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Report No. 255

Chapter IV

From First Past the Post to Proportional Representation

A. The Current System and Its Alternatives

4.1. While multiple electoral systems exist across the world, traditionally, the debate has centred around the merits of the 'first-past-the post-system' (hereinafter "FPTP") vis-à-vis variants of the proportional representation system.149

149. Andrew Reeve and Alan Ware, Electoral Systems: A Comparative and Theoretical Introduction 6 (2001)

4.2. The FPTP system, followed in Lok Sabha elections, is regarded as one of the simplest forms of electoral systems, where each voter has a single vote, and where a candidate wins if he receives the highest number of votes in a constituency.150

150. Mahesh Rangarajan and Vijay Patidar, India: First Past the Post on a Grand Scale, International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, <>

4.3. The system of proportional representation has many variants, one of the most common being the list system. In the list system, political parties present lists of candidates in advance, who are awarded seats in proportion to their party's vote share, usually with some minimum prescribed thresholds.

4.4. Another variant, the method of the single transferable vote, is followed for elections to the Rajya Sabha. In this system, the electoral college, comprising of MPs and MLAs, rank candidates in order of preference. Their vote is allotted to their first preference, and if no one emerges with a majority, the least voted candidate is removed from consideration and the second choices of those who voted for him are taken into consideration. This process continues till a winner with a majority emerges.151

151. Reeve, supra note 149, at 150-151

4.5. During the drafting of the Constitution, various systems of proportional representation were considered, but the FPTP system was eventually adopted to avoid fragmented legislatures and to facilitate the formation of stable governments.152 In the years since, certain criticisms have consistently arisen regarding the working of the FPTP system, which has led to a re-evaluation of the merits of the proportional representation system. This section will look at the arguments advanced for and against the alteration of the electoral system in India.

152. Constituent Assembly Debates (Proceedings), Vol. VII dated 4th January,1949

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