Mixed results in international recall cases
In 2003, and over 1.2 million people in California signed a petition triggering unscheduled elections to boot governor Gray Davis from office for mismanaging the budget. Abhijit Patnaik reports. Will it work in Indiadelhi Updated: Aug 31, 2011 15:09 IST
In 2003, and over 1.2 million people in California signed a petition triggering unscheduled elections to boot governor Gray Davis from office for mismanaging the budget.
That constituted over 25% of votes cast for the governor's office in the last election, as required by law for the recall to take place.
The man who replaced him was Arnold Schwarznegger. The Phillipines follows a similar rule. In other countries, such as the Schaffhauses canton of Switzerland, merely 1,000 signatures are required on the petition. In Ticino, Switzerland, 15,000 signatures are required.
Despite the small numbers, as of November 2003, no elected representative had been successfully recalled, according to a note prepared by the United Kingdom House of Commons Library.
But will recall of elected representatives work in India? A 25%-of- votes-rule for MLAs and Mps could end up recalling many of them.
"Out of 543 MPs in Parliament today, only 120 garnered more than 50% of votes. With this system, 423 of them could have been recalled," says MR Madhavan of PRS Legislative Research, a parliamentary think-tank.
For MLAs, a 25% voters petitioning rule means getting around 40,000-50,000 signatures in each legislative constituency, which can be easily done by any opposition party, Madhavan says.
In the United Kingdom - whose parliamentary model India follows - the 2009 expenses scandal led to calls for a recall system.
"But in a multi-party parliamentary democracy such as India, extra care will be needed to not turn the right to recall into a sword of Damocles hanging over the heads of our legislators. Policies take a certain time to deliver solutions to people, and this could range from 3 to 5 years. This should not be misconstrued to be neglect of one's duties and used as grounds for recall," says Madhavan. The most recent instance of recall, in Wisconsin, US, reflected the importance of accountability of elected representatives. Seeking retribution, against six senators who had voted for a labour law overhaul, the people of that state voted two of them out of office. It seems, unlike Arnold, they won't be back.