Carlo's Think Pieces

Reflections of a Filipino in the Netherlands

Posts Tagged ‘party-list’

Raffle for Partylist Groups

Posted by butalidnl on 24 June 2012

The Comelec will be holding a raffle of partylist groups to determine their order in the ballot. The poll body had approved Resolution No. 9467 mandating a raffle of accredited party-list groups “for purposes of determining their order of listing in the official ballot” for the May 13, 2013 national and local midterm elections.

The rationale for this is that partylist groups are striving to be the first in the alphabetical order, resulting in a large number of partylist groups’ names starting with the letter ‘A’, and even some starting with ‘1’ (which comes before ‘A’). So now, Comelec wants to just hold a raffle to make the listing ‘fair’.

The problem is that the raffle is not that fair either. If we follow the logic that many people will just vote for the first party on the list of partylist groups, a raffle will mean that the party which gets drawn for the first position would probably get seats for free – simply as a result of pure luck. While more deserving parties with a much better parliamentary record may get less seats than otherwise.

All this sounds like Comelec is earnestly seeking to reinvent the wheel. After all, very many countries have party list systems for their whole parliament. Comelec could have studied how they approach such a problem (and other problems regarding party lists).
In the Netherlands, the whole parliament is elected using the partylist system. Parties are listed based on the votes they got in the preceding elections. New parties then are added at the end of the list, and ordered based on the order of their registration. The system is fair and rather simple. The system ensures that the more significant parties get top ranking, and that new unproved parties start off at the bottom of the list.
Many other countries have similar systems.

A party’s ranking is important. For instance, election debates are open only to the top parties on the list – up to six parties at times. And it does have something like a bandwagon effect – if your party is Nr 1, it convinces some people to vote for it. So, when parties split, there are bitter court cases to determine which faction ‘inherits’ the party identity and its ranking – the loser ends up being ranked as a new party.

The Comelec raffle is scheduled to be held on 14 December. There is still time to scrap the raffle idea, and adopt the Dutch solution to the ‘problem’ of ordering the partylist groups.

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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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Fixing the Partylist System

Posted by butalidnl on 27 March 2010

The partylist system is supposed to give underrepresented sectors in Philippine society a voice in the House of Representatives. It allocates 20% of total House seats for the partylist representatives, who are elected on the basis of proportional representation.  The partylist law limits the partylist system in various ways:
– parties have to have a minimum of 2% of the vote to get 1 seat, and multiples of this to get additional seats;
– parties can get at most 3 seats.

With these limitations, it became mathematically impossible to fill up the original 50 seats allocated for partylists (now 54 seats). Thus, the Supreme Court decided in April 2009 on the Carpio formula, which waives the 2% minimum for seat allocation, and upholds the principle of filling the 20% of seats reserved for partylists.

The Carpio formula gave seats to 18 parties which had not obtained 2% of the vote.  The lowest percentage needed to get a seat was obtained by Agham, with 146,062 votes (or 0.9523% of the votes).

I think that the Carpio formula worked well, in that it not only filled the seats alloted for partylists, but it gave a wider number of parties a seat in Congress. Some problems remain with the partylist system, though.

More than 6%
Parties that get more than 6% of the vote still get only 3 seats. This is unfair, since it effectively disenfranchises the people who voted for the “additional” seats. Bayan Muna, one of those which got more than 6% solved the problem by setting up additional parties: Gabriela and Anakpawis. So now, the vote is divided among these parties, and there is little “excess”.  However, this option is not open to many parties which do not have satellite sectoral organizations. I think that the 6% limit should be lifted.

Proliferation of Parties
The proliferation of partylist groups vying for a seat in the 2010 elections is due to a number of reasons. First, there is no real definition of “underrepresented sectors”. Thus, you get regional groups running – which theoretically ARE well represented by their regular district congressmen. Or groups that do not have any real roots with the sector they represent. Or groups that are proxies for established parties.

Then, the effective threshold for entry has  been lowered from 2% to 1%. This means that parties do not need to get as many votes as before to get a seat. Where it used to be that a party would need about 300,000 votes to get a seat, only about 150,000 will be needed this time around.  This number is within the reach of more groups, encouraging them to participate.

