May 21, 2014

India’s first past the post election myths

IDFC Institute CEO Reuben Abraham and Resident Fellow Vivek Dehejiawrite in Mint: "BJP’s 31% vote share in the polls has been dubbed as too low for legitimately ruling India. This is a dubious claim."

Excerpts below:

" In our first past the post electoral system, it is ultimately seats, not votes, that count. On that score, the BJP’s performance is striking. It is the first time a single party has won a majority since Rajiv Gandhi’s landslide win in 1984. Suppose, though, for the sake of argument, we look at vote shares as a metric of success... no party in any Indian election has ever won the majority of votes cast. Even in 1984, in the mother of all landslide victories, the Congress captured only 49.1% of the vote...

Looking at other countries that use the same system is instructive... In the last four elections in the UK and Canada, in which the polity is far less fragmented, the vote share of the winning party rarely exceeds 40%...

... If, hypothetically, India were to move to some version of proportional representation system, it will be naive to assume that voting behaviour, and election strategies, will remain unchanged. With our current system, parties’ rational strategy is to target resources to seats in which they are competitive, try to swing seats that are tightly contested, and, more broadly, maximize the vote to seat multiplier: that is, squeeze as many seats as possible out of the votes cast."

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