When candidates don’t matter

One of the things we learned from Canada in recent weeks is that campaigns matter. Evidently, the corollary is that candidates don’t.

I suppose I should not be surprised. Canada uses a closed list system, after all.

10 thoughts on “When candidates don’t matter

  1. The story of the Vegas Dipper and the other unqualified NDP candidates elected in Quebec, has led me to reconsider whether we are better off just selecting legislatures by lottery. This seems to be what the voters want anyway.

    If you picked one member of the riding by lot election, statistically you would be just as likely to get someone who holds the views of the majority of the ridings residents as under a current system, and it seems the quality of the representation would usually improve. And it would take the money and the negative campaigning out of electoral politics.

    That said, the fifty or show ridings in Quebec-outside-Montreal have shown a unique pattern over the years.

    Looking arbitrarily at the last dozen elections, this is the number of ridings won in Quebec (out of 75) by the party that came in first in votes in that province: 60, 60, 67, 74, 58, 63, 54, 44, 36 (reversal), 54, 51, 49, 58. In nine out of the last dozen elections, the winner in Quebec has taken at least two thirds of the ridings in the province, and excepting 1997 and 2001 there are no “strong seconds” in Quebec. It seems that when a party wins in rural Quebec (because Montreal resists the sweeps), it is like winning the lottery, it wins everything in rural Quebec. But because a different party gets to sweep every few cycles, this hasn’t gotten noticed as much as the block of rural ridings in the West that always vote for the conservative party of the moment.

  2. IP, that’s a relief, given that about 90% of my research agenda is predicated on the assumption that candidates matter.

    But they surely did not in Quebec, at least in many ridings.

    I was pleased to see the Edmonton-Strathcona result. Almost as pleased as I was about Saanich-Gulf Islands.

  3. Enid Lakeman used to point out that FPTP is “a party-list system with one name”. It is interesting that a large minority of all PR-List countries “translate” PR-List into FPTP when filling a single vacancy, eg President (Iceland) or legislative by-elections (Switzerland, Turkey) The majority, of course, “translate” it into runoffs, while a few outliers opt for a lemma system.

  4. If the media coverage is to be believed, the Quebec results actually were highly personalized and candidate-dependent, it’s just that the candidate in question was the leader of the parliamentary NDP, Jack Layton, rather than any of his party’s local riding candidates. Though I suppose you might call that a campaign effect rather than a candidate one.

    • Good point, phensley. I’d call it a candidate effect–that is executive-candidate effect.

      The NDP under Layton has become a highly personalized party. Just don’t call it presidentialized (even ignoring that it’s still in opposition)!

  5. A one-member, multi-candidate system, with each party nominating more than 1 candidate is an interesting idea. For Presidential elections in Uruguay, it’s been used. The formula is the following: the party/list with the most votes in total wins the race.

    Just imagine this scenario for 2008 in the USA. I could see Democrats nominating Obama and Clinton, Republicans nominating McCain and Huckabee, Libertarians nominating Paul and Greens nominating Kucinich.

  6. The Whigs tried something like what Derek was suggesting in 1836, running a bunch of regional candidates instead of one nationwide candidate in hopes of cobbling together an Electoral College majority. This looks to us like trying to game the system, but arguably this was close to how the Electoral College was originally intended to work. In any event, they lost, and the experiment has never been repeated.

  7. Canada’s news media are, at last, feeling guilty.

    Ruth Ellen Brosseau “recognizes her story is unique and why she is a target for the media. She does not condemn the coverage, which at times has been sexist. . . Ms. Brosseau has had to grow up quickly, and that maturity shows in the poise she displays in the interview. There is a recognition, too, that she is a role model for young women. And she’s excited about that.”

    “In the last Parliament, of the 308 MPs there were only five women under the age of 40. That number has tripled since May 2, according to Equal Voice’s executive director Nancy Peckford. Her organization is committed to electing more women to office. Ms. Peckford is rooting for Ms. Brosseau.”

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