Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Friday, June 25, 2004

One Iraqi One Vote But How To Count Them?

The Bush administration, the UN, the Europeans and John Kerry all seem to agree on one thing: A sovereign Iraq should be a democracy. But although governments, the press and everybody talks about a democratic Iraq there has been little to no public debate about one of the most important institutional details: the electoral system. Well, this blog is all about furthering knowledge through opinionated speculation so here goes…

Majoritarian Systems:
Single Member Districts (SMD): This is the electoral system used in the United States and the United Kingdom. The country is divided into local districts each of which has a single representative. Candidates compete for the single seat and the one that gets the most votes wins.
Variations on SMD: France has a variation of this system where the top two vote getters compete in a second round for the seat. Ireland uses the Single Transferable Vote system (STV). Under STV voters rank order their choices on the ballot. As the ballots are counted the candidate with the fewest votes is dropped and his votes redistributed to the other candidates according to their second choices (repeated until someone gets over 50%). In Japan, they use the Single Non-Transferable Vote system (SNTV). This system counts votes exactly like in the SMD system used in the USA and UK but in Japan the districts have more than one representative. So instead of only the top vote getter getting a seat in the legislature, the top two, three or four get a seat.
All the majoritarian systems have similar effects. They all tend to reduce the number of parties. The SMD system does this most aggressively and the STV and SNTV system less so. Generally, the parties that remain tend to be moderate except in the most polarized societies. Because small parties and radical parties tend to be excluded from representation, supporters of those parties often resent the system and decry its illegitimacy. Ralph Nader’s supporters in the United States are a perfect example of this. There is some evidence that supporters of such parties are more likely to engage in “non-traditional” political participation such as demonstrations. In Iraq, “non-traditional” political participation may take the form of violent insurgency. One advantage for the Iraqi case is that these electoral systems don’t require organized parties!

Proportional Representation (PR): This family of electoral systems all work on the principle that a party’s share of the vote should translate into a similar share of the seats in the legislature. If 10% of the votes go for the Raving Looney Party then the Raving Looney Party gets 10% of the seats in the legislature. A common variation is to require a minimum vote share for representation. In Germany, the minimum is 5% of the vote: any party that gets less than 5% gets no seats at all. This system typically results in large numbers of parties with widely divergent ideologies. In Iraq, this type of system would probably guarantee large blocs of seats for radical Sunnis and Shia. Another problem with this system is that it needs fairly organized parties to function smoothly. Finally, it is unlikely that this system would produce a single party with more than half the seats in Iraq's legislature. That means coalition governments. That might be a good thing but coalitions are vulnerable to radical disruptions. In Weimar Germany, the NAZIs and Communists repeatedly voted together to bring down centrist governments but never voted together to establish a replacement. The result was a paralyzed political system subject to blackmail by its most radical elements. Iraq could easily go down this road.

What do you guys think?

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