The bad and the worse; Representative democracies' minimums

Submitted by gwolf on Sat, 09/26/2009 - 16:08

Martin rants about the German electoral system. From his rant, I'll pick up only two points — And I'll try to connect with Toxicore's excelent (Spanish) blog post, where he quotes political analist Denise Dresser.

Dresser has made a great point: Our probably-imposed, legitimacy-impaired president Felipe Calderón has requested the society to «talk good» about Mexico, to project a positive image of the country. Dresser says, yes, there is a lot of good to talk about the country, and we should emphasize on its richness and beauty, invite people to come and visit, to know what the country is really like. But at the same time, it is our duty to talk bad about the bad areas and decisions of our government, as that is the best (if not the only) thing many of us can do to really get things to happen — That is what we can do to push our country's good things forward, to make the country sustainable, to pull attention towards what needs (such as the very very deplorable cases of censorship, human rights violation, ecosystem predation we have seen in the last years).

Anyway... What did I want to comment about Martin's post? He criticizes Germany's law requiring a 5% quota for a party to have parliamentary representation.

In Mexico, the minimum is 2%. Most people agree, though, that it is too low, and that we should push to increase it. Why? Because the money that is spent in supporting the party system. In Mexico, when a political party fails to get 2% of the vote, it is basically disbanded and it is very hard for it to regroup, to compete again.

Many people believe we should aim to a political system with as few political parties as possible (such as the semi-democratic system they have in the USA). I strongly prefer the system found in most European (and even many South American) countries where there is a real wealth of ideological positions represented, and where governments have to be formed by agreeing to form coalitions, as it is almost impossible for them to get full majority.

I would much rather see Mexico march towards a parliamentary-based political system, away from the presidential one. Of course, that is almost impossible to expect.

With the current political system, we are bound to have forever few monolithic, meaningless political parties. We will likely converge on three blocks, following the current three major blocks (leftoid PRD, centroid PRI, rightoid PAN). They are different in some important senses, yes, but in general they are much the same. I don't hold any hopes to ever see something like the Pirate Party appearing in our system...

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Anonymous's picture

I would prefer to see a

I would prefer to see a system which gave no official recognition of any kind fo political parties. Candidates would run for office, and if they chose to identify themselves as a member of a particular political party they could do so, but in no case should that have any effect apart from description.

gwolf's picture

Political parties are IMO needed

Although I support the need for our system to be open to what they call "citizen candidates" meaning candidates not registered via a political party (what, being part of a party makes you lose your citizen rights‽), I recognize that would open a whole can of worms.

Given our system, I prefer the political system formally closing the door to private funding of campaigns. I really prefer all money spent in campaigns to be assigned by the electoral organs, and banning individuals from directly funding the candidates. There is not enough balance in the points of view of the more privileged, richer strata of society — they would all lean to the same side.

Campaigning requires a huge organization, specially for the only posts regarded as important in our country (the executive branch — president, governors). I do not see a party-less individual campaigning for the oft-maligned legislative power. It requires such an incredible amount of money and logistics I just cannot see it would be fair to the population at large to assign the needed resources to a single individual's attempt.

garaged's picture

not in México

That would effectively make a rise of "new leaders", very carismatic, and with a lot of support by groups totally sponsored by narcotraffic. Not a good idea if you ask me.

Stefan Potyra's picture

voting barriers


due to your argument about the 2 percent hurdle, I'd just like to add, that in Germany the 5 percent quota is the percentage that is needed to enter parliament. However, there's yet another quota, which determines whether a party obtains payments by the votes (the idea is that campaigning for parliament should ideally not be bound to donations from 3rd parties who would then have some influence on politics due to paying parties). If this quota is met, a party obtains a specified payment per vote (my memory is telling that it's somewhere around 1 euro per vote or slightly below, but my memory is usually wrong in this regard ;).)
The threshold for obtaining money from an election however is lower than the threshold to enter parliament. I'm not too sure what the former threshold is, but I believe it's somewhere near 1.5 or 2 per cent in Germany.


Christoph Egger's picture

Well the actual number is as

Well the actual number is as low as 0.5% IIRC to get state funding in Germany

garaged's picture

oh well

Basilio Briseño would humilliate me again for saying this, but as much as we don't like it, is fscking true, the level of corruption make totally irrelevant to have 2 or 8 or anything else in both Mexico or USA.

PRI, PAN and PRD have probed to be just as freedy as PT, PVEM, AS or any other, we even had a party from the family of the late wive of the admired and late too Colosio, and they robed so much that a law reform had to be made

There is no point on trying to correct a system thru a bunh of people that dont have any interest on making this a better country for the people (the
at 80% that pays for they rich lifes)

pd the captcha is freaking hard

M. Grégoire's picture

Parliamentary is Better, But Culture is Key

I prefer parliamentary systems. It is very useful to have an official opposition, a formal system for forcing the government to defend itself, a way of changing the government between elections, avoidance of executive/legislative deadlock, and the separation of the ceremonial duties of head of state from the practical duties of the head of government. (Walter Bagehot's The English Constitution is the classic work on the virtues of parliamentary democracy.)

There are many ways such a system may be structured. Strong parties make it difficult for minority voices to be heard; but on the other hand, they make it possible for campaign promises to be enacted, rather than just wished for. The independence of individual congressmen in the US is precisely why any health care reform they do manage to pass is likely to feature unreasonable assumptions, crazy compromises, and wasteful pork.

On the whole, I think Australia probably has the best model for governmental structure. But even the best set of laws can be no better than what's acceptable to the citizenry; the government of the Swiss would be honest and competent no matter how it might be structured.

Magni's picture

In Norway we currently have 8

In Norway we currently have 8 parties in the parliament, out of the ~20 parties participating in the parliamentary election two weeks ago. A party does not have to participate in all of the 19 counties that each is a constituency.

We also have a system with a 4% minimum limit nationwide, but parties below this may still get a county representative if they get enough votes to get one of the 4 - 15 representatives from each county (the number depends mainly on the number of inhabitants in the county, but also on its geographical size). The Liberal party got 3.9% nationwide this year, but still has two representatives since they did well in those counties.

If a party gets above 4% nationwide, they participate in the distribution of extra mandates - one per county - between the parties that got 4% nationwide, but still didn't get direct representatives for their votes.

I wrote a bit about the system, and there are additional pointers in the comments.