Ideas for replacing FPTP with some form of PR have been floated in Canada many times in the past, but so far no serious reform process has gotten underway.
This month, the former leader of Canada’s Liberal Party, Stephane Dion, has advocated a new system. He calls it P3, for “proportional-preferential-personalized vote”.
As best I can tell, this would be an amalgam the likes of which we have never seen before. District magnitude would be 3-5, and voters would undertake two voting steps:
1. They would rank parties in order of preference, and a process apparently akin to single transferable vote would be followed to determine how many seats each party would win in the district.
2. The voter could cast a single candidate preference vote (non-transferable, it seems), and these would determine which candidates would win the seat(s) each party was entitled to after the completion of the phase of party-level allocation.
In other words, it is party-STV-open-list PR!
Meanwhile, Benjamin Forest, a geography professor at McGill, has advocated other solutions to get “effective representation for national minorities“, by which he means French speakers outside Quebec and aboriginals. He proposes either separate voter rolls or minority-majority districts. The first of these ideas is akin to what New Zealand practices for Maori voters: separate districts for the minority, with voters of the minority group eligible to vote in those separate districts. The second idea–which Forest appears to prefer, given “difficult legal issues” with the separate rolls–would be the affirmative gerrymander widely practiced in the US.
Both of these districting concepts strike me as highly retrograde. As for Dion’s proposal, whatever one might think of it, one has to give him credit for originality.
In the chronicles of elections, ever noteworthy is the vote that results in the fall of a long-time hegemonic party. Tonight we may see such an outcome.
Somewhere in Africa? Asia, perhaps? No.
Canada. Or, to be more specific, Alberta.
The province has its legislative assembly election today, and the opposition Wildrose Alliance has been on track to win a majority. However, late in the campaign, the incumbent Conservatives have closed the gap. That we are witnessing a potential for alternation is momentous, for the Conservatives have governed since 1971, a string of eleven consecutive general elections.
During this string, the party has been genuinely hegemonic at times, winning more than 85% of the seats five times, and under 70% only twice (65.3% in 1971 and 61.5% in 1993). Its vote share has been under 50% only four times (1971, 1989, 1993, and 2004), with a low of 44.5% in 1993.
In the most recent election, that of 2008, the Conservatives managed 86.7% of the seats on 52.7% of the votes. Clearly, the party has benefited handsomely from the First Past the Post electoral system. At the same time, it has been more dominant in votes than most ruling parties under FPTP systems.
The challenger, the Wildrose Alliance, has attacked the Conservatives from the right. In 2008, Wildrose won only 6.8% of the vote and no seats. According to the ThreeHundredEight projection, Wildrose should win 43 seats out of 87, on 38.4% of the votes. The Conservatives should win 39 seats on 35.8% of the vote. Such a result would mean a balanced assembly, and likely a minority government. However, there is a great deal of uncertainty in the projection, with the estimate for Wildrose ranging from 22 to 62 and that for the Conservatives ranging from 20 to 62! Obviously there are a lot of closely contested ridings (districts) and this one may go down to the wire!
As has been usual in Alberta, the New Democratic Party looks set to come in third. The Liberals, who have been the second party in every election since 1989, with vote totals ranging from 26.4% to 39.7% in those elections (but only once more than 25% of the seats) might fall to fourth place.
With Wildrose hoovering up votes from disaffected right-wing voters who think the provincial Conservatives have gone soft, the Conservatives themselves may have to rely on tactical votes of NDP and Liberal sympathizers in urban ridings if they are going to hang on.
The Wildrose surge invites comparisons to the “tea party” south of the border. This is a party that does not accept climate science, wants to privatize (at least parts of) health-care delivery, and has had its share of gaffe-prone amateur candidates who were a bit too honest about their views on such topics as gays and South Asians.
Of course, the difference between Wildrose and tea-partiers is that while the latter have engaged in a takeover bid against the existing right-wing party, the former is challenging it head-on. Part of the difference is the dominance of the right in Alberta–even a split right will still result in a right-wing government of some flavor. And part of it is parliamentary democracy–operating as a tendency within a party is less attractive when you can form your own and thereby potentially take over the government.
The Dutch government of Mark Rutte has indicated that he will submit his resignation, and early elections will be held, perhaps in September.
The fall of the cabinet was trigged by the refusal of the Freedom Party, led by Geert Wilders, to support the government’s austerity package.
The current government was formed in October, 2010, just over three months following the election that year. It is a two-party minority cabinet of the liberal VVD and the Christian Democrats (CDA), backed by the Freedom Party (which did not have cabinet seats).
The first round of the French presidential election was Sunday. As expected, the Socialist Francois Hollande edged out incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy. These two will square off in the second round on 6 May.
The results show that Hollande obtained 28.6%, Sarkozy 27.2%. In third place was Marine Le Pen of the National Front, 17.9%, and in fourth was left-wing Jean-Luc Melenchon, 11.1%. Centrist Francois Bayrou took 9.1%.
