Ireland’s near unique form of PR-STV voting (only Malta shares the same system for national parliamentary elections), has attracted a fair bit of flack since its introduction.
Whilst pondering the question of why I disliked so many politicians, I came up with a deliciously simple solution to the plight of terrible politicians, and an alternative to our voting system. It’s the same one that students dread: Reverse Marking.
Basically, whoever gets the smallest amount of votes, wins. People almost exclusively speak about politicians in negative terms, especially these days, so why not put them in to (or rather, OUT of) office in that way?
The initial burst of inspiration hit me like a train, but then I stopped and thought for a moment. Of course this couldn’t work, for so many reasons.
For example, who would run? Would there be too many candidates? Would parties field candidates that are weak as can be – but that nobody has heard of before, to sneak in unattended? Would they field as many candidates as possible with the hope that most people would miss the guy at the bottom of the list?
Only the unknown candidates would win elections in this system on the basis that we ‘give them a chance’. On the surface, it seems grand, but the party hierarchy would undoubtedly field a puppet of a candidate in every constituency; fresh faced, clean slated. And they’d have a good chance of getting in as long as they don’t fly their flag too much.
Secondly, every decision gets on the wrong end of someone, so that makes it almost impossible for someone to get into government power consecutive times. Whether or not that’s a bad thing, who knows? It might light a fire under the candidates’ behinds.
It also might lead to people who want to cling to power to make ridiculous and rash economic decisions. But is that not a risk we have already been exposed to?
There is an important lesson for politicians, from my initial excitement on this; it is that I, and many more, vote people into office on the basis of who I dislike more, not who I like. That is why there is so much raking.
But my desire to dish out the pain to them could lead to places we don’t want to go. This attitude is damaging to democracy’s integrity, and is one which could lead people to look to other systems. Systems where they will have less power to choose which inept people are in charge.
It wouldn’t do politicians any harm to stop the muck raking and try to do something positive (that isn’t loaded with negative consequences).
So let’s forget about Reverse Marking for a bit; PR-STV is the ideal system, and I think in politics we need to stop blaming the game. Blame the players. Nobody will play if they keep this negativity and shadiness up.
Image Credit: The Telegraph