[EM] Request comments on MMP?

James Gilmour jgilmour at globalnet.co.uk
Sat Jul 26 16:30:06 PDT 2003

Olli wrote, re party list:
> 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,

I dispute this.  It cannot be "unnecessarily complicated" because it has worked OK in Ireland since
1920 and Northern Ireland since 1973, all with hand sorting and counting.  The electors in Ireland
love it so much that they twice defeated government moves to abandon it.

> unless you are satisfied with an effective 
> threshold that's somewhere above 10%.

There is confusion here between guaranteed seats on first preference votes, guaranteed seats after
all transfers, and de facto representation.  The results of the Northern Ireland Assembly election
in 1998 show well what happens in practice.  For a summary see this List's files archive at:
(NB You must have one continuous blue line of text from "http" to "PR/" for this live link to work.)

You'll see that the Northern Ireland Women's' Coalition with 2% of the first preferences won 2% of
the seats in the Assembly.  Of course, they used vote concentration in two constituencies
(districts) to win those two seats, but that's what all small parties to if they want to win.


> I feel MMP is closed list PR made attractive to people used to 
> first-past-the-post.

Not in the UK.  The party lists here are all closed so that the Labour Party (the government that
introduced MMP) could have complete, central control over its lists and so determine who would take
any seats it won.

> 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/english/better.html#sechs
> http://www.wahlrecht.de/lexikon/erststimme.html (in German)
> http://www.wahlrecht.de/english.htm

I've looked at these references, but I'm afraid I don't understand from the description what is "the
worthless first vote".  Here in Scotland there are real party upsets in the constituencies: eg
Falkirk West where an independent rejected by the Labour Party trounced everyone for the second
election in succession; Strathkelvin & Bearsden where a "save our hospital" single issue candidate
unseated a high-profile Labour Party MSP; and Pentlands where the leader of the Conservatives (who
won no constituency seats in the 1999 election) unseated a government minister.

> 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.
> http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Overhang_seat

This is an interesting interpretation of "overhang" in the context of the MMP system as used for the
Scottish Parliament elections.  I had never considered it in this way before, because in our
version, it is the size of the Parliament that is fixed, not the proportionality of the parties.  We
have 73 constituency MSPs elected from single-member constituencies (districts) and 56 regional
(list, additional) MSPs with 7 elected from each of 8 electoral regions.  Two of the eight regions
elect 10 + 7, five of the regions elect 9 + 7, and one elects 8 + 7.  There is no national
aggregation of votes or allocation of seats.  Each region is a completely self-contained electoral
unit with 17, 16 or 15 MSPs.  So the issue of "overhang" as "overhang" does not arise.  The system
was deliberately designed to limit the degree of PR in favour of the Labour Party as part of the
price for getting devolution at all.

> >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.

OK, but see above about actual outcomes of real STV-PR elections.

> >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.

This just what some of us want to get away from!!  We have so much "party discipline" that MPs and
MSPs just do what they are told, and we have a Prime Minister who can disregard the UK Parliament
and behave like a president.  We also see the bad effects of excessive party discipline in many of
our local government councils.


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