Gurpreet Singh: Minorities need to beware of fear mongering by opponents of proportional representation

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      Propaganda suggesting that proportional representation will help white supremacists and neo-Nazis get elected to the B.C. legislature is not only misleading, it's a calculated move to discourage minorities from supporting it. 

      Until November 30, Canadian citizens in B.C. can vote in a referendum asking if the current first-past-the-post system of electing our politicians should be replaced by proportional representation.

      Under the current system, the party with the maximum number of seats can easily form a government even if it receives a lower percentage of votes than another party.

      Under the proposed alternatives, parties would get seats in the legislature according to the percentage of votes they receive. 

      Obviously, this would benefit parties on the margins, while hurting bigger parties that have traditionally dominated the political landscape in our province.

      Not only are the opposition B.C. Liberals opposed to the change, a section within the ruling NDP is also against it and believes in maintaining the status quo.

      This would ultimately help big corporations and unions that always wish to get political decisions passed quickly by those who hold majority in the house. 

      The current system does not reflect real democracy and is based on the rule of a false majority.

      One of the many arguments against proposed proportional-representation systems is that they will encourage racism and extreme right-wing politics. That's just an excuse. 

      Minorities need to beware that this propaganda camouflages the real intentions of the opponents of the suggested systems. They want to maintain control over the electoral system and never let it go to the people.  

      White supremacy and populism have always been a challenge. This has nothing to do with which system we choose to elect politicians.

      That fight has to go on. It doesn’t matter how people vote.

      Donald Trump openly scapegoated Muslims and immigrants throughout his campaign. Yet he got elected through a first-past-the-post system.

      For the record, he received 46.1 percent of the votes in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. That was less than his rival Hillary Clinton, who actually received 48.2 percent.

      Another case in point is the emergence of right-wing Hindu extremism in India under Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He came to power with a brute majority in parliament in spite of his party getting just 31.34 percent of the votes in the 2014 general elections.

      Since then, attacks on religious minorities have grown in India.

      Again, Modi did not get elected through a proportional representation system.

      Thanks to first past the post, his party has more seats.

      These simple facts only prove one thing: the current system does not guarantee any protection from bigotry.

      Had there been a proportional representation system in place in the U.S. and India, Trump and Modi might not have had a chance.

      In fact, we have had a right-wing Conservative government in Canada in the past that was indulging in anti-Muslim rhetoric. We have had governments in the past that passed anti-immigrant and anti-Indigenous legislation.

      Those who are trying to convince us not to vote "yes" in the referendum as it might bring racists to power should rather keep fighting against racism, which is already there and threatens to get entrenched in all levels of the government.

      No electoral system is foolproof to stop racism. It can only be dealt with by using many strategies.

      On the contrary, the election results in the U.S. and India should give us a reason to find ways to recapture power from right-wing politicians.

      A more inclusive system, such as proportional representation, can actually help grassroots-level activists and parties isolate powerful political figures like Trump and Modi.

      Gurpreet Singh is cofounder of Radical Desi magazine. He's also the author of Why Mewa Singh Killed William Hopkinson: Revisiting the Murder of a Canadian Immigration Inspector and Fighting Hatred With Love: Voices of the Air India Victims' Families. Both were published by Chetna Parkashan.

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