Objectives of Proportional Representation

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This topic contains 17 replies, has 5 voices, and was last updated by  Robert Jarman 1 day, 12 hours ago.

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    Robert Jarman

    There is a genuine argument to be made there, but I do not believe that we need thresholds to accomplish this. District magnitudes do this better. In an STV election with say 6 seats up for election, you need to reach one droop quota to win, or 14.29%. For parties that are not quite big, smaller parties often need to assemble relatively broad coalitions of voters to get each quota of support to win each seat, meaning that while they can get elected, moderate small parties like the Greens have huge advantages over small but extremely partisan and narrow focused parties which oppose everyone else, which is in part why the political parties in Ireland behave the way they do.

    The Nazis were small in those early elections to the Reichstag, but they ranted on just about everyone else, making it seem to others like only they could be the path forward. In an STV election, which Ireland used at this time as did a couple of university constituencies in the UK and a few cities in the English speaking world, and Alberta and Manitoba, the Nazis would either have to win a full quota without transfers or they would have to somehow get people to put them as their second and so on choices, neither of which is a likely outcome for a party with the values of the Mein Kampf fascists. Even if they did, the individual members of the Nazi party would not be as unified as they were under the closed list system of of the Weimar Republic, as the individual members of the parliament from the Nazi party would be more loyal to a large number of districts, and same story with the state and municipal elections, and so Hitler would have had a harder time unifying the party into something that could actually get behind one man to such a degree that authoritarian laws could be enacted. There would be too much of a risk of being purged like Ernst Röhm for people with the beliefs of the Nazis to gamble on being loyal to one man who might not include them in his final cabinet.

    Also worth knowing that the Sturmabteilung, the SA, or paramilitaries, with 3 million members by the time Hitler consolidated power, had a small core set of beliefs, like anti semitism and anti communism, but they themselves did not always agree with everything Hitler wanted or with each other. Sometimes they were even more extreme than Hitler himself. That is in part why Röhm was murdered on the Night of the Long Knives. To translate this kind of militaristic support into political power, you either have to share power among your alliance or you have to gamble on a smaller subset of people with power to keep you on their side. Both would be difficult obstacles for a true fascist party trying to gain power today.

    The Brexit party in the UK shows us examples of what can be done to limit this risk. Require parties to get a number of petition signatures from prospective members to incorporate, such as 1000 for a local party, 2500 for a provincial party, and 7500 for a national party, ideally with some variety of constituencies (such as a number of signatures within say each of 6 constituencies), to incorporate long enough before an election so as to be able to elect a leader, to organize constituency associations, nominate candidates in a process insulated from the will of the leader, to hold a convention, congress, or general meeting to be able to elect an auditor, a standing board and a central committee to formulate their policy, manifesto, and platform, and approve of the party constitution. This limits the risk of a single person being able to formulate a party centred around themselves. Laws around the general operation of a party that apply to all can also be useful, like allowing the party caucus, the central committee, or say 10% of the members of the party to trigger a vote of no confidence, and to automatically hold votes of confidence by secret ballot at every congress or convention or general meeting, to require that coalition agreements or confidence and supply agreements be negotiated by a larger group not chosen by the leader and approved in a vote of the general membership (as some Green and social democratic parties like the SPDde do) and require a vote of the general membership to cancel the agreement without cause.

    Even if the values and ideologies of the party are disagreeable for many, it is much harder for a single leader or a few central leaders to organize it into a cult or movement capable of risking authoritarianism, and many of the things conductive to authoritarianism or centralization of power such as messing around with the judiciary or changing rules limiting the freedom of the press are harder to do because the supporters of the party know what happened on the Night of the Long Knives to even supporters of the movement and are just as much of being at risk of being silenced as opponents of the party are.

    Before Hitler could overthrow democracy in Germany, he overthrow internal democracy within the National Socialist German Workers Party, by getting rid of the former chairman, Anton Drexler, in 1921, and dissolved the internal system of checks and balances within the party, dissolving the executive committee in the process and instituted himself as an absolutist Führer. A good modern political system does not allow parties which are not internally democratic, one of the things keeping the AfD in Germany from being an actual revival of the Nazis because in the German Grundgezetz, or Basic Law (Constitution), parties must internally be democratic. Any vote within the party held by secret ballot, among the standing council or central committee, or among the general membership, is going to show internal resistance to policies and individuals with power even if supermajorities are attained in the party. The party Hitler led, initially the German Workers Party before it renamed itself, only had 60 members to start with, and would take a while before it got enough members to seriously consider electoral victories. Had they been required to get say 5000 members, starting from bottom up organization during their incorporation, election of leadership, and the selection of their policies, would mean that the fundamental leader (like Hitler or Nigel Farage or whoever) would not have the opportunity to shape the party that much. A requirement for parties to be internally democratic and accountable in a wide variety of ways, to have an expansive membership across a diversity of ridings, to accept members based on ideology and not protected classes as defined in a constitution (such as women), having women being say 40% of the candidates, would make it far harder for a specific leader to centralize power the way Hitler did.



    Objectives of Proportional Representation

    The main objective of proportional representation, of course, is that the voting power of the representatives should be proportional to the represented population on some *criteria* What criteria?

    Political Parties do not do it for me. Except for the Conservatives, I cannot tell what any of the registered political parties stand for. The LPC is notorious for campaigning on the left and governing on the right. The BC Liberals are really Conservatives; the BC NDP look more like left-leaning Liberals. In 2017 a majority (>50%) of British Columbians voted for parties that espoused PR and appeared to be worried about the climate crisis, yet in 2018 PR referendum voted against PR while the NDP Government is pimping for LNG.

    I should like to see an electoral system where the number of seats is proportional to socioeconomic status. Those of us in the lowest quintile of annual income should get 20% of the seats. Unfortunately under our present system 100% of MPs are in the top income quintile.

    My personal preference for PR is STV with at riding size at least seven. But what we really need is a lot more Direct Democracy—referenda are 100% proportional on criteria selected by the individual voter.


    Robert Jarman

    To win in first past the post, you must win more votes than the opposition. This means appealing to groups which otherwise would vote for the opposition. The Liberals need to get the votes of people from the NDP or else they stay home and the Liberals lose to the Conservatives. The Conservatives often need to appeal to bases closer to very right wing groups or else they lose to the NDP or Liberals.

    Even just a few percentage points in a single riding can mean the difference between a majority government vs having no involvement in the political power for years.

    If you can be open to negotiations afterward, and a few percentage points won’t ruin you, and the opposition is assured a seat at the table through power sharing systems, a party can adopt a more specific line of political ideology, and can keep it’s distance from another party it might not always agree with very much but merely tolerates through confidence agreements and can work more closely with ideologically aligned parties through coalition agreements, and combinations of them. Your party can adopt viewpoints by resolution of their congresses and general meetings, and the party leaders and candidates won’t be representing wildly different forms of a vague political ideology, like anything further to the right than the Liberal party in a Conservative Party race.

    Parties can be much more consistent this way.

    Also, by the way, liberalism isn’t usually known through the world as a left wing ideology, it’s usually seen as a centrist or at most centre right ideology like in Australia or the UK. It is in Canada and the US near alone where liberalism has the connotations it does to us.

    As for your concern about income, how do you think poorer candidates and people are going to get the resources needed to win elections and secure sources of funding without being parties based on a broad membership? People aren’t just going to give a poor candidate money or support just because they are poorer. Those who are independents in most genuinely democratic places are either those who used to be part of a party but left it for some reason or people who happened to have the local resources and fame to get elected, or live in areas so small and tight nit that people know each other by name like in a village.

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