Or: how Chirac stole his electionSo, Finland's going into run-off mode for their Presidential elections? (via Nosemonkey)
OK, that makes two countries that should know better saddled with a system of election that's almost as bad, and much more expensive than, Simple Majority (ie the UK/US system, First Past The Post/FPTP). Why do they do it? Well, in the French case, it's because, well, the French political parties don't get on, at all. And there are lots of them. And they keep merging, splitting, forming federations and then breaking up again. So when De Gaulle came to power, he implemented a system that encouraged them to at least try to get on, but also ensures that, unlike Simple Majority, the eventually elected person has more than 50% support and therefore genuinely represents their district. Sound good? The advantage of the British system (ie, small number of parties, clearly defined) but without the disadvantage (ie MPs with less than 50% support, 4-way marginals, etc).
Well, no. If you're going to have a run-off system (with multiple ballots), then you need to do what the Tories do with their leadership elections; keep eliminating people until there's only 2 left, then they have a final contest. Not bad for low cost elections, but bloody expensive for big ones, and if they're on a national scale? Forget it. So, why not have a compromise? Have an election, then if no one candidate gets 50%, eliminate all but the top two, who will then run off again. So, two rounds of voting total, allow as much representation and choice in the first round, then ensure that in the second round, the winner has genuine support. Great. The result of this?
Jacques Chirac.That's right, our 'friend' Jacques (who I've yet to see anyone say anything nice about) is in power almost entirely because of a stuped electoral system. Y'see, unlike FPTP, this system allows fragmentation, because, well, you can always vote for a strong candidate in the second round, but show support for your preferred candidate in the first. Theoretically, it encourages parties to work together, but, well, sometimes things go wrong. I give you, the French Presidential Election of 2002.
|President: 21 april and 5 may 2002 71.6 resp. 79.7%)||%||%|
|Jacques Chirac - Rally for the Republic||19.9||82.2|
|Jean-Marie le Pen - National Front||16.9||17.8|
|Lionel Jospin - Socialist Party||16.2||-|
|François Bayrou -Union for the French Democracy||6.8||-|
|Arlette Laguiller - Workers' Struggle||5.7||-|
|Jean-Pierre Chevènement - Republican Pole||5.3||-|
|Noël Mamère - The Greens||5.2||-|
|Olivier Besancenot - Revolutionary Communist League||4.2||-|
|Jean Saint-Josse -Hunting, Fishing, Nature, Tradition||4.2||-|
|Alain Madelin - Liberal Democracy||3.9||-|
|Robert Hue - French Communist Party||3.4||-|
|Bruno Mégret - Republican National Movement||2.3||-|
|Christiane Taubira - Left Radical Party||2.3||-|
|Corinne Lepage - Citizenship Action Participation for the 21st Century||1.9||-|
|Christine Boutin - Forum of Social Republicans||1.2||-|
|Daniel Gluckstein - Workers' Party||0.5||-|
Just look at all those parties!You see what's happened? The French Left has fragmented, and the top two candidates both have less than 20% of the vote each. So now they go to a run off, and, of course, Le Pen (politely described as a 'fascist', 'racist', 'extremist' etc, and, well, less politely in terms such as 'rapid lunatic' and 'french') gets hammered in the run off. All well and good?
"Vote for a Crook, not a Fascist"Yup, the French left was forced to hold their noses (not literally, unfortunately, it was suggested but it would have been illegal) and go in and vote for a man they despised, who's likely to be facing corruption charges when he leaves office after his time as Paris mayor, in order to defeat a man they (and, indeed most people) hate with a passion. Wonderful.
So, let's look at those numbers again. Chirac got 19.88%, standing for the mainstream French right (then the RPR), next up is Le Pen (16.86%). OK, they're the top two for the run off. Hmm, Blair's under attack in the UK for getting less then 40% of the popular vote in 2005, but Chirac and his opponent in the second round got less than 40% between them. Let's have a look further down.
