Saturday, August 12, 2006

Poor legislative design

Via European Tribune, a reminder of why legislatures should always have an odd number of seats: In June, the Czech Republic went to the polls - and elected a sharply divided Parliament. Each of the blocs in Parliament - the Social Democrats and Communists, and the Civic Democrats, Christian Democrats and Greens - have 100 seats, and so the result is complete deadlock. No-one has a majority, and so no-one can form a government - or even elect a Speaker. This has gone on for two months now, with no party showing any sign of switching its support, and so now they're down to suggesting resolving things through an archery contest. Or maybe a coin toss.

As New Zealand learned in 1996, a couple of months of caretaker government isn't such a bad thing. But at least we had some hope that there would eventually be a resolution. The Czechs don't; their only solution is to hope that a party changes its mind, or call new elections - and its entirely unclear how long they will have to wait. Of course, all of this would have been avoided if they had an off number of representatives. Perhaps there's a lesson in there for New Zealand as well?


I'm sure you meant prime, not odd. With a prime number of seats it doesn't matter how many blocs there are, or how they line up, one bloc will always have more votes than the others.

Although with more than two blocs there's not necessarily going to be a majority available - witness the Greens/ United/ NZ First tussle in NZ, now imagine that the larger parties were a few seats down to the benefit of the smaller ones :)

Posted by Moz : 8/19/2006 11:45:00 PM

two is prime =)

Posted by Graeme Edgeler : 8/19/2006 11:52:00 PM

Moz: Odd is enough - though it could be theoretically hamstrung if a party holding the balance of power (assuming there is only one) abstaining. But then we all know exactly who the problem is, and can apply pressure accordingly...

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 8/20/2006 02:34:00 AM

Now, I have absolutely now idea about the situation in the Czech Republic, so take this as more of a general comment, rather than a dispute on this particular case - but why must a close election always be seen as evidence of a divided electorate?

Maybe people just made a call on the day, have no great problem with either government and just happened to get a 50/50 Parliament. Maybe all the real disagreement between factions is at the margins with a country/state/school board district having a high degree of agreement about just about everything?

Posted by Graeme Edgeler : 8/20/2006 10:37:00 AM