Would you want this kind of government?

Proportional representation undoubtedly shares power in a completely different way to first past the post. The permutations of coalition building, and policy trading are detailed in mind-boggling length in this morning’s papers. PR also completely alters the way politicians deal with each other.

They need each other in a way British or French politicians never do, and it’s fascinating to watch this close up.

Israel offers ammunition for the arguments for and against this system of government. I’ve listed them as best I can, and I wonder if you’d like your government to work this way.

There’s simplicity to it.

Here are 120 seats in the Knesset, and no second house. Get 61 seats for your party or coalition and you can form a government. And it is going to be another coalition this time. Kadima and Likud lead the polls but are a long way from a majority. Which is where some would argue the problems begins.


– Many more political parties have a role in government.

– Power is shared, and decisions have to consider minority opinions.

– It’s a fairer representation of society’s wishes. The current British government for instance has a majority in the House of Commons despite falling a long way short of a majority of the popular vote.

– Here there’s no second house to complicate the process of government (though second houses don’t, I know, automatically come with PR or first past the post).


– The most popular party can be held to ransom by much smaller parties. Both Kadima and Likud know they’ll probably need Yisrael Beiteinu (right-wing party currently third in the polls) and /or the Shas party to get close to forming a coalition.

So for instance, the Shas party is very concerned about levels of child welfare (its support base is amongst Orthodox Jews who traditionally have big families) and both Kadima and Likud will offer them legislation on this issue to try and get their support. Yisrael Beiteinu may demand something similar on civil marriages.

– The most popualr party might not end up in power. Even if Kadima wins (that’s a big if), Likud’s relations with other parties likely to well mean it’s favourite to form a government regardless of who actually comes top in the election.

– Coalitions collapse (see the current government as an example) and this makes election too common for efficient governance.

– It’s harder for a political party to consistently stand for certain beliefs. Compromise is the name of the game, and this means there can be a lot of cross-over between parties.

(I’ve read much criticism of the similarities between Kadima and Labor (a centre-left party). Add to that, that Kadima was created by Ariel Sharon out of the Likud party (a centre right party), and the critics argue that the principles of the parties shift too easily with each election cycle.)

So would this system improve what you have at the moment?

8 Responses to “Would you want this kind of government?”

  1. 1 Roberto
    February 9, 2009 at 11:07

    RE “”So would this system improve what you have at the moment? “”
    ———————– Politics is just a tool designed for purpose. Tools can be used for both good and bad purpose regardless.

    You could have dramatically different governments in a dictatorship, the difference being between being a crazy bloodthirsty iron fisted ruler creating chaos or a benign strong ruler keeping the peace with effective decisions.

    Hitler came into power as leader of a minority party in a coalition of parties for example. The myth of democracy is that it is automatically representative of the people, when in fact politicians have a plenty of space to operate with impunity which is how you get the previous missbegotten US administration.

  2. February 9, 2009 at 14:58

    In my country we have PR in the legislature. I think the cons are far greater than the pros. It is very difficult to reach consensus, specially if political parties have opposite views in some issues. So, the problems keep pilling up, without any way to reach a solution.

  3. 3 viola
    February 9, 2009 at 17:43

    Here in British Columbia the voters were asked if they wanted to change from a first past the post system to a proportional representation system. They rejected it but by a narrow margin. I think it’s gaining favor in Canada and may well be adopted sometime in the future in most if not all the provinces.

    A lot of Canadians are proud of their history of compromising to find solutions. Seems to me compromise is the essence of proportional systems. What I find disagreeable about them is that they seem to complicate an otherwise straightforward process. Voter education and subtlety of thought become more important. Maybe that’s a good thing, but I’m pretty sure voters don’t as a rule vote for subtle reasons. Emotional appeals are more effective.

  4. 4 CJ McAuley
    February 9, 2009 at 18:13

    I just wish that people in my country (Canada) could get their heads around this concept, for it would truly mean that every vote counted. As the proportion of eligible voters who actually vote has been falling for years, I find it hard to see any downside to trying it here. I’d say that the self-interest of whatever politicians who are in our Parliament has the most to do with “Prop-Rep” not being actively considered!

  5. 5 Michel Norman
    February 9, 2009 at 18:28

    Let this be an example to you all – if you support the idea of proportional representation – you either need to change your mind or you are out of your mind.

    I am going to vote tomorrow – since I want to influence the next government and which way it swings I have to second guess the coalition negotiations to work out who to vote for.And when by a process of elimination I manage to work out which party I then have a list of people who I have no direct contact with half of whom i don’t like or want but that is the system. The result of all this is politicians who do not have to answer to me, and who I cannot get rid of. Moore than half of them are not even elected within their parties – just apointed by the party bosses.

    In short, we vote tomorrow and then wait while the minor parties extort the larger parties in coalition negotiations, leaving us with a coalition that cannot rule properly because it cannot agree on anything.

  6. 6 ~Dennis Junior~
    February 9, 2009 at 18:43

    For a country like Israel this type of government works out to a point…But in the United States this idea will probably would never work.

    ~Dennis Junior~

  7. 7 leslie allen
    February 10, 2009 at 09:05

    i live in israel, born in england,just hoping we could have peace here, so i think kadima is the only goverment which willgo all the way for peace. so i wish you luck israel, shalom

  8. 8 John in German
    February 10, 2009 at 14:39

    Here in Germany we have a Black-Red coalition, The black being CDU and the Bavarian party CSU both having the word Christlich=Christian, and some times far from it. The red being the SPD. To date things have been fairly good, but we are into an election year, and lets be truthful, you can forget it.

    Another problem is, the small parties due to alliances have more to say than entitled due to voter percentage. The Liberals had good results in Hessen. They now believe they have won the next General Election . Sadly they could have at least more to say than entitled by joining the CDU/CSU. and with over a 5% vote could even provide ministers in important locations. They changed alliances from a very good Chancellor Schmidt, to Kohl. And it is debatable til today if that was a good move. (the wall not included).

    John in Germany.

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