Objectives of Proportional Representation

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This topic contains 47 replies, has 6 voices, and was last updated by  Mark Henschel 3 weeks, 2 days ago.

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  • #26069

    Robert Jarman
    Participant

    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.

    • This reply was modified 2 months, 2 weeks ago by  Robert Jarman.
    #26100

    daveferguson
    Participant

    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.

    #26145

    Robert Jarman
    Participant

    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.

    #26829

    Mark Henschel
    Participant

    Hi

    I actually have a lot to say on this topic but I’ve been overwhelmed with other responsibilities.

    However, I did want to share this.

    A persistent theme of mine has been curtailing the power of the toxic party leadership and backrooms… or at least deliberately choosing not to exacerbate the problem through the implementation of electoral reform that might variously include closed, hybrid or partly open lists, party-ordering of lists, dual candidacy and conditional tabulation of voter choices.

    What we need to prevent is the continuation of the trend identified by Samara in their most recent report.

    https://www.samaracanada.com/research/political-leadership/party-favours/

    Fair Vote is clearly on the wrong side of this issue. That should change.

    Hope this helps.

    #26830

    Robert Jarman
    Participant

    What do you actually define as a backroom?

    Someone could claim that the meetings we hold as the local chapter of Fairvote Canada is a backroom, as it’s a small boardroom in a library in the city centre, but we do publicly tweet our meeting times and locations and allow anyone to sit down and talk within our board meetings and get elected to the board. You can register as a member and become elected the same day at our AGM, we even added positions to the board to accommodate all the people who wanted to participate so they could all get elected.

    You must create distinctions between poorly attended meetings (at the AGM we had a couple dozen people, who were not excluded because we wanted anyone excluded, it’s just that few people wanted to turn out) and actual backrooms, where they exclude most of the public and even most of their members from the actual decisions and meetings they hold.

    Parties have way more than just a party leader and MPs. Certain parties do it better than others, but party membership is relatively inexpensive or even free depending on the party and getting an application is simple for most. A party will biennially create conventions with delegates, though some smaller parties may have simple AGMs, and they approve their board, may hold votes of confidence in the leader depending on internal rules, approve their constitutions and bylaws, and come up with some policy resolutions. The degree to which each of these bodies interacts and how stale or fresh each level of these may be, and to whom they are dependent on for support, is what really makes backrooms, not the idea of a political party itself.

    #26831

    Mark Henschel
    Participant

    Well…

    I’m talking about new processes that will have an impact on the power of the party over the individual elected members.

    Tell me:

    Who is gonna decide the order of candidates on the lists?

    Who is gonna decide who gets dual candidacy and who doesn’t?

    Who does a candidate have to suck up (more) to, to improve their chances of winning a seat?

    Are MPs gonna be more beholden to the voters or less when the party has the power to practically assure their election?

    My point is that you’re adding another layer of precisely what Samara is talking about diminishing… and what voters told Ontario that that they did not want when they turned down closed list MMP in 2007.

    In other words you are advocating something similar to what Trudeau did with the pipeline and climate change.

    #26833

    jim in oakville
    Participant

    The above feeds into my preference for the Italian system of “best seconds” to fill proportional seats rather than party lists, closed or open. The proportional seats are filled by those of the party that have the highest vote percentage but didn’t win FPTP in a region.
    This also avoids the annoyance of having both FTP and several list candidates from the same party vying for my votes.
    I strongly believe we need to keep the proposed system “SIMPLE” to be understood by the general public in ten minutes, because that is all the time most will spend understanding a proposed change before waning more info or staying with what they know. I find most are not interested in politics beyond the leader to vote for.
    This keeps the power in the hands of the people! not bureaucrats.

    #26834

    Robert Jarman
    Participant

    I don’t remember Italy using this system. Baden Wuerttemberg uses it though.

    Also, this idea only works if nomination contests are competitive. Which they usually are not. And first past the post in any local constituency can have screwy consequences, like discouraging say the Greens and the NDP from contesting a Liberal held seat as much as they can, which would allow them to be put higher in the chance of winning a seat due to the need for proportional representation, in fear that say a CPC candidate would win the riding. Runoffs, approval, or a ranked ballot is needed for this to work well.

