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  1. #101
    Finbar10 Finbar10 is offline
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lempo View Post
    About Finland, technically you are of course correct but for the voter it looks like he/she only chooses a single candidate when he/she votes. So when voting for a relative or an acquintance one should keep in mind that a vote given is always primarily a vote given for a party and only somewhat secondarily will your actual candidate benefit for it. This has the hiccups that for a candidate the candidate to beat is the other candidate of your party in same constituency who has a somewhat similar profile and politics, and that for a party there is an incentive to get celebrity candidates who would hoard votes outside your 'normal' segment of the electorate. Subsequently, Finland has seen a plenty of sportsmen as MPs... whose preference compared to your usual variety of political broilers is of course debatable.

    And of course, the election result will directly effect only to who get to be the MPs. There are also the inside party politics and it's sometimes a form of art how to sideline a candidate who has been the vote rake in the elections but who inside the party is viewed as an undesirable or known to lack the capabilities for a minister post for example. The front-benchers have usually been sitting more than one electoral period and have their own faithful voters in their constituencies so the "accountability" seldom occurs. There have been people leaving their ministerial posts in disgrace who have bounched back in the next election in their constituencies much to the chagrim of the rest of the country.

    And when all is said and done, the party still very much expects the MP to vote as he or she is told to vote. The was a time back this one young female competent MP who quite surprisingly after a couple of electoral periods in the Parliament announced that she has decided to go towards new challenges and won't be looking for a re-election. The reason: there's not much sense for her to be there pushing the voting buttons when all the actual deciding gets made by the established grand old men of the party.
    Thanks for the direct insights into the Finnish system. Very interesting. I guess it's inevitable that politicians and parties are probably always going to try to game the system to the maximum. Really interesting with regard to the celebrity candidate angle. Yeah, not sure if or not it's an improvement on the "political broilers" (though I suspect if we had that system here political family name recognition would probably still be a big factor).

    The Finnish electoral system seems interesting as a comparison to our one, in some ways seems pretty similar to ours, and in some ways seems quite different. The example of the young female MP sounds familiar (I suspect a whole swathe of our own TDs really are merely fodder for Dáil votes with the leadership deciding the important issues). Though have to admire the female MP for having the gumption to walk away from the whole thing.

    "There have been people leaving their ministerial posts in disgrace who have bounched back in the next election in their constituencies much to the chagrim of the rest of the country."
    Unfortunately can't say that kind of thing doesn't happen here also!

    All voting systems seem to have their flaws. And it appears their features can be double-edged also, what can be good point in one context might perhaps be a real downside in another. List systems in general do seem to have more changeable and dynamic party systems. People have speculated that PR-STV has a moderating/centralizing effect, whereas there's perhaps more room for more extreme parties on all sides of the spectrum in a list system. Maybe that's a good thing, or sometimes maybe that's a bad thing. Have to mention the True Finn party I guess. It's probably safe to say that this party would never have gotten off the ground in our electoral system. The True Finns seemed to have a fairly small number of seats (less than 5% support) for 7 or 8 years. In PR-STV they wouldn't probably have gotten anywhere near enough lower transfers to get a single seat. Probably would never have gotten off the ground in the first place. Now maybe that might have been a good thing given their far right credentials (but I suspect that label might be a bit lazy also, can't say I really understand or know all that much about them, maybe they're simply being populist and legitimately represent a certain portion of the population, I'm suspicious of simplistic labels). Kind of proves my point in one way (list systems being less moderating and more dynamic) but maybe also is an example of where these very properties aren't always such a good thing! Maybe PR-STV is good for suppressing extreme politics, but that might not always be cost-free feature either. A party being radical or non-mainstream isn't always necessarily a bad thing.

    Thanks again anyway for the thoughts on the Finnish system. Electoral systems are definitely not straightforward things!
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  2. #102
    Lempo Lempo is offline
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    Finbar10, the pleasure was all mine.

