Monday, October 26, 2009

Proportional Representation

Moldova has a system of proportional representation (PR) similar to many other countries around the world, the fundamental principal being that the number of seats a party obtains in Parliament is proportional to the number of votes it has received in the election.

In a sense, PR produces inherently unstable parliaments.  It is very rare that, in an un-rigged election, a single party would attain a majority of seats.  To form a stable majority, coalition building and maintaining skills are necessary, which is not necessarily a bad thing.

There are, however, several problems with Moldova's form of PR, and the AIE needs to fix these:

1.  The 6% hurdle means that many votes for smaller parties are wasted and reallocated to the larger parties.  In Moldova this generally means that votes for small centrist or centre-right parties have been reallocated to the Communists...

2.  There are no representative / electorate seats.  All of the members of Parliament are drawn from party lists, with some of the people lower down lists being nameless, faceless and useless.  Moldovans do not have a 'local MP' tasked with representing their concerns in Parliament.

Some voices are proposing a return to electoral blocs as a solution to problem (1).  To me, that's sub-optimal, as electoral blocs have problems of their own.  Firstly, they're heterogenous, so voters won't know what they're voting for.  Imagine an electoral bloc consisting of the four AIE parties, from the centre-left Rusophile Democrats to the centre-right Romanophile Liberal Party...   Secondly, they're designed to break up as soon as parliament forms, which means that they defeat the purpose of the hurdle (which is to ensure that Parliament is not so fractional that it becomes inoperative).

My proposals to address problem (1) would be to drop the hurdle back to 4% or 5% (6% is high by international standards), and (2) introduce a simple preference voting system in which voters get to name a second preference as well as a first.  For example, someone who wants Moldova to reunify with Romania could vote as a first preference for Pavlicenco's PNL.  As the PNL is unlikely to get into parliament, they would give their second preference to the PL, as the major party most closely aligned with PNL policies.  Now the votes for all parties which fall under the threshold would be distributed according to second preferences, meaning that a far higher proportion of voters will be represented in Parliament through one of their choices.

Problem (2) can be resolved by moving to a German style Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) system.  Here, half of the seats (50) in parliament would be contested in electorates, with the remaining 51 being allocated according to the party vote.  Each voter would get to choose both their favourite local candidate and their two favourite national parties.  There would be roughly one electorate for every 80,000 of population, so Chisinau would get 11 or so, Balti would get 2 or 3 and so on.

Traditionally, the conflict in Transnistria has been the argument against local electorates.  It was felt that voters in the separatist region wouldn't be able to cast their votes.  In the past that may have been true, however I believe it can be overcome using postal or internet voting.  But those are the subject of another post....

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