EC mulling single ballot paper for FPTP, PR

  • Plans to propose the idea if provincial and federal polls are held together
What the poll body is planning, however, has drawn mixed reactions, with some saying it will avoid confusion among voters and others saying it limits people’s choice

Jul 29, 2017-Amid a preliminary proposal of holding provincial and federal elections together on the same date, the Election Commission (EC) is planning to propose an electoral system where a vote cast for a candidate from a party under the first-past-the-post (FPTP) system will be considered a vote for the same party under proportional representation (PR) system. 

This, according to the EC, would avoid confusion among voters as they will have only two ballot papers--one for provincial assembly and another for federal parliament. 

If what was practised in the two Constituent Assembly elections is to be followed, the EC has to manage four ballot papers, which it says could create confusion among voters. “We are considering proposing a single ballot paper for the FPTP and PR systems in view of the confusion four ballot papers might create,” said Election Commissioner Ishwari Prasad Paudel. “If the parties can make laws in line with what we are considering, a vote cast for a candidate of a party under the FPTP system will be considered a vote cast under the PR system for the same party. But this plan can be thought about only if the provincial and federal elections are held together.”

However, there is catch in EC’s single ballot paper idea. It will limit people’s choice, and some say in a democracy where people should have full freedom while electing their representatives, their right to choose should not be curtailed. For example, a voter could vote for a particular candidate or party under the FPTP but might like to choose another party under the FPTP.

Why then Rastriya Prajatantra Party-Nepal (RPP-N), which is now RPP, managed to become the fourth largest party after the 2013 CA elections is an example. The party, with only 2.79 percent votes and zero seats under the FPTP, had secured 6.66 percent votes under PR and secured 24 seats. Interestingly, then RPP-N was the only party that benefited the most, as other major parties like the Nepali Congress, CPN-UML and then UCPN (Maoist), now the CPN (Maoist Centre), did not have much of a difference between their FPTP and PR votes.

Smaller parties, however, see what the EC is mulling a conspiracy to marginalise them. “The EC’s proposal is against the principle of inclusive democracy. This aims to serve the interest of larger parties,” said CP Mainali, chairperson of the CPN (ML).  

According to him, FPTP and PR are two parallel systems guaranteed by the constitution. “Mixing them together will be against the constitutional principle,” he said. 

Some election experts, however, said the EC’s proposal is worth listening, as it would help reduce the number of invalid votes. “I have long been calling for holding both the elections on the single date and counting a single vote for both FPTP and PR to address the issues related to time and invalid votes,” said former chief election commissioner Nil Kantha Upreti. According to Upreti, this system should be okay with parties, given “not much of difference” in FPTP and PR votes the parties had secured in the last two CA elections. 

According to the constitution, provincial and federal elections must be held by January 21 next year.  Earlier, the EC had proposed provincial elections in the second week of October and federal elections in the third week of November.

Published: 29-07-2017 07:06

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