    I came to be a bit afraid if my rambling was somewhat in coherent because of my assumption that everyone would if course be familiar with the relative D'Hondt system that is used in Finnish elections. To shortly recap hopefully for someone's benefit: every candidate is affiliated with one of the parties. Voter votes for an individual candidate. When the votes are counted, the candidates are within their parties put in order according the amount of votes they individually were given. For each of the candidates will be calculated a comparative number. The one who got most votes within a party will be given as his comparative number the amount of all votes given to that party's candidates. The one who's ranked second will get 1/2 of that amount for his comparative number, the third will get 1/3 and so on. The same thing is done in all parties and all the constituency's candidates are then ranked according to their comparative numbers and the seats will be given in that order as long as there are seats to give.

    So for a party, the overall amount of votes for it's candidates is of importance, and for the candidates too but they have to also try to be among those who get most votes within his party.

    Overall, the system is somewhat tweaked to benefit the bigger parties especially in smaller constituencies. The surge of True Finns, or the Finns as they wish the English name to be, was actually a very welcome thing as the "old" parties have lately lost their messages while trying to cater for everyone and to position themselves around the political center. Of course it ruined the established carousel dynamics between the older parties and thus caused much indignation. The party is mostly a somewhat populistic socially conservative economically left-wing with a smallish anti-immigration/multiculturalism wing that tagged along in the election. Not really far-right.
    Last edited by Lempo; 2nd January 2013 at 08:46 PM.
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  3. #103
    Finbar10 Finbar10 is offline
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lempo View Post
    Finbar10, the pleasure was all mine.

    I came to be a bit afraid if my rambling was somewhat in coherent because of my assumption that everyone would if course be familiar with the relative D'Hondt system that is used in Finnish elections.
    Thanks. All seemed pretty clear to me. Don't be afraid of a bit of length! Am not a particularly frequent post around here but some of the posts I do make can at times seem very long and rambling even to myself!
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  4. #104
    Finbar10 Finbar10 is offline
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    Quote Originally Posted by shiel View Post
    All good reasons why we should maintain our PR-STV system.

    Like democracy it is not great until you think of the alternatives.
    You're a pretty tenacious defender of PR-STV!
    Personally, I think PR-STV has a lot going for it.
    Actually, if it has decent constituency sizes, wouldn't be all that different to
    the Finnish electoral system (arguably in some ways better, voters able to
    express their choices in a more fine-grained way than the blunter Finnish
    PR system, be less party based (if that's a good thing), or maybe
    the moderating/centralizing hypothesis is right (if that's a good thing)).

    But our version of PR-STV is hobbled. Its proportionality is fairly limited.
    There are good historical reasons for that. Large constituencies give a chance
    for smaller parties to be created or continue to exist. Average constituency
    size here never exceeded more than about 5, but at least in the past there were
    some big constituencies, e.g. the Galway 9-seater. It was De Valera who
    gradually eliminated the big constituencies (a perfectly logical move from
    the perspective of his own big party), with the 9-seaters vanishing around the
    time of the introduction of the 1937 constitution. Nonetheless, three
    7-seaters remained (Tipperary, Dublin South and Limerick).
    It was the threat of new party, Clann na Poblachta, that got him
    to finally get rid of these and engage in a serious bit of Gerrymandering,
    with the introduction of a whole host of new 3-seaters. Did the trick,
    Clann na Poblachta got far less seats than their vote might previously
    have merited (in the long term probably helped see off their threat).

    It seems to me limited proportionality PR-STV helps maintain the
    status quo (the way we use the Seanad and maybe even donation limits
    and general political funding for incumbents based on past
    electoral performance may exacerbate this). That probably would not
    hold for full-blooded decently proportional PR-STV (but that's
    not what we have or are even likely to get any time soon).

    For a young TD starting out in one of the established parties and contemplating
    a long-term political career (over maybe 30 years) the current setup
    is pretty attractive.

    In the UK there are often big electoral swings and roundabouts. Most MPs will likely
    spend some time in the wilderness outside the Commons.
    Here, the electoral swings are normally not so big. And there's the Seanad as a
    fallback. If one keeps in the good books of party leadership there's a decent chance
    one will be able to sit things out in the Seanad.

