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Posted by wmmbb in Global Electoral Politics.

If the rule of thumb that applies to elections in Australia applies then it seems on the basis of lack of bipartisan agreement and general public engagement the Alternative Vote referendum will be lost in Britain.

So much for direct democracy which so often is the occasion to lower the tone of democratic debate. Electoral Systems are such obscure topics of conversation and difficult to understand, although it is equally remarkable that as soon as they are changed the tactical opportunities become immediately apparent to some voters and are effected. This was true for the more complicated system of multi-member proportional representation when it was introduced into New Zealand, which I believe had not previous experience of proportional representation. I doubt that MMP will be replaced there. Why would anyone go back to First Past the Post voting?

The Liberal Democrats in Britain may well have over-compromised with the agreement to offer the Alternative Vote system as the ballot option to the established simple plurality that sees governments elected with 37% of the voters that turnout. The systems are for the most part really not all that much different, and I suppose that was the basis for the Liberal Democrats political calculation. By providing preferential voting, even in the optional form, at least gives the electors to cast an effective vote for the winning candidate in each electorate.

That said, it would have been better had the referendum offered proportional representation as an option and multi-member electorates, such as the Hare-Clark system provides in Tasmania. Given the imprimatur of John Stuart Mills, it could not be said that such a system was “anti-British”.

The referendum appears to be both an opportunity and less likely an danger for the Prime Minister. Andrew Grist reports in The Independent:

David Cameron is today accused of cynically turning the referendum campaign on the voting system into a bitter row between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats to head off a Yes vote. In his first intervention in the AV referendum, Lord Mandelson, the former Labour cabinet minister, claimed that the Prime Minister had adopted a high-profile role in the No campaign in order to divert media and public attention away from a debate about the alternative vote (AV).

In an interview with The Independent, Lord Mandelson warned Labour figures who are backing the No camp that their actions could condemn the party to years in the electoral wilderness. He appealed to Labour supporters to vote Yes in next week’s referendum to damage the Tories and undermine Mr Cameron’s position.

Lord Mandelson’s intervention reflects fears in the Yes lobby that the Prime Minister’s strategy will deliver a high turnout among Tory supporters for a No vote. The Yes camp will target Labour sympathisers in the run-up to the referendum, believing that offers the best hope of turning round the opinion polls, which suggest that the public will reject reform. Most surveys show a narrow margin against AV among Labour supporters.

There is even speculation at Westminster that Mr Cameron, if strengthened by a No verdict, might call a general election this autumn rather than maintain the Coalition with the Liberal Democrats. Despite their increasingly bitter battle over AV, that looks unlikely, with both parties insisting that the Coalition will return to normal business on 6 May. Privately, Labour would not welcome an early election.

The English will cling to the used by first across the line horse race in the same way they cling to their dated German monarchy. Our Prime Minister will there among the unsavory – although some have been uninvited – and hopefully the justification of informal diplomacy will prove well founded, although it is doubtful there will be any other leader there worth talking to. Certainly no one as important as the Chinese Premier she has now met in Beijing. And I wonder what his thoughts are on the optional preferential system?



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