18 May 2005

The Web

Childish games

The political controversy over the electoral boundaries drawn up by the Electoral Commission is uncalled for, childish and quite absurd.
Electoral boundaries will always remain part of a contentious issue. Optimum proportionality between votes obtained and parliamentary seats won can never be achieved with an electoral system like ours.
Irrespective of the painstaking analysis undertaken by the Electoral Commission in its latest report to try and mimic proportionality based on local election results, the system will always produce winners and losers even before the electoral race begins.
The Nationalist Party has every right to complain that the way the districts have been drawn up puts them at a disadvantage because seats obtained would not reflect the party’s vote. But Lawrence Gonzi and Joe Saliba seem to suffer from political amnesia. The source of their complaint has been the very essence of the Labour Party’s incessant protestations over the past few years that the electoral boundaries gave the Nationalist Party a majority of seats irrespective of the electoral result obtained.
It goes without saying that the perennial losers of this district mayhem are Alternattiva Demokratika and for all its worth any other political formation that may want to contest elections.
This senseless bickering between two supposedly mature political parties over electoral boundaries will never cease unless the electoral system is overhauled once and for all.
Toying with the idea of reducing the number of districts and electing more seats from a single district will not solve the problem. It will only postpone it for a future date and more importantly it will retain the parochial nature of national politics.
It is in the public interest that every vote cast at an election is represented in Parliament and if political parties hold this principle dear, the only solution would be strict proportionality between first count votes obtained on a national level and parliamentary seats.
To achieve this Malta would be turned into one big district and a national threshold of say five per cent could be introduced to ensure governability. In this way, there will be no more bickering on district boundaries since the number of seats a party obtains will be known as soon as the first count vote is out.
Why such a system should be so hard to introduce is beyond common sense. Somehow, the PN and MLP prefer the masochistic route of sticking to an outdated system which has and will continue to castigate them no matter how hard the Electoral Commission tries to patch things up.
The PN has to stop its subtle attack on the Chief Electoral Commissioner and return to the negotiating table with the MLP and AD to find a workable solution for a complete reform of the electoral system. Hopefully we will be spared the excuses that a five per cent threshold could possibly open the door for the likes of Norman Lowell to make it to Parliament. If people so choose to elect a maverick like Lowell, it is their democratic right to do so.
The solution is not a street-by-street analysis of voting patterns as if playing chips on a bargaining table but a radical reform of the electoral system.
The country can do without childish controversies over district boundaries. The issue at stake is democracy and whether the will of the people as expressed in an election is correctly reflected in Parliament.

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