Sorry, *how* many years between elections?

And while we’re on the subject, what the hell is with five year terms of office? Hereditary members of the upper house, voluntary voting, first past the post, single member electorates, massively biased press and five year terms (with the timing at the whim of the incumbent party) – could the UK be any less democratic and still call itself a “democracy” without being laughed at? Even more than it is at present?

5 responses to “Sorry, *how* many years between elections?

  1. I don’t mind the five year terms, but I do suppose the timing aspect benefits the incumbent. It is a constituency system (like ours) so the single-member thing is quite normal.

    Ultimately, all electoral frameworks must balance pragmatism, credibility and effectiveness of representation. Perhaps the UK would benefit from some Australian style reforms? I know the Lib Dems leader is pushing hard for some small-party-friendly changes.

    And I fail to see how voluntary voting is undemocratic.

  2. randomlawstudent

    Voluntary voting is traditionally argued to be undemocratic on the basis that it means only a small percentage of the population is represented in an election. A variation on this argument is usually used to support compulsory voting; that is, a party that wins the support of 60% of the population has much more legitimacy than a party that wins the support of, say, 30%.

    Personally, I’m not too convinced by this argument, though I’m not a big fan of voluntary voting all the same, for the simple reason that it tends to polarise electorates much more than compulsory voting, and results in politicians pandering to the extremes of their parties to ‘rally the base’. Also, voluntary voting seems to sometimes result in people being turned away from the polls, which is a disgusting concept.

    Also, it should be noted that, when I say compulsory voting lends legitimacy, I really mean compulsory attendance. Noone’s forcing constituents to vote on election day, they just have to rock up and get their name ticked off. If they despise all the parties, they can throw a donkey vote, and noone will ever know. Indeed, SA elections have posters up in all the polling booths stating that you do not have to mark the voting sheet if you do not want to. The low percentage of informal votes cast in the election seems to indicate people do care about actually voting for someone, once they overcome the apathy of getting to a polling station.

  3. Ah, that’s the “beauty” of democracy. It’s defined by those with the power and the money to define it.

  4. Wisdom Like Silence

    I think what most people find worth opposing in terms of proportional representation is that while certain styles of political thought would get a bigger say, certain areas geographically would be neglected. There needs to be an infusion of single-seat and proportional rep, perhaps the house of commons should be single-seat and the house of lords should be proportional representaion or something like that, I don’t know.

    Voluntary voting in large democracies just makes sense, decisions should be made by those who show up, this (Sorkin Quote Alert) isn’t government camp, it isnt important that everyone gets to play. One day I hope that voting is voluntary in Australia, then the parties will actually have to prove they’re different rather than what we have now.

    I think 5 year terms make more sense than 3-4 year terms, but they should be set in stone. I mean it’s either long term terms or yearly elections.

    But to answer your question, no. It’s still pretty steeped in old, ridiculous, post-Napoleon parliamentary tradition.

  5. How do 5 year terms make “more sense” than terms where voters remember the things the incumbent did in the first couple of years?

    I mean, jebus – there’ve been no issues arising in Britain since 2005 that have warranted the public getting some kind of say in the meantime?

    WLS – those geographic areas would still have votes and be able to be represented in parliament proportionally with their support, if they were being neglected. And if you had several multi-member electorates rather than one huge one, then those multi-member electorates would each be regionally-based and local issues would still be represented. The difference would be that local-based parties wouldn’t be the only ones that would be permitted to be represented alongside the two largest parties.

    Single member electorates are just a technique for dissipating support for new nationally-focused parties so they can never grow to challenge the incumbents.

    Which is where it breaks down – the same as the way the free market breaks down when the barriers to entry are too large. So you end up with old, unrepresentative, inefficient parties using their pre-existing market share to squash competition rather than actually doing the job better.

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