Views on Electoral Reform (Proportional Representation)


#1

Do you agree with Proportional Representation?

  • Yes
  • No
  • Undecided

0 voters

Here in Canada (as well as in the UK from what I’ve heard) there has been debate on whether we should abandon the plurality voting system (first-past-the-post) in favour of proportional representation. Personally I believe that Proportional Representation should be implemented. I’ll use Canada’s and Britain’s example.

In Canada our government is dominated by a minority Conservative government (125 out of 308 seats) led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper with the support of the Quebec Separtist Bloc Quebécois (51 seats) in legislation. The standard argument against PR is that PR will pratically always result in coalition government (unless there is an absolute majority which is very difficult to obtain). However it is not like plurality voting is resistant to coalitions as seen in Canada’s two back-to-back minority governments.

Opponents of PR tend to argue against it because of “kingmaker” third-parties which have a disproportionate amount of power in coalitions. But what about Bloc Quebecois who don’t even have the majority vote of Quebec (despite having 51 of their 75 seats)? They are actually going to have some of their separtist agendas put to the forefront because they have allied with Harper’s Conservatives. The Bloc, a party that only got 10.5% of the national vote, has a disporportionate amount of stroke in Parliament. Therefore it is not like first-past-the-post is “kingmaker-proof”.

In Britain, they have an example where Labour had only 35% of the popular vote but 55% of the seats in parliament. With only slightly more than a third of the national vote, they are free to war-monger in Iraq and keep sucking up to Bush when the majority of Britons are anti-iraq war. is this fair? I think not. While coalition governments in PR require compromise and can give a “kingmaker” role to smaller parties (note: this happens in plurality voting too), its better than giving full powers to one party who can do whatever they want against the will of the people (only 35% voted Labour and a majority are anti-Iraq war).

I propose that the best possible system (obviously not any system is perfect) would perhaps be Mixed Member Proportional Representation. This involves having a party composition in Parliament equivalent to the popular vote. They should then slap on a 5% Popular Vote Threshold to be eligible for winning seats to avoid there being a huge mass of fringe parties (especially the BNP) in Parliament, which has posed a big problem for Italy and Israel’s political stability. However I believe that half of these seats should be contested in single-member constituents in the traditional plurality voting method so that geographical accountability is still in place for MPs. As a result half of the MPs in Parliament will be electorate reps, half will be list MPs (to bring the parliament back to proportion).

This way in the end while Parliament will be proportional to the vote, each riding will still have an elected MP that can be held accountable for their riding. New Zealand currently has a system like this in place and I think it would be the best possible system for Canada and Britain. This system was also in place in Germany since 1946 and has worked well for them. What do you think? This would please the Britons who hate the fact that Labour can do whatever they want without a true majority.

It would also please myself because then I could actually vote in conscience for a party I support, being the Green Party in Canada (who would have made the 5% threshold if people actually voted on conscience). In the last election we had the choice between Liberal, Conservative, NDP, Green and Marxist-Leninist in my riding and I abstained the vote because it was a Liberal-stronghold. Voting for Green would have been a wasted vote anyway and considering Liberal was a “lesser of the two main evils” to myself, I just simply abstained just like many frustrated voters do.


#2

personally Im a supporter of PR because without it, you can have a party like the greens or lib dems in the UK, with a smattering of support all over the place, who get very under-represented, which will reduce peoples belief in the democratic process. FPTP favours parties that have extreme support, so a 70% rating in one location and 10% in another.
Its true that PR can lead to weak government, but I personally believe the gains outweigh the costs.
I’m very interested to hear what other people think.


#3

Im undecided. I like the idea of smaller parties getting representation, but I hate the idea of a tiny party holding the balance of power. I can see both sides ;(


#4

Yes you are speaking about the “kingmaker” position where the one who holds the balance of power holds the government hostage and gets what they want. However a 5% election threshold would solve this. Israel’s parliament is very unstable because their threshold is only 2%. The extreme-Jewish Orthodox and extreme-conservative groups have often “held up” Likud so that they could have the opportunity to infuse Israeli legislation with radical elements in exchange for supporting Likud. As a result these groups have become more powerful than the vote suggests. Italian Parliament is also very chaotic because of all those small parties. Each Coalition has like how many parties? It’s ridiculous.

For those that go above 5% and get representation, they can also take larger parties hostage but as I’ve stated before, this happens in first-past-the-post as well. The Bloc Quebécois don’t even have majority support in Quebec but due to plurality voting they have 51 out of 75 Quebec seats and thus have the “stroke” to influence the Conservatives.

