country like India, a PR system would encourage each community to form its own nation-wide party.

Why FPTP System?

• Generally FPTP gives the largest party or coalition some extra bonus seats, more than their share of votes would allow.

• This system makes it possible for parliamentary government to function smoothly and effectively by facilitating the formation of a stable government.

• The FTPT system encourages voters from different social groups to come together to win an election in a locality.

• The FPTP system has proved to be simple and familiar to ordinary voters.

• It has helped larger parties to win clear majorities at the centre and the State level.

• The system has also discouraged political parties that get all their votes only from one caste or community.

Reservation of Constituencies

• In this system, all voters in a constituency are eligible to vote but the candidates must belong to only a particular community or social section for which the seat is reserved.

• The Constitution provides for reservation of seats in the Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assemblies for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.

• This provision was made initially for a period of 10 years and as a result of successive constitutional amendments, has been extended up to 2020.

• The Parliament can take a decision to further extend it, when the period of reservation expires.

Who decides which constituency is to be reserved? On what basis is this decision taken?

• Taken by an independent body called the Delimitation Commission.

• The Delimitation Commission is appointed by the President of India and works in collaboration with the Election Commission of India.

• Appointed for the purpose of drawing up the boundaries of constituencies all over the country.

• A quota of constituencies to be reserved in each State is fixed depending on the proportion of SC or ST in that State.

• After drawing the boundaries, the Delimitation Commission looks at the composition of population in each constituency.

• Those constituencies that have the highest proportion of Scheduled Tribe population are reserved for ST.

• In the case of Scheduled Castes, the Delimitation Commission looks at two things. It picks constituencies that have higher proportion of Scheduled Caste population. But it also spreads these constituencies in different regions of the State. This is done because the Scheduled Caste population is generally spread evenly throughout the country.

Universal franchise and right to contest

Who are the voters? Who can contest elections?

• In both these respects our Constitution follows the well-established democratic practices.

• You already know that democratic elections require that all adult citizens of the country must be eligible to vote in the elections This is known as universal adult franchise.

• Till 1989, an adult Indian meant an Indian citizen above the age of 21.

• An amendment to the Constitution in 1989, reduced the eligibility age to 18.

• Adult franchise ensures that all citizens are able to participate in the process of selecting their representative.
• This is consistent with the principle of equality and non discrimination.

Right to Contest Election

• All citizens have the right to stand for election and become the representative of the people.

• There are different minimum age requirements for contesting elections. For example, in order to stand for Lok Sabha or Assembly election, a candidate must be at least 25 years old.

• There is a legal provision that a person who has undergone imprisonment for two or more years for some offence is disqualified from contesting elections.
• There are no restrictions of income, education or class or gender on the right to contest elections.

Independent Election Commission: Article 324: (1)

The superintendence, direction and control of the preparation of the electoral rolls for, and the conduct of, all elections to Parliament and to the Legislature of every State and of elections to the offices of President and Vice-President held under this Constitution shall be vested in a Commission (referred to in this constitution as the Election Commission).

• To assist the Election Commission of India there is a Chief Electoral Officer in every state.

• The Election Commission is not responsible for the conduct of local body elections. The Election Commission of India can either be a single member or a multi- member body.

• Till 1989, the Election Commission was single member.

• Just before the 1989 general elections, two Election Commissioners were appointed, making the body multi-member.

• In 1993, two Election Commissioners were once again appointed and the Commission became multi-member and has remained multimember since then.

• A multi-member Election Commission is more appropriate as power is shared and there is greater accountability.

• The Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) presides over the Election Commission, but does not have more powers than the other Election Commissioners.

• The CEC and the two Election Commissioners have equal powers to take all decisions relating to elections as a collective body.

• They are appointed by the President of India on the advice of the Council of Ministers.

• The Constitution ensures the security of the tenure of the CEC and Election Commissioners.

•They are appointed for a six year term or continue till the age of 65, whichever is earlier.

• The CEC can be removed before the expiry of the term, by the President if both Houses of Parliament make such a recommendation with a special majority.

• This is done to ensure that a ruling party cannot remove a CECwho refuses to favour it in elections.

Functions of Election Commission

• Supervises the preparation of up-to-date voters' list.

• Makes every effort to ensure that the voters' list is free of errors like non- existence of names of registered voters or existence of names of those non- eligible or non-existent.

• Determines the timing of elections and prepares the election schedule.

• The election schedule includes the notification of elections, date from which nominations can be filed, last date for filing nominations, last date of scrutiny, last date of withdrawal, date of polling and date of counting and declaration of results.

• During this entire process, the Election Commission has the power to take decisions to ensure a free and fair poll.

• Can postpone or cancel the election in the entire country or a specific State or constituency on the grounds that the atmosphere is vitiated and therefore, a free and fair election may not be possible.

• The Commission also implements a model code of conduct for parties and candidates.

• It can order a re-poll in a specific constituency. It can also order a recount of votes when it feels that the counting process has not been fully fair and just.
• The Election Commission accords recognition to political parties and allots symbols to each of them.

Special Majority

Special majority means:

• Two-thirds majority of those present and voting, and 

• Simple majority of the total membership of the House.

Suggestions for Electoral Reforms

• Our system of elections should be changed from the FPTP to some variant of the PR system. This would ensure that parties get seats, as far as possible, in proportion to the votes they get.

• There should be a special provision to ensure that at least one third women are elected to the parliament and assemblies.

• There should be stricter provisions to control the role of money in electoral politics. The elections expenses should be paid by the government out of a special fund. Candidates with any criminal case should be barred from contesting elections, even if their appeal is pending before a court.

• There should be complete ban on the use of caste and religious appeals in the campaign.

• There should be a law to regulate the functioning of political parties and to ensure that they function in a transparent and democratic manner.
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