Wednesday, August 25


Australian Election Update, Wednesday August 25th


Update: Steven notes in the comments that all the major Westminster model countries - UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and India - now have hung parliaments. 

This is particularly interesting in that three different voting systems - First Past the Post, Alternative Vote, and Single Transferable Vote - have all produced hung parliaments.  The numbers suggest that Proportional Voting would have produced the a hung parliament in Australia as well.

Why has this happened?  In Australia, it's easy to blame two tragically inept major parties, both of them fresh from stabbing their own leaders in the back.  But when it happens in five countries at the same time, the indication is that it's systemic.

What the solution is, whether there is a solution, and whether we should even be looking for a solution, are all questions I leave for another day.  At the moment, though, I'd throw my support behind a Budgie/Ranga coalition just to deflate the Fruitbats and Noneoftheaboves, who are getting more insufferable by the minute.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at 01:17 PM | Comments (5) | Add Comment | Trackbacks (Suck)
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1 This is kind of cool: "every key ‘Westminster model’ country in the world now has a hung Parliament".

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at Wednesday, August 25 2010 02:11 PM (+rSRq)

2 I think what we're seeing is a demonstration of the Arrow theorem.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at Wednesday, August 25 2010 03:56 PM (+rSRq)

3 Interesting.  I don't think I've seen that before.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at Wednesday, August 25 2010 05:28 PM (PiXy!)

4 Arrow's theorem has nothing to do with hung parliaments; Arrow's theorem regards how there is no fair system ("fair" define as following a set of 5 particular axioms) which can transform a collection of individual's ranked-preferences into a group's ranked-ordering of preferences.

It's usually colloquially given as "there is no perfect voting system", but it is only applicable to a single election, not the hundreds of elections that go into electing a parliament or legislature; so it's not applicable to STV at all, and is only applicable to FPTP and AV when applied to each election individually (and it's not even applicable to all single-election voting systems, just those that operate on ranked preferences.)

The problem is, parliamentary systems rely on Duverger's Law to suppress the power of 3rd-party candidates, to the benefit of the two largest parties, on the theory that one of the big-two will always be able to form a majority government; but if the two largest parties are very evenly matched, even the reduced power of 3rd parties can be enough to create a hung parliament.

The way to "fix" this is to even further reduce the power of 3rd parties... or to find a way to make hung parliaments be less-damaging.

Posted by: Dale Sheldon-Hess at Thursday, August 26 2010 07:27 AM (kJWhL)

5 You'd think that a democratic system would trend towards this sort of thing.

Assuming you've got two major parties that correspond to a loose tendency towards the left or right, broadly speaking, centered on whatever country you're talking about (not the same value in Israel as it is in Britain, right?) Both parties are competitive enough that they've got more-than-occasional access to the public purse, and thus don't have any trouble with fund-raising.

To the extent that the parties can avoid caucus-breaking wedge issues, they're going to concentrate their money and re-election resources on the areas which have the greatest marginal chance of resulting in victory. They'll moderate unpopular positions (note how US Republicans haven't pushed the anti-abortion issue lately, nor are the Democrats pushing the anti-gun issue, though it's unlikely either party has seriously changed its mind on the issue). Greater resources are going to be devoted towards the few percent in the middle that are perceived as "on the fence". No point spending money in Berkeley to try to elect people from the GOP, or pouring money into a rural Texas district to try to elect a Dem.

The party that successfully captures a larger share of the split in the middle is the one that gets electoral success, and thus power. The strategy gets noticed (it ain't rocket science exactly) and the other party attempts the same thing. Eventually you get to the point where both parties are relying on fairly large (probably-gerrymandered) "safe districts" and putting all their resources into the 10% or so that's considered "in play".

The better both parties get at scraping a percentage point or two off the center, the closer they get to each other. Their positions start to lose definition as they compromise. They get roughly-equal amounts of donations for roughly-equal amounts of pork, though the particular beneficiaries probably aren't the same.

Eventually you get to the point where neither party can field a solid majority - you've got a strong 40% on one side, a strong 40% on the other, and a mushy middle with some mixed nuts. Israel's parliamentary system has been grappling with this issue for decades (they have a very large collection of nuts, if I can characterize it thus). In a lot of ways, even the US system has the same dynamics, except that instead of small third parties, you get individual moderates with very weak party identification (McCain, Lieberman).

The biggest problem with all of this is that both parties tend to want to increase the size of government. It's not just a matter of rewarding donations with favorable regulation. It's a matter of motivating donations through fear; you're not worried so much about gaining quid pro quo as you are about the other party gaining power and enacting punitive regulations. (Lots of businesses attempt to duck this by donating heavily to both parties, which suits both parties fine...)

Closest I've got to a solution is small government. If the government doesn't have a finger in every pie, they can't compel massive donations, which limits the paid-for media blitz; politicians have to take actual positions to get press and exposure, and debate about those positions is more likely to split the electorate into a majority and minority than the results of finely-calibrated-and-test-grouped dissemination of a manufactured message.

Posted by: Avatar_exADV at Thursday, August 26 2010 06:52 PM (mRjOr)

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