Friday, April 29, 2011

Will the NDP boom increase the chances of electoral reform?

It really should, no matter the outcome, two scenarios:
  1. My fears are realized, the NDP increase splits enough previously Liberal seats to give Harper a majority.  Certainly Harper would have no interest in pursuing electoral reform, but the prospect of millions of Canadians giving the NDP a chance and seeing it a Conservative majority government as the result would create a lot of anger and lead to a groundswell for voting system reform.
  2. The NDP win enough seats to deny Harper a majority.  Whether they end up as official opposition, remain behind the Liberals in seat count or actually win government in their own right, having a lot more NDP MPs in a minority parliament, with a very likely NDP/Liberal coalition government forming would present the NDP a historic chance to reform the electoral system, as they have long supported proportional representation.
The second scenario has some quite contemporary precedent, in that it is precisely one of the concessions that the Liberal-Democrats got from the UK Conservatives in agreeing to form a coalition government with them.  Unfortunately, polling shows like so many electoral system reform referenda, the proposed alternative voting (AV) system is likely going to fail.  Click through to that Crooked Timber piece for a great discussion in the comments on the merits and drawbacks of various alternatives to First Past The Post (FPTP).  This is a topic progressive activists should refresh on since I don't think the road to PR (the usual preferred system of the left) is going to be very easy, and we should all consider what alternatives would be better than the status quo and have a better chance of success than PR. 

Also given the defeats of voting system referenda in BC, Ontario and now probably the UK, it would be well to study the politics of those to avoid the same mistakes.

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