Monday, November 05, 2007

Will New Voting System Make a Diference?

New system on its own no fix to limited political choice.

On October 10, the Ontario government will be holding a referendum on the future of the provincial electoral system. Some groups are heavily promoting a new alternative system (Mixed-Member Proportional Representation or MMP) as the solution to popular indiference to elections and the failure of government to respond to the needs of working people.

Under the current voting system (“First Past the Post”), the province is divided geographically into ridings. Whichever candidate gets the most votes in the riding wins the seat. The party with the most seats forms the government.

The problem? If you didn’t vote for the winning candidate, you might as well have stayed home, since your vote will have no inluence over the composition of the parliament. This is why
parties that have won a minority of votes routinely form majority governments.

Under the proposed new system, people would vote twice, once for whom they wanted to represent their riding, and a second time for the party they wanted to form the government. The Legislature would have extra seats added so that each parties’ share of seats would be same as their share of the overall popular vote.

While this would be an improvement over the system we have now, MMP is hardly a cure-all.First, while the allocation of seats may be “fairer” under MMP, it doesn’t change the fact that none of the existing parliamentary parties puts the interest of working people irst. In Toronto we have an NDP Mayor, a Liberal Premier, and a Conservative Prime Minister and at every level of government, the politicians have shown that when the interests of working people and the rich clash, it’s the interests of the rich that win out. Despite their other disagreements, this is something that every politician is united around and no re-arrangement of seats in the
Legislature will change that. Second, while MMP will supposedly provide “greater choice”, a 3% cutof has been built into the new system - speciically to block the rise of new political parties that the corporate media labels “fringe”. Without millions of dollars in campaign funding, 3% is actually a huge barrier for any genuine workers party to get beyond.

However, this doesn’t mean that working people can’t change things - it just means that we can’t expect procedural changes to ix the problem. Having the kind of government that the people deserve takes popular struggle. Whether people vote yes, no, or choose to boycott the Oct. 9 referendum, that struggle must continue!