Every time we have elections in our country, there is a hue and cry by the losing party. Is it that we do not have a heart big enough to accept defeat, or is there something inherently wrong with our system? There have been instances where a party has secured more votes as compared to another party but has a lesser number of seats in the assembly. According to the ECP website, PML(N), PTI, and PPP polled 14,874,104, 7,679,954, and 6,911,218 votes, respectively, in the last elections. These figures indicate that in spite of PTI getting more votes, it has less seats in the parliament as compared to PPP. In another analysis, PTI secured 17 percent of the popular vote but could only get 10 percent of the general seats. 

Let us now look at what happened in 2008 elections. PPP , PML(N), and PML(Q) got 10,666,548: 6,805,324 and 8,001,218 votes, respectively. But PML(Q) had only 50 seats against the 89 national assembly seats of PML(N). There can also be an odd occasion where a party securing 50 percent of the total votes may not have a single seat in the assembly. This can happen only in the first-past-the-post (FPTP) system followed in our country. The fact is that our winner-takes-all election system, adopted from 18th century England, has the potential to leave up to 49.9% of the voters in any district feeling unrepresented — regardless of what their race or ethnicity is. Suffice to say that the losing parties will always have some genuine grievances against this deeply flawed system. 

A much fairer system of proportional representation is being employed in more than three dozen countries around the world. In this system each political party is represented in parliament in proportion to the number of people who voted for it. To put it in simple terms and to explain through an example, a party securing 60 per cent of the votes cast should be asked by the Election Commission of Pakistan to nominate 60 individuals in that particular assembly of 100 seats. Those nominated will of course have to meet the conditions laid down in Articles 62 and 63 of the constitution. 

The system of proportional representation ensures that virtually every constituency in the country will have a representation in the national and provincial legislatures. The case for proportional representation is fundamentally the same as that for representative democracy. Only if an assembly represents the full diversity of opinion within a nation can its decisions be regarded as the decisions of the nation itself. 

Voting turnout is significantly higher in democracies which practice proportional representation, for the very simple reason that citizens have a greater motivation to be involved in the decision making process. 

In the twenty first century most democracies practice proportional representation, leaving ironically the so called bastions or citadels of democracy, Britain and the United States, as well as others stuck with anachronistic systems unsuitable for the modern multicultural world. 

Proportional representation is the ideal system for all legislative houses, not only for its practical considerations of being able to eradicate the problems of gerrymandering and unfair apportionment, as well as minimising the practice known as pork barrelling, but also because it abides with the basic tenet of liberal democracy: majorities may rule, but all of the people should be represented. 

With the next elections still more than two years away we need to adopt a system of elections which is least controversial , brings out the most dedicated people in the assemblies, and above all, which is most suited in achieving our national goals and aspirations. There is an urgent need to carry out a debate on this subject in our print/electronic media and assemblies. 

A committee of parliamentarians is looking into electoral reforms these days. A more just system of elections is the need of the hour. It is strongly recommended that the next elections be held on the basis of proportional representation. The politicians siting in the two upper houses, might or might not allow the bill on proportional representation to be passed in the assembly, but we should have a referendum on this issue. 


Islamabad, September 19.