banner photo:

"Each individual should allow reason to guide his conduct, or like an animal, he will need to be led by a leash."
Diogenes of Sinope

Banner photo
Thousand Flowers tapestry (15th Century) - Beaune, France (detail)

Monday, May 07, 2012

This is why proportional representation is a bad idea

Our "first past the post" electoral system may produce lopsided representation in the House of Commons that doesn't accurately reflect the popular vote, but it does have this going for it: we don't get a legislature like the one that the voters of Greece just elected:
As the night wore on it gradually became clear that the sickly pro-bailout parties Pasok (left) and New Democracy (right) failed to gain a majority between them. Though they fell short of a majority by only two seats, their combined votes add up to only one third of the total and it’s hard to see a pro-bailout government staggering on for very long.
Yet the two thirds of the voters who rejected the pro-bailout parties didn’t produce a mandate for any coherent alternative policy. That’s because there isn’t one. The only thing worse for Greece at this point that sticking with the euro and accepting the pain that austerity brings would be to leave. Given Greece’s huge burden of euro denominated international obligations, its need for external finance and the complicated situation of its banks, leaving the euro now would reduce living standards even faster than the austerity plan. 
More, the two thirds of the Greeks who voted against the bailout voted for an incoherent mix of parties who hate one another and have nothing in common. The extreme leftist parties are bitterly divided by longstanding factional, doctrinal and historical disputes. And the neo-Nazis of the Golden Dawn party are unwilling to work with the reds.
In our system, flawed though it is, parties have to meet a certain threshold of support and concentrate that support in ridings to earn representation in the House of Commons. It's not easy to do this, but at least it keeps out nutbar fringe parties like the Nazis, who now sit in the Greek Parliament for the first time:
The dawn was anything but golden for everyone but the Greek Nazis today. Although they got less than ten percent of the vote, it was enough to get seats in Parliament for the first time. As Wikipedia tells us, the party’s charter declares that “only Aryans in blood and Greeks in descent can be candidate members of Golden Dawn.” Their flag proudly advertises their heritage, though as we understand it, the original Nazis would have held them in utter contempt. (The real Nazis believed modern Greeks weren’t ‘Aryans’ at all, but were degenerate, mixed-race untermenschen sunk in corruption and sloth who needed a strong German hand to keep them on track.)
It took years for the Green Party to muster enough support in one riding to get Elizabeth May elected to Parliament. That's a good thing.

No comments: