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AUSTRALIA

INTRODUCTION

Australia has a federal structure of government with federal power vested in the bi-cameral

Australian Parliament with a further 8 State Parliaments (six of which are bi-cameral – see Table

Australian Constitution

One below). The sets out the delineation of functions between federal

and state levels. Australia is noted for the extent to which the country (both at federal and state

level) has been innovative with electoral systems. Noting the extent of Australia’s

experimentation with electoral systems Farrell and McAllister (2003c) comment:

“Australia is (rightly) proud of its long and distinguished contribution to the

development of electoral institutions, and this probably is best shown by the

imaginative and bold steps taken by electoral engineers in designing the

country’s preferential electoral systems” (p.3).

The only form of proportional representation used in Australia is STV. The timing and reasons

underpinning the introduction of STV varied across Australia. Farrell and McAllister (2003b)

identify three main factors which lay behind the introduction of preferential systems in Australia,

namely “electoral reform debates in Britain; the role of Australian activists; and state-level

experiments in Australia” (p.288).

The system used for the majority of elections in Australia is the majoritarian ‘Alternative Vote’

system. STV is used to elect 226 of Australia’s 842 parliamentarians or 26.8% of the total

number of politicians at federal and state level (see MacKerras 1998). STV is mainly used for

elections to the upper houses of legislatures although two lower chambers, in the Australian

Capital Territory and Tasmania, are elected via STV. There are significant differences in the

forms of STV used for elections to lower and upper houses. Accordingly, the system of STV

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used for lower houses of Parliament is known as the ‘Hare-Clark ’ system whilst the system of

STV used for upper houses is known as ‘Senate style PR’. Table One summarises the electoral

systems used in Parliaments in Australia.

3 ‘Hare-Clark’ refers to Thomas Hare who is partly attributed with ‘inventing’ STV and to Andrew Inglis Clark who

was a Tasmanian Attorney General who modified Hare’s original method.

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Table One – Electoral Systems of Australian Parliaments by House

Parliament Upper House – Electoral system Lower House – Electoral System

number of used number of

members members

Commonwealth 76 Senate STV 148 AV

New South Wales 42 Senate STV 99 AV

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Victoria 44 Senate STV 88 AV

Queensland - - 89 AV

South Australia 22 Senate STV 47 AV

Western Australia 34 Senate STV 57 AV

Tasmania 19 AV 35 Hare-Clark STV

Northern Territory - - 25 AV

Australian Capital - - 17 Hare Clark STV

Territory

Total 237 605

Source: MacKerras (1998) p.68

The differences between Hare-Clark and Senate Style PR are considered below.

HARE-CLARK STV

The ‘Hare-Clark’ voting system is used to elect the Tasmania House of Assembly (lower house)

and the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Legislative Assembly (lower house). The system has

been used continuously in Tasmania since 1907 and for ACT elections since 1995 (the first

election being in 1989 with PR-List used prior to 1995). The Hare-Clark system is notable for

the limited influence it affords political parties. The ballot paper lists candidates alphabetically

by party (prior to 1941 names were listed alphabetically regardless of party). Since 1979 the

names of candidates are rotated on each ballot paper in order to avoid ‘ballot position’ effects.

The position of parties and candidates classed as ‘ungrouped’ is determined by lot. Voters are

required to provide as many preferences on the ballot paper as there are seats to fill. Prior to

the rotation of names on the ballot paper candidates whose names were located towards the

top or bottom of the ballot paper (or on a party list of names) were more likely to be elected by

what were termed ‘donkey votes’. The effect of rotation has been to stop or at least even out

Tasmanian Parliament

‘donkey voting’ across all ballot papers. The web-site explains the

rationale for the rotation of names on the ballot paper as:

“an attempt to even out the donkey vote (simply voting up or down the ballot)

which is said to favour surnames early in the alphabet, or candidates early in

the list. This system of rotation was championed by Hon. Neil Robson, MHA,

and is often known as the ‘Robson rotation’” (Tasmanian Parliament Library

2003).

