Home > Non-BC Provincial Politics > “Fatal Flaw” In MMP Exists In Current SMP(FPTP)

“Fatal Flaw” In MMP Exists In Current SMP(FPTP)

August 7, 2007

It seems that those opposed to MMP in Ontario are concerned that political parties will have too much power in the selection of candidates:

“…These new MPPs will be chosen from lists that are organized by the political parties. This will allow political leaders to stack their caucuses with blind loyalists who have no direct responsibility to the people.”

The thing is: this type of thing already occurs in the present SMP(FPTP).

How are candidates selected in SMP? They are – in the best case scenario – elected in nomination races that are selected exclusively by local party members – not the public at large. As for the nomination candidates in the first place? They can only run for the nomination if approved by the political party in the first place.

Of course, sometimes SMP candidates are not even selected by nomination races, but are appointed by the central party apparatus itself.

In short, the only difference in the selection of candidates between SMP and MMP is, really, the geographical distribution of the party members selecting them (local vs. central).

And somehow, I don’t have the feeling that the “No” to MMP group is really interested in cutting out the power that political parties have in selecting candidates by changing the SMP selection process to an open primary system.

Anyways, before I end this post, it is interesting to note Cherniak’s justification for why he believes selection of candidates in SMP is democratically superior to the selection of candidates in MMP:

“No matter how candidates in ridings are chosen, the people ultimately decide whether to elect the individual. However, with a list system voters will never be able to pick and choose names from the list. No matter what happens behind the scenes, the parties will control who gets elected from the list in an MMP system.”

The party’s choice in the individual running for the candidacy in a local riding is justified, according to Cherniak, because the electorate at large will vet that decision by electing that person in an election. But by that logic, wouldn’t the party’s choice of individuals on a list be vetted by the electorate at large which votes on and generally approves that list?

If the election is about individuals and their political positions, as Cherniak is implying above, then why keep a party system? Why not switch to a non-partisan system? After all, SMP was developed under those conditions.

So in short, I find the “No” to MMP side’s arguments rather inconsistent. They seem to complain about problems with the political party system as it applies to MMP, but ignore those same problems under SMP.

Advertisements
  1. August 7, 2007 at 5:16 pm

    My point all along. Good for you. In fact, most people have nothing to do with their MP at any time, and vote for the party instead of the person. I can chase down those references, but both facts are fairly well known.

    And, on the plus side for MMP, if I don’t like the Liberal that Cherniak’s people manage to get elected in my riding, I can go to a list MP in the region from the party I like. Now, that’s choice. Maybe more people will start talking to their MPs between elections.

  2. August 7, 2007 at 5:17 pm

    Sorry, that’s MLA. But you get my drift.

  3. August 7, 2007 at 5:34 pm

    But you’re missing the point. The candidates in FPTP are selected individually by the parties. As a result, the voters in the riding and individually vote for or against those candidates. With an MMP system, people will be stuck with the individuals chosen by the party. They will not be able to pick between different individuals from different parties, because when voting they will have no idea how many people will actually be chosen from the various lists.

  4. Northern BC Dipper
    August 7, 2007 at 5:35 pm

    Actually, I think its MPP in Ontario 😉 Trying to be all fancy and unique, I guess.

    But yeah, I got your drift.

  5. Northern BC Dipper
    August 7, 2007 at 5:55 pm

    Jason,

    It seems to me that in SMP, the people are stuck with the individual that the party selected, while in MMP, the people are stuck with the list of individuals that the party selected. In both cases, the voter approves of those choices by voting for them (in SMP, the individual; in MMP , the individual/party list).

    As for picking different individuals from different parties, well, beyond choosing a party list and a local candidate from a party list, STV is better for that sort of thing.

  6. linuxluver
    August 8, 2007 at 2:18 am

    I do hope that SOMEONE (especially people like Jason Cherniak) will actually LOOK at how list candidates are selected in places that use MMP.

    It’s obvious none of the MMP critics have ever looked.

