Monday, September 23, 2013

Germany shows proportional representation not perfect

One of the main selling points of PR is the idea that a party must get 50% of the vote to get majority power. This number is about 39% under FPP; around 44% under PV ranked ballot.

Sunday's election in Germany shows that even with PR, a minority party can wind up with all the power. Angela Merkel's CDU/CSU party garnered 49.5% of the power on 42% of the vote. If she had got 43%, she would've won an “absolute majority.”


Germany uses Mixed-Member Proportional voting. People vote for a candidate and for a party. Seats are awarded to winning candidates; party-list seats top up a party's total seats so they are the same percent as the vote.

Merkel almost won an “absolute majority” on 42% of the vote. Not exactly proportional…

But there's a catch. A party must get 5% of the vote before getting party-list seats.

Minor parties that didn't make the 5% cut on Sunday totaled 9.8% of the vote. These seats were distributed among parties that did make the threshold.

Is a 5% threshold a good idea?

Definitely. During the 2007 MMP referendum in Ontario, PR opponents zeroed in on the low 3% threshold. They claimed it would fill the legislature with dangerous fringe parties.

So MMP supporters must push a 5% threshold to limit the amount of fear mongering plutocrats will throw at them. (Worry about lowering it later.)

PV majority threshold

If we had PV ranked ballot in 2011, Harper would've got only 46% of the seats on 40% of the vote (instead of 54%.) That's a 15% gain from proportional (instead of 35%.) One can use this number to extrapolate the percentage of the vote needed to get a majority — 155 of 308 seats, or 50.32%. The PV majority threshold is about 44% — or 5 points higher than FPP.


Since both PV and PR stop vote splitting, this will result in the formation of more parties that better represent voters. Not only that, elections will tend to produce multi-party majority governments, putting a stop to single-party dictatorships. That, in turn, will foster open, transparent and accountable government which represents an actual majority of voters.

1 comment:

  1. Israel and Italy had long been held up by PR opponents to show the instability PR can cause with their frequent elections (although they both have been a lot more stable in recent years). They both have little or no threshold which cause many extremist parties to be elected.

    Turkey has a very high cut off (to keep the Kurds out) and that results an a majority government elected with only about 40% of the vote several years ago.

    3% seems to be a good number.


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