Is the National List serving its purpose?
The Parliament of Sri Lanka comprises 225 members: 196 (87 per cent) are directly elected from the 24 districts while 29 (13 per cent) are indirectly elected as National List MPs.
The purpose of the National List:
The purpose of having an instrument such as a National list is to enable professionals, academics, and any such eminent persons to enter parliament, without being disadvantaged by their lack of pre-established constituencies and networks due to not being professional politicians. It’s meant for valuing and drawing into parliament those who have made important investments in learning and professionalism, in ways that do not accrue popular political recognition.
Is the National List a success?
That raises an important question. Are National List MPs making a significant extra contribution in Parliament, justifying their inclusion? Until now there could only have been impressionistic answers to that question. But the unique web based platform Manthri.lk is able to quantify and compare the activity level of every member in parliament, so the question can be answered with some precision.
And, the answer is…
Overall then, National list MPs contribute 25 per cent more in parliament, but this is driven by the National List MPs in the Opposition. Government National List MPs contribute about 10 per cent less on average than district list MPs. It would seem that the National List is serving its purpose — but only because of the opposition appointments. Those appointed to the National List from the Government are not living up to the expectations of the system.
Analysis of performance:
Looking at the data on parliamentary activity between May 2012 and August 2013 shows that on average, national list MPs contributed 25 per cent more in terms of net productive time in parliament than District List MPs. But their contributions are not equally impressive. There are four national list MPs amongst the top 22 contributors (top 10%) in parliament. These are (in order): Anura Kumara Dissanayake (JVP), A.H.M Azwer (UPFA), Harsha de Silva (UNP) and Eran Wickramaratne (UNP). But there are also four National List MPs amongst the bottom 10 per cent. The opposition has 12 and the governing coalition has 17 National List MPs. The average contribution of an Opposition National List MP was double that of a government National List MP.
How the National List works:
Political parties receive their National list allocation based on the proportion of votes received throughout the nation, not just in one district (hence the term “National List”). A Political party must announce its National list candidate prior to an election, and is expected to make its appointments from it. Unlike in the case of a district MPs, where the voter indicates their top three preferences, there is no opportunity to indicate a preference for National List MPs. That is why they are considered INDIRECTLY elected, through the vote for the party.