Alberto Mingardi  

Tsipras and electoral reform

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Alexis Tsipras and Syriza have won the Greek elections on a platform that entails, roughly speaking, 12 billion euros of additional public spending. The program (see here) is certainly questionable on many, many points, but it is still a big step forward in the direction of common sense and realism, when compared to the platform on which Syriza was originally established and ran in the last European election (see here).

I would like to point out that one of the original points Syriza coalesced around, i.e., "Change the election laws to a proportional system," has vanished from their agenda. This was clearly a priority when the party was expected to be far from winning a majority of seats, as is the general rule for new, extreme left-wing parties in most of Europe.

Now Syriza speaks of "deepening democracy" by increasing citizens' participation, but it seems quite content with the current Greek electoral system. It is a semi-proportional representation with a strong majority bonus: this is why with 36% of the votes Syriza has 149 seats, two short of the needed majority in the legislature. It worked surprisingly well for Syriza, which will govern together with the anti-European right-wingers of the "Independent Greeks." As far as I can tell, in Greece, a simple majority of representatives is enough to change the electoral law, so Tsipras and his party could rather easily revert to their initial proposition and transform the electoral system in a more proportional direction. But why should they now?

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CATEGORIES: Eurozone crisis

COMMENTS (5 to date)
George J. Georganas writes:

" ... in Greece, a simple majority of representatives is enough to change the electoral law ... "
True, but the new electoral law will not be used in the next election, but in the election after the next. So, the change in the law might yet be rescinded by the next parliament. So, in reality, two successive parliaments must each approve any change in the electoral law. I doubt Syriza have enough time for that kind of business just now.

tom writes:

That makes it worse since they could push the reform through, not have it hurt them and then quietly rescind it if they held onto power.

Pajser writes:

Yes, this abandonment of proportional election system sounds like pragmatic and usual corruption, but corruption nevertheless. There is nothing remotely far left in their programs, and there will be even less in practice. However, I believe it is something like small step in right direction in reality, and good step in right direction on symbolic level.

liberty writes:

I'm curious to know more, it is a shame that the electoral reform has been dropped (at least for now...?) but as I understand it (HT Daniel Kuehn), their finance minister is the guy who wrote this fascinating and in my opinion very hopeful and I guess left-libertarian (or post-Austrian) account of Valve:

George J. Georganas writes:

Yes, Syriza could play Machiavelli. However, it is very unlikely that leaving the electoral law as it stands will "hurt them". As the law stands, it takes the bulk of the 50-seat bonus from the second largest party and gives it to the largest, while the smaller parties (subject to a threshold of 3%), get about as many seats as they would have gotten through proportional representation. So the only party ever agitating for proportional representation would be the second largest party. However, it would do this only for show, since they are exactly the ones looking forward to the 50-seat bonus in the next election. I suppose Machiavelli would be proud of the Greek electoral law. It is, as economists would say, "incentive-compatible". Perhaps Greeks often call westerners "dim-witted Franks" for a reason ...

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