The effect of this system is to reduce the influence of political parties as they are unable to offer

position on the ballot paper (the equivalent of a safe seat) as a means of maintaining party unity

/ loyalty. Accordingly Hare-Clark puts a premium upon name recognition and the public profile

of candidates as well as shifting the focus of campaigns away from parties towards the

candidates as individuals and emphasises intra-party campaigning. Newman (1998) comments

on Tasmanian election campaigns as follows:

4 Note that Victoria has only recently introduced STV and have not yet used it for an election. Prior to this Victoria

used AV. providing research and information services to the Scottish Parliament

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“Hare-Clark encourages Tasmanian candidates to campaign on a personal

rather than party basis. That is, they often campaign against colleagues for first

preferences as well as against opponents from other political parties. In

addition they need to campaign against first-time party colleagues. Indeed,

many of the new candidates are chosen because of their high media profiles,

which often equates to votes or at least name recognition. As a result, while

Hare-Clark has generated stable governments, the candidate turnover rate

within political parties is quite high. At some elections over a dozen of the 35

members are replaced” (p.40).

Party campaigns tend to focus on party leaders and encourage voters not to express

preferences for a number of parties in the election. Hare-Clark tends to produce minority

governments which are reliant for support upon minor parties or Independents. The five

governments elected to the ACT Legislative Assembly have all been minority governments (see

Chalmers 2002). Hare-Clark tends to produce moderately proportional results (in that STV is

more proportional than majoritarian systems but less so than some List-PR systems) although

the relatively low district magnitude (number of seats to be filled in each constituency) limits the

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proportionality of results. In Tasmania five seats are filled in each constituency .

SENATE STYLE PR

In contrast to the limited influence which Hare-Clark offers political parties, Senate Style PR is a

form of STV which affords significant influence to political parties. The actual processes used

vary slightly between Senates in Australia. Table Two lists the main characteristics of the STV

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system used to elect Senates (and also includes details of the Hare-Clark systems used in

ACT and Tasmania). There are significant variations across states with regard to the number of

members elected per constituency, the organisation of ballot papers, the methods used for

transferring surpluses, and how to deal with casual vacancies (i.e. when seats are vacated

before an election). However the main systemic difference between Senate-Style PR and Hare-

Clark relates to the use of ‘ticket voting’ (see below).

5 Based on information provided by the Australian Parliament’s Information and Research Services.

6 Whilst Victoria has recently adopted STV it has not yet been used in an election and therefore is not included in

Table Two. providing research and information services to the Scottish Parliament

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Table Two – Main Features of STV in Australia’s Upper (UH) and Lower Houses (LH)

Characteristics Commonwealth (UH) New South Wales (UH) South Australia (UH)

District Size 6-12 members per seat 21 members per seat 11 members per seat

Ballot Paper Design Across = Party groupings Across = Party groupings Across = Party groupings

(by lot) (by lot) (by lot)

Down = candidate names Down = candidate names Down = candidate names

(party choice) (party choice) (party choice)

Transfer of Surpluses All ballots at fractional Surplus ballots only, at full All ballots at fractional

value (Inclusive-Gregory value value (Inclusive-Gregory

method) method)

Preferences Express preferences Express preferences for at Express preferences

across all candidates or least 15 candidates or across all candidates or

ticket vote ticket vote ticket vote

Casual Vacancies State parliament selects Joint sitting selects Joint sitting selects

someone from same party someone from same party someone from same party

(generally from same

party)

Characteristics Western Australia (UH) ACT (LH) Tasmania (LH)

District Size Range 5-7 Range 5-7 5

Ballot Paper Design Left = party groupings (by Across = party groupings Across = party groupings

lot) (by lot) (by lot)

Right = candidate names Down = candidate names Down = candidate names

arranged in columns (party (by rotation) (by rotation)

choice)

Surplus Transfer All ballots at fractional The last parcel of ballots The last parcel of ballots

value (inclusive-Gregory at fractional value at fractional value

method) (Gregory method) (Gregory method)

Preferences Express preferences Express preference for at Express preference

across all candidates or least one candidate equivalent to the number

ticket vote of seats available (i.e. 5)

Casual Vacancies Count back from previous Count back from previous Count back from previous

election results election results election results

Source: Farrell and McAllister (2003c) Ch3, p.11

Senate Style PR requires that voters express a preference for every candidate on the ballot

paper (or in the case of New South Wales for at least 15 candidates – see Table Two) which

results in voters being required to express preferences for a large number of politicians. Prior to

1983 candidates were listed by party group with the position of names within the party group

being at the discretion of political parties. In order to assist voters with the task of voting,

political parties produced ‘how to vote cards’ which would list the order in which political parties

wished to see their candidates ranked by voters. Farrell and McAllister (2003c) account for this

process as follows:

“The rational strategy for an average voter, being forced to the polling station as

a result of compulsory voting laws, was to follow the instructions on the ‘how to

vote’ cards, cascading their preferences down the line” (Ch6, p.11).