Just recently the Bloc Quebécois voted in favour of the Harper government’s budget because Harper promises the Bloc leader that he will pass policy which would give provinces more independence (which pleases the separtist Bloc Quebécois very much). So in a first-past-the-post system, basically Canada is catering to separtists despite them getting only 10.5% of the popular vote (and less than 43% in Quebec itself!). Harper in this case though is doing this for his benefit as well because he said a few years ago that he wants Alberta to build a “firewall” around themselves so that they can hog all of the petroleum. This is of course not fair because you don’t see Ontario hogging all of their resources/money. Ontario is like big brother to the other provinces and Alberta is like the younger brother that finally got rich but doesn’t want to share.

In the UK it would have been likely that a Labour-Liberal Democrat coalition would be formed and as a result they would pull out of Iraq (since all of Parliament could then gang up on Labour) and keep Labour “in check” when it comes to legilsation that would piss off most Britons.


#5

Definately proportionalrepresentation, preferably using the single transferable vote system.

Works for Australia - small parties don’t get in power, but are still represented, by influencing with the bigger parties in return for their preferences.

House of Reps seats are single member constituencies, while the senate is a 12 member seat for each state

Plus you get to have fun on election day - last election you had to give your preferences for over 250 senate candidates (it being compulsory to give a preference for every candidate)


#6

I believe I’ve heard of this system. Is it called preferential voting where you rank your candidates 1 to however many? This isn’t a PR system though. PR tries to ensure that the vote and seat tally are about equal whereas preferential voting insures that a candidate in each riding has majority support.

But I will say that preferential voting is definately better than plurality voting IMO. I’ve seen pro-plurality people argue against preferential voting in favour of FPTP but I can’t think of a reason as to why FPTP is better. In Australia they have been having preferential voting for decades and from what I’ve heard they’ve done a better job than FPTP.

Preferential Voting has advantages to FPTP because you can vote on conscience as your first vote and then vote for the lesser evils. For eg. My ballot would have been.

#1 Green candidate (Green would likely lose so my vote would transfer to Liberal, the “lesser” of the main two evils)
#2 Liberal candidate
#3 New Democrat candidate
#4 Conservative candidate
#5 Marxist-Leninist candidate

This way when you go vote you don’t split the vote. The reason why the Conservatives in Canada were elected IMO is because the Liberals and New Democrats split the “liberal” vote in Canada. This is primarily because more and more social democrats are disillusioned with Liberal (who have taken an economic turn to the right which kind of parallels Nu Labour’s turn in the UK) and thus vote NDP. However when given a choice between Liberal or Conservative, the NDPish supporters will almost always prefer Liberal. However this split causes the Conservatives to benefit despite the fact that Stephen Harper is very much hated by the majority of Canada. :smiley:


#7

some would argue that al gore would have won if the votes for nader had been transferred to him. It’s an interesting system.


#8

It’s important to consider, especially given the rise in local BNP support, that FPTP in the UK keeps extremist groups out of the Commons. I guess you could see this as a good thing or a bad thing.

One thing I always think about is the early 20th century. Russia got the communists, Italy the Facists and Germany the Nazis! The UK’s answer to extremist support came in the form of only one communist seat.

PR is great in times of relative stability for obvious reasons BUT if anything happens to alter that stability it can be dangerous.

Hopefully without labouring the point (or appearing to be a complete Nationalist):
How many revolutions have France had?
How many has the UK had?

Quoth The Raven
Nevermore


#9

Well who is more dangerous? The BNP who are nothing but a fringe party and are an absolute joke (you think people are going to buy their crap to the point they are mainstream? Hell no) or Labour who have actually used their weight to go into Iraq? Personally I’d rather take my chances having BNP have a few seats (which will give them no influence, you think anyone is going to negotiate with this party in Commons? Ha!) rather than give full power to warmongers like Tony Blair. Tony Blair has had how many brits die in war? What has the BNP done? They would never be anything.

Besides, for the BNP to even have a seat they would still need to meet the 5% Election Threshold. The European Elections also work by PR and when the BNP ran they couldn’t make the 5% threshold there! So how would they be able to do this in a national election which is obviously much more expensive?

The beautiful thing about PR with an election threshold is that you can avoid unfair majority governments (ie. Iron Maggie’s majority despite only getting 31% of the vote) but you can also avoid having a whole bunch of fringe/splinter parties in Parliament. Majority governments (ie. especially Blair’s) can be a problem because the party could then do whatever it wants. The only case where I believe a majority is acceptable is when a party is at or close to an absolute majority (50% of the popular vote).


#10

STV keeps the loonies out too. In the case of the UK, all that would have to happen is for the conservatives and labour to direct their preferences to each other. It’s unlikely that the first round of voting would give the BNP a sufficient votes to beat to stay in, and you’d end up with a Lab or Conservative in.

