11 February 2009

Israel Has A Good Electoral System, Unlike Us.

Israel has had 18 parliamentary elections since 1949, the UK not much different with first past the post at 16 parliamentary elections, Canada has had 20 parliamentary elections since 1949 under first past the post. We should start defending Israel's PR system not just giving in to the false propaganda in the media. Yes maybe the 2% threshold should be a little higher, but this is hardly a problem on the scale of the UK or Canada where the majority of voters are completely ignored because of first-past-the-post.


  1. Ah yes, I like their system as long as Tzipi wins ...

  2. The Israeli PR system is a poor advert for proportional representation. It's not just the low threshold, it's also the fact that the whole country is a single constituency. This means that all sorts of nutters and extremists can get elected and often end up wielding disproportionate influence. You wouldn't get this with the single transferable vote system of PR, which organically generates its own threshold without having to invent one artificially, as with list systems.

  3. PZT: Yes, extremists can get elected in Israel (and also the Netherlands) where there is only one constituency for the whole country and a low threshold - you only need 2% of the country to vote for you. But surely this is democracy with all its warts and blemishes.

    They still end up a small minority in parliament with little influence (if any). Like I say a small increase in the threshold could reduce fragmentation and get rid of most extremists (at a cost of excluding some minorities). But I'm not sure it is necessary. The whole argument against the Israel/Netherland 'pure' PR system is that it leads to instability - but that lie is buried when we look at the number of post-war elections which are no different in number to those in 'first-past-the-post' countries. Rather than bowing to this misinformation by the Tory media, maybe a defence of the Israel system will bolster support for all PR systems and STV. Treating Israel as an embarrassment is playing into our opponents hands - it just feeds the opposition to ALL PR - when the facts are actually on our side - if only we checked them out.

    Government in Israel would probably be even more extreme and no less unstable under first-past-the-post. Think of the UK under first-past-the-post which has brought us the poll tax, the Iraq war and Thatcherite enthusiasm for growing inequality. Nobody thinks a Labour/Lib Dem or Tory/Lib Dem government (which the voters actually voted for) would have been so extreme.

  4. Yes, but why laud the Israeli system when there are much better ones, even much better list systems if we really must have a list system (e.g. the Belgium/Luxembourg/Swiss system where the voter can choose particular candidates on the list, rather than having to accept the whole list in the order laid down by the party machine). Much better still of course is STV in multi-member constituencies.
    The Israel/Holland system can be viewed as "pure democracy" but only if you accept that "party" is the only significant voting criterion, and that you are prepared to hand over to the party machine the choice of who actually gets elected. STV, with its preferential voting, gives the voter much more power, including the power to decide that some factor other than "party" is the one he or she thinks is most significant.

  5. PZT, I agree that the Israeli system is not one I would overly recommend for the UK, but I do think it is better than what we currently have. I think this is important and something we shouldn't forget.

    My point is that, in accepting the overly negative view of 'pure' PR put out by the Tory media, we harm our chances of getting any change.

    Yes closed PR hands all power over to 'the parties'. When we are effectively restricted to a choice of 2 parties (as we are under FPTP) then party democracy is crucial (which is why the demise of Labour internal democracy is so serious and the long standing non existence of democracy in the Tory party even more so)- but when people can vote with their feet and quickly move to another party as they can under 'pure' PR, then the most democratic party can quickly establish itself. Once again our experience of party democracy (i.e the lack of it) under the FPTP is misting our judgement of how PR works so much better. Just as the undemocratic unstable coalitions we get under FPTP make us think coalition government is always like this under PR.