Proportional Election System for the Constituent Assembly
Now time has come to adopt more inclusive and representative election system in the country

By Shom Luitel
Published July 20th 2006 in Nepal News
Nepal has been exercising first-past-post election system which is under the categories of majority system. A debate is also going on whether we should go for proportional election system for the election of constituent assembly instead of the present majority system.

Election Systems in the world

• Majority system
• Proportional system
• Mixed system
• Other

There are three main election systems around the world. These are majority election system, proportional election system and mixed election system. But if we count other less exercised election systems (such as Single non-transferable vote, Borda count and Limited vote that are exercised only in six countries) the number goes up to six.

Total countries= 199
• Majority system= 91
• Proportional system=72
• Mixed system=30
• Other=6

This shows that Majority system is exercised in most of the countries in the world. It is also known as plurality system under which the winning candidate is one who bags the highest number of votes. It may then be found that although a party may get a majority of the votes cast in the election, it may not get majority of the seats. Among 199 democratic countries, 91 counties exercise this election where as 72 exercise proportional election system while 30 exercise mixed election system. Among five branches of majority system (First past the post, Two-round system, Party block vote, Block vote, Alternative vote), Nepal has been exercising first-past-the post system.

The main feature of the proportional election system is that it ensures representation for the party according to their vote percentage. In other words, if party A gets 50% vote, it gets 50% of the seats. Proportional system has two branches. These are single transferable vote and list proportional system. Under the single transferable vote system, constituencies must be multi-members because the allocation is based on the range preference within the constituency. Under the single transferable vote system, the underlying principle is the distribution of a single vote. If any fraction of the vote is not needed to help elect the candidate of the voter's first choice, or cannot be used because the candidate has been eliminated, it is transferred at a discounted value to help elect the candidate of second choice, and so on.

List proportional election system is a simple and effective election system. List proportional election system allocates seats to parties in proportion to the number of votes cast for the party. This system is not candidate centered system, it is party centered system. In multi-member constituencies party managers decide whose names should appear on the list and in what order. That gives better opportunity than most system to include women and members of minority group sufficiently high on the list to win a seat, but it is often seen as giving too much power to the party and not enough to the individual voters. Among 72 counties who are exercising proportional election system, 70 exercise list proportional system. In the context of election of constituent assembly this system is more appropriate not only because it ensures seats to the parties according to their vote percentage but also it is easy and understandable system in short period of time.

For example:

In the time of election of constituent assembly, say population of Nepal is 25.20 million. If we fix 100,000 population = a seat, we will have 252 member strong constituent assembly. In the election for constituent assembly, if Nepali Congress gets 30% votes (for example), CPN (UML) bags 35% of the votes, CPN (Maoist) gets 25% votes, Nepali Congress (Democratic) gets 5% votes and other parties have to be content with just 5% votes, in the 252 member constituent assembly, representatives of different parties will be as follows:

Nepali Congress=75 seats, CPN UML =88 seats, CPN Maoist =63 seats, NC (Democratic) =13 seats and others =13 seats.

Mixed election system contains features of both majority and proportional election systems. It also intends to bridge gap, weaknesses and disparities prevalent in both majority system as well as proportional system. This system has many advantages but in the context of election of constituent assembly in Nepal, this system is not appropriate because of its complicity.

Towards Proportional election system

Majority election system is known as a simple election system to understand and implement. It is also a candidate-oriented election system. It supports the system of majority government and strong opposition party in parliament. Instead of these positive features, it has failed to ensure adequate representation of women, Janajati, Dalit and minorities in the parliament. Proportional election system is famous not only for balancing between voting percentage and seats but also for ensuring minorities’ representation.

This election system is more effective to ensure representation of small parties, women, Dalit, Madhesis and Janajati in the Constituent Assembly. Among the categories of proportional election system, list proportional election system is simple and can be implemented immediately. Due to adoption of proportional election system, in 1994 National Assembly election of South Africa, 52% black, 32% white, 7% non-White, 33% women and 8% Indian were elected. Based on the experiences of South Africa, Indonesia, Sierra Leon and Brazil, political parties are encouraged to give multiethnic candidates in elections. Out of 20 countries where women’s representation in the legislature is quite high, 14 are exercising list proportional election system.


Now it is time for changing election system in Nepal too. Majority election system has already failed in practice. It could not transfer parties vote percentage in the elected seats. Small parties and minorities are under-represented in our legislature. Thus, we need to adopt list proportional election system for the election of constituent assembly. It will be relevant in the context of present conflict transformation since it will ensure representation of Maoist party also in constituent assembly, according to their vote percentage. Further this election system will ensure share of minorities and other under-represented communities in the Constituent Assembly, according to their vote percent.

It will end present "Win or Lose" election psychology and create "Win Win" psychology. No vote will be valueless and small parties' representation in Constituent Assembly will also be ensured. Adult franchise and direct election should be adopted for the election of constituent assembly. Considering that Nepalese laws obligate 16 year age as a matured age for legal obligation and involvement of youth of this age groups in the pro-democracy movement, youth of 16 year of age should be considered as an adult for the purpose of elections for the constituent assembly. For this purpose as well we need to update our voters list.

Constitution should be the document of national consensus. Generally in proportional election system, coalition governments are formed. It encourages reconciliation and unity government. This election system ensures space for both ultra-right as well as ultra-left in the Constituent Assembly. As Nepal is moving towards ensuring peace and justice for every one, we must choose an appropriate election system so that every Nepali should have his/her say in the country’s governance.

Luitel holds LL. M. in Human Rights and Masters degree in Political Science.