    #26835

    David Nash
    Participant

    In most models of PR applicable to Canada, we must have multi-member constituencies that are at least limited to individual Provinces. Introducing the notion that all candidates have some connection to the constituency they run in (birth-place, long term residence for some period of their lives, even present relatively long term residence are all possibilities) would be practicable, and not subject to the objection that there just are not enough appropriate candidates available.

    #26845

    Mark Henschel
    Participant

    Robert?

    #26852

    Robert Jarman
    Participant

    Yes, what is it?

    #26853

    Mark Henschel
    Participant

    Well… maybe you could tell me:

    Who is gonna decide the order of candidates on the lists?

    Who is gonna decide who gets dual candidacy and who doesn’t?

    Who does a candidate have to suck up (more) to, to improve their chances of winning a seat?

    Are MPs gonna be more beholden to the voters or less when the party has the power to practically assure their election?

    #26888

    Robert Jarman
    Participant

    There isn’t a ranked list in BW. Ex officio, all candidates from the party nominated in a single member constituency are on the list. They are not ordered. If you win a single member constituency by getting the plurality of the votes, you are off the list and are automatically elected. The rest are ordered in descending order of how many votes they got in their single member ridings. If the legislature has 100 seats, the party wins 30% of the vote but only won 20% of the constituencies, they need ten more members of parliament in order to make their seat total correct, and thus, the ten candidates who were runners up and got the most votes in a riding are deemed elected.

    The list is as democratic as is the nominating process in each constituency association. That is opaque in Canada now but Samara Canada has several papers outlining possible ways to fix that.

    As for who you suck up to, once you get nominated by the party, you try to win as many votes as you can in the constituency. Even if the constituency is near certain to have a plurality for another candidate, every vote more you get increases your position on the candidates that will be turned to if the party needs a proportional seat boost, and every vote more that you get makes it likely that voters will vote for your party, increasing the number of seats they need and ergo more chances to fill that seat. Using a ranked ballot for the local constituencies and it becomes maximally advantageous to campaign hard in your riding as you can’t split the vote of the riding and potentially cause the single winner riding victory to go to an opposition candidate.

    #26889

    Mark Henschel
    Participant

    Interesting response.

    By countering with a no-list, single-X, best-loser system that sidesteps the questions I had about lists you’ve at least made the case that electoral design can and does impact the relative power of party and representative… and therefore voter. I agree. It’s self evident.

    The question from this topic remains: does ameliorating the problem of the concentration of power in the offices of the leader and party represent an “objective of PR” for Fair Vote or are you happy to help exacerbate the problem as evidenced by the advocacy to date including Real’s latest missive on MMP?

    In other words is one of the objectives of PR to facilitate the concentration and centralization of power in parties at the expense of empowering voters?

    I would hope the answer at this juncture is “no” and that that would be reflected in a change in the direction of advocacy.

    #26904

    Robert Jarman
    Participant

    MMP isn’t the only option for electoral reform. STV is completely party agnostic and has often elected independents, who right now are a large fraction (1/6th) of the Irish parliament and a quarter of their senate. STV lets you choose between multiple candidates from the same party, or among other candidates from any other party, or independents, or combinations of these in panachage.

    Proportional systems limit parties by requiring that they cooperate with others to achieve a majority of the votes. And in that, many parties often adopt reforms that can benefit the parliament collectively and less so any individual party. A party often makes claims of reform in their campaign but implements few of them when in power, and if they are in opposition, can’t implement them at all even if they want to. So long advertised reforms like ending leadership vetoes over candidates, transparency in nomination contests, and similar, which would empower individual MPs over their parties more so, would be more likely to pass.

    A PM also would be less able to appoint a cabinet of their sole choosing and same with senators, as they have to include coalition partners with these sorts of decisions, so there is less to reward loyalists with in terms of appointed positions.

    Parties hold biennial conventions, or in some provincial parties, annual conventions, where the party nominated candidates (or incumbent MPs or MLAs) often are automatically members, so if parties are more so bound to the decisions of their conventions and not to the will of any party leader, then the decisions of the candidates/incumbents become more important than the leadership.

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