Thursday, September 13, 2007

MMP : The Truth About FPTP - Politics as Usual

What is tactical voting? Why is it prevalent in FPTP?

Tactical voting is voting for a party or a candidate that a voter may not want in an effort to defeat a candidate the voter does not want to win. Usually, the voter chooses the candidate most likely to defeat the candidate.

For example, a voter prefers Candidate A, but really dislikes Candidate B. If the voter perceives Candidate C has a better chance of defeating Candidate B, the voter will vote for Candidate C in the hopes of making sure Candidate B is defeated.

This has even occurred recently when Ontario Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty called for tactical voting. Hoping to defeat Opposition Leader, John Tory, he attacked the NDP by saying that "a vote for the NDP is in fact a vote for the Progressive Conservatives."

Tactical voting is often described as a vote against someone instead of a vote for someone. This tends to lead to voter apathy.

It's prevalent in FPTP for the simple fact it's only necessary to have the most votes in a riding, meaning close ridings have this occur more often. The candidate who benefits most from tactical voting will often play up fears in the hopes of just slightly tipping the balance in their favour.

It's a compounding effect, as this negative campaigning also leads to voter apathy.

I like some of the policies of one party, but I like some of the policies of another party. If I select FPTP, will the parties work together?

Most certainly not. As false majorities are the norm, political parties that form governments declare they have the mandate to do as they see fit - that may be to implement a radical platform or to completely abandon the promises they were elected on.

Voters are left to vote "all or nothing" and hope for the best.

I support Party A, but my riding has consistently supported Party B. I feel like my vote is wasted. Is it?

A vote is never truly wasted, but it may seem to you that your vote is unnecessary. This could lead someone to stop voting.

I find I can't support the old line parties anymore. I like a smaller party - if I vote for them, what are the chances my candidate will win?


It's not likely - in fact, it's a practical impossibility.

The FPTP system, by setting the threshold for winning so low, makes it harder for smaller parties to get seats. Under FPTP, even a small party with a sizable portion of the popular vote may not get a seat in the legislature!

Larger parties then use this as evidence to refer to these parties as "fringe" or not representative of electoral wishes.

Wow, it's looking grim. But, if I do support the candidate of my choice and they win, they will bring the needs of the community to the legislature and represent the constituency first, right?

No. If anything, political parties have more power over candidates, making them more responsible to the party brass than the voters of Ontario.

All candidates will want to maintain high standing within the party - toeing the line to ensure they are not booted from caucus or removed as a candidate. This is over and above the party support and finance that a candidate needs to get elected at the riding level.

Up next, a summary.

[The Truth About FPTP]

6 comments:

John M Reynolds said...

MMP will not get rid of Tactical voting with respect to candidates. The "a vote for the NDP is in fact a vote for the Progressive Conservatives" fear tactic did not work in 1990 when the NDP actually got in. Tactile voting will still exist because the MMP being proposed still includes FPTP for electing two thirds of the MPPs.

It is not the voting technique that leads to voter apathy. It is the quality of the runners, their policies, and the tendency to break promises that leads to voter apathy. As well, fear tactics lead to voter apathy for those that use fear. Those that campaign on policies tend to do the best. This has nothing to do with the electoral system.

You cannot blame FPTP for those that abandon the promises. You make it sound like having a stable government is bad.

If you don't want your vote to be wasted, then get out and talk to others. Convince those around you why they should support your candidate of choice. Note, I used candidate instead of Party here. This is similar to the voting for a candidate from a lesser supported party. Other parties have come up, like reform, alliance, and the ndp, and have gained support in the past. It is possible under FPTP. The lesser supported parties are going about it incorrectly. Get the support then run. Don't blame the electoral system for the "fringe" parties' ineptitude.

" ...political parties have more power over candidates..." This is a big problem and MMP will only make it worse.

Jim said...

I've made no claims about how MMP deals with issues. I am simply looking at the facts in our electoral environment under FPTP.

It is not the voting technique that leads to voter apathy.

A voter, inclined to vote one way, but feeling compelled to vote another way will stop voting.

You make it sound like having a stable government is bad.

I implied no such thing. I would suspect my definition of stable government differs from that of an FPTP supporter.

I don't include a false majority government as "stable", especially when there is a huge shift in policy from the previous.

John M Reynolds said...

"A voter, inclined to vote one way, but feeling compelled to vote another way will stop voting."

No. A voter, who is compelled to vote against their normal inclination is called a swing voter. You have offered no proof that swing voters will/have stopped voting.

A "false" majority will be unlikely to fall during their 4 year span. That means it is stable for at least 4 years.

It seems like the popular vote is important to you. Why?

Jim said...

A "false" majority will be unlikely to fall during their 4 year span. That means it is stable for at least 4 years.

Your defintion of stable is different than mine. I do not define the stability of a government based upon how long one party can control the legislature.

That said, other electoral systems (like MMP) produce majority governments as well - all the time in fact, they're just called coalition majorities.

In Canada, "coalition" is a bad word, though.

It seems like the popular vote is important to you. Why?

The absolute value of the popular vote is not as important as how much legislative weight is given to a particular segment of the population that's important.

A set of policies, endorsed by a minority of the population, should not form the direction of a legislature.

John M Reynolds said...

I doubt we have ever had a true majority ever. The big tent parties are all coalitions. The Federal Conservative party is already a coalition (reform/alliance/conservative). The Ontario PC's are a coalition of progressives and conservatives. The federal PC coalition broke down around the time Mulroney left. The cretien/martin divide still exists within the federal Liberal party. Governments made by these types of parties, that pander mostly to the center, end up being the most stable (my definition since you have not given me yours).

Are you suggesting that it is a good thing for different parties to be mashed together after the election to form a coalition, so we can actually get a government under MMP? That is a step backwards. With the coalition big tent parties, people know where the parties stand and know what to expect when they hear the election results -- broken promises asside. In a coalition majority, you don't know what you are going to get for some time, if ever, after the wheeling and dealing is done after the election. That is not progress.

Anonymous said...

On tactical voting, you say "
It's prevalent in FPTP for the simple fact it's only necessary to have the most votes in a riding, meaning close ridings have this occur more often."

I would argue that tactical voting will happen in MMP as well. See this link.

Once I've picked my candidate, I would be wasting my vote if I vote for the same party if it is going to win seats disproportionate to the percentage vote. So I'll vote tactically ... for a party where my vote may make a difference.

In fact, if MMP passes, I might create a party that ONLY runs in the Proportional rundown, and not field any local candidates. That would require much less effort. If I can convince voters that voting for my party is strategic (it prevents the other guys from getting more seats), I could win ALL the proportional seats. By my math, I could win all the proportional seats with 30% of the votes.