Carlo's Think Pieces

Reflections of a Filipino in the Netherlands

Proportionally Represented Parliament

Posted by butalidnl on 20 November 2011

I am not really proposing Charter Change, but if comes down to it, I would propose changing the Philippine system from a US-style winner-take-all district system to a system of proportional representation.

In a proportional representation system, people vote for the party of their choice, and the total seats in parliament are divided based on the percentages of votes for a given party. Thus, if the parliament has 100 members, a party that gets 10% of the votes will get 10 seats.

Why is a Proportional Representation System Better?
A proportional representation system will result in simpler, cheaper government, and the development of real parties. This system could be implemented so that not only is the national parliament elected this way, but also provincial and city officials. Thus, mayors and governors will be selected by city or provincial councils.

Simpler Elections. People would only have to remember the name of the party of their choice, instead of the names of a lot of candidates. This means that he/she would need to remember at most 3 parties (assuming that he prefers different parties for various levels) – for parliament, province and city. Simple.

Administering such an election is simple; the ballots are simple, and if ballot boxes are separated by level (national, provincial, city), counting is just a matter of piling ballots. It also means that less money would be used in the campaign. There would be no need for sample ballots, and advertisements need to only project a party name. Also, campaign machinery is organized per party, there would be no need for a personal campaign machinery.  And because campaigning is cheap, there is less chance that rich people would control the election.

Programs. Members of Parliament will represent the people who voted for their party. And this means that a party’s program will be more important than individual candidates’ profiles. In Europe, this has led to parties representing various parts of the population, with different policy proposals. Parties who are simply for ‘clean government’ or ‘change’ (and thus, no real program) will be voted out. Parties will stress on the policies in which they stand out.

Every Vote Counts. In a district system, minorities have no voice. If you don’t want either of the two choices for an office, you can’t do anything. You may also decide not to vote if you expect that your candidate has on chance of winning. In a proportional representation system, every vote counts towards the seats that the party will be alloted. In theory, even a single vote could result in a difference of one seat in parliament.

No Pork Barrel. Since Members of Parliament represent parties (and not districts), pork barrel allotments would no longer be necessary or even applicable. Members of Parliament will be more focused on the making of laws, and not on naming a school or bridge, or other specific ‘goodies’ for their districts.

Not District Parliamentary
A UK-style district parliament would not be as good as a proportional representation type of parliament. A UK-style parliament will not make every vote count, there would be more (not less) pork barrel, and the rich can still control the outcome of elections. The UK-style system would only be marginally better than a presidential system.

A proportional system of electing representatives already exists in the Philippines – in the form of the party-list system. The party-list system just needs to be expanded to include all the members of parliament, and it should be opened to all political parties.

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