The complexity of the voting process, due to the number of preferences which voters were

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required to provide, allied to compulsory voting (see below) contributed to high levels of invalid

ballots which prior to 1983 accounted for roughly 10% of votes cast. Voters at Senate elections

currently have a choice whereby they can either vote ‘above the line’, which involves selecting

7 Farrell and McAllister (2003a) highlight a range of factors leading to high levels of invalid voting in Australia

including compulsory voting, the complexity of ballots, the regularity of elections and, variations in what voters are

expected to do at the polls at different elections (Ch6, p.24-25).

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the party ticket with the order of the candidates selected being determined by the political party

concerned, or vote ‘beneath the line’, where individual preferences have to be selected in line

with pre-1983 practice. The introduction of ticket voting enables parties to order the preferences

made by voters (in effect institutionalising the previous use of ‘how to vote’ cards) and therefore

provides parties with considerable power over candidates. Accordingly, the aspiration of

candidates seeking election is to obtain a favourable position on the party list of candidates

rather than focus on appealing to the electorate. Farrell and McAllister (2003c) comment on the

impact of ticket voting as follows:

“Ticket voting … facilitates a high degree of control by the party elites both over

individual candidates and over the voters, ensuring that the party elites can

direct the flow of candidate preferences, and adding considerable burdens to

those voters wishing to deploy their preferences strategically for particular

candidates. Clearly, the rational strategy for the average voter, under these

circumstances, is simply vote the ticket, by voting ‘above the line’” (Ch6, p.14).

However, as a result of the introduction of ticket voting the level of invalid voting fell

considerably suggesting that “many of these invalid votes has less to do with compulsory voting

as such, and rather more to do with the complexities of the ballot process prior to 1983” (Farrell

and McAllister, 2003c, Ch6, p.24). Ticket voting is now the norm in Australia, for example, in

elections to the New South Wales Legislative Assembly 96% of voters used the ticket vote (See

Farrell and McAllister 2003c).

COMPULSORY VOTING

An additional feature of Australian elections, albeit not linked to STV as an electoral system, is

compulsory voting. Compulsory voting was introduced in Australia for Commonwealth (i.e. the

whole of Australia) elections in 1911 and was quickly adopted by other States. The move to

introduce compulsory voting in Australia had cross-party support at the time with major parties

aware “that it would obviate the need to maintain large organisations to mobilise the vote”

(Farrell and McAllister 2003b, p.299). As a result of the move turnout at elections increased

considerably. The introduction of compulsory voting was accepted by the general public at the

time and public opinion has generally supported the policy since, as Farrell and McAllister

(2003a) note:

“Support for the system increased gradually during the 1940s, 1950s and

1960s, peaking at 76 percent in a survey conducted in 1969. This gradual

increase is most likely a reflection of the large number of voters who have

grown up under the system, together with the absence of any political debate

concerning its advantages or disadvantages. Support declined slightly in the

1970s and early 1980s, but in recent years has strengthened” (Ch6, p.22).

Compulsory voting has been generally perceived as being a cause of the high rate of invalid

voting in Australia although that the proportion of spoilt ballots has declined with the introduction

of ticket voting.

OVERVIEW

Analysis of the proportionality of Australian elections indicates that STV in Australia “compares

very favourably with other PR systems” (Farrell and McAllister, 2003a, Ch4, p.21) although

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proportionality is lower in elections to parliaments with a lower number of seats in each

constituency to be filled, such as in Tasmania. STV tends to be associated with voter choice

and limited party political power. However the Australian case tends not to fit this categorisation

because of the rules which are applied to implement STV at Senate elections. Despite the

variety of electoral systems, regular frequency of elections (Australians are required to vote on

average every 18 months) and the compulsory nature of voting there is no evidence of

widespread discontent with the electoral system in Australia. Farrell and McAllister (2003a)

comment that:

“The fact that the vast bulk of Australian voters tend to let the parties determine

the flow of their preferences, combined with the other elements of control over

the act of voting (compulsory enrolment, compulsory turnout, complex ballot

process), would seem to provide many of the ingredients for voter alienation, as

might be manifested through high levels of invalid voting and survey evidence of

voter disengagement. However, … the indications are that this has more to do

with confusion on the part of some voters than widespread alienation” (Ch6,

p.26).