I think that it is not a bad idea to have many parties participating in the partylist vote. However, in order to make the system fair, better rules should be made to weed out groups which are mere proxies of existing parties, or which do not represent underrepresented sectors.

The Mad Rush to the A’s
And there seems to be a mad rush to be the first in the list; and since the list is alphabetical, everyone wants their party’s names to start with “A” or even “1”.  I think that there is a simple way to stop this mad rush to the “A’s”.  First, that parties are listed on the basis of the number of votes which they got in the previous elections (that is the system that they have here in the Netherlands).  And for those which are new, for them to be listed in the order of registration (thus, the first registered appears first). Then, the parties are given numbers so that their supporters can easily find them on the list.

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Yes to Ladlad

Posted by butalidnl on 14 November 2009

The COMELEC rejected the registration of Ang Ladlad, an LBGT (Lesbians, Bisexuals, Gay and Transexuals) group that wanted to run for the party-list elections for the House of Representatives. The reason they gave was that this group “tolerates immorality”.  To bolster their claim, they cited passages in the Bible and Koran to prove that the group “violates moral and faith”.

This decision is a gross violation of the rights of Ang Ladlad. Why are the Bible and Koran referred to in the decision of the Comelec? Aren’t they supposed to decide on the merits of the application only? As far as I know,  Ang Ladlad has met the requirements put forward by the Party List Law,  and the LBGT sector is definitely an under-represented sector in Congress. The commissioners have no right to put personal prejudices to play in this matter.

“It is a disgusting display of ignorance and bigotry. It betrays a disturbing ignorance of their mandate as a poll body, and the commissioners involved should be forced to review their duty as election officials,” Rep. Hontiveros (Akbayan  party list representative) said. “They should be made to read the constitution.”

The Supreme Court should force the Comelec to revise its decision, on the basis of the separation of Church and State.

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Adjusting the allocation of party-list seats

Posted by butalidnl on 23 April 2009

The Philippine Supreme Court has decided to scrap the 2 percent (of the total votes) minimum for winning a party-list seat in Congress. This made it possible to fill up the 54 seats reserved for party-list Representatives in the House. This was because the SC realized that having a 2% lower limit made it mathematically impossible to get 54 seats filled; and that having too few party-list representatives was undesirable, even unconstitutional.

But this is only one of the ways of adjusting the party-list law to ensure that it produces the needed amount of Representatives. The original law had both a minimum percentage (2%) and a maximum number of seats per party (3 seats). The solution that the SC chose was to scrap the minimum. The seats could also have been filled by scrapping the maximum – thus allowing parties to have more than 3 seats.

There are advantages and disadvantages in either approach. The scrapping of the minimum required votes (as they have done now) ensures that more parties get representatives, and thus potentially allows more “underrepresented sectors” to get represented. However, it raises the possibility of parties winning seats even when they have only a few votes; and thus “overrepresenting” these parties. The present party-list groups could also give birth to “new” parties in the hope of getting more total seats in Congress.

Scrapping the 3-representatives per party limit is fair in that those parties with more supporters get proportionally more Representatives than those with less supporters. The problem with this is that some parties will dominate the party-list groups, and even drown out the smaller party-list groups in Congress.

The Supreme Court’s choice of scrapping the lower limit is probably the better one. It maximizes the number of party-list Representatives, giving a voice to more points of view.  The best part of the SC’s decision is that it decided that leaving so many of the party-list seats unfilled was unconstitutional. For so long, these seats were left unfilled, and there was not too much fuss about it. If the empty seats were for district Representatives, the uproar that would ensue would ensure that immediate steps would have been taken to fill the seats.

We could take the logic of representation even further. The House of Representatives should then be composed in such a way as to provide representation to the widest variety of constituencies.  I believe that this is best achieved by increasing the number of party-list seats – from 1/5th of the total to perhaps one half. And together with this would be the lifting of the upper limit of 3 seats/party. With this number of Representatives chosen by proportional representation, it would then be possible (even desirable) to allow all parties to vie for these seats. The underrepresented sectors will still be able to have enough representatives in this system. At the same time, the established parties would be more answerable to a national constituency than now.

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