[EM] Request comments on MMP?

Olli Salmi olli.salmi at uusikaupunki.fi
Sat Jul 26 11:38:58 PDT 2003

At 16:31 -0400 23.7.2003, John B. Hodges wrote:
>Greetings- For my continuing effort to educate myself on these 
>issues, I'd like to ask for people's views on the "mixed member 
>proportional" system, the prototype of which is Germany. (I've heard 
>New Zealand also has recently adopted this system, I'd like to learn 
>more details of that case also.)


>I know folks here don't much like Party-list PR

I do. STV would be ideal, but in the real world, with existing 
parties, it's unnecessarily complicated, both for the election 
officials and the voters, unless you are satisfied with an effective 
threshold that's somewhere above 10%.

>  and most would rather avoid single-winner elections whenever possible,

Definitely. They are unjust.

>so perhaps MMP is just the worst of both worlds. Perhaps the best we 
>can hope for for the Senate is some single-winner method, pick your 

I feel MMP is closed list PR made attractive to people used to 
first-past-the-post. The constituency candidates stand on the lists 
as well and voting for them is largely irrelevant. Martin Fehndrich 
calls it the worthless first vote.
http://www.wahlrecht.de/lexikon/erststimme.html (in German)
Overhang seats are a problem. There are different ways of dealing 
with them. In Scotland they are taken from other parties, which was 
news to me. I hadn't correctly understood James Gilmour's example.

>Party-list PR, for all its faults, has some aspects that could be an 
>advantage, especially if applied only to part of the system. It 
>allows much larger district magnitudes than STV, so the threshold 
>for winning a seat can be much lower.

I agree with that.

>Candidates on a list can be chosen AS an ensemble, i.e. deliberately 
>chosen to be attractive to voters as a team, which would (and 
>empirically does) lead to more women and minority officeholders than 
>even STV. It subjects those officeholders elected BY party-list to 
>serious "party discipline", which in turn makes party platforms into 
>meaningful documents, which voters can read and compare, gaining 
>MUCH more information about how officeholders are likely to vote on 
>issues. It might be argued that even the aspect of list-PR that 
>gives party heavyweights "guaranteed seats" could have a place as 
>one piece of a large and diverse governing system. (For example, 
>candidates for President are usually either Governors of large 
>states, or Senators. MMP would give smaller parties at least a few 
>"secure seats", where their officholder can accumulate experience, 
>lay down a record of his/her votes on legislation, and develop name 

The usual argument for closed lists is that the campaign concentrates 
on issues and policies and not personalities. Moreover, campaign 
costs are smaller because individual candidates don't have to 
campaign and they are not indebted to sponsors.

Olli Salmi

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