some guests watching proceedings from parliament

The Zambian parliament last night overwhelmingly agreed to remove the mixed member proportional representation clause from the Constitution of Zambia (Amendment Bill) National Assembly Bill (NAB) Number 17 of 2015.So what is this mixed member proportional representation that Zambians initially wanted to be included in the Constitution?

PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION VOTING SYSTEMS

Proportional representation voting (PR) is the main rival to plurality-majority voting. Among advanced western democracies it has become the predominant voting system. For instance, in Western Europe, 21 of 28 countries use proportional representation, including Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.

The basic approach of proportional representation is simple: legislators are elected in multimember districts instead of single-member districts, and the number of seats that a party wins in an election is proportional to the amount of its support among voters. So if you have a 10-member district and the PF win 50% of the vote, they receive five of the ten seats. If the UPND win 30% of the vote, they get three seats; and if MMD gets 20% of the vote, they win two seats.

The mixed proportional systems were devised to solve the many problems caused by plurality-majority voting systems. As a rule, these voting systems provide more accurate representation of parties, better representation for political and racial minorities, fewer wasted votes, higher levels of voter turnout, better representation of women, greater likelihood of majority rule, and little opportunity for gerrymandering(manipulate the boundaries of (an electoral constituency) so as to favour one party or class)

Still don’t understand? Watch this clip.

Script

Queen Lion of the animal kingdom is looking to improve her democracy. She recently allowed citizens to elect representatives to the Jungle Council which governs the kingdom.

However, she recognizes that her citizens are not happy with the voting system. Let’s watch an election on one of the small islands of her Kingdom to see why:

On this island there are three political parties: the two big ones: Kea and Tuatara, and a small third party, Kakapo.

On election day, the citizens each cast one vote for a local candidate they want to represent the range they live in. The results are as follows:

With the average across the island that Tuatara gets 49%, Kea gets 48% and Kakapo gets 3%.

The election is run using First Past the Post, meaning that candidate with the most votes wins. Because Tuatara got the most votes in each range, they get to control 100% of the seats on the council.

And this is why so many citizens are unhappy. The majority of them, the 51% who voted for other parties, get no representation on the council at all.

This seems unfair to Queen Lion but she’s not sure how to fix it. The citizens like having local representatives and don’t want to change the range boundaries.

But luckily Kiwi, one of the citizens of this island, has a suggestion for Queen Lion on how she can make the system better while keeping local representation and leaving the ranges as they are.

The idea is called Mixed Member Proportional or MMP and it makes two changes: the number of seats on the council is doubled and each citizen gets two votes, not one.

Here’s how it works:

At first, election day for Kiwi is just the same as before.

He gets a list of candidates running to represent his local range on the council. Kiwi picks one and the winner will be the candidate with the most votes.

So far the system is no better  Tuatara again wins all the local elections and still more than half of the citizens don’t have any representation. But here’s how Kiwi’s second vote  and those extra seats on the council  fix this.

Kiwi uses his second vote to pick his favorite political party.

These second votes are tallied up and show the percentage of support that each of the political parties has among the citizens as a whole and reveals how imbalanced the council is so far.

To fix this imbalance, members of the political parties are added, one at a time, to make the council more proportional.

Tuatara is the most over-represented and Kea the most underrepresented, so Kea gets the first empty seat.

This continues, adding one Kea at a time until both Tuatara and Kea are over-represented and Kakapo is under-represented, so they get the final seat.

Now, the jungle council represents, as close as possible, the actual preferences of the citizens  which is a huge improvement over the old, first past the post method.

There is, however, one interesting question that should arise at this point:

Exactly who decides which members of the parties get those extra seats?

The way it works is that, before the election, the political parties make a list of their favorite candidates in the order that they want them to get on the council.

So, if there is only get one extra seat, the name at the top of their list is chosen. If they get two seats, the first two are chosen, and so on.

This makes MMP a bit different from other voting methods in that it makes political parties an official part of the way the election works.

This may give the party leaders greater control over their members because they can reward or punish their actions by changing their placement on the party list.

While this may be a disadvantage of MMP there are a number of other benefits that Queen Lion, in particular, likes.

Because fewer votes are wasted, it mostly Eliminates Gerrymandering and prevents minority rule.

It also gives more choice to the citizens by encouraging political diversity.

This point is worth expanding on.

Notice how, with MMP, the percentage of votes for the local representatives isn’t the same as for the parties. This is because in the local elections, citizens have to vote strategically.

