Direct Elections – Voting Method

The most common voting method in direct elections is a simple majority – called ‘first past the post’.   The candidate with the most votes wins.   Just like that – simple enough for a 10 year old.  This method is used in England, Germany, Australia and New Zealand.

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France uses a two round system where the top two candidates in the first round face off in second round of elections.  In all the examples, it is easy for local parties and independent candidates to get on the ballot.

For decades, the criticism of this simple voting method is that most parliaments had representation from just two political parties.   In 1948, Germany adopted an innovative voting method called proportional representation where each citizen had TWO votes – one for a direct representative and one for a political party.

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The German system was first gained attention in 1983 when the Green Party won 5.6 % of the party vote on popular support for shutting down nuclear power plants.  The Green Party did not win a direct seat in an electoral district until 2002. The proportional voting method gave German citizens a voice and all nuclear power plants will be closed by 2020.

Eine Parteifahne der Gruenen und Fahnen mit der Aufschrift "Atomkraft? Nein Danke" wehen am Dienstag (31.05.11) auf dem Elbdeich vor dem Atomkraftwerk Brokdorf waehrend einer auf dem Deich abgehaltenen Fraktionssitzung der Gruenen im schleswig-holsteinischen Landtag. Die Landtagsfraktion traf sich zu einer Openair-Sitzung am AKW Brokdorf. Foto: Stefan Simonsen/dapd

Many Germans say they like the two vote system because it allows them to vote for the most capable individual as their direct representative and use their party vote to address national issues that are important to them.

In 1996 New Zealand adopted the German proportional representation system.   Here is how it works:

For years New Zealand was ruled by two powerful political parties.  In 1986, public pressure forced the government to set up a 5 person Royal Commission to review voting methods.   The five members were respected constitutional judges with no ties to political parties.

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The story of how the Royal Commission triumphed to put the peoples will over the interests of political party bosses can be found at http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/politics/fpp-to-mmp

The first act of the Commission was to agree on these basic principles of an effective voting system:

The membership of parliament should reflect the divisions of society

Effective representation for local communities

The voting system should be understandable

Power should be hands of voters to make/unmake governments

Parliament should be independent from government control

Political parties should formulate thoughtful policy

The Romanian Parliament Commission formed after the Iohannis election was a failure.   It was NOT independent from the political parties and had no guiding principles.   The result was ‘slap in the face’ to Romanian civil society leaders and victory to Communist era politics where party bosses used closed party lists to reign like dictators over city, county and national governments.

How wonderful if Romania became the first country in Eastern Europe with a voting method that placed elections in the hands of the people and political parties competed on thoughtful ideas to improve our schools, eliminate bureaucracy and protect our environment.   It would forever change the image and reality of being Romanian.

There has never been a better time than now.