A Commentary on the Dutch election results

As a Dutchman, few things are more tiresome than to have to explain the workings of our political system to outsiders used to less democratic systems with three or just two parties. It is understandable enough that a proliferation of viewpoints, embodied in different parties, can be confusing: as many as ten parties at any time may hold seats in our parliament. Nonetheless, the very fact shows the clear and substantial benefits of proportional representation, which this election once again underlines. No voting threshold means that smaller parties on the basis of strong ideas, but with less overall popularity, have a small representation which allows them to exercise ideological pressure on the larger parties – as exemplified by the PvdD, the only ‘deep green’ party in any country’s parliament in the world. Since animals and the environment have no vote, this party can represent something of an interest that in the larger scheme of things would not be heard. Similarly, since there is no district system, there is no gerrymandering, there are no ‘strategic votes’ (unless one considers the Prime Ministerial position to be the most important issue, which few do), and most importantly, every vote actually counts. In the elections for Westminster in the United Kingdom as many as 70% of all votes are routinely wasted because of the first past the post system, and turnout in countries with such systems is therefore also notably lower (except for Australia, which has compulsory voting). The diffusion of the vote is sometimes seen as a problem, because it demands much of the difficult process of coalition-making. Yet at the same time the greater precision in preferences enabled by this system allows many different coalitions to express more precisely different combinations and nuances of political ideas and ideologies that would otherwise be swamped under major polarisations of ‘left’ versus ‘right’ or ‘liberal’ versus ‘conservative’. Finally, the argument of instability of government is not much of an argument either: having elections held more often in fact increases the influence of popular opinion on the course of government, which is why the US House of Representatives is voted every two years, for example. In an age in which all modern countries are by necessity ruled by bureaucracies from day to day, the supposed ‘instability’ therefore is imaginary. Belgium was for half a year ruled by no federal government at all, and yet not a single Belgian noticed any particular collapse in the functioning of social relations or governmental daily life. The only ‘instability’ is that of the possibility of different ideologies to work together, and it is fitting that if a clash of that kind occurs, the voters have a say in which course is the right one. Continue reading “A Commentary on the Dutch election results”

The British Elections and Electoral Reform

In Dutch there is an expression which loosely translates as: “when two dogs fight for a bone, the third will run off with it”. When the Conservative Party under their ‘modernist’ leader David Cameron challenged their major opponents to the first ever televised leader’s debate in Britain, they would have done well to remember this. They counted on the slick appeal of Cameron easily putting the jaw-munching tactlessness of Prime Minister Brown in the shade. But they forgot that the Liberal Democrats, doomed to be the perpetual third party in the UK since the Armistice, had a charismatic figure and an excellent debater in their leader Nick Clegg. The effect has been remarkable: for the first time anyone living can remember, the Liberal Democrats are now leading the other parties in the popular vote in some polls, and are equal contenders in others. The Labour share has dropped to levels lower than those of Michael Foot in the disastrous election of 1979, but the Tories too have not managed to beat their equally bad poll results of the days of New Labour ascendancy in the 1990s. All the remainder of the vote seems increasingly to be moving collectively into the Liberal Democrats’ camp. Now one can debate to what extent this is entirely the result of the impact of modern mass media like television on political campaigns; there are good, if anecdotal, reasons to assume that much of it is also driven by an electorate tired of Labour but equally repulsed by the Tories, looking for a way out. Be that as it may, British elections have not been as exciting and not had as uncertain an outcome in many decades, with everyone now expecting a hung parliament to result for the first time since 1974. Continue reading “The British Elections and Electoral Reform”

Results of the 2009 elections in Germany

The federal elections in Germany held past sunday have seen some provisionally official results published. The result is, as was expected by many, a sufficient victory for the liberal FDP to allow a coalition with the conservatives of the CDU/CSU, especially after the major collapse of the votes for the social-democratic SPD, which suffered its worst result since 1953. This is not surprising, since the SPD campaign led by Frank-Walter Steinmeier was possibly the first in which the social-democrats no longer even bothered talking about improving the welfare of the workers, but instead focused on sniping away at the ruling party, implying that the task of running liberal capitalism should be left to them instead.

The German voters rejected this out of hand. Continue reading “Results of the 2009 elections in Germany”

More Hypocrisy from the Imperialists

The Presidential elections in occupied Afghanistan have proven themselves to be as fraudulent as could be expected from a corrupt regime with little legitimacy or authority outside the nation’s capital, propped up by a national army led by one of the worst warlords of the nation’s past. Indeed, although the United Nations praised the fact the elections were held at all, the turnout was significantly lower than during the last elections under American occupation in 2004 (1). Then, some 70% of registered voters were estimated to have shown up, a number which has now dropped to an expected 40-50%. (2)

The widespread expectations of fraud, due to the manner in which the Karzai government has delegated its authority to local warlords in exchange for favors (presumably including favorable election results), so far look to have been justified. Continue reading “More Hypocrisy from the Imperialists”