A small tweak in our current nomination process can save our democracy!

direct democracy

Our current election system is FPTP (first-past-the-post) system. Under this system, all parties interested in fighting an election in a constituency Nominate a Single Candidate for an upcoming Election (NSCE), as their nominee. This has many severe drawbacks. The drawbacks can be ameliorated by letting a party Nominate Many Candidates as its Nominees (NMCE). The sum of votes collected by its multiple candidates would be considered to be votes for the party in that constituency.

The party-list of candidates, originally in alphabetical order, after counting of votes, would be serialized in order of votes collected by candidates, to yield a prioritized-party-ist, with the highest vote-getter at the top. If a party wins in a constituency, the candidate at the top of its prioritized-party-list would get the seat. This simple tweak in the nomination process can lead to far-reaching changes in the election outcomes and in the way the government has to be organized.

As all voters voting for a party can, and should, be considered to be members of the party, NMCE will lead to the democratization of a party’s nomination process by giving voters the right to choose the party nominee by a plurality of their vote. It can also lead to internal democracy in the parties, particularly if they allow all (with the fewest obvious exceptions) who desire, to be a candidate affiliated with the party.

NMCE combines primary elections (popular in the USA) with the main election. In the process, it improves upon the US primary elections process. In the US they tend to make it difficult for an individual to fight primary elections by requiring such individuals to collect a lot of signatures from the party members. Secondly, voter turnout is generally low (of the order of 10%) in primary elections. Also, primary elections held a few months before the main election, are just as expensive as the main election. All these three flaws of the US primaries are gotten rid of by combining the primary with the main election, as is done with NMCE.

NMCE will make it easy to make alliances. This is because an alliance can be looked upon as a party with its internally divided structure, divided along party lines within the alliance. A voter’s vote for a candidate would get added to the candidate’s tally as well as to the tally of the candidate’s party, and to the tally of the party’s alliance as well.

An alliance would win a seat if it is the largest vote-getter in that constituency. This would be in consonance with FPTP. I am assuming that the incumbent government would not want to switch to a different election system. However, for the alliance partners, the distribution of the seats won by the alliance, among the alliance partner-parties should be considered to be an internal matter for them to decide. If they decide to give the seat to the party with the largest number of votes in a constituency, it will be in consonance with the FPTP system; and the smaller parties will suffer, as they do now. This would open the door for a party like BJP to do its social engineering by giving token seats to the leaders of numerically small castes.

However, having already suffered the unfairness of the FPTP system, the opposition parties, may decide to share the seats won by their alliance in accordance with the precepts of the Proportional Representation (PR) system of election: “Seats to each party in proportion to votes for the parties, in the whole state.”

Application of this PR tenet is going to enable small parties within the alliance to win their fair share of seats, and a party like BJP would not be able to do its social engineering. In the process, the legislature will become very diversified, as diversified as our society is. People will be rightly concerned about forming “a stable government” in such a diverse assembly.

To avoid instability, The whole assembly will have to be considered as the government. We will have to change from the monarchical pyramidal structure for a government, to a flat democratic equalitarian structure. There would be no ministers with any kind of ministerial perks. No laal-batti, no palatial mansions to live in, and so forth. All will be simple MLAs. All laws will be passed with a simple majority. It is quite possible, on different issues, the majority may be constituted of different combinations of parties and members. There would be no necessity for anti-defection laws, as there is no monarchical government in danger of falling. There will be no ‘ministerial position’ to offer to an MLA, as a lure, to catapult one from among them to the position of a Humpty-Dumpty-CM, on the top of a wall; and no danger of the Humpty-Dumpty-CM ever having a great fall!

How would such a ministerless government function? It would function by democratizing the executive body as well as its functioning. It would disperse decision-making by single persons (ministers) to ad hoc affinity groups formed self-selectively on the basis of similarity in their interests and aspirations. As they formulate their proposal on an issue, they will have to keep an eye on similar legislations in other affinity groups with similar interests and aspirations and would have to be willing to mutually modify/amend their proposals so as to garner the approval of the majority in the whole assembly.

The group of legislators most responsible for formulating particular legislation would be responsible for its implementation as well. They will pick out the secretaries they can perceive (from the records of the secretaries in the past) to be sympathetic to the legislation and hand over the legislation for its proper implementation, and maintain oversight of them. A couple of legislators opposed to the legislation too could be accommodated within the oversight committee to make sure the implementation is not over-enthusiastic (facilitating in checks and balance concept).

This kind of working of various Assemblies a Flat Assembly Democratic Government is in line with the thinking of Benjamin Franklin, who had, in 1775 formulated a plan for an “Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union” that included a twelve-(equal)-person executive council empowered to carry out administrative and executive functions while Congress was in recess. He considered one person executive (as President) to be the “fetus of monarchy”.

If the USA had adopted a multi-member flat-top executive (of equals), the history of the governments around the world might have been quite different. Unfortunately, today, Switzerland is the only country with a multi-member flat-top structure of a 7-equal-member Federal Executive Council. In most countries, power structures happen to be molded in pyramidal form, possibly because of our monarchical legacy, and/or because elites hoped to get that monarchical power in their own hands one day, or to get one of the plum executive positions by hook or crook. I have not seen any research on this aspect of the US history.

“Power tends to corrupt, and …”. As such, let us not have a power structure in which power is concentrated in the hands of a PM or the President; or a CM or Governor. Distribute it on the floor of the assembly equally among all MLAs, making sure, they are not controlled by money, or the lure of a ministerial post, or with control over their nomination (in the next election) in the hands of one or just a few, or with the threat of ED, or CBI, or IT.

Key to the above transformative politics lies in the replacement of NSCE by NMCE.

Why should the ECI allow a change in the nomination process from NSCE to NMCE?

Just last year, according to a report in The Hindu of September 26, 2022: “… the Election Commission is likely to take up the issue of internal democracy within parties next, according to EC sources.” Since NMCE would facilitate intra-party democracy, the ECI is bound to comply with the request.

Dr. Satinath Choudhary is a  retired Computer Science Professor in the USA


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