Colleagues who study mixed-member systems know my disdain for the term, zombie, for candidates who lose a district contest but win a list-PR seat.
In a nutshell, what I do not like about this term is how it conveys a notion that candidates who do not enter parliament via the nominal tier (winning a district individual contest) are somehow “dead” and can enter parliament only by being resurrected through the sorcery of the party-list mechanism. Oh, the horror of it!
There is nothing illegitimate about winning via the list. Nor is it desirable to have the tiers segregated. (Some mixed-member systems ban dual nomination, I realize.) To the extent that there are benefits to mixed-member (MM) systems, they come largely from the incentive of list nominees to pay attention to a locality even if they don’t emerge on top in a local contest.1 Candidates who win via the list rather than the nominal tier were not “killed” by district voters; they have won by one of the two methods that make a mixed-member system what it is–like it or not. We need a better term than the pejorative one that’s almost becoming standard. The alleged illegitimacy of dual-nominated candidates who win via the list is an empirical question, and as analysts we should avoid terminology that presupposes illegitimacy.2
A simple replacement term for ‘zombie’ is not obvious. I’ve suggested acronyms: DNLW for dual-nominated/list winner, DNDW for dual-nominated/dstrict winner, etc. But ‘DNLW’ is not as snappy as ‘zombie’ and might struggle to win acceptance.
I have thought about taking a term from the sports pages: ‘wild card’. You have your division/district winners, and then you have those who enter the playoffs/legislature despite coming second or lower in the division/district. The latter are wild card teams/candidates. However, I am not entirely serious about this “recommendation”.
I could see using something like a series of codes for nomination (N=nominal, L=list, D=dual) and then indicate with (1, 0) whether the candidate won or lost, or in the case of dual winners, whether the win was on the Nominal or List tier:
L1: List only, won
L0: List only, lost
DL: Dual nominated, won list seat
DN: Dual nominated, won nominal-tier seat
N0: Nominal tier only, lost
N1: Nominal tier only, won
I suppose convincing analysts to adopt a scheme like this does not have a high probability of prospering. But that does not mean it would not be valuable.
My goal is to develop an easy to read scheme that is analytic, not pejorative about whether one way of running and winning is more legitimate than any other.
- See the thread from December, 2005, for a discussion of issues with dual candidacy. [↩]
- It seems quite clear that the issue of perceived “zombie” illegitimacy comes up a great deal in Japan (where I think the term, zombie, was first used in this context) and in New Zealand (where dual-nominees who win via the list are sometimes called by the also pejorative “back door MP”. On the other hand, in Germany, the divergent paths to parliament seem to be a non-issue. Probably the alleged illegitimacy in Japan and New Zealand is a legacy issue–that these countries had pure nominal electoral systems before adopting MM, unlike Germany. [↩]