As the Jenkins Commission commented with regard to Australia:

“The Australian electorate and politicians appear at ease with their electoral

systems, which have on the whole worked effectively since 1919” (Independent

Commission on the Voting System, 1998, p.22).

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REPUBLIC OF IRELAND

BACKGROUND

The introduction of the Single Transferable Vote system to the Republic of Ireland predates the

Republic’s existence. The Single Transferable Vote system was strongly advocated by electoral

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reformers in Britain and Ireland during the 19 Century. A Proportional Representation Society

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of Ireland was established during the 19 Century with Arthur Griffith, the founder of Sinn Fein,

amongst the first members of the organisation. In 1919 STV was used for elections to Sligo

local authority. The Government of Ireland Act of 1920 included STV as the system to be used

for the future Parliaments in ‘Northern’ and ‘Southern’ Ireland. As noted by the Independent

Commission on the Voting System (1998) the introduction of STV in Ireland was:

“fostered by the British in the last days of London rule mainly as a form of

protection for the Protestant minority, but was in no way resisted by the new

Irish government” (p.14).

The selection of STV as the appropriate electoral system for Ireland occurred not because other

PR systems were considered disadvantageous, but instead because there was a lack of

awareness that other systems existed. Gallagher (2003) comments on the adoption of STV in

the following terms:

“The explanation seems to be, simply, that few if any of those making the

decision were aware of the potential range of electoral systems from which they

could have chosen. PR-STV was by now familiar; list systems were not,

despite the efforts of an early student of the subject to make the case for them

and against STV. STV was not specified in the 1922 constitution, not because

TDs (members of the Dail) wished to keep their options open but because they

did not realise that STV was merely one method, and an unusual one at that, of

attaining PR (p.4).

As the use of STV forms part of the Irish Republic’s constitution it would be necessary to have a

referendum in order to change the electoral system. Two referenda have been held in the

Republic on the electoral system in 1959 and 1968. On both occasions referenda were

proposed by Fianna Fail which, as the largest party in the Republic, claimed that “PR makes it

difficult to achieve stable government and thus weakens democracy” (Gallagher 2003, p.5). On

both occasions all the other Irish political parties opposed the proposals fearing that a move to a

majoritarian electoral system would only serve to entrench further the political dominance of

Fianna Fail within the Dail. In 1959 the margin in favour of STV was 52 : 48. In 1968 the

margin was 61 : 39 per cent in favour. Since 1968, whilst there have been debates concerning

changes to the electoral system no firm proposals have been brought forward. However in the

mid-1990’s a Constitution Review Group was established, by Fianna Fail, part of the remit of

which was to consider the electoral system. The report of the Group concluded:

“The present PR-STV system has had popular support and should not be

changed without careful advance assessment of the possible effect” (Ellis 1998,

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An all party committee of the Irish Parliament was then established to consider reform of the

electoral system. A survey of Irish MPs, known as Teachtai Dala (TDs), was conducted which

found that of the 38% of TDs and Senators who responded 69% wanted to retain STV whilst

26% wanted to replace it. Those who favoured STV emphasised the value of close contact

between representatives and constituents and the power which the system gives voters to

choose their representatives. Critics of STV highlighted what they considered to be the

disadvantages of STV with regard to intra-party electoral competition (see Gallagher 2003).

The Committee concluded that it was:

“not convinced that the weaknesses of PR-STV are as considerable as might be

claimed, or, put otherwise, that PR-STV is itself responsible for all of the failings

that have been laid at its door …. Finally, and decisively, there is no evidence of

serious or widespread public discontent with the existing system: on the

contrary, there is in our view a strong and enduring attachment to it. The

fundamental and insurmountable argument against change is that the current

Irish electoral system provides the greatest degree of voter choice of any

available option. A switch to any other system would reduce the power of the

individual voter. For all of these reasons, we recommend against any change in

this aspect of the Constitution” (All-Party Oireachtas Committee, 2002, p.29).

