Proponents of proportional representation ballots kept telling me they were the only kind to guarantee voters fair and truly democratic election result. They said I should not be confused by a change from the centuries-old first past the post system which with minor foibles has stood the test of time.
They said if I wanted proof of the fairness of PR voting I should take a look at Germany, Australia, New Zealand or other places where it has replaced FPTP.
So I did. I chose two of the three so often mentioned – Australia and New Zealand – not because we are members of the same Commonwealth family but because while my English language may be a little faulty from time to time it remains much better than my German. And as both had survived general elections in 2016 and 2017 they were current, ready to set a sparkling example.
Well, maybe “sparkling” isn’t a well-chosen word because the ‘‘proportional’s” varied for the different states and the Australia election was what they know down under as a “double dissolution election” one in which Australia elects a new national government and a new Senate.
I suggest readers who get lost under my guidance put Google to work. I do not have room – or desire – to present you with anything more than basics.Remember when checking Australia numbers (http://www.abc.net.au/news/federal-election-2016) wou will be looking at results for seats in parliament and completely separate results for Senate seats.
Wherever you lived in Australia your ballot paper would list your voting options. In New South Wales the (Senate)ballot ran the gamut of 41 Party’s ranging from the ultimate winning coalition of Liberal/Nationals and Nationals of 1,610,626 votes in NSW to the “also ran” Australian Progressives with 1,817.
If you vigilantly track down overview numbers you will find that Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party won one Senate seat with 1.9 per cent of the vote but no seats in what Canadians would call the House of Commons.The Family First Party also won a Senate seat but came up empty at the MP level 1.4 per cent vote.
If you find this worrisome, imagine what it will be like in BC if you ever have to face such lists on a BC ballot designed to make sure dubious seats can be made safe for fragile incumbents.
One final thought from Down Under before nipping over to New Zealand for a Kiwi look at proportional representation in a 2017 general election which saw the Liberal/National Coalition re-elected but in a minority position: since 2013 Australia’s government, elected by their version of PR designed to bring fresh air, transparency and stability to government they have used up five Prime Ministers – Julia Gillard, Kevin Rudd,who lost the 2013 election to a Liberal coalition which over the next five years replaced PM Tony Abbott with PM Malcolm Turnbull who was shuffled out recently to be replaced by PM Scott Morrison.
Not exactly a stable government.
Now to New Zealand and last year’s election under PR rules with not as many hopeful party participants as their cousin Cousin Aussies but enough to make life interesting for Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern who hit the 2017 campaign trail a single woman – and won but not with enough seats to govern.
Waiting in the wings was one Winston Peters who had been defeated in the election but retained his seat in Parliament. Wikipedia tells us that despite being out-voted in his own riding his party, New Zealand First, “had secured 7.2 percent of the vote….since Peter’s ranked first on the New Zealand First Party list, he remained in Parliament as a list MP.” A “list member” system is one of the options discussed in BC with details to be provided once approval to change the rules is given.
In October Peters announced his nine seat New Zealand First party would form a coalition with Ardern’s Labor to give her a working majority. The deal was confirmed and a year ago Peter’s, an election loser, became (Andrew Weaver is permitted to dream) the Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister for State Owned Enterprises and Minister for Racing.
Last January PM Ardern became the first Prime Minister in the Commonwealth to take maternity leave and a few weeks after the event introduced her new born to her cabinet as she returned to work.
And no, Peter’s was not the father. That honour belongs to a long-term boyfriend and she has said openly of their relationship: “It sounds terrible because we are very committed to each other. Marriage is just not something we have really gotten around to. We haven’t correctly sequenced, perhaps….”
Which appeals as a suitable final comment on promoters of proportional representation.