    If as a young TD you've the good sense (being sarcastic/cynical here)
    to choose a mainstream established party, then good move, chances are that
    party will doing just fine in another 30 or 40 years. Perhaps some upstart young
    party will make some inroads during that period, but it's likely they'll run out of
    steam and implode sooner or later anyway. Outside the big three, no party started
    in the Irish Republic has ever lasted the distance in the almost 100 years of our state
    (ok, Sinn Féin is something of a new thing, a strong party from a neighbouring jurisdiction, maybe
    that will last the distance, or maybe not). What are the chances that
    we'll have just the very same three parties (Fine Gael, Labour, Fianna Fáil,
    plus maybe Sinn Féin in some form or other) in 30 years time? Pretty good I'd say.

    I suspect you'd consider PR-STV to be the Ferrari of electoral systems (indeed it might well be).
    But I suppose my general point above would be that a hobbled speed-limited
    Ferrari won't necessary get one from A to B faster than a humble Ford Focus!
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  5. #105
    shiel shiel is offline

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    Quote Originally Posted by Finbar10 View Post
    You're a pretty tenacious defender of PR-STV!
    Personally, I think PR-STV has a lot going for it.
    Actually, if it has decent constituency sizes, wouldn't be all that different to
    the Finnish electoral system (arguably in some ways better, voters able to
    express their choices in a more fine-grained way than the blunter Finnish
    PR system, be less party based (if that's a good thing), or maybe
    the moderating/centralizing hypothesis is right (if that's a good thing)).

    But our version of PR-STV is hobbled. Its proportionality is fairly limited.
    There are good historical reasons for that. Large constituencies give a chance
    for smaller parties to be created or continue to exist. Average constituency
    size here never exceeded more than about 5, but at least in the past there were
    some big constituencies, e.g. the Galway 9-seater. It was De Valera who
    gradually eliminated the big constituencies (a perfectly logical move from
    the perspective of his own big party), with the 9-seaters vanishing around the
    time of the introduction of the 1937 constitution. Nonetheless, three
    7-seaters remained (Tipperary, Dublin South and Limerick).
    It was the threat of new party, Clann na Poblachta, that got him
    to finally get rid of these and engage in a serious bit of Gerrymandering,
    with the introduction of a whole host of new 3-seaters. Did the trick,
    Clann na Poblachta got far less seats than their vote might previously
    have merited (in the long term probably helped see off their threat).

    It seems to me limited proportionality PR-STV helps maintain the
    status quo (the way we use the Seanad and maybe even donation limits
    and general political funding for incumbents based on past
    electoral performance may exacerbate this). That probably would not
    hold for full-blooded decently proportional PR-STV (but that's
    not what we have or are even likely to get any time soon).

    For a young TD starting out in one of the established parties and contemplating
    a long-term political career (over maybe 30 years) the current setup
    is pretty attractive.

    In the UK there are often big electoral swings and roundabouts. Most MPs will likely
    spend some time in the wilderness outside the Commons.
    Here, the electoral swings are normally not so big. And there's the Seanad as a
    fallback. If one keeps in the good books of party leadership there's a decent chance
    one will be able to sit things out in the Seanad.

    If as a young TD you've the good sense (being sarcastic/cynical here)
    to choose a mainstream established party, then good move, chances are that
    party will doing just fine in another 30 or 40 years. Perhaps some upstart young
    party will make some inroads during that period, but it's likely they'll run out of
    steam and implode sooner or later anyway. Outside the big three, no party started
    in the Irish Republic has ever lasted the distance in the almost 100 years of our state
    (ok, Sinn Féin is something of a new thing, a strong party from a neighbouring jurisdiction, maybe
    that will last the distance, or maybe not). What are the chances that
    we'll have just the very same three parties (Fine Gael, Labour, Fianna Fáil,
    plus maybe Sinn Féin in some form or other) in 30 years time? Pretty good I'd say.

    I suspect you'd consider PR-STV to be the Ferrari of electoral systems (indeed it might well be).
    But I suppose my general point above would be that a hobbled speed-limited
    Ferrari won't necessary get one from A to B faster than a humble Ford Focus!
    The case in favour of larger constituencies is well made by you. But those who want to get rid of PR-STV would have more objections to larger constituencies than to the smaller ones.

    My problem is that those who want to get rid of PR-STV want to give more power to political party insiders to determine who represents us.

    It was the misuse of just such power by a small number of insiders in politics, financial institutions etc which bankrupt the country.

    Introducing first past the post single seat constituencies or list systems would IMHO make matters worse.

