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?