Posted tagged ‘electoral systems’

What are electoral systems for?

January 23, 2011

It never ceases to amaze me how apparently intelligent and enlightened people can justify and support totally undemocratic electoral systems. As I have mentioned before in this blog, the United Kingdom has a system for general elections (‘first past the post’) that produces election results that have almost no relationship with the will of the people expressed at the ballot box. The Irish system (‘single transferable vote’) is entertaining but equally not necessarily efficient in expressing the will of the people, while its multi-seat constituencies positively encourage candidates to fight dirty against the running mates from their own party.

It seems to me that a voting system should have only one purpose: to allow the people to speak and to have their democratic wishes expressed accurately. That’s it. Nothing else is relevant. The system that does this most efficiently is the German one, which distributes parliamentary seats in line with the electorate’s party preferences while also ensuring that each constituency has a member of parliament.

I can think of no valid reason for retaining either the British or the Irish existing electoral systems. And what is proposed for Britain – the alternative vote system – is hardly better. If the countries on these islands want to be able to say they are democracies, they need to do better.