12 thoughts on “Finland’s election

  1. Apparently the plain people of Finland are very unhappy with PR for the Eduskunta and want to change to single-member constituencies:

    Eero Iloniemi, “Under PR, whoever wins, voters lose out: A Finnish journalist warns Brits against demanding an electoral system that has performed so miserably in Finland,” spiked (16 March 2011).

    Aha. So this explains why we’ve seen mass rallies in Helsinki and Turku demanding the abolition of PR; popular demands for a referendum on the introduction of SMDs (ainoaparlamentinvaalipiirit); and, most crucially, a large number of Finns who would normally support smaller parties voting tactically for either Kokoomus or the Social Democrats so as to ensure that the larger of those two parties – it doesn’t really matter which – will win an absolute majority of seats next election, and the other will form a single-party Opposition.

    I believe they’re copying the tactics by which Israel successfully got rid of proportional representation in 1977 – ie, the majority of voters got tired of multi-party coalitions, so 53% of them voted for Begin’s party, giving it 64 of 120 Likud seats and sufficient numbers to change the electoral law to bring in single-seat first past the post.

    Mind you, changing back from a winner-take-all to a proportional system is not nearly so easy, even when a majority of voters are in favour…

    • Re the Finnish journalist: Clearly Brits had better exercise their historic opportunity to vote against open list PR on 5 May.

      Oh, wait a second…

  2. Is this sarcasm? Why would any country that uses PR abandon it for a plurality/majoritarian system?

  3. Yes, sarcasm.

    Having said that, New South Wales abandoned PR-STV for AV in the 1930s, and New York City likewise in the 1940s. France has oscillated between the two.

    Other cases of moving away from PR and/or multi-member electorates (eg Italy and Japan in 1993-94) can more accurately be viewed as converging on a middle ground between broad proportionality and smaller local districts. This “golden mean” is represented either by STV, by MMP, or by a parallel system (districts plus non-compensatory seats). SNTV and large-district List-PR were both found wanting.

    My point above is also that if voters in these terribly deadlocked PR countries really wanted a single-party majority government that badly, they could achieve it very easily – by voting for one of the two largest parties. Much more easily than voters in a non-PR country can either elect a deliberately “hung” parliament, or get themselves a referendum on the introduction of PR.

    But for some reason, they keep voting for third, fourth and fifth parties. Eg, in Israel the combined Labour and Likud share of the vote has dropped markedly in recent decades, while Switzerland has seen Blocher’s party emerge to turn a four-party system into a five-party one.

    The anti-PR side could perhaps answer this by arguing that voters still want a winner-take-all system as a form of precommitment (a` la Jon Elster), to save themselves from their own short-term impulse to protest-vote for irresponsible minor parties. But I’ve never heard anyone frame the WTA case in those less-elitist terms. It’s all about how voters hate multi-party gridlock that they themselves keep voting for.

  4. Public dissatisfaction with PR provides a great opportunity for political entrepreneurs who form anti-PR parties.

  5. The electoral system comes first, and then the party system is the result of it.

    Papua New Guinea, the party system has not consolidated even with the introduction of the Limited Preferential Voting.

    I think PR countries would be better off to look at the Turkish system of PR with a 10% threshold, that country only had three parties surpass the threshold in the 2007 election.

    Also Hungary’s MMP system lead to Fidesz to win a 2/3rds majority although albeit that system is consider to be somewhere in between the proportionality of NZ/Germany MMP and the Japanese/Mexico Parallel system.

    What about the ANC in South Africa winning a huge 65% of the vote with List PR? Other African countries using PR where parties win big majorities are Namibia and Mozambique.

    Canada is the polar opposite of South Africa, no party can win a majority under FPTP because of Bloc Quebecois winning a majority of seats in Quebec because of it’s geographically concentrated support there. Canada would be better off with Turkish PR than the British FPTP, that the British might abandon in favor of the Australian optional preferential Alternative Vote.

    • Hungary’s system is not MMP. It is highly majoritarian, so much so that the current Fidesz government that is going about abusing its two-thirds majority is based on only 53% of the vote.

      I would be very cautious about considering the Turkish electoral system as a model.

      I would also be cautious about saying that no party can win a majority in Canada. It is still quite possible (if perhaps on the unlikely side) on 2 May, and it was only as long ago as 2000 that a majority last resulted.

  6. What MSS said.

    And further on the matter of AV vs the actually existing Finnish electoral system:

    Julia Gillard and Mari Kiviniemi took office two days apart last June – Australia’s first female PM, Finland’s second. Gillard’s parliamentary majority is currently 76 votes out of 150 (50.667%), whereas Kiviniemi’s vote of confidence saw 115 of 200 MPs (57.5%) in favour. Perhaps if you want clear parliamentary majorities, open-list PR is better than AV…?

    But that would be generalising outrageously from a single unusual incident, and we wouldn’t want that to happen in debates on electoral systems, would we.

  7. Australia’s close election is a blue moon exception, we shall see if this government survives a full 3 year term.

    I am sure that some Israelis wish that their Closed Party List PR would be replaced with a majoritarian system. Would that be wise for Israel?

    With List PR, the party system fragements nationally, with FPTP the party system fragments regionally.

    With the rise of the True Finns, I am surprised that the National Coaltion Party, and the Social Democrats along with the Swedish People’s Party, and maybe they could bring the Christian Democrats on board, and surprisingly that combination would have a one seat majority.

    Is that such a good idea to exclude the True Finns, and allow that party to become the largest opposition party? At least the Finns are pragmatic and are willing to work with them unlike in some of the other European countries where the populist-right are treated as social pariahs.


    Also in addition to this, weren’t they going to overhaul the Finnish electoral system and have 189 seats allocated to Finland and 1 seat to Aland, and have 10 seats as a nation wide tier as in the other Scandinavian countries with a 3% threshold.

    • I think the overhaul of the Finnish electoral system is to take effect at the next election (i.e. second after passage of the reform). But I hope someone can confirm or correct.

  8. I would like to see an electoral system that mixes proportionality when the electorate calls for proportionality and a majoritarian clause when voters want a majoritarian clause.

    I’ve come across with the idea of PRMA, which is proportional representation with majoritarian allotment. This would keep districts, but the number of representatives could be according to what voters want. Say that in case no candidate gets a majority, the candidates with at least 10% would win.

    • Derek, I am not sure I understand the concept you are proposing. But it seems a bit like the old Italian Senate system, except that it required 60% to win a district, which I believe was never attained (in which case the district reverts to the PR pool). Also, perhaps the new Romanian system is similar in spirit to what you have in mind, if not in important details.

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