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Friday, 4 May 2007

Proportional versus majoritarian voting - unjust clarity or just confusion

XRONIA POLLA to all my readers.We’re back (via Ancona and Rome) to the chaos of real life far from the daily projects of Democracy Street. My knees ache from carting that rubble. First errand here was strolling up to the polling station in the church at the top of our road here and deciding whether to express a view on the PM, vote for the devil I knew or try out the Lib Dem which would be more than a wasted vote as he has a chance of winning. I see there’s a BNP candidate along with a Respect and Green Party hopeful. Meantime news comes through of problems with STV and AV on the same ballot paper in the Scots' local and national elections. So the confusion has started even before the results - which we've anticipated as themselves causing pause for thought because:

• only two councils will end up with clear overall control,

• no-one is clear about the effects of new multi-member wards,

• STV and the changes it is expected to bring will mean up to a third of all members retiring this year,

• many Councils will revert to committees rather than have cross-party executives,

• a tendency, prolonged over a decade among members and officers in England, to view hung councils as temporary aberrations, will not occur here, and that work will start early on inter-party collaboration,

• many Scottish chief executives, and indeed officers further down, will find themselves using brokering skills that have become common in England,

• lack of strong political leadership as a result of STV will undermine effective government.

Interesting for democracy but tough on the returning officers, the counting teams, the candidates, and the rest of us, but I do think proportional voting is fairer than first past the post (majoritarian systems) and that, despite the fog of the moment, we'll see these systems coming south. Only 22% of democracies now use majoritarian systems - and they are mostly ex-British colonies including America. Why do I say fairer? Because if there'd been an STV ballot paper up the road last night I wouldn't have wasted a vote on the Green candidate nor would others on the BNP and life would have been more interesting in Birmingham's Council Chamber.

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Simon Baddeley