Most polling indicates that Hollande will win the runoff. If he does, he will be the first French Socialist president since Francois Mitterrand, who also won the position by defeating an incumbent (Valery Giscard d’Estaing, in 1981).
Hollande has won the clear backing of Melenchon, while Le Pen said that Sarkozy was a “loser” who does not “deserve” her supporters’ backing in the runoff.
The National Front candidate’s support was even higher in this election than it was in 2002, when Marine’s father, Jean-Marie, made it into the runoff. That year Le Pen had 16.9%, but the Socialist candidate (then-premier Leonel Jospin) slipped to third place due to severe fragmentation on the left.
For much of the Fifth Republic, the French party system divided neatly into two blocs, which allowed the first round to function as a de-facto intra-bloc primary. However, the party system is much more fragmented today. One wonders whether a two-round majority system still serves the country well, given the current shape of competition. Would a one-round, but multiple-preference, system such as the alternative vote make more sense now?
Regional data on Sunday’s first round are available at the Guardian. They show one department, Gard (in the south), where Marine Le Pen won the plurality–barely, as all three leading candidates were clustered near 25%.
Once the presidential election is complete, the country will go right into its National Assembly elections, which are also held in two rounds (10-17 June, but by majority-plurality, rather than two-round majority).
The Czech government is proposing to amend the country’s constitution to make the vote of no-confidence “constructive”:
If the opposition wants to propose a no-confidence vote, it must agree on the name of the future prime minister and have this agreement signed by at least 50 lower house deputies, according to the government’s draft amendment.
If a no-confidence vote fails, the opposition may not propose a new vote sooner than after six months or when 80 deputies support its proposal. (Prague Monitor)
The Czech proposal is more restrictive (constrictive?) than the other two longest-existing provisions for constructive votes. For example, under Article 67 of the German constitution, there is neither a stipulated minimum number of legislators who must propose a no-confidence vote nor a limitation on future motions if a motion fails. In Spain’s constitution, Article 113 requires a minimum one-tenth of the chamber to propose a motion against the government, compared to one-fourth in the Czech proposal. There is in Spain a prohibition on the same signers of a failed motion proposing another one in the same parliamentary session.
While a constructive-vote provision along the lines of Germany’s seems like a good idea to me, I am very skeptical of provisions that make it considerably more difficult for a parliamentary majority to remove a government. The more restrictions there are on parliament’s rights in this area, the more the system shades towards separate survival in power of the executive and legislature–thereby undermining the critical accountability feature that makes a democracy parliamentary.
To pass, the Czech proposal would need support from the leftist opposition, as the government is well short of the necessary three-fifths majority for constitutional changes.
________ UPDATE: As Robert Elgie notes in a comment, the Czech Republic is already moving to direct election of the president. Thus the country will join Poland in having the unusual combination of both semi-presidentialism and constructive vote of no confidence.
The following is a guest-post by Alan Renwick, Professor at the University of Reading in the UK. It originally appeared at the Reading Politics blog.
I asked Alan if I could reproduce this essay here at F&V, figuring it would be of interest to this community.
All of what follows is by Alan. I will also copy over a comment that I originally posted at Reading Politics.
Electing the House of Lords: Should there be above-the-line voting? Alan Renwick
The parliamentary select committee that has been examining the government’s proposals for reform of the House of Lords will be publishing its report in a couple of weeks’ time. Rumour has it that they want an electoral system different from the one proposed by the government. Nick Clegg and colleagues argue that the Single Transferable Vote (STV) form of proportional representation should be used. But the committee has been interested in finding a system that will give voters a choice between voting for individual candidates and for a single party ticket (see the transcript of their oral evidence session last December, when the quizzed Iain McLean and me on this subject). According to the Guardian, the committee is going to recommend the form of STV used in many Australian elections, where voters can vote ‘above the line’ for a party or ‘below the line’ for individual candidates.
The Electoral Reform Society is crying foul over this. Calling the proposals a ‘dog’s breakfast’, they say that STV with above-the-line voting will return power to the parties, rather than allowing voters to determine who gets elected.
What should dispassionate observers make of this? I think three questions need to be considered. First, how much power would the inclusion of a party voting option give to parties and to voters? Second, how much power should parties and voters have in determining which candidates are elected? Third, are there any other considerations that we should take into account before deciding whether we think that possibility of above-the-line voting should be welcomed? Most of this rather lengthy (sorry) post will focus on the first of these questions; I’ll say a little about the other two at the end.
South Korea is one of the few remaining presidential systems (as opposed to semi-presidential systems) to hold only non-concurrent presidential and legislative elections. The current president, Lee Myung-bak, was elected in 2007 (with 48.7% of the vote).
