[EM] re: Brazil
olli.salmi at uusikaupunki.fi
Mon Jul 21 09:41:13 PDT 2003
I was just going to unsubscribe when I noticed this interesting thread.
At 18:36 +0200 16.7.2003, Kevin Venzke wrote:
>The worst I think I've heard of is Brazil's open-list PR. (You can
>for a party or for a single candidate within a party, which also
>counts as a vote
>for the party. The seats are divided up based on each party's share
>of the vote, and
>the seats are filled in the order of who got the most individual votes.)
We use a similar system in Finland, but you can't vote for a party.
At 02:28 +0200 17.7.2003, Kevin Venzke wrote:
>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
>the proportionality is among parties which may not stand for any particular
I think you are. The method works quite well in Finland, although
sometimes there are calls for closed lists because the parties feel
forced to nominate well-known candidates that are not the normal
party apparatchiks, like our present minister of culture, a former
Miss Finland and lingerie model, who was the top vote getter in her
district in her second election. To the surprise of reporters, she
seems to be good at her job, or at least skilful with publicity.
There's also a former colleague of Mr. Ventura's, a top vote getter
in areas of usually low turnout in Helsinki, now in a coma in
hospital (recovering, according to today's tabloids) and suspected of
firing an illegal gun in his flat. Such MPs, whether good or bad, are
a check on the party leadership and a useful safety valve.
If you feel sceptical, you can see here that he system does no
overall harm for democracy in Finland.
There is more than enough cohesion within Finnish parties. This tends
to be so even in local government. Proportionality within lists has
been a problem when parties have fractions or two parties present a
common list. This could be remedied with sublists but that approach
was ruled out by a former president who was afraid that it would
result in two permanent blocks.
In electoral systems there's always a tradeoff between refinement and
manageablility. The Finnish system is at the manageability end. It's
very quick to count paper ballots with only the number of the
candidate. The Swiss system where you have as many votes as there are
seats may give the voter more choice but the count is much more
complicated. It's even more complicated to count preferential ballots
and they have to be counted centrally, but James Gilmour has assured
us that STV is not so slow as I believe.
The system where you can vote for a number of candidates and cast the
rest of the votes in the order determined by the parties usually
means that voters do not actually affect the order of the election. I
feel a strong aversion against closed lists but they are very easy to
implement and the actual performance is not bad. I'm mainly thinking
of Sweden, which effectively had closed lists. With closed lists
making nominations easy is an important check to the power of
parties. In Illinois you need 25000 signatures to get on the ballot,
which is too many. In Finland it used to be 30 per candidate for
Parliamentary elections, 10 for local elections, in Britain it was
7+deposit when I last read about it. I can't see why standing for
election should be restricted.
It is possible to have proportionality on two levels if one wants to
have small districts and accurate proportionality between parties. In
Switzerland the Federal Court has decided that districts smaller than
about 10 seats are unconstitutional, so Zürich is planning that
proportionality between parties is determined within regions
consisting of several districts. The districts are guaranteed the
number of seats that their population entitles them to which means
that seats are transferred after the initial allocation. Such a
system is in use in Basel-Land. Bern also had one and professor Henri
Carnal has shown that it could produce paradoxes and problems. Here's
the old Bernese law in French.
The law has just been changed.
When judging country-wide proportionality, I think one could also
look at the Netherlands, with 1/150 as the legal threshold. I haven't
heard of any particular bad effects. I don't like legal thresholds
because they can be used arbitrarily to exclude certain groups.
Moreover, the jump between no MPs to, say, 5% of MPs may cause nasty
If one wants to give a chance to more parties than two, I think some
form of PR is the only chance. I can't see how any other system could
do that. If the districts have around 5 seats, as with STV, you would
probably get a three-party system ( about 2+2+1 in every district).
This is a step forward if you have two parties, but often important
minorities are smaller so I think the districts have to be bigger
than is usual with STV. James Gilmour disagrees with this.
One of our problems is that the district magnitude varies a lot, from
about 6 to 31. The effective threshold varies accordingly. The
parties can't agree on redistricting. If the 12 to 18 districts were
all of the same size our effective threshold would be between 5 and 8
percent in districts of 11 to 17 seats.
More information about the Election-Methods