    Sorry to break the bad news to the (willfully?) ignorant MMP critics like Cherniak, but the list candidates of every significant party I know of in any MMP-using place ARE elected to their party’s list by the votes of grassroots party members one way or another. It may be at riding meetings or regional conferences, or via postal ballots, but the reality is the same.

    I’ve lived in New Zealand for the 11 years they have used MMP. I have participated in list candidate selection for the party I support there. My wife has done the same for the party she supports.

    As for the list MPs themselves, my riding (Otaki) in New Zealand has TWO MPs with offices in the riding – one local (Darren Hughes – Labour) and one list (Nathan Guy -National). Other MPs (Sue Kedgley – Greens) are also active there, attending local fairs, speaking at public meetings, listening to issues of local concern. The *compete* to serve voters in order to win the PARTY votes that define how many seats each party gets.

    This is how it really works…..and I do wish the MMP critics could be bothered to actually have a look at reality.

  7. August 8, 2007 at 1:03 pm

    “But you’re missing the point. The candidates in FPTP are selected individually by the parties. As a result, the voters in the riding and individually vote for or against those candidates. With an MMP system, people will be stuck with the individuals chosen by the party. They will not be able to pick between different individuals from different parties, because when voting they will have no idea how many people will actually be chosen from the various lists.”

    This has me scratching my head. Under FPTP people are also stuck with individuals chosen by the party–not to mention (as we just saw in NB) majority governments formed by parties that don’t even get the most votes.

    Under MMP, people will still get to vote for their riding candidates, and also for the party they support. Meanwhile (and Jason must have somehow forgotten this), the parties must publicize their methods of assembling their lists. If it’s just party hacks that nobody knows, at least some electors might vote for another party.

  8. Brian in Calgary
    August 9, 2007 at 9:45 am

    I find this debate quite engrossing. At first, I was totally opposed even to the concept of MMP, preferring the preferential ballot or even run-off elections for ridings that don’t have a candidate get 50% of the ballots. However, the supporters of MMP here have made their case quite well. I’m now completely on the fence on this issue.

  9. August 9, 2007 at 12:00 pm

    Hi Brian. It’s nice to see that you made it to the top of the fence. I had thought about the preferential ballot (Alternative Vote) that is currently used in Australia’s House of Representatives. I then realized that there would still be vote% – seat% party distortions with this system. If our elected representatives here in my province of Ontario were freethinking individuals, I would accept AV. Unfortunately, they toe their party lines 99% of the time. This is why I prefer MMP over AV and the current but antiquated First-Past-the-Post voting system.

  10. August 9, 2007 at 12:02 pm

    I think it might be “They tow the party line.” I’ll hafta check my big toe on that.

  11. August 11, 2007 at 10:22 am

    Nope, you had it right the first time.

    http://www.grammartips.homestead.com/toetheline.html

  12. August 11, 2007 at 11:40 am

    Most voters determine their vote based on the party, not the candidate. In most ridings, it is the party and the riding members (when they’re not overruled by the backroom) that elect the MPP. The general election is just a formality.

    Voters are being asked to continue wasting our votes, sacrifice fairer results and better representation for the sake of protecting the fallacy voters somehow have a real choice under first past the post.

    Or perhaps those who don’t like the lists are afraid that they’d never make their way high enough on the list to ever get elected? Or perhaps they completely distrust the democratic prcatices of their own party leadership and judgement of their fellow members. Yet they offer nothing to solve the problem except to let it fester for another century.

    Fortunately, the voters are often smarter than the pundits.

  13. August 12, 2007 at 8:43 pm

    This is actually a fairly poor argument.

    At least SMP gives voters in particular ridings a choice between a slate of available candidates. MMP offers no choice at all.

    The parties nominate their candidates, and if you don’t like a party’s candidate, you don’t have to vote for them. Under MMP, however, you are inevitably voting for some candidates that you won’t like because of the way the system works.

