From the distinguished to the idiotic, Germany’s election
chaos results are getting kicked to death this week by electoral system-conservatives. The anti-PR brigade are sharpening their knives with glee. But why? The German result is irrelevant to the PR debate here in the UK, for at least three reasons:
1. Look at the numbers: two blocs of 35% and three of 10%, roughly. Would any reasonable electoral system dish out a majority government based on that spread? Should it, and still be able to call itself a democracy? Paul makes a similar argument here. Anyway, I thought the complaint was that Germany’s FDP held
blackmail kingmaker powers and pivoted the system around them. Now we’re complaining when they don’t. (Update: Martin shows how FPTP in Germany would have delivered the same result: the problem is divided polity, not PR.)
2. Leaving aside the odd quirk, Germany’s electoral system delivers near-perfect proportionality. 10% of the votes entitles you to 10% of Bundestag seats. The proportional part of the vote is compensatory rather than parallel, to use the jargon. But nobody serious is suggesting a perfectly proportional system for the UK. Both AV+ and the system I suggested here in June would deliver majorities on large pluralities, as would the Single Transferable Vote. The Jamaica, Grand or traffic-light games are a diverting but irrelevant sideshow for UK psephologists.
3. The “ooh, a coalition” bogeyman is just that Ã¢â‚¬â€ a bogeyman. The correct response is: “so what?” Germany’s main, stable conservative bloc is effectively a coalition. Whatever comes out of the bargaining, it won’t be an entirely new programme or set of policies, completely unmandated by voters, as PR opponents always suggest. Germany will get a marriage of two or three parties’ existing mandates, a consensus of support on a narrower agenda, perhaps with a specific time limit. It might wobble, it might not. We elect MPs as proxies. The German ones are just going to have to earn their money the hard way for a change.