Thursday, August 09, 2007

MMP : The Truth About FPTP - How Political Parties Choose Candidates

I heard that the people who get chosen to run in a political riding under FPTP would be named from a list of supporters of political parties. Is that true?

That is correct. Only party members may run as a candidate for a political party under FPTP.

So who gets to determine the makeup of the political candidates?

The political parties are solely responsible for the composition of the party candidates under FPTP. They can either be determined by direct orders by the party leadership, or they might be determined by a vote by party members.

No matter what, the candidates for election will be in the hands of members of political parties, who make up a tiny part of the population of Ontario.

Non-aligned voters do not get a say at all.

If I do not like the candidate representing the party that I want to vote for, can I alter the name so I can put the name of my preferred candidate in when it comes time to vote?

No, you cannot. FPTP only allows for closed party candidate selection. This means that voters cannot cross off names or change the candidate's name in the ballot box. The only choice given to the voters under FPTP is to vote for the candidate chosen by the political party.

Your preferred candidate may run as an independent, but they are unlikely to win under FPTP.

But, under FPTP, I can still support the political party, by voting for the party but not the candidate, correct?

No, that is not correct. If you want to support the political party, you must vote for the candidate you do not support.

Wait. I will have to vote for someone I may not want to represent me? Isn't that undemocratic?

Yes. You cannot support your political party and not support their preferred candidate. Similarly, you cannot support your local candidate and not support their political party.

You must choose between selecting a political party you do not support, a candidate you do not support, or spoiling your ballot. Those are your only choices.

That is undemocratic.

Isn't giving political parties total control over selecting the candidate undemocratic?

It is important to be highly regarded within the party to be selected or chosen as a candidate. It helps if the candidate is also well known in the community, but this is not always the case.

If a candidate is highly regarded by the party but not well known in the community, he or she may be parachuted into a riding, most likely into a riding that's called a "safe seat" - one where support runs high for the party, regardless of candidate. The candidate will likely have no ties to the community - neither personal nor professional. He or she is then pretty much guaranteed a seat in the legislature, regardless of how well the party does in an election.

So if you want to vote for a party but do not like whom they have running in your riding, you are pretty much stuck. Not only is this undemocratic, it is also unfair.

If I don't like a candidate running in another riding, how can I make sure that he or she does not get into office?

You could move to that riding, and vote in their election. For most of us, that's simply not possible. Once you have moved, you'd also have to convince the rest of the riding not to support that candidate - and if you don't have a lot of ties in the community, it may be all but impossible.
Update: Fixed a typo.

Update x 2: I've added an addendum.

Up next, false majorities.


Mark Greenan said...

An amazing post!

I'll definitely have to blog about this either later today or tomorrow.

Keep up the great work! This is shaping up to be a great blog series.

aginsberg said...

Under First-Past-The-Post there is this remarkable thing called independent candidates. ANYONE can run for office as long as their serious about running. The voters make the decision. Parties who go against popular candidates (see the Tories and Chuck Cadman, the Liberals and John Nunziata or the NDP and Bev Desjarlais). Under MMP, 39 seats would be open to only registered members of political parties which is a tiny percentage of the population.

Political parties were created in order to produce stable governing coalitions. However, it is, and always has been, the local candidate that receives your vote. If voters don't understand that they can't split their vote under FPTP, they will never understand MMP.

Jim said...


Thanks! I mentioned independent candidates in my previous post - and I picked Chuck Cadman too.

I didn't pick Bev Desjarlais, though.

Jim said...

Sorry, Aginsberg. I did also address independent candidates in this post as well.

The chances of an independent candidate winning does not improve by selecting FPTP.

Mark Greenan said...

Do you really believe that point about independent candidates? What is the record of independent candidates winning in Ontario? Like 1 in 1000? Maybe even more.

So what if independents can't run for the list seats? They don't win under the current system.

I think a more plausible argument is that MMP IMPROVES the chances of independent MPPs because it allows voters to support a locally opular independent while ALSO supporting a party of their choice.

aginsberg said...

# of seats available to average Ontarians under FPTP: 107

# of seats available under MMP: 90

That combined with the fact that those 90 larger (both geographically and population wise) ridings will be harder for independents to win means that yes, independents have more opportunity and a better chance to win under FPTP. The rarity of independents does not deny their importance. MMP puts a giant "Reserved for Party Hacks" sign over 1/3 of the legislature.

Also, how many Ontarians can name an MPP who is not a) their local representative b) a cabinet member or former cabinet member c) a party leader or former leadership contestant? Maybe the readership of this blog but certainly not the average voter. How likely are they to know to contact an "at-large" MPP?

There's an old skit from This Hour Has 22 Minutes (maybe Mercer Report) where they go through picture after picture of anonymous backbench MP's and ask "what do they do?" The answer "nothing". Now, under FPTP at least they have constituency work. Under MMP, the criticism is even more valid.

Mark Greenan said...

Don't people love arguing with people who are absolutely convinced they're right, but have no facts and nothing by rhetoric to back up their assertions?

Mark Greenan said...

And we'll see how average Ontarians like MMP, I think they're smart enough to see that it increases their voting power, and not the power of political parties.

After all it seems like members of certain political parties are the ones most vociferously against it!