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MMP change for the sake of change?

SamDomm at voteyesformmp.ca argues that we should switch to MMP because it isn't any worse than FPTP. Strong reason. From the post...

These past few days we have seen the No MMP side reveal itself and its virulent bloggers become sharper in their attacks. The most common trait if you read those blogs is that opponents of MMP tend to be very cynical about democracy and politics. This is most obvious when they claim that MMP will balkanize Ontario politics, our government will become controlled by narrow-minded interest groups and our political culture will become dysfunctional and corrupt.

I'm not at all cynical about politics. I am, however, deeply cynical about political parties. Every party that comes to power throws away its ideals and holds on to power for dear life. Aside from that, MMP will do nothing to debalkanise Ontario politics, which should be a goal of any electoral reform. No matter how you cut it, MMP still leads to an adverserial system of government changing only how many people are on each side of the front line. Voters will still be forced to vote for one single candidate in their riding, without being able to express any kind of alternative choices to reduce strategic voting or eliminate vote splitting, and will still be limited to expressing blind faith in one single party's judgement for its list candidates.

Our political culture is already dysfunctional and corrupt, but MMP will only increase the level of corruption. In Russia, political parties blatantly sell spots on their lists in elections as a means of fundraising. How is that not an increase in corruption?

FPTP is not perfect, but MMP is far worse.

What frankly I find ironic is that according to the news media voters under our CURRENT voting system already think politics is balkanized, interest groups control the political agenda and our government, and our political culture is dysfunctional. Hence, it is ironic that the No MMP side claims that MMP will do precisely this. Even if that were true, it would simply mean that MMP is not better than our current system. So why would it be such a big deal to switch then?

A dramatic change in any democratic system should not be taken on the basis that it is "not any better" than the current system. Any change should offer a serious improvement next to the existing system without introducing an entirely new set of problems. With that in mind, at best MMP is not better than FPTP, and realistically is a severe deterioration. We are keeping every aspect of FPTP that is bad, and making it worse by enlarging the ridings and reducing the number of them.

Let's take a concrete example. The No MMP side's pet peeve is 'list' members. They claim that the Party vote would lead to either 'list' members that are no good, were undemocratically chosen or the voter does not get a say on who gets picked. Surprisingly, that is what I think first-past-the-post does. Let me explain.

MMP preserves first past the post and its suboptimal means of choosing candidates for ridings, and adds lists, with its entirely undefined procedures for selecting candidates. How is preserving a weak system and adding a weaker system to it a strengthening of the system?

Most people vote first for a party in our current voting system, then the party leader, then the candidate. Therefore, most voters did not in their mind vote for a candidate. The end result is that I might well end up with a candidate that is no good, even though I voted for the party I like best.

If this is true, which I do not doubt it is, then why are we not addressing that problem? Are we so scared of political discourse in Canada that the notion of electoral reform leading to a return to meaningful local representation instead of a legitimisation of the centralisation of party power is completely taboo?

Under the current voting system, a party leader is allowed to pick candidates unilaterally and undemocratically. Hence, once again the No side claims that MMP is bad for what we already know first-past-the-post to be.

Local ridings still have the option of ejecting a specific candidate who has been appointed by a party. So-called "safe ridings" are never assured. Under MMP, we have no option whatsoever to eject a bad candidate who is high on the Proportional party list short of ejecting the party as a whole.

Finally, under our current voting system, local party members generally pick a candidate but since most voters do not vote for a candidate but for a party, voters do not really get a say in who is the candidate.

This is being preserved, and we are asking our province wide party members to, at best, take this same approach to appointing list candidates. You admit yourself that having the party members pick the candidates is not ideal.

Now, if we compare this with MMP, the big advantage of MMP is that there are two votes: one for the party and one for the candidate. This allows voters to truly express their views by picking the candidate we like best and picking the party we like best. It is true that a party might contain some low quality candidates but at least under MMP you have the choice to vote for a different party if you're not satisfied. Under first-past-the-post, you're tied: you either vote for your preferred candidate or your preferred party, but rarely both.

