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Opinions/Politics

Irish election - Bertie's hat-trick and STV

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Irish election - Bertie's hat-trick and STV

Postby Dave » Sat 26 May 2007 10:26 GMT

Just been looking at the Irish general election results on the Irish Independent and Irish Times websites. It looks as if Bertie Ahern is going to be Taoiseach for a third term, so well done him.

But even though the election was on Thursday, the results are still not all in, over 36 hours after the polls closed; Ireland's elections are conducted under the Single Transferable Vote system, in constituencies of between three and five members. So working out exactly who's won a seat is a pretty complex matter.

That's the downside; the upside is that very few votes are totally wasted - only the ones where the voter has only marked a very few preferences. And multi-member constituencies means that most people have a representative whose manifesto or views are similar to their own.

STV makes for some interesting intra-party politics. The major parties, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, usually put up several candidates in each constituency. But in many cases it's unlikely that all the candidates from any one party will be elected. So although the candidates of a particular party might be expected to be allies, in elections they're often rivals. One Fine Gael candidate appears to have been particularly naughty this time round! :roll:

The other thing it means is that the people elected have to be particularly active in looking after their constituents' interests, to make sure that when the next election comes around they get at least as many of the first preference votes as their party colleagues. So party allegiances (and central direction) tend not to be as strong as in other proportional systems. (Apparently Éamon de Valera, who had STV written into the Constitution in the first place, changed his mind and tried to get a different voting system brought in to ensure "more stable government"; he lost the referendum after his opponents argued that all he was trying to do was ensure a permanent FF majority.)

Personally, I think STV's a great voting system. That's easy for me to say; I've never lived in a country where it operates. But I see that the Scottish local elections earlier this month used it - though unfortunately the Scots confused the issue by holding their general election at the same time, under a different system (the Additional Member System). So a lot of ballots got spoilt.
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