Today’s election is the second National Assembly election since the president took office. In 2008, his party, the Grand National Party, won 37.4% of the party-list votes and 153 of the 299 seats, which represented an increase of 32 seats for the party on the previous total. So far, so good for the expectation that presidents’ parties gain in non-concurrent elections held early in their terms (“honeymoon elections”, as I have called them in my work on the political consequences of electoral cycles).
With this being the second election of the president’s term, his party has lost seats, right? Not so fast. Preliminary indications are that “South Korea’s ruling conservatives have scored an upset victory” (VOA).
The president’s supporters have rebranded their party as New Frontier. Party alignments and labels are not very stable in South Korea. In any case, I suppose voters know who the president’s allies are, and, going against expectations of both Korea experts and those of us who watch trends in non-concurrent elections, those allies have done well in a late-term election.
Presidents in South Korea are limited to a single term. The next president will be elected in December this year.
The legislature is elected via a Mixed-Member Majoritarian (MMM or “parallel”) system.
Even when embedded in a broader political system that is firmly parliamentary, direct election of an executive matters.
From UK Polling Report’s summary of a recent poll in the London mayoral race:
57% of Londoners say they like Boris Johnson, compared to just 36% who say they like the Conservative party – meaning Boris is outperforming his party by 21 points.
Some folks identify results like this as one major aspect of the phenomenon of “presidentializaton”–where separate election of an executive allows for the building of electoral constituencies that are broader than (or different from) that of the executive candidate’s party.
The election is on 3 May. The electoral formula is the supplementary vote, which is a form of “instant runoff”, but not a good form. Unlike the alternative vote, all but the top two candidates, based on first preference vote, are eliminated. Second preferences are then redistributed–if no candidate had a majority of first preferences–and the winner is the candidate with the most votes after redistribution.
Following the military coup in Mali, an agreement has been reached (apparently) for the military leader to step down. However, the deal does not restore the constitutional president, whose term was due to end later this year. Instead, it would install the head of the national assembly as interim president.
The media seem generally to be treating this as a return to constitutional order (e.g. The Guardian, AP). And ECOWAS will lift sanctions. But it looks to me more like a codification of the coup. No, there will not be a long-term military government, and maybe the elections due for this spring will go ahead. However, the presidency was not validly vacated–even if the deposed president did submit his resignation as part of the agreement.
In the meantime, the north and east of the country has slipped out of the government’s control, so it is hard to see how those elections can go ahead in any case.
From a NYT article, we get an early hint at the strategy of Kadima under new leader Shaul Mofaz. He is staking out “left”-leaning positions in his goal of becoming leader of a center-left coalition after the next election.
He has to tilt left unless he wants to end up as a junior partner to Likud and PM Benjamin Netanyahu–something the article quotes him as explicitly ruling out. However, he also needs his party to attract votes off Likud or other parties of the right bloc, or else all he does is re-arrange the votes and seats within the left-leaning bloc.
The article goes through aspects of Mofaz’s personal biography that allegedly might broaden his party’s appeal, and concludes with this point on the strategy:
Yohanan Plesner, a Kadima legislator who began working closely with Mr. Mofaz 18 months ago, said it was not far-fetched to beat Mr. Netanyahu.
“Our polls show that we only have to capture 4 percent of the soft right to block Netanyahu’s hold,” he said. “With his security credentials and focus on rebuilding relations with the United States, Mofaz can do that. He may not have charisma, but he knows how to set a goal and build a team.”
It will be tough to pull off, but it is worth a try. The party really was not going anywhere under Tzipi Livni’s leadership.
The PNG parliament has voted to postpone the general election, due in June, for 6 months. This appears to be outside the constitutional powers of the parliament. It follows a long course of similar actions since the O’Neill government and the supreme court fell out over who is the constitutional prime minister.
This “news” item was in response to an “announcement” by Labor Party Chairwoman Shelly Yachimovich of “her intention to run for prime minister against incumbent leader Benjamin Netanyahu in the coming election.”
This is hardly big news. When you are the leader of a party in a parliamentary system you are generally presumed to be said party’s candidate to be prime minister. So we did not learn anything new by this announcement–which makes it seem as if the PM is elected directly, like a president. Which, you may know, Israel tried for a little while, but it was such a disaster that they went back to standard parliamentarism over a decade ago.
So, while we have known since Yachimovich won the leadership contest of one of Israel’s four largest parties that she was thereby a candidate for the top executive post, it is much more difficult to see how she can become prime minister than it is to recognize her intentions. The dynamics of the post-election coalition situation are unlikely to favor Labor.
A parliamentary election is not due till late 2013, but there is continuing speculation that it could be called for later this year.
If by my laws you walk, and my commands you keep, and observe them,
then I will give-forth your rains in their set-time,
so that the earth gives-forth its yield
and the trees of the field give-forth their fruit.
--Vayikra 26: 3-4