For example, Kakapo voters don’t like Tuatara at all, but they can tolerate Kea. Since there are so few Kakapo voters they know that their candidate doesn’t have a chance of winning the local election, so it’s really a race between the two big parties. Thus many of the Kakapo will vote Kea in the hope that he might win and be their representative.

However, when it comes to voting for their favorite political party, this strategy doesn’t matter. The more votes a party gets the more representatives it has on the council.

So citizens are free to vote for smaller parties they like like knowing that every vote counts.

Queen Lion reviews her options and decides to switch her Kingdom to MMP. Now, for the first time, the Jungle Council is a true reflection of what her citizens want.

Conclusion

The mixed member proportional representation was about making sure we are all repersented in Parliament.

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18 COMMENTS

    • I agree with you visionary.. Right now it’s the people who are the loudest,intimidate others-cadres that get the largest representation.Uneducated rural voters get most representation when they have no clue about what goes on in Lusaka.We are all focused on money-how will we pay the Mps? Poverty mentality. Reduce pay for MPs and we will afford a larger parlaiment.,reduce presidential entourage and trips abroad,reduce medical tourism abroad,don’t buy $1000 satellite phones for ministers,reduce cabinet..if we ran out of cost saving ideas we can check out how the Tanzanians are doing it.

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    • Using money as an excuse to do wrong things, you are right “stupid Zambians” they spend more than 5 million kwacha on each useless by-election and days upon days in court persecuting the opposition and journalists paying lawyers millions and then say there is no money. There are many other examples. Its stupid!!!

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    • This is why Zambia will never move forward. Please also agree to remove your nonsense By-Elections as it is a waste of money and bring violence. So in case of resignation or death, The party that won will select a person within themselves in the party?? to represent them in that constituency until the next general electrons.

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  1. Makes a lot of sense. Why would anyone think of removing such a progressive clause. We can’t use the current temporal situation to shoot down progressive clauses. I would have liked it to go through but probably. It probably not good for the ruling party but it a true reflection of how people voted. People have been talking about it but i think very few of understood it. Thanks Lusaka time for the Info.

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    • Imwe do you read or just comment? The clause was deferred and not removed or shot down. They were voting on whether to include it now or later? Please learn to stick to the subject when debating.

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  2. Proportional representation is also used in South Africa. It also prevents wastage of resources as a result of unending bye-elections. If an MP dies or defects, the party simply replaces that person in parliament.

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  3. I kept thinking……surely Fr Chiti and his G.C weren’t just making empty noises……quite a lot of thought was invested in the final draft…..which now am afraid MPs are being rushed through with….what with the festival season in the air??

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  4. Very brilliant article and it makes a lot of sense, too. What PF doesnt know is that this might actually work to their disadvantage. What would happen if the opposition was to win the overall elections, then PF will lose everything? Be careful, PF. You might just fall into the same pit you are digging for your “enemies”!

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    • What would happen? ???

      IT IS GOING TO HAPPEN! !!!

      Then these dull MPs will look truly foolisch for rejecting this!

      We, the People, will have the last laugh!

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  5. I said so in an earlier post elsewhere on the same subject that the current parliamentarians have advanced insignificant reasoning for throwing out that provision. It has been dealt a short term convenience at the expense of solving a problem medium to long term. This is what is frustrating about Zambia; we are so short-term in our decision making and world view.

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  6. When we oppose ati we are UPND cadres. Anyone who supports something Kambwili proposes is naive. I always say Zambians don’t read and research, then again someone will always argue, that’s social media for you. I will continue to say it. So now it has to take a white man to make a video with pictures of animals to try and educate us. Still you will have fellas here still parroting the government position. Never trust your government. If at all we get a UPND government in future, my advice to UPND cadres here is don’t trust them. That’s my principle maximum – pressure on the authorities, that’s the only we get a civilized government.

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  7. I said it this morning on LT in another article.Fellow Zambians let us not reduce the constitution to a Tribal contest.This is a vital document that shall protect you and your children regardless of tribe.If you have observed its the 39 UPND MPs who voted to leave it the draft while all PF Mps said remove it.What they don’t is that they are digging there own grave.what happens if HH wins next yr.do you remember the parentage clause on KK it worked against Chiluba.Lol bola Pashi bane.

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  8. You have told us the advantages, now tell us the disadvantages, and especially why the British have not introduced it in their governance systems if it is true that it is all honey and milk?

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