For electoral reform junkies, and for those who are alarmed at the possibility – or more likely, the probability – of nasty, unintended consequences stemming from proportional representation, should it ever be introduced here, there are two instructive stories in today’s New York Times. One is about Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s re-introduction yesterday
of a system of proportional representation, widely believed to be an attempt to bolster his prospects in the Italian general election next April. Since 1993, the country had a mixed system in which three-quarters of the members in both chambers were elected in single-member constituencies, with the remaining seats distributed proportionally. Those rules helped bring into being what was essentially a two-party, or two-coalition system, replacing decades of unstable minority government in Italy. Now all that’s about to change again. There’s a good background document here
The other story in the Times
provides a detailed breakdown of how the new Iraqi electoral system, a form of compensatory proportional representation, is meant to work. Two hundred and thirty of the two hundred and seventy-five seats in the new Iraqi parliament will be elected by party lists directly from the eighteen provinces. The forty-five reserve seats will be distributed both to parties that did well nation-wide but won no provincial seats, or to parties that won some provincial seats, but need topping up to reach proportionality. It was a system designed to accomodate Iraq's ethnic and religious divisions, but it could make matters worse, because it offers no cigar for burying the hatchet, if I may mix metaphors. After today’s elections, despite a year-end deadline, there could be months of bickering and deal-making before a prime minister is chosen and a government is formed. I don’t expect our mainstream media will cover much of this, which is a pity, because that process will be one of the best indicators of what will emerge from the post-war chaos.
More views here
. And for a broader look at some of the problems likely to follow from today’s elections, see this piece
by a leading Iraqi intellectual, Kanan Makiya.