Electoral fraud in US and NZ! Coups imminent! Hardly! [Fiji Sun, 16 December 2008]
And the next day, the headlines in US could have blazed: military coup supported by the Republican Party and McCain!
And the NZ headlines would have shouted: military coup supported by NZ First Party and Winston Peters.
Ridiculous, of course. But these could have been the headlines in US and NZ, after their recent national elections.
But only if the military in US and NZ were willing to use the twisted logic that Father David Arms and the Fiji Labour Party stalwarts used to justify the 2006 military coup inFiji.
Remember those arguments by David Arms? The 2006 election results were not proportional, therefore the 2006 elections results were unfair. There were ethnic constituencies, therefore our electoral system was racist.
Ipso facto, it’s OK to have a military coup.
It is OK not to return to parliamentary democracy, until we reform our electoral system, to make it proportional, and without racial constituencies.
It is interesting that David Arms has not commented on the recent US and NZ elections results which have displayed similar weaknesses, but without any military coups.
The US Election Results
By any standard, the US Elections is an incredibly strange process, virtually undemocratic, and the results can be and have been grossly disproportional.
Voters do not vote directly for the President. Simplifying, each state is allocated a number of “Electoral Voters”- 20, or 30 or 40 or whatever. These Electoral Voters total 538 altogether throughout theUS, and they decide who they want for President.
In each state, the voters cast their vote for parties, and the winning party “gets” all the Electoral Voters for that State. Even if the Party win by just one vote out of five million voters!
These 538 “Electoral Voters” then say who they will support for President. Regardless of how the 125 millions of ordinary voters voted throughout theUS.
Thus in the 2008 US Elections, Obama and the Democrat Party received the support of 67 million voters or only 53% of the total popular vote.
But they received the support of 365 Electoral Voters out of the 538, or 68% of them. In the process they won 59% of the House of Representatives, and they ended up with 59% of the Senate and 58% of all the Governors.
McCain had 47% of the popular vote, but only got 32% of the Electoral Voters, and 41% of the House of Representatives. A totally disproportionate result.
But McCain and the Republican did not go around shouting about the unfairness of the result. They did not call for the military to do a coup on Obama and the Democrats.
They accepted the rules of their complicated voting game, far more complicated than our weak Alternative Vote system.
And they accepted the elections results.
Unlike our David Arms and theFijiLabour Party.
The NZ Elections Results
The NZ elections results are equally fascinating, and indeed a whole team went fromFijito examine that elections, as it is hoped that our future electoral system should be similar to theirs.
In NZ also, the results were not that proportional (see the table with some of the results). The National Party received 45% of the votes, but 48% of the seats.
Worst of all was the major injustice to Winston Peters and his NZ First Party which received 88 thousand votes (4%), but no seats at all (0%).
In contrast, two parties which received less than 20 thousand votes each, were able to get at least one seat in Parliament.
Note also that racial constituencies also exist in NZ’s proportional system, favouring the indigenous people. The Maori Party won its 5 seats in Maori constituencies with only 46,894 votes- just a half of the votes won by NZ First.
Winston Peters is not shouting that the electoral system in NZ is grossly unfair and let us have military coup.
They accepted the rules of the game before the election. And they abide by the election results.
Of course, NZ ought to be thinking about changing their electoral system.
It is quite silly to have a List system which requires that you must have more than 5% of the national votes before you get any share of the List seats. If you don’t win anywhere, and you don’t get 5% you get zero seats. While someone else can win with less than 1% of the votes.
But you don’t need to do a military coup to achieve electoral changes, as the military inFijidisastrously claim to be doing.
Fiji’s Electoral Reform
Of courseFiji would benefit from having a proportional electoral system with a List element, as has been proposed for more than 10 years by some of us (including David Arms).
The voting system can be a simple one based on non-racial constituencies.
Each person has 2 votes- one to elect the local parliamentarian (who may belong to any Party or be Independent) and one vote for their political Party.
Break up Fiji into geographically convenient constituencies (say 35)- enough for the elected Parliamentarian to serve all the voters for their needs in terms of roads, water, sewerage, education, health, police posts, local development projects, etc.
Forget about having equal numbers of voters or racial mix or whatever. The national vote will sort all that out.
The second vote will be for the political Party. Each political parties share of this national vote decides its share of “total parliamentarians” (less the Independents elected in local constituencies).
Say Party A gets 10% of the national votes, and there are 70 parliamentarians, but 10 Independents have been elected in local constituencies. Then Party A is entitled in total to 10% of 60 seats, which is 6. If they already have 2 elected from the local constituencies, then they would be entitled to another 4.
These 4 will come from the Party’s List of ranked candidates, which will have been published before the elections.
Each Party can make sure that at the top of its List are the “right numbers” of each ethnicity, gender, youth or geographical origin connection.
Not difficult to understand, is it?
Not difficult to implement either, is it?
Note, you don’t even need any detailed work by a Constituency Boundaries Commission and all that Machiavellian plotting and planning to ensure the “right mix” in each constituencies.
Because the national vote for the political parties “will count” regardless of the constituency that vote is cast in.
And it won’t matter whether your vote in the local constituency elects someone or not.
Your national vote will never be wasted.
As it can be in the existing “Alternative Vote” system. Or in the “First-Past-the-Post” system.
So by all means, let us change our Electoral system.
But let us do it constitutionally, by recalling the lawfully elected 2006 Parliament.
Not through a farcical Charter approval exercise.