Electoral reforms in British Columbia has been a recurring issue for the last two decades. As of recent, British Columbia has been using a single-member plurality system. The electoral system experts campaign against the single-member system arguing that it distorts the voting intentions of the people in federal elections particularly by magnifying the regional differences that exist in the country. In the ongoing referendum in British Columbia, citizens are given three different systems of elections and asked to rank them. The people were required to indicate their preferences between three proportional systems - rural-urban proportional, mixed member proportional and dual member proportional. This paper is going to give an insight into the advantages of a mixed member proportional (MMP) over other voting systems. A mixed electoral system brings hope to the people by combining strong party systems with equivalent election outcome and hence bringing out the best of both worlds of the electoral system (Carey and Hix, 2011).
This paper will argue that mixed-member proportional voting system is the superior way of gaining fair representation across the province. The single-member plurality system used in British Columbia is flawed. Not only does the system magnify the regional imbalances that already exist but also vests a lot of power in the majority government which is typically voted in based on a plurality of about 40% of the popular vote. The adoption of a proportional system in British Columbia will address these challenges and increase the quality of politics and democratic governments. Allocating seats to political parties by the popular vote will shape parliament to reflect the diversity and views of the people correctly. Consequently, citizens will be more incentivized to vote more sincerely rather than strategically by being aware that every vote counts despite of the party in which it was cast into (Karp and Banducci, 2009). The proportional system will motivate parties to behave more rational both in parliament and at the national stage. Furthermore, proportionality will foster a more collaborative and reconciliatory approach among political parties after the election. As a result, the parliament would become more effective in its roles, and public policy will improve
In practice, proportional representation ensures that seats are allocated to political parties by the share they hold in the popular vote. The system in effect upholds the fundamental democratic principle of political equality. Under proportional representation, all votes count in the sense that they forge a bearing on the political make-up of the assembly. If adopted, the system will improve the quality of democracy in elections. Also, the proportional representation system will give all the political parties a level playing field, and at the same time, voters will have a more free choice when casting their votes. The single-member plurality system in use limits the option of a voter by putting pressure on small parties to merge with other parties with a similar views so as not to split the vote. In contrast, the PR system gives the voter an option to sincerely vote for the party without the worry of wasting the vote. Additionally, political science research demonstrate the impact of PR systems on voter turnout. PR encourages people to come out and vote. Among the countries that employ the PR system, it is one of the factors that have contributed to a high voter turnout. The system does so in two ways: first by sparing voters the difficult choice of either wasting their vote, not voting at all or voting sparingly. Secondly, PR makes the election more competitive hence forcing parties to solicit votes from every corner of the country.
The politics that occurs on the floor of parliament become significantly transformed with the adoption of proportional representation. Coalition or minority governments will replace artificial majority governments. In many democratic countries, minority or coalition governments is the ideal outcomes of any election. These governments promote a more consensual and thoughtful approach to the implementation of public policies. Additionally, no single political party will be at liberty to impose its will upon the people. A bi-partisan approach is vital in any nation that seeks to advance its democratic record ((Karp and Banducci, 2009). In Canada, minority governments have proven to be responsive to public opinions while being productive at the same time. It is important to note that minority governments established the new Canadian flag and the Canadian pension plan in the ’60s.
Proponents of the plurality cite that the law forms a one-party government hence creating stability. Secondly, the system indicates the responsibilities of various policies and allows voters to choose the government. Thirdly, plurality establishes a close contact between representatives and the constituents and eliminates the influence of the weak parties. However, empirical evidence indicates that the plurality system creates overrepresentation in the long run.
