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Sunday, 15 March 2015

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Women and minor parties representation absolute pre-requisite:

De-limitation hits a snag

De-limitation - the crux of the electoral process has hit a snag with the Elections Commissioner saying that it could be completed in 90 days while the Additional Commissioner of Elections and former Director General of Registration of Persons vehemently saying it was out of the question and could not even be completed in the hundred day program

Ninety days

"Although the Election Commissioner Mahinda Deshapriya said recently that delimitation can be done within 90 days, according to the feasibility analysis, delimitation is not possible within the 100-day program," so said H.G. Dharmadasa, former Additional Commissioner of Elections and former Director General of Registration of Persons.

Speaking at the discussion 'how can the 100-day program promise to reform the electoral system to be implemented?', held at the SLFI recently, H.D. Dharmadasa said, "Although President Maithripala Sirisena has promised in his manifesto that delimitation could be done within the 100-day program, the thing is to make this a reality before the next dissolution of Parliament, where we have time till next April in 2016. However, taking the latest technological facilities and

gearing up of the provincial and district administration and also that of the Survey Generals Department, we do not have to wait till the next dissolution of Parliament in 2016 to implement the electoral system,"

The discussion was held using a comparative analysis of three variants of the recommendation of the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) chaired by former Minister Dinesh Gunawardene, Professor Rohan Samarajiva and Dr. Sujata Gamage based on simulations of the results of the past four General Elections.

Out of three variants that Prof Rohan Samarajeewa and Dr. Sujata Gamage explained, 60:40 (First Past the Post: Proportional Representation) ratio that they identified as the closest to the PSC recommendation, with some adjustments to accommodate small-party and other concerns.

Speaking at the discussion Prof. Rohan Samarajeewa said, "In this ratio 140 MPs were elected first-past-the-post (FPP) in 140 newly delimited electorates; 70 MPs are elected through Proportional Representation (PR) applied to remainder votes at the district level; and 25 are appointed through the National List as at present, giving a total of 235 MPs in Parliament.

"60:40 (First Past the Post: Proportional Representation) ratio that they identified as the closest to the
PSC recommendation"

Prof Rohan Samarajiva Dr. Sujata Gamage

This solution results in 60 percent of the seats in Parliament being decided on the FPP method; 30 percent by remainder-based PR and approximately 10 percent by PR applied to total votes gained. This yields a 60:40 (FPP: PR) ratio.

The meeting that we had recently with Elections Commissioner, Mahinda Deshapriya and leaders of political parties, this is the ratio that has been agreed upon and open for further discussions,"

Topical and timely

Several important proposals surfaced which were topical and timely for reconciliation. Small political parties must be given a fair opportunity in any reform.

Sri Lanka has small political parties with geographical strongholds such as the TNA/ITAK and those whose support is geographically spread out such as the JVP. Naturally these forces must be given a reasonable chance when the final draft on the new electorates are made. Concern has also been expressed about the stability of future governments that will be formed, especially in the light of the weakening of the executive presidency. This is an important consideration.A successful solution would also include measures to remedy Sri Lanka's woeful under-performance regarding women's representation in Parliament and also to bring in more professionals in to the political field.

"The current reform of Parliamentary elections must be considered as a first step of a larger process of reforming the entire electoral system. There is little support among the public for any increase in the number of MPs because they are seen as a drain on public resources.

Since already too much money had been expended for elections in the centre and the periphery in holding elections with private and public funding," said Prof. Rohan Samarajeewa.

He also stressed that, "One way to maintain the size of Parliament at 225 is to radically reduce the number of National List MPs from the present 29 to 15. This will decrease the ability of political parties to bring into Parliament professionals who may not do well at electorate level campaigning. It will also seriously stymie efforts to bring women into Parliament. The smaller the National List, the more difficult it will be for small parties to gain representation in Parliament.

Women's issues

The requirement that every third appointment from the National List should be a woman does not remedy women's representation issues sufficiently. True participation of women in politics requires opportunities for representation directly through the hustings.

A rotating reservation of seats as 'women's only' is the only effective means of bringing women into the political process in traditional societies such as ours. The National List should contain at least one-third women,"he said.

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