CHANGES TO THE OPERATION OF STV IN IRELAND

The operation of STV in the Republic has been modified considerably since 1922. Voters can

vote for as many or as few of the candidates as they wish. However there have been changes

to the detail of implementing the system. At present 166 TDs, are elected from 42

constituencies to the Dail Eireann (lower house of the Irish Parliament (known as Oireachtas)).

TDs are elected from 3, 4 or 5 seat constituencies. The Irish constitution contains provisions

ensuring that no fewer than 3 TDs can be elected from one constituency. However pre-1948

TDs were elected from constituencies which contained 7, 8 or 9 members.

The drawing of constituency boundaries has been a contentious issue in Ireland with allegations

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of ‘gerrymandering’ or within the Irish context ‘tullymandering’ . In Ireland this tended to involve

arranging the number of seats per constituency in order to suit assumed levels of support for a

particular party or parties. This was possible until 1980 as the responsibility for the number of

candidates per constituency and for boundaries lay with the incumbent government. Sinnott

(1999) describes this process in the following terms:

“the rule of thumb was to create three-seat constituencies in areas in which the

governing party or parties were presumed to be strong (around 50 per cent of

the votes) and four-seaters where support for the government was only

moderate (around 40 per cent). Since the quota is 25 per cent in a three seater

and 20 per cent in a four-seater, the expected outcome of such an arrangement

was two out of three (or 67 per cent of the representation) in a three seater and

two out of four (or 50 per cent of the representation) in a four-seater, thus

maximising the representation gained (p.114-115).

8 ‘Tullymandering’ refers to an example of gerrymandering which backfired after the change in voting patterns

meant that the expected levels of assumed support did not materialise resulting in significant losses for the party

which organised the ‘gerrymander’. The name of the Minister responsible for the constituency revisions was James

Tully. providing research and information services to the Scottish Parliament

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Since 1980 responsibility for the drawing of constituency boundaries has been de-coupled from

the Irish political process with the establishment of an independent boundary commission.

Ballot papers in the Irish Republic list candidates alphabetically and do not group candidates by

party. Originally the Irish system did not recognise the existence of political parties as parties

were not mentioned on ballot papers. Irish electoral law was changed in 1963 so that the party

affiliations of candidates (if they had one) could be mentioned on the ballot paper. In recent

years candidate photographs and party logos have also been included on the ballot paper (see

Gallagher 2003).

Traditionally Irish General Elections required a financial deposit before a candidate could put

their name forward for election. However the 2002 General Election saw this requirement

dropped. Instead candidates were required to have “evidence of one’s nomination by a

registered party, or the support of 30 ‘assentors’ from the constituency” (Weeks, 2003, p.216).

There were concerns that this change in procedure would result in a proliferation of ‘dubious’

candidates however the 2002 General Election actually witnessed a decline in the number of

candidates from 484 in 1997 to 463 in 2002.

A further innovation for the 2002 General Election was the introduction of polling station-based

electronic voting in three constituencies (Dublin North, Dublin West, and Meath). The

performance of e-voting systems in the election received a mixed response. Weeks (2003)

comments on this as follows:

“The predicted efficiency did not transpire, as the results took up to five hours to

produce. The results of all counts were announced simultaneously, thus giving

the losing candidates no time to prepare for the disappointment of defeat. This

dehumanising aspect of the electronic count was bitterly criticised by all

candidates, a mood encapsulated by the emotional response of former Fine

Gael deputy leader, Nora Owen, when her twenty-one years service in the Dail

came to an end in ‘one brutal moment’. She declared ‘it was like being stabbed

very quickly’” (p.223).

Concerns were also raised regarding the potential for fraud with e-voting. The pilot

constituencies did not experience an increase in turnout as a result of e-voting. Indeed exactly

the opposite was the case as the decline in turnout was greater in the three pilot constituencies

than across the rest of Ireland. Nevertheless the Irish Government has stated that it intends to

introduce e-voting nationally for local and European Parliament elections in 2004. With regard

to turnout more generally, turnout rates have declined from a high of 76.9% in 1969 to 62.6% in

2002. The rate of decline has become more pronounced since the late 1980’s (see Table

Three). providing research and information services to the Scottish Parliament

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Table Three – Turnout in Irish General Elections, 1948-2002

Year Turnout Year Turnout

1948 74.2% 1981 76.2%

1951 75.3% 1982-1 73.8%

1954 76.4% 1982-2 72.9%

1957 71.3% 1987 73.3%

1961 70.6% 1989 68.5%

1965 75.1% 1992 68.5%

1969 76.9% 1997 65.9%

1973 76.6% 2002 62.6%

1977 76.3%

Source: Coakley and Gallagher (1999) p.367; Weeks (2003) p.219.