Mixed-Member Proportional Representation (MMP)
Mixed-member, proportional representation system, is a hybrid system with both the single-member plurality system elements and the equivalent elements. This system allows voters to have one Member of Parliament who represents them while other seats are allocated to political parties by their share in the popular vote. The core element of any democracy is fair and credible elections. Therefore, it is essential to employ an electoral system that influences and frames the voting behavior in a democratic nation. However, it is correct to say that total perfection is an impossibility for any electoral system. Both the proportional representation system and the plurality system have their fair share of shortcomings. The proportional representation system does not focus on concentrating party systems in a way to create a direct link between the voter and the government that allows a single-party government. On the other hand, the plurality system limits the representation of smaller parties in parliament and also create disproportionality between the votes of different parties. In light to the negative attributes that have been laid on the plurality system and the proportional representation system, researchers established that a mixed electoral system is likely to produce a right blend of benefits arising from both systems. This mix created a new perspective to electoral systems. The empirical comparison of electoral systems in European countries shows a considerable variation in the performance of various mixed electoral systems.
Electoral experts describe the mixed member proportional system to be the best electoral system. MMP, especially in the German model, is defined to be the closest to the best of both worlds (Bochsler, 2012). Offering the best of both worlds, in essence, means that the system provides accountability of members to their political parties and the districts in which they are elected. The success of the MMP system in Germany is evidence that it is the best Proportional representation system. To minimize the adverse effects of the pluralism and proportional system and take their main advantages, countries have combined both systems to form a mixed member system. The mixed electoral system allows the voters to ‘eat their cake and still have it.’
Success of MMP System in Germany.
The mixed member proportional system was first adopted in West Germany. This system was established after considerable deliberation between various political parties with the aim of fostering a stable democracy. Since its adoption in 1949, the system has slightly changed, but its primary characteristics remain the same. The electoral law in Germany dictates that half of the representatives are elected from the party lists while the remaining half are chosen in a single-member district (SMD). Therefore, the voters are required to elect a representative and the favorite party.
When analyzing the effectiveness of the MMP system in Germany, it is essential to consider the system’s consequences. Does the system bring the best of both worlds? The first thing to note about this system is that it contains the primary attribute of Proportional Representation – fairness in the distribution of mandates. Therefore, a party can a get the same ratio of votes and seats. In the real sense, the barrier to total proportionality in the distribution of seats and votes is the threshold. In essence, MMP allows the eating of the cake. Nonetheless, does it also enable having the cake? Does it have the same attributes as those of the plurality electoral law? One of the main characteristics of the plurality system is accountability. In Germany, an MP should be accountable to the district electorates. Therefore, voters have a right to choose half of the representatives while the party bureaucrats choose the other half. As a result, MMP ensures better personalization of politics as compared to the traditional proportional representation. MMP keeps all the pros of the proportional representation and at the same time allows some benefits of the plurality system (Kurella, Bräuninger and Pappi, 2018).
However, it is clear that the MMP system adopted by Germany does not keep all the benefits of the plurality system. The system does not give the people the choice of electing a prime minister. The position is instead filled through inter-party bargaining. Moreover, half of the representatives are not accountable to any district. The voting method in Germany is relatively complex and enables people to vote strategically. Finally, the electoral laws in Germany do not permit full proportionality due to the extra seats in the SMD and the threshold. Nevertheless, these laws prove that it is possible to have all the advantages of one system in MMP without eliminating the benefits of another. Generally, the use of MMP system in Germany has been a success.
Size of Parliament
Meridian PR district magnitude
Number of ballots
Table 1; Electoral provisions of the MMP system in German
Advantages of MMP over Other Electoral Systems in British Columbia
After the adoption of the MMP system, British Columbia citizens will enjoy the benefit of voting twice: once for the party of their choice and another vote for a local Member of Parliament. Some skeptics argue that the adoption of the MMP system will cause chaos and lead to the end of a divisive government (Kurella, Bräuninger and Pappi, 2018). However, the benefits of proportional representation outweigh its shortcomings. The mixed member proportional system will increase the power of voters concerning their decision making. The system will also create a democratic government that the region is in dire need of.
The current system employed in British Columbia gives voters a single option of choosing a member of parliament of their liking. This vote is used not only to elect a member of parliament but is also used to reflect a voter’s favorite political party. As a result, a single vote is used for two purposes – electing a part and a member of parliament. This is a challenge to many voters since an MP of choice might not necessarily belong to one’s favorite party. The voter is faced with the problem of either voting for the preferred candidate in the wrong party or voting of the less preferred candidate in the popular party. Therefore, people vote strategically rather than voting sincerely. With the proposed mixed member system, the voters will not have to compromise between the party and their preferred candidate. On top of electing their member of parliament, they will also choose their favorite party that they would like in the House of Commons. This will create a healthy blend of MPs that were elected by the citizens and those that represent a voter’s favorite party (Linhart, Raabe and Statsch, 2018).
