PM rotation in Ireland?

In the earlier planting on Israel’s new government, I asked if examples of rotating the position of prime minister existed outside of Israel. There is evidently a good chance we might be seeing one in Ireland!

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin is expected to be taoiseach in the first half of a coalition government with Fine Gael and the Greens, with Fine Gael’s Leo Varadkar going second. (Source: Irish Times; h/t to Steven Verbank.)

There was even some discussion of the Greens’ leader also being part of a possible rotation deal.

Senior Green sources had previously floated the idea of Mr [Eamon] Ryan also getting a year as taoiseach, although Mr Ryan ruled this out…

What a shame. I am pretty sure it would have been the first case of leaders of three different parties taking turns as prime minister under a coalition agreement!

(Taoiseach is the Irish term for the prime minister.)

5 thoughts on “PM rotation in Ireland?

  1. I am not sure where to put this comment so I put it here.

    In Taiwan, the recall vote against Mayor Han Kuo-yu of Kaohsiung city was held on Saturday. 97% voted for recall because the mayor urged a boycott, and turnout was 42%. The recall passed, because both conditions for it to pass – that more voted Yes than No, and that the number of Yes votes is greater than a quarter of the number of eligible voters – were satisfied.

    Apparently all non-regularly held recall votes and referendums in Taiwan have the same passing threshold, and it was the first time I read of such threshold in use, which I had independently come up with through thinking myself and believe is the only threshold that makes sense, at least for referendums considered desirable to only need a simple majority to pass, as opposed to supermajority of some sort. It prevents the perverse situation in which more voters voting against may cause a referendum to pass in the case of a turnout rate of 50% being required, a practice in tragically far too many places, and that I consider a crime against mathematics.

    I wonder if Professor Shugart knows of any other countries that use the same passing threshold for their referendums as Taiwan, and if professional political scientists consider it normatively desirable.


    • Well-put, John – “a crime against mathematics.”

      “Support turnout quorums” are far more rational than “attendance turnout quorums” since the latter, unlike the former, could mean a proposal fails if 49 of every 100 of all qualified voters vote yes, 1% of them vote no, and the rest stay home or spoil their ballots(assuming the “attendance turnout quorum” is 50% of the total enrolled electorate, the usual figure in countries like Italy and Sweden, being also adopted by the Thatcher Government circa 1989 for council-house privatisation ballots); the same proposal would however pass if 26% voted yes and 25% voted no.

      This rule was probably adopted for referenda (which, outside Switzerland, are only about two centuries old: by analogy with legislative assemblies, which are over two thousand years old; the mistaken analogy heightened by the fact that the Greek or Swiss equivalent of 600 Roman Senators was several thousand adult male citizens attending in person: at that scale, a referendum “looks like” a legislative meeting far more than, say, the Brexit poll looks like the House of Commons deliberating. For an assembly of at least semi-professional politicians, the numbers are easier to guess in advance; the minority faction can make a fairly good guess that they will be outvoted if they turn up, so the perverse incentive for “tactical abstaining” is marginal (although real, as student council politicians familiar with the “quorum shuffle” can attest). Whereas with a large-scale mass referendum held by secret ballot, the result is genuinely unpredictable (again, see Brexit) so anyone who voting in the hope of stopping a plurality-supported proposition might experience deep Bayesian regret if it turned out they would have counted more against it by staying home.

      The other advantage of an “attendance turnout quorum” for a legislature is it ensures there can be only one body claiming the title (assuming this quorum is at least half). With “25% of MPs” as the rule instead, you could in theory have 170 out of 300 deputies assemble at York to declare that the country a republic with a Lord Protector chosen by them (see: Dáil Éireann, 1918) while the other 130 meet as a rump at Canterbury and legislate that the nation is a monarchy with the senior living Hapsburg as king or queen. Both of these assemblies would meet the quorum rule if less than half. This does not apply to a referendum, which votes on one particular proposal rather than claiming a general legislative or constituent authority. If a referendum is held, it should be open to every voter in the polity so you don’t get, eg, “Puerto Rico Statehood” defeating “Independence” 27% to 20% in in the northern half of the island on the same day that “Commonwealth Status” defeats “Independence” 32% to 31% in the southern polling places.


      • Ahem, the Roman senate had no legislative powers. Legislation was the job of the Comitia, particularly the Comitia Tributa. There is furious debate among scholars whether the Comitia Tributa and the Concilium Plebis were different bodies or different names for the same body. Both assemblies (if they were different bodies) voted by tribe with 18 tribes needed for a majority. There was no attempt to make the tribes equal in number of citizens or anything else, indeed in the Late Republic the voting power of new citizens was diluted by enrolling them only only in the 2 most junior tribes.


    • Well, if I had got around to writing the post I was going to do on this, you could have put it there. But I did not manage to do it.

      (There is an orchard bloc, or category, on Taiwan, though nothing on recall rules–see the left sidebar. I am sorry to say it contains only three plantings.)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.