L'Ombre de l'Olivier

The Shadow of the Olive Tree

being the maunderings of an Englishman on the Côte d'Azur

03 January 2007 Blog Home : January 2007 : Permalink

How to Improve Democracy

I'm not really a supporter of modern democracy. I tend to support it on the Churchillian grounds that it is the least bad method of governance discovered rather than anything stronger so I am always interested in ways to improve it a bit.


One thing I like a lot is the Swiss and American (state) approach of binding referenda where you get to vote whether you agree or not with a particular law and hence whether it should pass or fail. I don't by any means think all laws should be subject to such a process but I do believe it has a great deal of merit in curbing legislatures that persist in ignoring the popular will in a particular area. This isn't to say that the great unwashed is always right or that a better approach might not be to set up an alternative political party but sometimes I think you can get a better result through a single issue campaign.

I believe that the UK should have a similar referendum opportunity.

I'm sure that A Blair Esq and his merry band would hate it because, going on recent opinion polls it would result in the casting down of much that they hold dear. For example the BBC had a poll about which law to scrap which was handily won by the Hunting Act with the European Communities Act coming in as a strong number 2. In fact those two together combined made up over 80% of all the votes cast which suggests to me that a party who promised to hold binding referenda on those two events and then to hold fresh elections could well be very well placed. If said party also added referenda on educational streaming, the death penalty and maybe a couple of other topics (e.g. protest laws, abortion, English parliament and/or the independence of Scotland) I reckon it could be a winner. Of course in order to do so it would have to first pass the referendum enabling legislation but I can't see that such a process would take more than a month or so, allow three months for campaining on the verious referenda, a vote and laws passed based on the result to be implemented in the day before calking for new elections and you would have a governent of no more than 6 months total and hence a policy of ignroing other day to day issues would be unlikely to hurt the nation. [If you simply told all ministers to say no to all spending changes in that time you'd probably also end up reducing the government budget too, but that would be merely an accidental by product :) ]

I was going to write purely about this subject but I came up with another idea over a lunchtime chat where we were bemoaing the fact that none of the politicians look to be attractive.

Negative voting.

The option to register a negative vote for one or all candidates on offer. Rules might need a bit of thinking and maybe tweaking but I would propose that the following rules would be good to start with
  1. Voters may vote either
    1. Positively for a single candidate (i.e. as today)
    2. Negatively for a single candidate
    3. "None of the Above"
  2. A negative vote for candiate X reduces candiate X's vote count by 1
  3. "None of the above" produces a fractional negative vote for each candidate.
  4. The winning candidate is the one with
    1. the highest aggregate vote
    2. receives more positive votes than "None of the above" (ie. Positives > Nones)
    3. the most positive votes
  5. If no candidate meets has a positive adjusted number of votes (ie. Positives - Negatives - Nones/no of candidates > 0)the conditions above a new election must be held.
  6. Recipients of an aggregrate negative number of votes are banned from standing in the next election for that candidate or (in the case of mass elections other poisitions of equal authority at the next opportunity. I.e. if you receive a negative vote standing as MP for Harwich in the 2010 election you cannot stand for any parliamentary seat in the next general election but could stand as MEP or for a local government.
Why I say there needs to be thinking and tweaking is that there are some possibly odd corner cases. The sub-conditions may lead to cases where one candidate wins the highest aggregate number of votes but ends up having fewer positive votes than the "None of the aboves" and for cases where a tie in aggregate votes occurs because one candidate receives both more positive and more negative votes than another.

E.g. consider this example with 3 candidates A B C which illustrates two corner cases.
Aggregate (Px-Nx-N/3)
None (N)

At first sight candidate B has won as he has the highest count and the fewest number of negative votes but he also received fewer positive votes than "None" and so is discarded. Now we have a tie in aggregate score between A and C who both have 13. A wins because he got 50 positives compared to 40 for C.

Is it in fact better to have the most liked candidate or the least disliked? and how do you define the terms?

I despise l'Escroc and Vile Pin