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Friday, May 23, 2014

Democracy's Real Problem

Iraq just had an election.  Well, it was last month, but finally the results are in: the "State of Law" coalition of Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki "won."  That is, his list got more votes than the other lists.  His gang will get 92 of 328 seats.  Wait, a little mental math...that's 28 percent of the total.  Since the election, it took three weeks just to figure out who won.

Here's the wikipedia entry that accurately describes the Iraqi electoral system:
The open list form of party-list proportional representation, using the governorates as the constituencies, is the electoral system used. The counting system has been changed slightly from the largest remainder method method to the modified Sainte-Laguë method due to a ruling by the Supreme Court of Iraq that the previous method discriminated against smaller parties.
Basically, the Iraqi public is stuck with a system that requires a team of mathematicians, using a method no one's ever heard of, to figure out a non-result.   Maliki will now have to form a coalition government among an assortment of parties that hate him. This will take months. 

What a system.  But Proportional Representation (PR) is now the standard system that political scientists endorse.  And it is creating governmental gridlock and frustration all over the world.

What is the purpose of an election?  To chose a new government.  Not to have a therapeutic exercise of inclusion. 

One often hears that the US imposed democracy on Iraq.  The Mighty Whig laugh bitterly. Would we have imposed open-list proportional representation on anyone?  It is completely alien to our system.  No, the Iraqis chose this themselves, in consultation with UN (and dumb) US academic experts.

Lots of things I could say, but I'll leave you with this.  PR owes part of its popularity to the fact that it privileges small parties that would never be elected in a head-to-head contest.  It offers political seats to experts and hacks who would never be elected by a sentient public. 

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