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Speach about electoral systems at KTH, May 31, 2011. Jörgen Hermansson Jorgen.firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Speach about electoral systems at KTH, May 31, 2011 Jörgen Hermansson Jorgen.email@example.com
The fundamental problem: “Find a form of association that defends and protects the person and goods of each associate with all the common force, and by means of which each one, uniting with all, nevertheless obeys only himself and remains as free as before.” (Rousseau) • This is Rousseau – not Madison. • But put in more general terms – how to strike a balance between: • Democracy • Rule of Law • Efficiency (Elster & Slagstad 1988, Constitutionalism and democracy, CUP) (This should have been specified in the negotiation 1967)
Lesson 1. You can’t get it all! (Arrow) • You all know the theorem. I am interested in its interpretation within political theory. • It was said (when Arrow got the price) that his theorem proved that there were some inherent problem in democracy. • In one sense this was true, but we knew that already from Condorcet. • The important conclusion after Arrow is that all systems for collective decision-making have this kind of problem. So from a historical point of view, it is rather pro-democracy (and majority rule). • Main conclusion: You want a lot from a electoral system or a method for collective decision-making. But you can’t get it all. • We have to evaluate and compare the different systems with respect for carefully chosen criteria. And sometimes you may confront difficult trade-offs.
Lesson 2a. The trade-off is inherent to democracy (Dahl) • To look at the definition of democarcy is not a solution. Typically our conception of democracy runs something like this: • Democracy is a political system where the people rules itself with institutions that treat the citizens as political equals. • The definition includes two components: • Popular souveriegnty (collective autonomy) • Political equality (individual autonomy)
Lesson 2b. The trade-off is inherent to democracy; cont. • Neither is it a solution to go back to the arguments for democracy. • The typical Scandinavian way to put it is to say that democracy is a goal by itself, that it is a good in itself. • In so doing we tend to refer back to the two very same components in our definition. And we tend to stress that we need both.
Lesson 3. Do not forget about the dynamics! (Duverger) • It is well known and almost stated as a law of politics that electoral systems as the British one, tend to create two-party systems, while PR tends to create a multiparty system. (Duverger, Cox) • It is much more easy for new groups and minorities to gain representation in a PR system. • The welfare policy systems tend to be more generous in PR countries. • And you can go on …
Lesson 4. There are always un-intended consequences (Merton) • The main example in Swedish politics is the PR reform in 1911 by a conservative government. • It was a huge pressure from the left (Liberals and Social Democrats) to introduce democracy. • The conservative PM Lindman went to the parliament with a proposal for equal suffrage for men to the 2nd chamber COMBINED with a proposal to change the electoral system to PR. • His calculus was that by this he made it certain that the conservatives would not loose everything. • But it also created a situation with more than half a century with a fragmented right wing and with Social Democratic dominance in Swedish politics. • My second example will be the recent reform: the introduction of votes for persons within a party based system
Personal votes – the idea • In Sweden we first of all vote for a party, on a party list where the order is decided by the parties themselves. • But there is also a possibility to vote for a special candidate by writing a cross. • It has always been said that this new component in our electoral system should not violate the idea that the vote for parties is the fundamental thing in our system.
The constitutional development • Before 1998. Alternative lists for a party. The voters could delete candidates. • 1998—2010. The voters could instead mark a cross and tell which candidate he or she prefered most. The candidates would the climb on the party list if they gained crosses at least 8 percent in the national election and 5 percent in local elections. At the local level there was in addition one more requirement – at least 100 votes at the county level and 50 votes in the municipalities. • From now on the same rule at all levels. In addition we will have more information about this on the ballots.
Why changing the system? • The constitutional investigation characterised the system 1998—2010 as a failure. • The government go for the same interpretation in its bill to the parliament. • The expectation was to have 30 to 50 percent participation in the parliamentary elections and between 50 and 70 percent i the local elections.(Prop 2009/10:80, s.86)
An alternative interpretation • The parties have got exactly what they wanted and also what they need: • The parties want to keep control over the lists. • To strengthen the connection between the MP and its constituency is a dream to get a Brittish situation without changing the fundamentals of our system. • The parties have got an instrument to handle its own internal problems and conflicts (e.g. in SD to take a stand between for or agianst EU).
Why so much concern for this? • There is also a strong tendency in politics to make it more personalized (especially in media). • We are talking about a presidentialization of the parliamentary systems. • This reform may strengthen this in spite of its intention not to that. • The very core of our democratic system is the possibility to hold those in power accounatble for what has happened – and it is the parties who should be evaluated rather than its individual candidates.