Which partly accounted for the fall of One Nation in Australia. (although everyone realising what a bunch of neo-facist nutjobs they were certaintly helped)

I suspect the same would happen to the BNP if they ever got a lot of votes.

Also don’t give the Nazi’s credit for winning a clean demoratic race. Germany in the 30’s was an extremely unstable place, and political violence, including assasinations, was widespread, perpetrated by both Nazi’s and the commies. If the BNP started running around burning down immigrant owned shops and murdering their political opponents they would be locked up in an instant. I sincerely hope so!

As with any electoral system you will get major parties adopting populist policies from the fringe parties, to draw their supporters away. Because the policies are popular.

But I’m down with that, because a big party only has to do populist things in an election year, and likely has a mass of other legislation which is much more important to it, and so the populism will gradually be sidelined. But a fringe party will rant and scream all day long about closing the borders and making it illegal to speak another language and making steak and kidney pie compoulsory eating. Far better for the big parties to destroy the fringes support base by use of dog whistle politics.

man I hate steak and kidney pie. those BNP fellas must have a screw loose somewhere


#11

That is exactly what I have been saying. If the major central parties stopped being overly politically correct and actually looked at issues that matter to citizens like immigration, then there would be no need for extreme fringe parties. The reason why citizens vote for BNP is not because the citizens are fascist nazis. It’s because they are pissed off with being alienated by the major parties who aren’t looking out for their needs.

It’s just like with Australia. The reason why those kids at Cronulla revolted is because they were sick of the fact that the Australian government was doing absolutely nothing about problems stemming from the immigrant Lebanese community. Political Correctness IMO feeds the extremist parties. Denmark at least has a better approach because immigration reform in their country was no longer a taboo since 9/11. And is Denmark going to hell because they are doing something about immigration? No. Are they nazis? No. Denmark afaik I believe don’t seperate church from state as well (another taboo issue) but theres less religious extremism there than say the United States!

Denmark is one of the best countries in the world to live in. Some newspaper there drew some cartoons but so what? There are cartoons drawn with Jesus and what not as well and as a Catholic I don’t complain. Muslims in Denmark live a good standard of living over there, much better than Muslims in the UK and Australia. Therefore I think that the UK and other countries with similar problems with immigrant communities should look towards Denmark as an example.


#12

Johnnyboy, be careful son. You’re making a few sweeping generalisations.

Firstly, you seem to think that PR would automatically be a healthy thing for UK politics. This is simply not the case. Our entire system is geared towards a two party (arguably three party) state. A sensible thinking Tory voter would prefer a Labour or Lib Dem government to a smaller party holding power purely because of legitimacy. The three main parties enlist political support, make for a smooth transition of power (note the recent shambles in Germany) and make policies for all issues. Less well represented groups are, in the main, closer to being a causal pressure group than a political party because they accept the fact that they will never hold power and only make policies concerning a small number of issues. As a result they can afford to represent minority views - larger parties cannot. Many of the disenfranchised people who feel strongly about a given issue will still vote for a centrist party because it is more capable in a governmental capacity.

There is a constitutional convention known as The Freedom Of Parliament. This allows an MP to make any extreme political statement he wishes (which would otherwise be illegal) as long as he is in the Commons. PMs Questions are broadcast to the nation and so this freedom can serve as a way to dramatically increase support for extremist parties.

EP elections do not work on the same principle. EU constituencies are much larger than those in general elections. Therefore, parties with concentrated support could reach the minimum vote in national elections but not EP elections. If, however, the system of PR you endorse would remove or reform the current constituencies, it would do more to limit the opportunities of smaller parties than to aid them. Take, for example, the Scots National Party who gain seats in Westminster due to concentrated support in Scotland without reaching 5% of the overall turnout.

There have been large amounts of Odinist and Satanist extremism in Denmark just less well publicised. This is as a direct result of not seperating church and state. A teenager in the UK in the 1990s would have grown his hair, worn baggy clothes and listened to Nirvana so that he could appear to be non-conformist, anti-authority and “cool”. In Denmark, as in other parts of Scandinavia, the equivalent was to wear anti-christ pendants, burn christian artwork, relics and churches and listen to Burzum. To show a middle finger to the Lutheran church was to show a middle finger to the government.

Finally, to end this long post, the BNP are not affiliated with the Nazi party. Just because a group endorse right-wing or nationalist views it does not mean that they should be associated with the perpetrators of genocide and war crimes.

Quoth The Raven
Nevermore


#13

The problem is not that the small non-top 3 parties don’t have representation, the problem is that Labour can do whatever they want (go into iraq and whatever else) with only 35% of the popular vote. Thats the problem with first past the post. In the last election the Tories and especially Lib Dems had less seats in proportion to their vote. For those in Britain who aren’t happy about Iraq (and most Brits are), they are cheated.

As for parties that win ridings but do not meet the threshold, in MMP the threshold doesn’t apply when you win a plurality riding as seen in New Zealand (they have the system I’m talking about). The Maori Party for eg. had a small popular vote but they won 4 ridings by FPTP in this mixed system and so they have 4 seats in Parliament. So these small parties with strong support in certain regions still get seats. Basically as long as they win plurality seats or get the 5% threshold, they get seats in MMP.


#14

First of all, top marks for spelling Cronulla correctly :slight_smile: However I don’t know if your thesis is 100% sound.
For example, most of the people at cronulla were exactly as you describe, kids. Who had been drinking for hours. In the sun, which in January in Australia is very hot.

Some racists with an agenda fired up the crowd, who were in any case mostly eager for a fight (most aussies from there being of Irish and Scots descent :slight_smile:), and they all went for it.

The media made a big song and dance about racial tension and the incompatibility of Muslim culture blah blah blah, but the truth is that they were kids, they were pissed, they were in a big crowd, and there were some easy targets.

The same thing has happened many times since Australia was settled, usually involving whatever recent ethnic group has come to liver here. Now its Lebanese Muslims, in the 80’s it was the Lebanese Christians, in the 70s the Vietnamese, in the 60s it was the Yugoslavians and 50s it was the Greeks and Italians

The only racial problem here is an invention of the press. What is not an invention is the appalling treatment of the indigenous community, from which unfortunately the emphahsis on the dangers of Islam has taken away focus.

Which is a bit off topic for this electoral reform topic so if you wish to discuss further we should make a new topic.


#15

Labour went into Iraq on a false premise - it had nothing to do with their numbers in the Commons. There was an overwhelming pro vote from the members (this included most of the Conservative party) that was not reliant on a Labour majority. This is because the Labour cabinet and premiership decided to misinform parliament (weapons of mass destruction and all that). It would not have mattered how largge or small the govt. majority was.

Also FPTP is a far better system for providing a caring and efficient, accountable government. This is because every constituency has an MP and regardless of his ideology he campaigns for the welare of all his constituents. If PR was ontroduced there is no doubt that the UK would come under flak for a further “centralised government”.

I don’t think the MP for Slough would have anywhere near the same agenda as the MP for Maidenhead, although the two are geographically close.

Quoth The Raven
Nevermore


#16

MMP is a system where half of the seats are based on plurality ridings while half are list MPs. Therefore there is still accountability for each ridings. The list MPs are there to balance the representation and thus give a more balanced voice for Tories, Lib Dems and such. This is what is done in New Zealand.


#17

Ok, New Zealand’s MMP.

We had a FPP system, which was incredibly unfair (National having 70% of the country voting against it, but winning twice, Democrats winning 21% of the vote equaling 2 seats) up until the early 90s.

The current system is MMP, based on three things. Bits from the British Westminster system, bits from the German MMP, and homegrown bits, like the Maori seats.

The nation is divided into electorates, each electorate corresponding to a certain number of people, and one seat in the 120-seat Parliament. The number of general electorates is 61 currently. Where it gets thrown off is the Maori seats, which are a throwback to when Maori outnumbered whites, and were restricted by only having a few designated seats that they could vote for. This was changed when Maori were given the option of voting either for a General Electorate, or a Maori one, but not both. There are currently 7 Maori seats, which are divided according to the number of Maori-seat registered voters. This makes 68 electorate seats in the Parliament.

Then, there’s the party vote. This is divided up according to the number of party votes a party gains, with a 5% threshhold. Some parties campaign only for the party vote. A party that doesn’t reach 5% has its voted discarded, and the party votes over the threshhold are recounted. This means that a party with 5% of the party vote gets 6 seats in Parliament.

A party should win enough party votes to cover its electoral seats. With the Maori Party, it won 4 (Maori) electoral seats, but only enough of the party vote to earn it 3. This caused the Parliament to overhang, making a Parliament of 121. It can also underhang, if a party wins more seats than it has candidates for, but the chances of this are almost nil.

Parties can also punch well above their weight, the best examples being the Greens. Though they have never been part of the Government, they have achieved more than parties with more MPs and more Government involvement, such as the Alliance which was in coalition, or United Future which had a supply-and-confidence, and ministerial involvement.

It’s a far better from than the old two-party based FPP. The two big parties Labour and National, still dominate the Parliament, 50 and 48 seats, but can’t do anything without the support of the 6 smaller parties, and minority groups have a larger say in what goes on in Parliament.