EFFECTIVENESS OF STV IN IRELAND

STV has tended to be criticised on a number of grounds which can be summarised broadly as

proportionality, government stability, party cohesion and that the system results in developing a

localistic political culture. Each of these issues are considered with regard to the operation of

STV in Ireland.

Proportionality

As noted above, the operation of STV and the extent to which it is proportional rests upon a

balance between obtaining proportional results and maintaining a local connection between

representatives and their constituency. Constituency size in Ireland varies from between three

to five representatives per constituency. As a general rule the lower the number of members

returned per constituency (or ‘district magnitude’) the less proportional the system becomes

(Gallagher 2003). Accordingly, the level of district magnitude in Ireland is relatively low

suggesting that the system tends towards less proportional outcomes. However, comparative

studies of proportionality have suggested that the Irish system produces reasonably proportional

outcomes. For example a study analysing Irish electoral results between 1948 and 1989 found

that Irish elections:

“emerge as much more proportional than those held under first past the post

electoral systems. Compared to elections held under PR list systems, they

were more proportional than some but less proportional than others held under

PR list systems in, for example, Denmark, Finland, Germany, the Netherlands

and Sweden” (Sinnott 1999, p.114).

Alternatively another survey of the proportionality of electoral systems in thirty-seven countries

found that Ireland ranked as fifteenth in terms of proportionality. In an evaluation for the Irish

Constitution Review Group, Gallagher (1996) summarised the performance of STV in Ireland as

follows: “PR-STV in Ireland delivers a high degree of proportionality, virtually as high as

that produced by electoral systems that have the achievement of proportionality

as their sole aim” (p.519).

In general, the larger parties in Irish politics – Fianna Fail and Fine Gail – have tended to

receive more seats than a strict proportionate allocation of their votes to seats would afford.

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This ‘bonus’ in seat number has tended to come at the expense of smaller parties (see Sinnott,

1999, p.114).

Governmental Stability

A criticism frequently made of proportional representation is that it leads to a proliferation of

parties and thereby to coalition government and potentially creates instability. The number of

elections held over a period of time provides an indication of the potential of an electoral system

to cause governmental instability. Since 1945, there have been 16 General Elections in Ireland

roughly equating to an election every three years. This compares to 15 General Elections in the

UK over the same time-period (see McBride 1998). However the number of coalition

governments in Ireland has increased post-1945. All governments elected between 1922 and

1948 in Ireland were one party government’s. However since 1948, coalitions have formed the

Irish government for 52% of this period. In addition:

“No party has won an overall majority since 1977 or been able to form a single-

party government since 1987. Moreover, minority government is increasingly

common, occupying office for 34 per cent of the time from 1948 to 2002”

(Gallagher, 2003, p.18).

The Independent Commission on the Voting System (1998) commented on the stability of Irish

government as follows:

“On the whole there has been no excessive frequency either of elections or of

changes of government. Indeed, particularly in the long de Valera years, the

greater charge against the Irish system was that it produced a dead hand of

immobilism” (p.15).

The issue of the increasing occurrence of minority government has led to concerns that such

governments come to rely overly on independent candidates for support. The Dail is unusual in

comparison to other West European Parliaments for the number of independent candidates that

are elected to it. Indeed, the number of independent candidates elected to the Dail can often be

greater than that elected to all the other West European Parliaments. The influence of

Independents, which an incumbent government may be reliant upon, tends to raise concerns

that ‘pork barrel politics’ may be required to ensure that the relevant Independents vote for

government policies. Weeks (2003) comments on the role of Independents within the context of

the 2002 General Election result as follows:

“Most of them were elected on local issues, with many focussing on the state of

the health services, which is, according to opinion polls, a key concern for

voters. They won 7 more seats than in 1997, because their supporters believed

that an independent could secure more bounties for their constituency than a

backbench TD. Such reasoning was based on the benefits independent TDs

had delivered for their regions in the previous Dail in exchange for their support

for the minority government. With the new government not needing such

support from independents, the current crop of 13 non-party TDs have a more

redundant role in the new Dail” (Weeks, 2003, p.221).