What improvement is MMP offering here?

Our candidates still matter. Local representatives will still represent 70% of the seats in the house. Strategic voting for and against candidates in your riding will still be necessary. The list vote offers no meaningful improvement to this situation. All the list MPPs will provide to us is MPPs who represent their parties, with no other constituency to represent, to the government.

Posted at 08:29 on August 10, 2007

This entry has been archived. Comments can no longer be posted.

All the World's problems to be solved by MMP | elections reform | The myth of the Kiwi Utopia


Cam Holmstrom writes at Fri Aug 10 18:30:37 2007...

David... great comments... There are many draw-backs to MMP, but to me the biggest problem is that it takes away one of the safeguards that FPTP gives, which is regional balance. Under this system, you loose guaranteed seats in a region (which if you are outside of the GTA in a rural area and in Northern Regions, you already don't have enough power to effect change for your community) and you have that replaced with more seats, but that could come from anywhere. With political pressure being what it is, it can be safely assumed that many of those MMP seats are going to come from where there are high concentrations of population, leaving those rural and Northern areas with not only fewer direct representatives, but also with a smaller ratio of power because there will be over 20 more MPP's. Why should those people in those area accept a system that takes away guaranteed representation from them and gives them back in return a change at possibly getting some of those seats in the MMP lottery???

You're title says it all.... Why change to MMP just for the sake of change??? Better the evil you know than the evil you don't know.


cdlu writes at Fri Aug 10 19:24:36 2007...

Cam,

I agree completely.

MMP evangelists will tell you that this will help the north - after all, half the province is only losing a small number of seats, but the North stands to get seriously undermined by the changes in MMP -- they already have a small number of seats. A lot of people believe MMP is good because any change is better than no change, but fail to acknowledge that MMP has an enormous number of significant problems.


MMPKING writes at Sat Aug 11 05:21:21 2007...

You are making far too much of a rhetorical question.

SamDomm is clearly arguing that MMP is superior, not that "we should switch to MMP because it isn't any worse than FPTP" as you say.

The point being made is that is that many on the NO side seems to be ignoring the terrible deficiencies of FPTP, while attributing to MMP the worst situation it can conjure up.

I did read your post 'Why no MMP?' and am pleased to see that you pinpointed many issues I share. But you seem to be seeking a perfect system at the expense of a better system. And political parties will always be with us, as they are simply formal alliances. Party whips will always be with us as well, even if you eradicate the position. Power always does this.

And, face it, many causes require solidarity, and this sometimes means not obeying one's constituents. When I vote, I vote for a leader, not juts a slave to constituent petitions and lobbyists.

The referendum should not the issue here. If it passes (not likely), the legislation is what will matter.

The Mike Harris regime is what convinced me of the need for MMP. The NDP gaining a majority with only 37% didn't help either.


cdlu writes at Sat Aug 11 07:54:26 2007...

MMPKING,

SamDomm's argument is that even if MMP is not better, we should still switch to it. That position belies the true nature of the Yes side which says that any change is better than no change.

My position is that MMP is not, in fact, any better than FPTP. I *know* FPTP sucks. But MMP is far *worse*, not better.

A preferential ballot is not a lot to ask for, but would be far superior to FPTP and especially to MMP. The weakening of parties is an issue that may or may not come later, but a preferential ballot offers what I really want in an electoral system, which is to elect my representative in a fair, honest, and less strategic manner.

I lived in Quebec during the 1995 referendum and the subsequent PQ victory with the Liberal plurality of the popular vote. I am well aware of the system's weaknesses. I consider MMP throwing the baby out with the bathwater. We preserve all that is bad and evil about FPTP and add all that is bad and evil about PR, put them together, and then try to convince everybody that -1 + -1 = 2, when in fact it is -2.


Doye writes at Thu Sep 13 22:18:19 2007...

I'm not for MMP unless they put into place some sort of limit on the number of political parties there can be. If not, then we will end up with what Italy has, a new election every other month it seems. Always a minority government when one does get the chance to govern. I don't want to pay for expensive elections every other month. Thanks but no thanks.

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