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Exam focus – Keypoint on electoral systems, Powers or functions and System of Voting
The electoral systems: The electoral system is the process and procedure by which citizens of a democratic country select through either direct voting or indirectly vote those who will represent them in the parliament and other positions in the government.
Features and requirement of a good electoral system
- An impartial and independent electoral commission.
- Periodic and regular election.
- Adoption of a secret voting system.
- Delimitation of the country into constituencies.
- The adoption of universal adult suffrage.
- Voting atmosphere devoid of fear of molestation and victimization.
- Regular and periodic public display of voters list.
- Periodic revision of voters list.
- Ballot boxes should be tightly secured.
- Compilation of comprehensive voters register.
Types of electoral system
- Adult Suffrage: This system allows all men and women who are not disqualified for a reason or other to vote.
- Male Suffrage: In this type of electoral system, only adult men are allowed to vote, women are prevented from voting.
- Property Suffrage: Owners of property or assets are allowed to vote, women are prevented from voting.
- Tax- Payers Suffrage: Only those who show evidence of tax payment is allowed to vote in this electoral system.
- Electoral College: This is made up of a group of eminent men and women directly elected by the voters in general for the purpose of electing important political figures like president, governors, e.t.c
Electoral Commission: This is a body charged with the responsibility for organizing and conducting free and fair elections in a country.
Powers or functions of the electoral commission
- The electoral commission divides the country into constituencies.
- It registers eligible voters for election.
- It determines the type of voting to be adopted.
- It builds the polling booths in all the constituencies.
- It provides ballot boxes and paper and other election materials.
- It displays and revises voter’s lists.
- The commission screens and register political parties.
- It also screens and registers eligible candidates for the election.
- It organizes and conducts an election in a country.
- Election results are announced by the commission.
Electoral constituency: This is a district carved out for the purpose of representing the interest and opinions of people of the area in the parliament. Division of country into constituencies is known as delimitation.
Factors that should be considered before delimitation of a country into constituencies
- Geographical size
- Geographical contiguity
- Historical experience
- Religious affiliation
- Customs, culture and tradition
- Administrative convenience
- Importance of an area
- Minority consideration
- The number of seats available.
Types of constituencies
- Single- Member constituency: This is the type of constituency in which only one member of the parliament is elected at every election and each voter is entitled to only one vote.
- Multi-Member Constituency: This refers to the type of constituency in which two or more members of the legislature are elected at every election and each voter is entitled to two or more votes depending on the number of candidates to be elected from the constituency.
Problems encountered in the delimitation of constituencies in West Africa
- Ethnic problem
- Religious differences
- Poor town planning
- Political gerrymandering
- Spatial dispersion of people
- Lack of trained manpower
- Inadequate means of transport and communication
- The absence of accurate population census.
System of Voting
- Plurality System or Simple Majority System: This system is also known as First- Past –The – Post or simple plurality is the type of electoral system in which the candidate with the highest number of votes is declared the winner. It does not mean that the elected candidate must secure the majority of the vote cast. For instance, if 70,000 voters voted for three candidates in an electoral constituency thus:-
Candidate A is declared the winner because he scored the highest number of votes and therefore has a plurality. This system is practised in Nigeria, Ghana, Britain, USA, etc
Merits of the plurality system
- The system is very simple to operate.
- It makes it easy for election results to be ascertained.
- The system discourages the formation of a coalition government.
- It does not encourage the formation of many political parties
- Minority groups have the chance of ruling this system.
- IT makes for political stability.
- It makes the elected candidates to be responsible and accountable to the voters
Demerits of the plurality system
- It is undemocratic because, it neglect the wishes of the majority of the voters.
- Majority ethnic group can use their majority strength to secure a simple majority at the expense of the minority group.
- The system leads to waste of surplus votes of the majority.
- It may enthrone mediocre in power.
- It encourages election rigging in order to secure the highest number of votes.
- The elected representatives are not the true wishes of the people.
- Absolute Majority System: In this system, before any candidate is declared the winner, that candidate must score more than 50% of the vote cast.
- Second Ballot System: This system is adopted if the candidate fail to obtain a majority of the total votes cast in the constituency where absolute majority system was firstly used. The candidate or candidates as the case may be who scored less than 10% of the total votes in the absolute majority system will have to withdraw. In this second ballot system, one of the remaining candidates have to obtain the majority of the total votes cast but where no candidate does that the candidate with the highest number of votes will be declared elected.
- Alternate Vote System: This system that is principally used in Australia toes the line of absolute majority system. In it, a voter has to vote by writing 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, etc., in order of his preference depending on the number of candidates contesting the election. At the end of voting, the ballot paper are sorted and arranged according to the first preference of the candidates and counted. That means that every candidate receives ballot paper in which number one is marked against his name. If no candidate secures majority at the end of counting, the candidate with the lowest number will be eliminated and his votes distributed to other candidates according to the second preference on the papers. Where no candidate still secure preference absolute majority, the process will continue until one candidate secures the absolute majority of the total votes cast in the constituency.
- Proportional Representation System: This system is used to elect a representative in multi – member constituencies. This system is used to secure representation in the legislature in such a way that each group or political party gets seats in the proportion to the percentage of votes cast in favour of a group or political party, the more the seat that will be allocated to it.
- Functional Representation System: This is an unpopular method of electing people’s representatives. It is a method of electing representatives along professional or occupational lines. Constituencies are carved out along professional or occupational lines.
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