[EM] Request comments on MMP?

Olli Salmi olli.salmi at uusikaupunki.fi
Mon Jul 28 05:27:28 PDT 2003

At 00:28 +0100 27.7.2003, James Gilmour wrote:
>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.

No reason to change it once you've got it, but think of all those 
hours spent in moving little pieces of paper from one pile to 
another. I believe that the results from an open list PR method are 
not significantly worse.

>  > 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.)

It required a Yahoo ID number which I don't have, as far as I know.

Yes, there may be confusion. I was talking about the threshold of 
exclusion, the lowest percentage of support that ensures a candidate 
will win no matter what other voters do.

>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 presume you are not suggesting that all the groups that have 2% of 
the votes get a seat.

>>  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.

There were some of them in Germany as well, but it led to a change in 
the composition of the Bundestag in less than 4% of the cases, mostly 
a different candidate of the same party getting the seat, if I got it 
right (I couldn't make the figures match the table). Are your 
constituency candidates allowed to stand on the lists?

>  > 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 Scottish system seems to allow more disproportionality than the 
German system. In Germany they have as many list seats as there 
constituency seats, so there's less chance of an overhang and to a 
certain extent it can be corrected by adding seats.

>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.

No doubt they had many compelling arguments for it.

>  > >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.

He got a vote of confidence, didn't he? It is easier for a PM to 
control a Parliament if his or her party has an absolute majority in 

>  We also see the bad effects of excessive party discipline in many of
>our local government councils.

On the other hand parties provide predictability.

Olli Salmi

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