The ability of a party to separate the preference of an MP and that of a party is not only beneficial to them but also the MP. The Member of Parliament will be able to stand out of the political party shadow and be recognized as an individual. This distinction will give the MPs a certain level of autonomy from their political parties. As a result, they can be able to stand against their respective political parties and defend ideas that can better represent the people who voted them into office.
MMP system will also get rid of the false majorities. For example, the last election in Canada was won with a majority. The government acquired a mere 39 percent of the popular vote. The current system merely sums up results from individual constituencies which do not paint the accurate picture of the majority wishes — this situation leads to the formation of a government that is undeserving of its powers and lacks the majority support. MMP system will be an accurate reflection of people’s choices. Critics argue that MMP might give radicals a chance to get into parliament and cause conflicts. However, this problem can be solved by creating a minimum that will exclude parties that don’t meet the requirements. If a party attains the minimum threshold, they are entitled to a say in parliament. MMP offers British Columbia an opportunity to empower its people and create a genuinely democratic government.
MMP system is likely to solve the problem of overrepresentation of cities which is usually associated with the PR system. There exists a danger of overrepresentation of urban and densely populated areas leaving the other population living in rural areas ‘unrepresented’. However, the MMP system addressed this problem by ensuring that all regions are represented in parliament.
Arguments against the MMP System and Possible Improvements
The analysis of the Germany electoral system shows that the electoral laws of the country permit the personalization of election. Half of the representatives are chosen from the SMD and are not accountable to any district. Therefore, it is essential to ask whether it is possible to have the voter have a say on who the remaining representatives should be. Germany uses a closed list and voters have no choice on the position of the candidate on the list. This means that those candidates located low in the list have slim chances of being elected while those high up in the list secure parliamentary positions even before the election is conducted if the party meets the minimum threshold. However, particular variances in the mixed member proportional representation system enable the voters to have a say on the position a candidate takes on the list. Logically, the location of a candidate in the list is determined by the total votes garnered in SMD. As a result, the ‘best losers’ in SMD are certain of getting parliamentary positions. The parliamentary seats are hence proportionally distributed. However, the best way to determine the ‘best loser’ is through the number of overall votes. This criterion would increase the number of voters who turn out to vote. Districts with many voters will be prompted to vote because they will have a chance to be represented by more than one MP.
One of the demerits of the MMP system, is strategic voting. This is a situation whereby people split their votes with the aim of increasing the number of positions for the coalition of their favorite parties (Kerevel, 2010). The solution to this problem is giving the voters a single vote instead of two. The sole vote will determine who wins the SMD and the total votes for the coalition. Adoption of such a system will prevent the strategic voting and any potential manipulation that may come with it. When a voter has one vote, he/she will not be able to split the vote to gain additional positions in the nominal tire. This system will ensure that the simplicity of the plurality system and the fairness of the proportional representation are combined. Additionally, parties will be forced to run with a candidate who is famous because candidates do not run for themselves but also the party. Furthermore, voters will be able to choose their representative as in the traditional plurality system. Consequently, the voters will eliminate candidates who are not popular with other voters. This system will be a better substitute for the PR systems which have a closed list. In the closed list, the position of a candidate in the list and their chances to get the party bureaucrats to determine parliamentary seats
Finally, the adoption of the MMP system by British Columbia will offer the best scenario of an election system. Not only will it ensure accountability of Members of Parliament to their respective districts but will also diversify partisan preferences. The system will not do away with all the disadvantages of the pluralism and the PR system. Nonetheless, most of the shortcomings associated with the two electoral systems will be eliminated. MMP proves to be the best electoral system compared to the rest. Adoption of the mixed member proportional representation in the region will boost electoral democracy in the region.
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