Sunday, October 07, 2007

Why I won't support MMP: Political Glaciation

There is no democratic electoral system that is "more" or "less" democratic that any other. First-past-the-post, some form of Proporational Representation or even the American Electoral College are all democratic systems with their strengths and weaknesses. You can argue at length about those but no conclusions can be made about which one is democratically superior. All of them are designed to allow citizens to choose who they want to govern and all of them are effective at getting that job done.

Proponents of MMP like to point to Germany and New Zealand as prime examples of that kind of electoral system. They are certainly good examples of both and they are both great examples of one of the greatest weaknesses of MMP, namely, lack of action on fundemental issues facing their countries.

In Germany the politics stays the same and only the personalities change. The Christian Democrats, with their Bavarian allies, and the Socialist Party are the same parties now as they were 20 years ago. Certainly their leaders have changed but there policy ideas and their political programmes are the same now as they were in the '80s. When one of them loses an election this does not change, only the leader of the party changes. The reason for this is both parties know that they just need to bide their time until a very small portion of the German electorate gets tired of the government and then they will be in power again.

The result of this is much needed reforms to the German economy are not getting done and that has been the case for over a decade. As well, there is no sign that this situation will change in the foreseeable future.

New Zealand only recently switched to an MMP system. The reason for the switch was a long standing government that brought in extremely painful economic reforms about 20 years ago. These reforms were made possible by a government that won successive elections using the FPTP system. After that government was finally defeated the country switched to MMP so that this could never be done again. The people of New Zealand chose this system because they wanted to prevent future governments from putting them through the same gut wrenching change again.

Contrast that to the FPTP system. This system forces political parties to renew themselves on a regular basis because they know that they cannot just wait for a small portion of the electorate to grow tired of the government.

We have seen that more times than I can count at both the Federal and Provincial level. Those parties that make the effort to renew themselves, come up with new ideas on how to deal with the issues that matter to Canadians are successful. Those that do not are not. That is the reason why the Liberals and the Conservatives have been the dominant federal parties in this country for so long and why the NDP can never get out of third party status. The NDP is the same party today as it was under Ed Broadbent. The only thing that has changed is its leaders.

As an aside, that is the reason why I believe the NDP will eventually be usurped as the third party by the Greens. The Greens have shown more willingness to adapt its policies and programmes to the desires of Canadians and it is only a matter of time before the overtake the NDP. After that, who knows.

You can see the results. Many of the programmes that we have come to take for granted in this country would not have come to pass with an MMP system.

Countries and provinces change and the people of those political entities need to be able to choose governments that are willing and able to deal with that change. The FPTP electoral system is more effective at allowing them to do so.


Blogger Lizt. said...

I have a penpal in New Zealand and she does not like it at all, never has. There are many people in New Zealand who are fed up with it, now, and want a referendum held on it.

October 07, 2007 12:48 PM  
Blogger Mark Edelstein said...

That makes no sense. Dramatic swings in FPTP occur due to very small changes in vote share.

October 07, 2007 1:25 PM  

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