[EM] Amnon Rubinstein's Proposal for Electoral Reform in Israel

James Gilmour jgilmour at globalnet.co.uk
Sun Apr 23 17:39:44 PDT 2006

> From: Jan Kok  Sent: Monday, April 24, 2006 12:33 AM
> MMP = mixed member proportional?  Which I believe is used in 
> New Zealand also.

Yes, MMP = Mixed Member Proportional (voting system), which we in the UK call "AMS" = Additional Member System.

> What is the "trouble" that you have with it?

The particular trouble in Scotland has several components.
Our politicians and electors see the members elected by the regional lists as "additional members", "top-up members",
added on to the constituency members just to restore some party PR.  So the "additional" member start out as second
class because we have several centuries of representation by constituency members.
Our additional members are elected from regional list (not national lists), so the local competition can be intense
because nearly all the regional (list) candidates also stand as constituency candidates.  So we find that a constituency
is won (FPTP) by one party, but the losers from other parties who came second and third (or even fourth) in that
constituency are also elected because they had good positions on their parties' regional lists.
In some electoral regions all of the constituency seats (eg 10 out of 10) are won by the Labour Party, so all of the
regional seats are allocated to the other parties.
That party division is made worse because Labour is the largest party in the Parliament and is in the Government (in
coalition with the Liberal democrats), so the Scottish National Party (an independence party), the Conservatives, the
Scottish Socialists and the Greens are all in the opposition.
All these differences come together to heighten the tension between the two classes of MSP.

Also, because of the distortions of FPTP, Labour hold most of the MP seats in the UK Parliament at Westminster, and
Labour MPs do not like any other party having representation on "their patch".  The tension between list (non-Labour)
MSPs and Labour MPs is much worse than the tension between constituency MSPs and regional MSPs, even though the MPs sit
in a completely different parliament!!

> Do the small parties
> periodically threaten to change alliances, which would require
> re-electing new executives? 

No, this has not happened here.  We have had stable coalitions of Labour and Lib Dems, but there are plenty of tensions
between the coalition partners.

> Does New Zealand have the same problem?  If not, why not?

NZ does have the same problem, but to a much lesser extent, for several reasons, I think.
NZ's party lists are national, not regional, so the competition between constituency members and list members is less
intense.  None of the big parties win disproportionate shares of the constituency seats and all of the big parties win
(and need) lots of list seats.  The division of support for the bigger parties is much more balanced than in Scotland -
no one party dominates.  And the parties in government have changed following elections.

> One way to insulate against too-frequent changes of government would
> be to require a slight supermajority to replace the incumbents.  Say
> >=60% to replace an incumbent immediately, or >=55% twice over a
> certain time period.

We don't like these ideas.  We believe in letting FPTP distort the voters' wishes and manufacture a seat majority for
us, even when it elects the "wrong" government!!!   Who would be an electoral reform campaigner in such a country!!
That said, all the major reforms of UK voting systems in the past decade have been to introduce PR (although only once
with right system).

> I would note that some of us Americans consider it a good thing for
> the majority in Congress and the president to be from different
> parties.  It keeps the government from becoming too powerful.  Checks
> and balances.  Gridlock is good. :-)

Checks and balances are fine, but gridlock can prevent any action at all.

> > All members of the Knesset (and the Scottish Parliament!) 
> should be elected on the same basis and all should be directed
> > accountable to the local voters.
> I think you (James) are saying that because the MMP system lets the
> small parties into the Parliament, where they cause "trouble",
> according to your perception.  Is that right?  If there was some way
> to avoid that "trouble", would you still be opposed to MMP?

No, the trouble with MMP is basically that it elects two types of member, who will be seen differently by the
politicians and the electors, no matter what the rules may say about equal status.  Also, of course, it is a party PR
system, that gives almost no say to the voters other than choice of party.  For these two reasons I don't like MMP at
all, either in our regional version, or NZ's national version, or any of the German versions (which are much older, but
have a different history and operate in a different political culture).

I believe in potting the voter at the centre of the system; making the "PR" = "PR of the voters' wishes", not PR of
registered political parties; giving the voters real choice; and arranging the districts to be large enough to ensure
fair representation of all significant groups but small enough to fit to "communities" at state level that the electors
recognise.  For me, STV-PR offers that unique combination.


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