ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

Babak MoussaviSubscribe to RSS - Babak Moussavi

Brexit Offers No Particular Spoils for India

Abhijit Sarkar makes two claims in "Spoils of Brexit for India" (EPW, 13 August 2016): British voters ignored the interests of non-British Commonwealth residents in the European Union referendum, and that the outcome of the referendum will benefit India. The second claim is questionable, and is based on little evidence. The first, meanwhile, relies upon unsubstantiated assertions and unscientific experimentation, but nevertheless raises interesting questions about legitimate democratic participation.

India's Electoral System

India’s first-past-the-post electoral system has generated a series of political defi ciencies that have prompted discussion of institutional change. In March 2015, the Law Commission of India concluded that a hybrid electoral system that includes proportional elements should be considered. Yet, the commission’s recommendations have not gained traction. Changing election rules is not easy. But there are important international examples of successful institutional shifts. Altering India’s electoral system has the potential for rectifying some of the country’s destructive political trends.

Minoritarian Rule

India's 2014 election results showed a high degree of disproportionality in the conversion of votes to seats. The Bharatiya Janata Party won only 31% of the vote and its vote was highly geographically concentrated. The BJP's "landslide" victory was in fact due to the idiosyncrasies of India's first-past-the-post electoral system. While not unique in the country's history, the scale of the BJP's seat bonus in 2014 returns India to "minoritarian" - as opposed to majoritarian -- democracy, in which democratic outcomes are perverted by disproportionately empowering the ruling party.
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