Monday, 25 May 2009

Remedies, But Not To This

We need both primaries and Proportional Representation.

We needed them before recent events, and we still need them for reasons quite distinct from those events.

But neither is a remedy against corruption. There is corruption in America. There is corruption on the Continent. And there are both primaries and PR in Italy.


  1. PR was scrapped in Italy before the last election.

    Aside from that, you are spot on.

  2. The Aberdonian26 May 2009 at 16:29

    I am not against party lists on principal. However they should either a) be open or b) if closed, a representative who loses the whip/goes independent/defects must vacate their seat. Would relaxed with STV though.

    Italy is always portrayed as "why we should not have PR". Strangely the reasons for Italy's instability go beyond PR. For a start both the Chamber of Deputies and Senate have equal power - that means that both are needed to get any piece of legislation through (unlike most systems where there is an "inferior chamber" - particuarly on budgets). More importantly either chamber can sack the government without recourse to the other. That means having to cobble together a coalition in both chambers to survive.

    For many years many Parliamentary votes also took place in secret. The member would vote by putting a black or white ball in a giant jar in the middle of the chamber and did not disclose how he/she voted. This led to many people stabbing their colleagues in the back and leaving whips powerless (imagine the Maastricht vote of 1993 under such a system). Less votes are now carried out this way (It was introduced to counter any potential Mussolini who might use his bootboys to "vote the right way").

    Of course the voting system was overgenerous before the 1993/94 reforms to small parties. There needs to be a threshold in such situations. Otherwise you end up like Israel and the problems in the Knesset's makeup.

  3. It has not been scrapped entirely, Charlie.

    The Aberdonian, these are very importnat considerations in the current debate. PR itself has never been the problem in Italy. An elected second chamber, which in principle I support, should not subvert the authority of the House of Commons.

    Electoral reform, which again in principle I support, should not mean voting for parties rather than people, should not destroy direct local representation, should not give power to anti-constitutional and anti-democratic parties, and should not prevent necessary radical action on behalf of the poor or otherwise disadvantaged.

    And there must be no constraint of any future government by any written Constitution, never mind one first written thirty or forty years ago on the back of a Rizla or in the margins of some Trotskyist rag.