The Right to Recall

Voters in Chhattishgarh have recently exercised their ‘right to recall’ elected representatives. Although the general reception of the idea, strongly advocated by Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee, has been welcoming, this article advises caution.

The manner in which this worked in Chhattisgarh is described in the story linked above thus:
‘The Chhattisgarh recall ballot papers have only two symbols — both chairs with one occupied and another empty. The electorate will vote on the empty chair if they want to recall the elected representative or exercise their franchise on the occupied chair if they want the person to remain in office.’

I don’t understand how this fits in with our First Past the Post (FPP) system? Rarely, if ever, does the winning candidate get a majority of votes cast. In our multi-party elections, the winner’s average votes tend to be between 25 and 40%. How, then, can we expect that the same person will have the confidence of more than 50% of the electorate on a recall ballot? Of course, popularity changes while in office. But surely, the entry criterion cannot be less demanding than the one required to stay on the job? Or have I missed something in the manner of original elections to local bodies in Chhattisgarh?

Of course, one may say that in the original election, there are several opponents, and therefore vote-share tends to be less than majority; while in the recall vote, the only options are to let them continue in office or recall. This works on certain assumptions – let us assume that in the original poll, there were three candidates – A, B and C. A won the poll by getting 36% of the total votes cast, while B and C got 33% and 31% respectively. How do we predict voter behaviour in this original poll in the hypothetical case that C wasn’t in the fray. There are no run-off elections in the FPP system, and it is entirely possible that most of the people who voted for C would have wanted B as their second alternative. Demanding of A to demonstrate a simple majority later without modifying the FPP system is strange.

Written by
Tarunabh Khaitan
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  • Totally agree with the contention that the FPP method has quite a few ‘glaring’ loopholes. And steps like these will only go to the extent of costing the exchequer to treat the symptoms and not the malaise.

    Are there any steps or bills proposed to improve the system of electing representatives?

  • I totally agree with the contention that the current FPP method of election has quite a few gaping loopholes and as long as these loopholes exist, steps like Right to Recall will only address the symptoms and not the malaise.

    Currently are there any bills/proposals to improve the election process in this respect?

  • As defined in the example, If A can be declared as the winner of the elections even though he has secured only 36% of the votes polled, then he might as well be recalled considering any good %ge of votes going against him in the recall poll. Simple Majority, as mentioned in the Constitution and in regular practice means 51% of 100 but not a marginal %ge over and above the second best voted candidate. The explanation itself demonstrates that A has almost 64% votes polled against where is his majority??

    When a candidate can legislate by just acquiring an un-even majority lesser than the simple majority and govern all the 100% voters, then there is no malaise in recalling the candidate in similar circumstances. The pendulum swings both sides isn't it??