[EM] re: Brazil

Alex Small asmall at physics.ucsb.edu
Wed Jul 16 17:52:02 PDT 2003

Kevin Venzke said:
> The parties don't stand for much because they can't discipline their
> candidates. What I mean is, it doesn't make sense for a party to "oust"
> a person if that person is capable of bringing votes to the party.  This
> tends to make the parties primarily alliances to get candidates elected,
> without specific policy ideas. Party-switching, once elected, is common.

I wonder to what extent this is related to native political culture rather
than the actual voting system.  It's common to blame the system for
political problems e.g. Italy's post-WWII governments are sometimes used
as arguments against PR and/or parliamentary systems, even though many
other countries use PR and/or parliamentary systems with great success and
stability.  Hitler is often used as an argument against PR, because the
Nazis were the largest minority party in parliament.

I would like to know how other countries' experiences with open-list
compare with Brazil's before concluding that open-list is the worst
possible PR system.

I will grant this much:  Although excessive party discipline can be a bad
thing, if parties lack any cohesiveness in a list system it means that
voters aren't really getting what they voted for.  I might say "Hey, I
voted for that guy because I liked him and his list-mates mostly espoused
positions I agreed with as well, but they lied!"  Then again, I expect
politicians to lie....

Anyway, I won't condemn a system based on a single country's experience
with it.


>  So although, as James said, the parties  nominate the candidates, the
> parties are not generally the ones with the clout.
> Did anyone else study Brazil in Comparative Politics?  I'm regurgitating
> all this. I'll try to back it up if someone genuinely disagrees with
> this.
> It's possible I'm confusing the method for the effects of the method in
> a certain (Brazilian) context.  In that context, the method seems to me
> quite bad because the proportionality is among parties which may not
> stand for any particular position.
> Adam Tarr said:
>>>Parties can't discipline candidates because parties aren't what earn
>>> votes.
>>To me, that is an unqualified positive - strong party discipline in
>> closed  party list democracies prevents the voters from getting
>> candidates who  match their views more closely than a standard party
>> platform.
> The side-effect is that (in Brazil, IMO) it's not a safe bet to
> "transfer" votes automatically to party mates.  Note that a voter has no
> way of preventing his surplus vote from being used, and at least in
> Brazil, the voter may not even know his candidate's party (there's
> little incentive for the candidate to  focus on it).
> Incidentally, the main party on the left is supposed to be
> well-organized, and based on policy rather than "local interests."
> Kevin Venzke
> stepjak at yahoo.fr
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