Nigeria, like the United States, currently adopts the “winner take all” electoral system.
Last month, President Yar’Adua accepted recommendations from the Nigerian Electoral Reforms Panel stating that 30 per cent of the seats in the National Assembly, states House of Assembly and Local Government councils will be filled based on the representation of parties in proportion to the valid votes won in the election. (Seventy per cent of such seats are recommended to be filled through the winner-take all system.)
Many argue that the winner take all system is antiquated (indeed, a relic of our colonial past) and that the nation needs to upgrade to an electoral system that is more reflective of present day problems and the coalition of electoral voices that are needed to solve them.
The proportional voting system has its obvious advantages. For a country mired with political conflicts from marginalized groups such as the people of the Niger Delta, a proportional voting system would ensure that their voices and ideas become part of national agenda setting. This would invariably lead to greater voter participation and better representation of Nigerian ethnic groups.
However, one major draw back of the proportional voting system is that it is a lot more complex and difficult for voters to understand than the winner take all system. In addition, it requires modern voting technology for it to be practical given its relative complexity.
African countries with proportional voting systems include Burkina Faso, Burundi, South Africa, Liberia and Lesotho.
Should Nigeria adopt a proportional voting system? Should she not?
Would the complexity of proportional voting create further loopholes that could foster electoral rigging?
What of women? How should women representation fit in under a possible proportional voting framework?
Proportional Representation (PR):
Under PR, representatives are elected from multi-seat districts in proportion to the number of votes received. PR assures that political parties or candidates will have the percent of legislative seats that reflects their public support. A party or candidate need not come in first to win seats.
In contrast, under the “winner-take-all” single seat districts, where votes going to a losing candidate are wasted, even if that candidate garners 49.9% of the vote. This leaves significant blocs of voters unrepresented. Voters sense this, and so often we do not vote for a candidate they like, but rather the one who realistically stands the best chance of winning—the “lesser of two evils.” World Policy.org
Credits: image link