Electoral Reform: Lists in larger constituencies
While out dropping leaflets for Paschal Donohoe in Drumcondra today, and having listened to John Gormley on This Week earlier, thoughts of electoral reform came to mind. In his closing speech of the Dáil, Gormley announced his proposal to move to a mixed-member system, which they have in Germany, where half the TDs would be elected by a national list and half the TDs in single-seat constituencies. This system certainly has its merits, though I’m not sure it would entirely eliminate some of the problems we have at the moment.
For example, Gormley himself in that same interview provided an excellent example of the problem with how things are now in his discussion of his view on the proposed Poolbeg incinerator near where he lives. But such a conflict of interest would not necessarily be solved under his proposal. It would if the Minister for the Environment had been elected by the national list, but if he were the TD for Ringsend, he would be as reluctant, for both personal and political reasons, to approve an incinerator as in the current circumstances.
I also think a city as small as Dublin could be more integrated at a political level. Should politicians based in Ballsbridge not be familiar too with life in Drumcondra? Through working in as relief staff in Dublin City Public Libraries, I’ve had an opportunity I’m glad of to get to know many of the city’s suburbs. Though mostly in Pembroke Library, I’ve spent a little bit of time in nearly every branch in the city.
The area covered by Dublin City Council elects roughly 20 TDs. What if these were elected in a single constituency, which for practical reasons of ballot size would use an Open List System rather than STV? Voters would select a party, and then pick their preferred party candidate from across the constituency. If Fine Gael got 30% of the vote across Dublin, the six most popular Fine Gael candidates would be elected. Candidates who were exceptionally popular locally might make it, but candidates would ultimately be compelled to find a wider focus than neighbourhood issues. TDs would also be less likely to feel the political impact of a decision affecting their own local community if they were appealing for votes from party supporters across the city. The micro-level of politics does deserve attention too, but this could be left to local authorities.
Dublin City is only an example here, across the country merging constituencies to have regional lists, as they do in Portugal, would put focus on parties’ separate manifesto commitments, while maintaining geographical diversity in the Dáil and accountability of individual TDs.