    It would cause the insider elite to be even less amenable to the concerns of ordinary people and make them even more unaccountable.
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  6. #106
    Joe6pack Joe6pack is offline
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    I know this is small potatoes but is there something wrong here?
    Meath County Council have a new councillor in the Slane area he is Arian Keogan.This is a result of the resignation of Seamus O'Neill in early September 2012.
    It seems that after Seamus O'Neill resigned he nominated his partner Sharon Keogan.Sharon Keogan is a former Fianna Fail activist and national executive member who ran in the last general election receiving roughly 2% of the vote.
    She was found by Meath County Council to be ineligible to fill the seat of a departing independent councillor.
    It then transpired Meath County Council "Co-opted" the position to Arian Keogan (a.k.a. Arian Keogan-Nooshibadi) who is Sharon Keogan's young son from a previous marriage.
    Is there something wrong with this? It doesn't seem right to me Mr.Keogan-Nooshibadi is completely unknown in this area and as far as I am aware has been studying abroad for the last number of years and may still be.
    How are public/elected positions passed around like this within the one family?
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  7. #107
    Finbar10 Finbar10 is offline
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    Quote Originally Posted by Joe6pack View Post
    I know this is small potatoes but is there something wrong here?
    Meath County Council have a new councillor in the Slane area he is Arian Keogan.This is a result of the resignation of Seamus O'Neill in early September 2012.
    It seems that after Seamus O'Neill resigned he nominated his partner Sharon Keogan.Sharon Keogan is a former Fianna Fail activist and national executive member who ran in the last general election receiving roughly 2% of the vote.
    She was found by Meath County Council to be ineligible to fill the seat of a departing independent councillor.
    It then transpired Meath County Council "Co-opted" the position to Arian Keogan (a.k.a. Arian Keogan-Nooshibadi) who is Sharon Keogan's young son from a previous marriage.
    Is there something wrong with this? It doesn't seem right to me Mr.Keogan-Nooshibadi is completely unknown in this area and as far as I am aware has been studying abroad for the last number of years and may still be.
    How are public/elected positions passed around like this within the one family?
    I hate this kind of thing also. Some kind of count-back system would be the fairest solution (take out the old ballots from the election and figure which available candidate comes next in line). I think the party of the resigning councillor gets to chose the seat (often they let some relative get the job). If they are not in a party, I think the council gets to decide. Know there was a bit of a dogfight within FG in my local constituency when a councillor got a Dáil seat in the last GE. The person who thought he was going to be co-opted into the vacant seat (non-family actually) didn't ultimately. Some bitter infighting over it. And I remember reading on site a few years back about a high court challenge to the co-option system. Was found to be constitutional (wouldn't get away with this for the Dáil but there are few protections to local government in our constitution, article 28A is fairly flimsy).
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  8. #108
    Finbar10 Finbar10 is offline
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    Quote Originally Posted by shiel View Post
    The case in favour of larger constituencies is well made by you. But those who want to get rid of PR-STV would have more objections to larger constituencies than to the smaller ones.

    My problem is that those who want to get rid of PR-STV want to give more power to political party insiders to determine who represents us.

    It was the misuse of just such power by a small number of insiders in politics, financial institutions etc which bankrupt the country.

    Introducing first past the post single seat constituencies or list systems would IMHO make matters worse.

    It would cause the insider elite to be even less amenable to the concerns of ordinary people and make them even more unaccountable.
    Party Control

    Power is so centralized in this country that I'd generally agree that concentrating it even further in party leadership hands via some more closed list system would be a grave risk.

    However, electoral systems is a topic I find myself constantly playing devil's advocate (even to my own previous arguments! ). Voters generally don't seem to like closed list systems (have seen articles complaining of this in Spain and Iceland in its proposed new constitution is seeking to make its voting system more open). There are not that many closed list systems (where voters really only get to vote for a party, and have no say over ranking within the party list). Most places seem to have semi-open systems (voters have some say in determining who within a party list gets elected but the internal party list has some bearing also).

