February 23, 2024

August Mellaz: Parallel Electoral System Not Relevant

The election system that will be used in the upcoming 2019 Elections is getting more concrete. The Ministry of Home Affairs has issued 13 strategic issues in the codification of the Presidential Election Law, Legislative Election Law, and the Election Implementation Law. One of the strategic issue is to choose between four alternatives of election system. In the midst of the debate between the supporters of the open-list proportional system and closed-list proportional system, there emerged discussion about Mixed-Member Proportional (MMP) system and parallel system.

Syndication for Election and Democracy (SPD) responds the debates on the election systems with press conferences and recommendation papers. SPD also asserts that we should not let the Election Law derailed from the original intent of the law. In the previous election, the result of the election is not in line with the purpose of the principle of proportionality and simple multi-party system. Below is our interview with the Executive Director of SPD, August Mellaz (08/23).

The discussion on election system has become more diverse. What do you think?

This could be a new exercise for election activists who only talk about open and closed list proportional system. On the other hand, however, we should remember that we want our election to be proportional. The parallel system, which tries to combine the proportional system and majority/plurality system, at the very core is anti-proportionality.

So, parallel system is contradictory with the proportionality principle?

At the end, parallel system will result in high disproportionality. So, it is not an option. Unless if we consider proportionality as non-important.

What about MMP?

I often ask people when they talk about the MMP system: what do they mean by that system? Does it refer to the election system as implemented by the German? If so, there is no single election expert in Germany call this system as MMP. They call such system as personal proportional system, in which they consider the personal proportionality of candidates in order to achieve a proportional result.

I worry that we only labeled the system as MMP, but in practice we use the counting method of the parallel system. If so, the result will be disproportionate.

Election activists also want to create a simple multi-party system. This system is contradictory with the principle of proportionality. What do you think?

First, we need to clarify what we mean when we talk about disproportionality and simple multi-party system. Proportional means the balance between the total number of population/voters in an area with the number of seats available and the balance between the number of votes acquisition with seats acquisition. Usually, there is a little misconception in regards with simple multi-party system. Many people think simple-multi party system means less number of political party in election and in parliament. As a matter of fact, simple multi-party means less influential political party in parliament. Therefore, it does not matter if the number of party in parliament is 6 or 8, but what really matters is the number of significant or influential party is only 3 to 5.

So, how to make the two concept no longer contradictory?

The proportionality, or disproportionality, in this regards, is related to district magnitude. Increasing the district magnitude of an area, that is increasing the number of seats available in an area, will definitely increase proportionality. The increase in proportionality will automatically increase the fragmentation in the party system. In other words, the more seats available in an area, the more fragmented the parliament will be.

Is it possible to have high proportionality while also at the same time establish simple multi-party system?

I think we should not waste too many times tinkering the election system. We have tried to increase the parliamentary threshold in the past, it did not successfully create a simple multi-party system. We should just optimize the current available system variables and to synchronize them with the context and purpose of concurrent election.

What is the concrete way to do that?

We should implement closed-list proportional representation system. However, we need to improve this system by including the name of the candidates on the ballot. Or by combining the closed-list system with presidential election like in Argentina. Or by combining the closed-list system with the open-list system, but the counting method must consider proportionality as its highest priority.

We should not forget that the main reason why we implement concurrent election is to establish an effective presidential administration and simple majority party-system in the Parliament. There are terms and conditions for concurrent election, one of them is closed-list proportional system. If we insist on implementing open-list system, then we should decrease the number of seat per area. I recommend that we follow the example of Chile, where there are only two seats per electoral area. []

Photo: August Mellaz