[EM] Electing a proportional executive/cabinet

Gervase Lam gervase.lam at group.force9.co.uk
Mon Mar 20 15:34:43 PST 2006

> Date: Sat, 18 Mar 2006 10:52:34 -0500
> From: raphfrk
> Subject: [EM]  Electing a proportional executive/cabinet

> The only example I know of is the N. Ireland one.  Under that system, 
> the d'hondt system is used.  The largest party gets first choice and so 
> on based on the d'hondt system.  This isn't really directly electing 
> the cabinet though.  Also, if all the cabinet seats are not equal in 
> power/value, the larger parties benefit as they end up with first 
> choices and get the more important ones.
> So assuming the following:
> - a cabinet is to be directly elected by a general vote of the 
> population
> - each seat on the cabinet is for a specific ministry with defined 
> responsibilities
> - all seats are not necessarily equal in power and this may change over 
> time
> My initial thought were that STV would be the best method.

Of the three points, I think the third is the most difficult if not
impossible to fulfil well.  How do you assign power to a ministerial
post?  And it also changes over time as well!

In reply to your post, Dan Bishop suggested budget as a way of assigning
a power quota to each ministerial post.  However, there could be
political dealings that go on in the background that somehow "fix" the
budget figures in an extremely unnoticeable.   It may only be found out
after the election.

The only solution I can think of is to let the STV voting itself
determine the power of the posts.  The first candidate elected gets the
post he was voted in for.  By "definition", this would be the most
important post filled.  The second candidate elected gets the post he
was voted in for.  By "definition", this would be the second most
important post filled.  And so on.

In any case, I don't know practically whether it is a good idea to
assign power to posts or not.  One example is in the UK.  The 'finance'
minister is essentially acting like the next Prime Minister elect.  A
few months ago, he went to an army establishment and made what was
essentially a Prime Ministerial speech.  As far as I can remember from
the news reports, he did not make any mention about finance.  One or two
journalists picked up on this.

Another example is the Education Minister in Northern Ireland.  If
anything, this is not what his main role is nor is it the role that
[most] people know him for.  He actually acts like the second in charge
of one of the parties.

In the past, I had been thinking about having an election method to fill
posts in a cabinet.  However, I saw problems with this, which were
essentially the examples that I mentioned.  Just because there are
extremely stringent rules to define the remit of each minister, it does
not necessarily mean that there is no way to get around it and avoid the

> Each candidate would stand for a specific seat and the candidates would 
> be ranked by the voters.  A voter might vote:
> 1) Candidate A for finance minister
> 2) Candidate B for finance minister
> 3) Candidate C for defence minister
> 4) candidate D for justice minister
> 5) candidate E for finance minister
> and so on

What would be interesting is if you could do the following, which is
doable with STV:

1) Candidate A for finance minister
2) Candidate B for finance minister
3) Candidate B for defence minister
4) Candidate C for defence minister
5) candidate D for justice minister
6) candidate D for finance minister

In reply to Dan Bishop, you wrote:

> Date: Mon, 20 Mar 2006 12:16:24 -0500
> From: RaphFrk
> Subject: Re: [EM] Electing a proportional executive/cabinet

> Also, budget isn't the only thing that determines power of a ministry.
> The finance ministry may have a small budget, but if it sets things
> like interest rates (or decides on the method used to compute
> inflation) and also controls things like government borrowing etc,
> then it is still very important.

This means you may have to set rules for how the finance minister can
set the interest rate.  But then there many other things, not just
interest rates.  What about taxation?  Could the finance minister could
get around the existing rules by inventing another tax?  Since the tax
is new, there would be no rules for it.

May be the finance minister is in an "unstable" country (the Philippines
may be a recent example that comes to mind).  May be the finance
minister is being pressurised by the army (i.e. the army minister).

All of this more or less summarises why power isn't really quantitative
or least very difficult to do.  As mentioned above, I think the only way
to "measure" the power of each cabinet post is to let the ballots do it.
Even then, will the voters get it right?


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