[EM] Preferential Party-List Proportional Representation (PPLPR)

Juho Laatu juho4880 at yahoo.co.uk
Thu Nov 6 05:34:52 PST 2014

On 06 Nov 2014, at 11:26, Vidar Wahlberg <canidae at exent.net> wrote:

> On Fri, Oct 31, 2014 at 10:52:06PM +0100, Vidar Wahlberg wrote:
> <snip>
> I'm curious, there seems to be very little interest for party-list
> systems on this mailing list.

Yes and no. Many people are from countries where party-lists are not the tradition and not a plausible option in the near future. Many people dislike parties and prefer proportional methods where candidates run just as individuals, not as party candidates. But despite of this, I think there are occasionaly also good discussions on party-list style systems on this mailing list. And certainly there are many people who find party-list based methods interesting and worth both theoretical studies and practical use (including me).

> When it comes to governments, party-list is quite common in the more
> successful democracies. Still, even party-list systems tend to lead to
> 2-3 parties being the dominating and practically unchallengeable forces.

Sometimes it may be the overall atmosphere of the society that focuses attention to few parties only, not the party-list method itself. For example it might be that there are historical dividing lines among the population, that keep them anchored to their "old camps".

Another reason is that incumbent ruling parties of course have a tendency to strengthen their own power and position, and avoid giving power to new entrants. This may lead to changes in the election method too, or to tendency to keep its faws intact. Often party-list systems do have some thresholds that cut out parties that are "to small", or they otherwise favour large parties (e.g. small number of seats per district, or counting methods that favour large parties). These problems need not be linked to party-list systems in the sense that they could not be fixed, if there was interest to fix them.

It is typical that in multiparty countries there are some 2-4 large parties that at least in principle could decide on most matters between themselves, maybe alternating in power, and without even seriously consulting the other parties. I think it is a sign of a healthy political system that these leading parties can change in time. The changes could be slow, but it should be possible. Similarly some parties should gradually get in and some drop out.

One more reason that could lead to a stagnated party structure (maybe with few parties only). Parties tend to finance themselves using public money, and they may get other resources too. A stagnated system could direct these resources so efficiently to the incumbent parties, and the leading parties, that lack of similar resources makes it hard to the new and potentially growing parties to make any changes to the political party structure. One such resource is e.g time and seats in the tv channels in the political debates before the election. Does the media give disproportionate time and visibility to the current parties (with representatives from the previous election), or to the current leading parties?

> The "wasted vote" mentality is still around in party-list democracies,
> and parties that are liked by most, but not as their first preference,
> will not gain much influence.

Yes. One approach to fixing this problem is to use systems that guarantee a seat to all parties that reach e.g. the v/r votes limit (where v = number of votes, r = number of representatives). One could go also further and for example allow "cumulative votes" and "proportionality in time" in the sense that "lost" votes (and maybe negative "undeserved" votes) in this election will be added to the results of each party in the next election. That would be one approach to eliminating the problem of lost votes as well as we can.

> I find little research done on improving party-list systems, and I find
> it unlikely that existing party-list systems would abandon party-list in
> favour of directly voting for candidates.

Yes, there could be more research and active promotion campaigns. The used methods could certainly be improved in most cases.

For sure the incumbents try to stop any changes as a general rule since the existing rules (whatever they are) are the ones that gave them the power. Any changes to the system would probably change some of the incumbent leaders. That is already a good enough reason for many to oppose (intentionally or instinctively) any changes. Any method that would not elect them would surely be a faulty method :-) .

Although methods that are based on candidates only, without any party structure, do have some benefits, so do the party-list methods. One key benefit of parties is that they give voters a simplified structure of the possible ways that the society could be developed further. Democracies rely on regular people making decisions on how the society should be run. Since they are not experts, it is important to make the alternatives clear enough to them, so that they can truly make decisons on the key questions. They should have some understanding on what direction the system should take, and which groupings are committed to which changes. This makes them less vulnerable to cheap advertising tricks, and makes it less likely that they will simply vote for those candidates whose name is best known, or that have the most expensive advertising campaigns, or that just have a nice smile.

Parties, ideologies and similar simplifications and groupings thus serve the basic need of a democracy to make it possible for the final decision makers, the regular voters, to make rational decisions on how the society should be run. A typical voter is not interested in following and studying the opinions and achieved results of maybe tens or hundreds of candidates. It is better to try to provide some simple structure that helps them in making these decisions in some rational manner.

> So why doesn't this gain more attention?

It will. Actually the EM list has improved quite a bit on this respect in the recent years.


> -- 
> Regards,
> Vidar Wahlberg
> ----
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