Brexit vs. BC-STV: Help with my principles!

As I noted earlier, I happened to be in British Columbia while the British were voting to leave the EU.

[Note: If you want to make general comments on Brexit and what happens next, please comment at the earlier thread. I’d like to keep this one on the narrower topic raised here.]

I never liked the BC-STV vote having been “defeated” in 2005 despite a clear majority (57%), due to a threshold of 60% having been set. But I do not like the UK “mandate” to leave the EU by a vote of 51.9%.

Is there a principle that reconciles my two positions? Or do I just have no principles regarding referenda*, and assess the rules for passage by whether I like what is being proposed? Help, please!

(I have written about referendum approval thresholds before.)

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* Other than that, in general, I’d rather not have them. I rather like representative democracy and deliberative institutions.

Brexit (open planting hole)

I was in British Columbia during the Brexit vote (for both a vacation, and a public forum on Canadian federal electoral-system reform). So no time for a full post. But by popular demand**, here’s a discussion opportunity for F&V readers. Clearly, the outcome raises a whole host of F&V-relevant issues…

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* About which, more later
** I might note that Brexit reminds one that following the popular demand can be risky sometimes.

Bulgarian preference-voting surprises

For its election of MEPs last month, Bulgaria switched to a system that allowed for preference voting. The Sofia Globe reports that the system produced surprises for a couple of parties.

According to a document I have from the European Parliament* for the 2014 elections, Bulgaria’s system permits one candidate preference, and if a candidate obtains 15% of the list’s valid votes, that candidate moves to the top of the list. In the Globe article, it is noted that the Bulgarian Socialist Party leader was bumped by “a hitherto obscure candidate” originally ranked 15th on the list. Something similar happened to the Reformist Bloc, which is an alliance of parties and the one MEP they will send is from a small partner in the alliance.

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* Wilhem Lehman, The European elections: EU legislation, national provisions, and civic participation. Policy Department C – Citizens’ RIghts and Constitutional Affairs. 2014.

The impact of M=96 and no legal threshold

The decision of the German Constitutional Court to invalidate the legal threshold for election of MEPs has been predictably consequential. Given the single 96-seat district, a very large number of parties has won at least one seat, and some have won with less than 1% of the vote.

There will be thirteen parties (counting the CDU and CSU separately) in the German delegation. Seven of them had less than the former 3% threshold; the biggest of the sub-3% parties had not even quite 1.5%. The German government reports the votes; seats are shown at Wikipedia.

Assuming the Wikipedia list is accurate (and it looks likely to be so), these parties that won representation thanks to the Court ruling are: Free Voters, Pirates, Human Environment Animal Protection, National Democrats (yes, a German neo-Nazi will be in the European Parliament), Family Party, Ecological Democrats, and some outfit called Die PARTEI. The last three of these have vote totals ranging from 0.69% down to 0.63%. The NPD’s vote percentage was 1.03.

Also noteworthy is that the Free Democrats continued their slide, winning only 3.36%. They had just missed the 5% threshold for the federal Bundestag elections last year. The Alternative for Germany (AfD), which also had just missed the threshold for the Bundetag won 7.04%.

No threshold for German MEPs

Apparently it is threshold day at F&V. While Israel may be raising its threshold, Germany will be dramatically lowering its. But only for its members of the European parliament (MEPs).

The Constitutional Court ruled in late February that the existing 3% threshold violated political parties’ rights to equal opportunities.

To the immediate question of why, then, the Bundestag (Germany’s elected chamber of the federal parliament) can have a 5% threshold–which was highly consequential in the most recent election–the Court has a ready answer: the role of the Bundestag is to sustain a government, and so limiting fragmentation is a valid interest. However, the European Parliament has no such role, and so it isn’t.

UK MEP results

Not only did Labour fall below 20% (as the early returns I referenced last night suggested), it barely cleared 15%. It was the UK Independence Party that came in second.

The Conservatives won the plurality, but not much for them to crow about: 27.7% of the vote and 25 seats–which is 36.2%, for a really high “PR” advantage ratio of 1.31.

The biggest gainer in votes within the UK was the Green party (+2.4%).

Table of results by party at BBC (excluding Northern Ireland).