Proportional representation is a marginal improvement over first past the post; the system for the modern World is direct democracy

You know there is a debate in many democracies that use the system of First Past The Post FPTP) to switch to Proportional Representation (PR), or introduce some of it.

There are plenty of sites in Internet where you can look into the details of how the FPTP and PR systems work.

The major criticisms of the FPTP system are:

Excludes people who did not vote for the winning party in the district from having representation. Millions might have voted across the nation for parties who did not get enough votes to win the election. If those parties won one or more districts, they have voice in parliament, but if the parties did not win any district, they have no voice in parliament, even if millions across the nation voted for them.

Another criticism of the FPTP system is that minorities, who never govern, do not have a proper voice in government.

If the country using the FPTP system has enough political and social common sense, like the UK, Canada and a few others, the people in power know they can not ignore the wishes of those who did not vote for them; they understand that to do so would create too much alienation and would make it difficult to have public peace.

Critics of PR systems say such systems are less likely to produce stable majority governments with the mandate to do what most voters, or at least most districts want. Those who defend PR systems can turn this criticism around; because PR is less likely to produce single-party majority governments, it forces politicians to work together to satisfy most voters, because minority governments incorporate minority parties.

Others say PR systems produce “too many parties”. PR defenders argue it is good that as many people as possible are represented, at least in parliament, so they have a voice.

Some also say in PR systems, small parties have too much power in coalition governments, when one of the major parties seeks the support of one or more minority parties to form a majority government, in this way, a major party and the minority parties in government with it, can ignore the voters of other major parties. That is not good for democracy either.

If there is enough common political common sense among politicians, and among voters, the FPTP and the PR system can work, more or less, but as time passes, both systems deteriorate because both have the same “Achilles Heel”; in both systems the elected politicians have much more executive power than the voters; they have all the executive power.

The real problem then is not FPTP of PR, the real problem is Representative Democracy (RD) because it is the DR system that gives too much power to the politicians. It does not really matter if we have FPTP or PR. The people who argue FPTP vs PR are barking at the wrong trees.

Democracy means “government by the people”, not “government by those elected by the people”, never mind if we elect them in a FPTP or a PR system.

There is only one way to have “government by the people”, that the people govern. For the people to govern, the people must be the final decision-makers on laws, policies and issues, whenever they so decide.

This means that, for example, if 1% of registered voters decide a law, a regulation, a modification of the constitution, etc., has to go to a national referendum, it goes to a national referendum.

This also means the people start the referendums, not the politicians. It also means that the results of the referendums are final, they have to be applied by the politicians; neither the executive nor the legislative can ignore the decision of the people.

It also means that the people are the ones, the only ones, who can change the constitution. The executive, the legislative or the Supreme or Constitutional Court can not ignore or overturn the decision by the people, even if the executive and the legislature and the highest courts of the land wanted to do that, they can not do it, how about that for real people power? Forget all the easy seductive talk about empowering this or that group! Let us empower all voters where it counts, with direct democracy!.

Which country has such a system? Switzerland, it is the big secret; the mass media tell you a lot of stuff about Swiss banks, Swiss watches, Swiss mountains, even Swiss cows and Swiss cheese and Swiss chocolate, but not much about swiss direct democracy, or the Swiss universal health care system, both best in the World.

But others are finding out about Swiss direct democracy and, like myself, the more they learn, the more they like it. Direct democracy is spreading because it makes sense; “the people pay, the people decide”.

The Swiss have elected representatives like in representative democracies; but their job is different. They propose laws and policies, but they know that if most voters oppose what they propose, the law, the policy, the treaty, etc., are dead.

The Swiss have proportional representation, but the power of the Swiss people has produced an interesting twist to PR; in Switzerland they have no coalitions of a major party with a minority party to form the government, ignoring the second largest party and other parties. In Switzerland, the 4 or 5 major parties always govern together in stable coalition. This means the Swiss executive and the Swiss legislative pass laws, and make decisions that represent most Swiss voters, as it should in democracy, don’t you think?

Because of PR, there are many small parties in Switzerland with representation in parliament. Those tiny parties have voice, which gives them the opportunity to grow, but they have no vote in government until they grow. This is how it should be in a democracy; the majority has to prevail, otherwise it is not a democracy, never mind all the false seductive with words about what democracy is.

Sometimes, the coalition-based Swiss governments miscalculate. When that happens, the people tell the politicians: “we do not care that you, most our elected representatives, believe Switzerland should raise taxes, or lower taxes, of privatize the highways, or reduce immigration or increase immigration… or whatever, we will hold a national referendum on that because we want to decide the issue ourselves because Switzerland is a democracy.”

Conclusion: Do not get distracted by “FPTP vs PR”, the genuine issue is RD, Representative Democracy, a system in which politicians have so much power that they decide anything, and the voters can do nothing about it until the next election. But in the next election the voters can not do much either; the next election does not change the root problem; that a new batch of politicians will continue to have too much executive and legislative power, and voters, again, will not have not enough of both.

Representative democracy; (FPDP or PR version), is the issue, the answer is direct democracy. The Swiss and the Ancient Greeks show that.

With the information voters have today about issues that concern them, direct democracy is the way; let the people of your country vote to decide any law, policy, change of the constitution, or any other issue, not just elections, if 1% of them agree all voters should decide.

The Swiss have been doing it for decades; it has turned Switzerland into the most democratic, most stable, most prosperous, best organized and also the most respectful of minorities, as the French, Italian and even the 40 000 Romansh people show; forget the balderdash that “direct democracy is the dictatorship of the majority”.

But one of the many trick the clever Swiss have introduced to their direct democracy is to shift most of the power to the regional (“states”) and local goverments, this empowers local minorities and makes it impossible for national majorities to oppress the minorities.

There are many other clever “wheels and levers” the Swiss have in their democracy to have it running almost as smoothly as a Swiss watch. But other countries; the Japanese, the Americans, the Germans and the English have strong clock traditions too; if they apply themselves they could also have smooth running democracies. Even the Scandinavians could learn a trick or two political tricks from the Swiss.

But direct democracy did not “rain on Switzerland from Heaven”; the German-speakers, the French-speakers, the Italian-speakers and the Romansh-speakers of Switzerland, all of them, pushed and pushed the politicians, peacefully but forcefully, until the representative politicians relented and relented…

Victor Lopez

 

 

 

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