Talking about the 10% threshold for Proportional Representation (PR), which has been hogging centre stage at the expense of more important issues, the leader of the opposition let it slip that his request to bring it down to 7.5% was due to the fact that he “felt pity for the MSM”. There is, of course, nothing wrong with showing sympathy, empathy or even feeling pity for people. Better than gloating about their misery. Except that we are talking about issues beyond party politics. Issues of national interest which will change the way we vote in this country forever.
But to be fair to Paul Bérenger, he is not the only one. Small parties have reduced a debate which has the ambition of bringing more representation and more democracy to our country in so many ways, to the threshold of PR. And we have had as many proposals as personal interests. The MSM has been insisting on a 7.5% threshold and would vote the reforms lock, stock and barrel if only it is guaranteed a threshold which would allow it to place its candidates in the national assembly.
The PMSD, a smaller party still, would perhaps vote for electoral reform as long as the threshold is brought down even lower to 5%. Cehl Meeah will not vote in favour of these reforms and had the decency not to offer any threshold but it is not difficult to guess what that would be. The threshold would go lower still if we asked Le Parti Malin’s Aubeeluck for his opinion.
And the misinformation around the issue stinks! The 10% threshold which demagogues are qualifying as some sort of plot concocted with the intention of eliminating small parties was in fact suggested and defended by highly credible and enlightened people long before some big parties were reduced to almost nothingness: In the Sachs report, Justice Albie Sachs, Former Judge Robert Ahnee as well as Brij Bihari Tandon, the former chief election commissioner of India, all agreed that this threshold should be maintained to avoid “the dangers of political fragmentation on communal or religious lines”.
The Select Committee on Sachs Report, chaired by MMM’s Ivan Collendavelloo and whose members included three MSM MPs, proposed the same threshold for the same reasons. The 10% threshold was also recommended by Rama Sithanen – after years of studying different electoral systems in different countries – and the latter did explain – admittedly in a language which no one understood – the reasons behind this percentage.
There is no report to date which has recommended a lower threshold. Carcassone in fact did not propose a legal threshold but the natural threshold he recommended ranges between 14% and 25%, depending on constituencies!
Sachs insists that the relatively high threshold ensures “a more or less complete correspondence between the will of the people as expressed on a national basis and the extent of representation in the House.” If people want some parties to be represented, they will make sure they are. If they don’t, that’s what democracy is about: the rule of the majority.
So, the not-so-subtle blackmail that some parties are using to stop reforms if the threshold is too high – is condemnable. We are not saying they should or should not vote the reforms in. What we are saying is that when small interests come to replace national responsibility, it is a sad day for democracy.