    One of the functions of political parties is as a support structure for candidates to help get them elected (somewhere they can turn to for resources, help and bodies-on-the-ground). Obviously the higher up the party structure a candidate is the more help they are likely to get. Undoubtedly that happens everywhere. A bonus of being in the party leadership is that even if the party's vote shrinks, one is still likely to be one of the survivors. This happens by hook or by crook. Here resources seems somehow to find their way disproportionately into ministers' constituencies (even this morning the Sunday Times had a story on lotto funding in Minister Reilly's constituency). A minister or likely minister is beneficial to a constituency (and is more likely to be elected). I suppose the question is whether having an explicit formal mechanism to do this might not have some advantages. In a semi-open list system, those high on the party list are fairly likely to be elected. The downside is that direct accountability to the electorate may be blunted for party leaderships (and perhaps politicians may need to be more skilled at the skill of political party infighting, as opposed to constituency work). But perhaps an upside is less of a need for party leaderships/ministers to work the parish pump as much (if that's a good thing). Plus there are different versions of party control. It doesn't necessarily have to be the case that a party leader makes the final call on the party list ordering (that's way too much power). As I mentioned earlier, in Germany it's a secret ballot of ordinary party members that determines the list ordering (party control by the rank and file). There are a number of examples of open list systems though. Finland, as described above, is an example with no party control of list ordering (though as with all countries no doubt party leaderships have their ways of protecting their own skins one way or another despite the system, just because there isn't a formal mechanism doesn't mean it doesn't happen, and there are pros and cons of having a formal mechanism).

    However, I still agree that handing more control to party leaderships is just too risky here given the overall context (and would just muddy the waters in any reform debate).

    Increasing proportionality in PR-STV via a top-up system

    And to meander off on another tangent, there are other ways of increasing the proportionality of our electoral system than simply increasing constituency sizes. For example, Daniel Sullivan (KingKane) of these parts previously proposed a system that has a lot going for it, see here (takes some inspiration I think from a form of MMP practiced in one of German Lander, and there's some interesting stuff on non-geographical constituencies in that blog article too).

    In this system, PR-STV as we currently practice it is topped up by a list to restore full proportionality. Suppose, for simplicity, we have 4-seater PR-STV constituencies everywhere. To restore proportionality in this case 1/(4+1) = 1/5 of the seats would need to be in the top-up list. So perhaps we might have a Dáil of size 150 where 120 of the seats were distributed in 30 standard 4-seater constituencies. And we'd also have 30 seats going in a top-up list. The interesting thing about the system proposed in the blog is that there's no explicit party list. So suppose a party gets 6% of first preferences nationally but only manages to get 2 seats in the standard constituencies. 6% should have merited 9 Dáil seats however. Hence they are allocated 7 seats from the top-up list. However, it's the 7 candidates who got the highest percentage of a quota within their local constituencies before being eliminated who would get the seats (obviously excluding those who actually got seats). That minimizes party control (it actually rather resembles the Finnish system in some ways).

    It would be no big deal to extend such a system to uneven constituency sizes. In that case, one would have to weigh the elimination quota percentages of all unsuccessful candidates within a party appropriately by constituency size and census population for the constituency (can give formula if people want! *). It's a system that would largely keep the system we have but restore full proportionality (avoiding control by party leaderships) and give plenty of space for small parties to develop.

    EDIT:
    * I suppose I might as well show how one could adjust for uneven constituency sizes.
    The theory is that in a PR-STV constituency with k-seats then 1/(k+1) of the voters are left improperly represented. It's roughly the number of ballot papers that will be undistributed at the end of a count. The bigger k (the constituency size) is then the smaller this becomes and the more proportional the voting system.

    The simplest system would be divide the percentage of the quota every eliminated party candidate got in any constituency around the country by (the constituency size + 1). If all constituencies were of size 4 then this wouldn't matter. But such a system penalizes candidates that couldn't win in more proportionate 5-seaters and gives a bonus to candidates who couldn't win in less proportional 3-seaters. So if a party is allocated some seats in the top-up list it would be the top ranking candidates using these adjusted elimination quota percentages who would get the seats.

    Another possibility would be to factor in census populations for constituencies. Some constituencies can be somewhat more over-represented than others. One could also build this into the scores. One could divide the scores by constituency population/constituency size. This would somewhat penalize candidates from over-represented constituencies and give a boost to those from under-represented ones.
    Last edited by Finbar10; 6th January 2013 at 01:33 PM.
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