    The biggest problem with MMP is that it puts altogether too much power into the hands of the parties. It almost takes any sort of power out of the hands of citizens. Once a candidate is elected under MMP, they have only one person they ever have to answer to — the party whip. They don’t have to worry about angering the electorate, because the electorate has little to no say in their selection. So long as the party attains enough votes to have a seat for that candidate, that candidate gets a free ride into the legislature with no citizens to worry about angering. He doesn’t have to worry about losing his seat because his misrepresents his constituents. He never directly answers to them.

    What democratic reform in Canada should focus on is less partisanship. MMP only offers more partisanship, which is the last thing we need.

    Give it back to the people.

  14. Northern BC Dipper
    August 12, 2007 at 9:55 pm

    Hi Patrick,

    At least SMP gives voters in particular ridings a choice between a slate of available candidates. MMP offers no choice at all.

    I’m really not sure what you are trying to get at here, considering that in MMP one has the choice of choosing a local candidate in the exact same way as in SMP, and then choosing from a different slates of candidates. Sounds like MMP offer more choice to me.

    The parties nominate their candidates, and if you don’t like a party’s candidate, you don’t have to vote for them. Under MMP, however, you are inevitably voting for some candidates that you won’t like because of the way the system works.

    Well, the fact is, under any electoral system, there is always the occurance that one is going to have to make the decision to vote for some candidates that he/she does not like (because, as I pointed out above, only partisans really have a say in regards to who becomes a candidate).

    In SMP, if I want to vote for a party (which is how many people decide how to cast a ballot), but I dislike the candidate, I am, a) not going to be able to vote, or b) hold my nose and vote for the candidate anyways.

    In MMP, I have more choice, as I cast one vote towards a local representative, and one vote towards a party slate. So, therefore, if I dislike a local candidate but like the party, I can vote for a different candidate on the local ballot (or not vote at all), and still vote for the party on the party slate ballot. Likewise, if I really dislike some candidates on the party slate, I can choose to not vote on the party slate ballot or choose a different party slate with candidates.

    …Once a candidate is elected under MMP, they have only one person they ever have to answer to — the party whip. They don’t have to worry about angering the electorate, because the electorate has little to no say in their selection. So long as the party attains enough votes to have a seat for that candidate, that candidate gets a free ride into the legislature with no citizens to worry about angering. He doesn’t have to worry about losing his seat because his misrepresents his constituents. He never directly answers to them.

    Well, to be cynical, an elected candidate in SMP basically has to answer almost exclusively to the party whip, especially in those safe seats where a certain political party is certain to win and the major competition for a candidate is not the general election, but the behind closed doors nomination race.

    I’d say, that if one wants our elected candidates to support their constituents, one would need to reform how Parliament works internally, not how the Parliamentary representatives are elected. Maybe implementing (in the official legal code) such things as triple line voting, where, say, votes can be whipped only 10% of the time, cabinet minister are whipped 20% of the time, and the MP are free to vote their conscience 70% of the time (or insert a different reform, if you wish).

    As for the accusation that party slate candidates are immune to a constituency/the people and only has to answer to the party, experience in other countries shows otherwise.

    First of all, the more a political party is successful on the local ballot, less MPs will originate from the party slate ballot (because in MMP, party slate MPs are only added in to make up the difference between the percentage of local MPs elected and the party vote. So in a Parliament of 100, the party receives 45% of the vote, but only elected 35 local MPs (35%), so 10 list MP would be added). Therefore, being a list MP is probably not the safest position to be in if your party is successful on the local level. Considering that most politicians want to keep their jobs, what has happened in many MMP countries is that a list MP establishes a local constituency office in order to establish a local profile, so that they can run in the local ballot the next election and win. As well, many of the list candidates have to start somewhere in a party, so therefore many of them are former failed local candidates from the last election and therefore know the local issues.

    So if the end of it all, I’d say that SMP and MMP are equal in the amount of abuses political parties can pull off (which was the point of my post). But it seems to me that MMP gives me a few more options to make my own decision in who represent me.

  15. Northern BC Dipper
    August 12, 2007 at 10:03 pm

    …with that being said, I keep on meaning to write a post on non-partisan legislatures at some point, as well.

  1. No trackbacks yet.
Comments are closed.
%d bloggers like this: