Sunday, June 25, 2017

Does the Mixed Member Proportional system elect two kinds of MPs?

One of the persistent anti-PR myths is that the Mixed Member Proportional system elects two kinds of MPs. Critics usually are referring to several different ideas:

1   1. Democratically nominated MPs versus candidates appointed by the party leader?

This is a common fallacy. In Scotland, New Zealand and Germany all candidates are nominated democratically. In fact, as part of the German de-nazification process, the lucky Germans have laws requiring all nominations to be democratic. Fair Vote Canada recommends that party election campaigns not be eligible for public subsidy unless all their candidates, whether local or regional, have been nominated democratically.

2    2. Candidates elected personally versus candidates elected because of their position on a list?

Fair Vote Canada has said for years that all MPs must face the voters. MMP with open lists is used in Bavaria. The Law Commission of Canada recommended in 2004 that “allowing voters to choose a candidate from the list provides voters with the ability to select a specific individual and hold them accountable for their actions should they be elected.” It is true that the 2009 Ontario model for its referendum proposed 30% of MPPs should come from closed province-wide lists. No one proposes this model today, but the enemies of PR keep using arguments recycled from 2009.

3.    3. MPs who serve constituents versus MPs who do not serve constituents?

Some critics assume that regional MPs will not have local offices and will not serve constituents. In fact, they do, in Scotland, New Zealand, and even in party-centric Germany. The definitive study on “two classes of MPs” in Germany was led by Prof. Louis Massicotte in 2004:

He concluded, in Chapter 8: “They will substantially do the same work. . . . Voters do not usually know whether a Bundestag member was directly or indirectly elected. . . . List members receive as much mail from their constituents as do constituency members. . . .”  After an exhaustive study of the roles of the two types of MPs, he concludes: “The above data strongly support the prevailing consensus in the literature: the existence of two types of parliamentary mandates within the same parliament does not produce two unequal castes.”

4   4. Will regional MPs represent “Real Communities?”

If regional MPs plan to run again at the next election, they will want to run locally as well; if their party wins enough local seats their regional seat will evaporate. Even in Germany “since most list candidates have contested constituencies — and perhaps hope to do so again — they, too, will ‘nurse’ constituencies and undertake engagements there.” Even regional MPs from a smaller party will be locally anchored to small regions of perhaps 10 or 12 MPs, sometimes as few as seven.