Sinnott (1999) suggests that STV adds to the possibility of minority governments relying on

Independents through facilitating their election and thus making their support a more attractive

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option for a minority government than finding another party with which they could enter into a

coalition. Sinnott (1999) comments that STV:

“facilitates the election of independents by focussing on individual candidates,

by encouraging competition in the provision of local benefits and, through the

mechanism of the multi-seat constituency, by lowering the threshold of

representation to a point at which it is within the reach of non-party candidates.

In short, while it is true that PR-STV does not lead to unstable government by

causing a multiplicity of parties or by diminishing party discipline, it does

increase the probability of government reliance on independent deputies whose

support may be delivered only at a disproportionate price and even then may

not be durable (p.117).

Nevertheless despite the increasing number of coalition and minority governments in recent

years these governments have on the whole tended to stay in power for as long as single party

governments in previous years (see Farrell 2001).

Party Cohesion and Localism

In general, STV puts a greater emphasis on the candidate rather than the political party at

elections in comparison to other electoral systems such as list systems. Moreover, the

operation of STV may require that candidates compete for election not only against opponents

from other parties but also against candidates from within their own party. Accordingly, STV

has been criticised for having a propensity to diminish party unity (see Katz 1980). Despite

these concerns regarding the potential for party disunity TDs tend to vote en bloc for a party

position. For example, Gallagher (2003b) comments:

“Deviations from party solidarity are very rare and are met with a draconian

response, typically expulsion from the parliamentary party. Fianna Fail, indeed,

has a rule that any of its TDs who even abstain on a measure, never mind vote

against the party line, automatically incur expulsion from the parliamentary

party” (p.109).

Nevertheless a considerable threat to an incumbent comes from candidates in the same party

running in the same constituency. Gallagher (2003) found that “over the years, around 56 per

cent of Fianna Fail TDs, and 37 per cent of Fine Gael TDs, who suffer defeat at an election lose

to a running mate rather than to a candidate of another party” (p.15). On the other hand

incumbent candidates very rarely fail to secure re-election due to the local political base and

networks they are likely to have developed during their time as a TD. Accordingly, whilst party

affiliation acts as the most significant determinant of voting behaviour local factors are an

important influence. It is also evident in Ireland that “in other types of election, notably EP

[European Parliament] but also local elections, the candidates matter more” (Marsh 2003,

p.130). Intra-party rivalry may be reflected more not as party disunity but rather by the wish of

TDs to be seen as effective constituency representatives who are able to secure resources and

outcomes for their constituents (Gallagher 2003).

Irish election campaigns also demonstrate the need to balance localist and national issues.

This can demonstrate itself in differences between the national party and local candidates over

candidate selection and tactics at an election. Marsh (2003) commented on this issue as

follows: providing research and information services to the Scottish Parliament

16

“The national party will want to nominate at least as many candidates as there

are seats it might win. However, the assessment of likely vote is never certain.

In a case where the party has one seat and thinks it might win two, it will wish to

nominate a second candidate. The incumbent deputy might be happy to take a

running mate where two seats are certain but may fear to do so where they are

not, because two people would then be fighting for the same seat and the

incumbent might lose what seemed to be a sure thing” (p.122).

Moreover studies of Irish voting patterns also indicate that candidates from a local area will

receive more votes from that part of the constituency in which they live (Farrell 2001).

Accordingly Irish political parties have developed sophisticated vote management and election

strategies. These tend to involve ensuring that:

“candidates are picked from different corners of the constituency and voters in

each locale are actively encouraged to vary the ordering of their preferences so

as to maximise the efficiency of the party vote. The basic idea is that the more

equal the spread of first preferences across the different party candidates, the

greater chance that more will be elected” (Farrell 2001, p.146).

It is also important to note that a degree of co-operation will exist between parties during

election campaigns. For example, some parties may signal their intention to work together in

coalition prior to the election with the result that voters backing a particular party may then place

lower preferences with the potential coalition partner party. For example, Kennedy (2002) found

that: “when relations between two parties are ‘favourable’, at least from the point of

view of one of the two parties, the proportion of transfers flowing from one party

to the other is significantly greater than when relations are ‘unfavourable’”

(p.292).