Jospin, French Socialists, 16.18%. Silly socialists not running a good campaign. Well, at the time, he was Prime Minister, so an against the incumbent vote obviously had an effect. Next? The UDF, the Ken Clarkes of France, Euro Federalist but broadly right wing, 6.84%. You can pretty much add their votes to Chirac's, they sit with his party in the current Assembly and, well, a lot of them left to join his new party anyway. (Gotta love the French; what party are you in? "what week is it?") Next, Worker's Struggle on 5.72%. Yup, Trotskyists get 5.72% of the vote. Before you laugh, do remember that Labour got 27% in 1983, on what Benn described as a "truly socialist manifesto", so there are likely more 'real' socialists out there than we tend to acknowledge given our electoral system and NuLab's stealing the "centre ground". I digress. This lot would, probably, hold their nose for Jospin, and some of them probably should have voted for Jospin, doubt any would go for Le Pen.
So, we now have Chirac with 26.72%, Jospin with 21.90% and Le Pen with 16.86%Next up, Jean-Pierre Chevenement, who, um, had been a socialist minister before declaring himself a 'miracle of the republic', followed by the Greens, who were allied with the Socialists at the time, so we'll give them both to Jospin (37.89%). Communist Revolutionary League? Wild stab in the dark, let's give them to Jospin as well, shall we? 35.85% Democratie Libérale? Well, they've now merged with Chirac's party, so that one's easy, Chirac goes up to 30.63% Jospin leads by nearly 5% now. French Communist Party. Hmm, stab in the dark, but I think they're on the left. Jospin goes to 39.22%. Mouvement National Republicain. Um, they're the bunch that split from Le Pen's party after a little tiff, so we'll give them to him, Le Pen now on 19.2%.
I've left one out it's Hunting, Fishing, Nature, Tradition (yup, that's right, the French have their very own Countryside Alliance, only this lot run for office). They're 'of the right', so I'm giving them to Chirac, but it's possiible some may be LePenistas, can't tell, but given his vote went down in the second round, I don't think so; let's face it, I'd never heard of them before researching this lot. So, Chirac goes up to 34.86%
Chirac 34.86%, Jospin 39.22%, Le Pen 19.2%Parti Radicale de Gauche, wild stab in the dark, Jospin, he climbs to 41.54%. Um, I have no idea about Corinne Lepage - Citizenship Action Participation for the 21st Century, and the only sources I can find are in French. Ah well, that's 1.9% unaccounted for. The next one, guess what? Forum of Social Republicans? Now, as far as I can see, part of Chirac's new party. Chirac 36.05% Parti de Travelleurs? More trotskyists, Jospin climbs to 42.01.
Final tally, Le Pen 19.20% Chirac 36.05%, Jospin 42.01%Now, of course, this is just an abstraction, but it appears to me that Jospin is in the lead now, a party of the Left. Now, it's reasonably well established that the supposed "Far Right" aren't really right wing economically, the National Socialists were called that for a reason. So saying that Le Pen's vote would go to Chirac is wrong. Impossible to actually predict or analyse. Let's call it 50/50. Jospin now gets 51.61%
So, what is the point Mat, apart from boring us with numbers? Well, essentially, it's an exercise in how Chirac stole an election because the French Left let him (splitters) and no one expected Le Pen to do as well as he did.
Delayed run off elections where you dump more than one candidate at the same time encourage diversity in candidate base, but allow for daft result. Now, if, alternately, you number candidates in order of preference (what the Americans seem to like to call Instant Run Off, but the rest of the world calls Alternative Vote), you still get diversity in candidates (for when they just can't get on), but voters don't waste their vote, or risk splitting the vote to let the 'other' guy in.
It's this system the LibDems use to elect the party leader, the Australians use it for election to the lower house and many would like to see it implemented as soon as possible for Westminster. I'm actually within that number; AV now, to follow up with full STV with multi-member constituencies later once the boundaries are sorted out.
The moral of this story?If changing your electoral system, don't copy the French; it can work (seems to be ok in Finland). The next time someone complains about the French govt, remember that even the French didn't want him in office. Oh, and while excessive party loyalty and partizanship is silly, split after split after split makes things even worse.
Cheese Eating Surrender Monkeys? Nah, just Chirac staying in office for as long as he can to take advantage of Presidential immunity.
Technorati tagsearch: electoral reform, election systems, reform, Chirac, France, Finland, alternative vote, run off ballot
NB; I've referenced Wikipedia throughout, I'm aware of its foibles, but most of it I can backup elsewhere (or, indeed, you can if you feel the need); it's not always accurate, but it is comprehensive on most topics. If my maths is wrong, let me know, the cold has killed my concentration.