The issue of localism is frequently cited as a criticism of the operation of STV in Ireland. Farrell

(2001) summarised these criticisms as follows:

“the heavy emphasis on constituency casework, faction-fighting between

candidates from the same party, a focus on constituency, localist matters in

election campaigns and parliamentary work, ‘friends and neighbours’ voting, are

all seen as resulting – at least in large part – from the candidate-centred,

preference voting of STV” (p.146).

Accordingly this emphasis upon maintaining the interests of the constituency can be seen as

inhibiting the ability of politicians to take a national perspective on policy issues. Alternatively a

number of other reasons for what is considered to be the heavy constituency workload of TDs

can also be provided. For instance, Ellis (1998) highlights that “the weak role of local

government in Ireland has a direct influence on the constituency work-loads of TDs” (p.75).

Gallagher and Komito (1999) also highlight the relatively weak status of the Irish Parliament in

relation to the executive and comment that the Irish Parliament:

“is not very strong, backbench deputies cannot easily establish a reputation as

outstanding parliamentarians and fight internal party battles on this terrain. So,

once the demand for brokerage activity arises, they feel they have to respond to

providing research and information services to the Scottish Parliament

17

it, even though many of them wish there was less of it” (Gallagher and Komito

1999, p.219).

Equally in a small society, such as Ireland, the role of the TD as a key local stakeholder within

the local community who is accessible to voters may increase constituency workloads. It is also

important to note that backbench TDs can also be local councillors and they may also contribute

to a localist attitude where TDs also hold office as local councillors. Accordingly, the

representation of constituency interests does not have to be viewed as detrimental but rather a

key task of an elected representative. Therefore the extent to which STV is responsible for

constituency demands is debateable or as Gallagher and Komito (1999) comment:

“The electoral system gives deputies a strong incentive to respond with alacrity

to the demand that they do constituency work, but it doesn’t really explain

where this demand comes from in the first place” (p.220).

Alternatively some commentators suggest that it is not the electoral system which is responsible

for a localist emphasis amongst TDs but rather Irish political culture. For example, Farrell

(2001) comments:

“The fact is that Irish political culture is personified by a high degree of localism

and it would be disingenuous to suppose that somehow this would dissipate if

the electoral system were changed” (p.146).

Whether STV is responsible for the development of a localist political culture would therefore

appear to be a moot point with other socio-cultural factors also likely to be causal influences.

Composition of the Dail

The backgrounds of TDs are “not especially different from other west European parliaments”

(Gallagher 2003, p.16). TDs tend to have strong local connections and were frequently county

councillors before becoming TDs. Notably, a considerable proportion are following on from

relatives who previously represented their constituency suggesting a degree of inheritance of a

local political base by some TDs (see Gallagher 2003). With regard to the representation of

women in the Dail the proportion of women elected compares rather poorly with other

parliaments in EU member states. For example:

“In 1998 it [the Dail] shared eleventh place out of the fifteen EU member states,

alongside Belgium and ahead only of France, Italy and Greece” (Galligan 1999,

p.298).

Similarly women’s involvement in local government is low with participation rates similar to that

in the Dail (see Galligan, 1999). However to suggest that this lack of participation is a

consequence of STV would be to neglect wider societal factors. However, it does also indicate

that the presence of STV has not acted as a significant stimulus to increasing the representation

of women in politics. Galligan (1999) comments on this issue as follows:

“Ireland ranks close to the bottom of the European scale in terms of women’s

representation in political life, yet there is no discernible bias among the

electorate against women candidates. Women remain under-represented as

election candidates, although parties are making some progress towards

redressing this imbalance. The number of women candidates has increased

providing research and information services to the Scottish Parliament

18


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DETTAGLI
Corso di laurea: Corso di laurea in scienze internazionali e istituzioni europee
SSD:
Università: Milano - Unimi
A.A.: 2011-2012

I contenuti di questa pagina costituiscono rielaborazioni personali del Publisher Atreyu di informazioni apprese con la frequenza delle lezioni di Politica comparata e studio autonomo di eventuali libri di riferimento in preparazione dell'esame finale o della tesi. Non devono intendersi come materiale ufficiale dell'università Milano - Unimi o del prof Giuliani Marco.

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