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FPTP parliamentary style is best imho if it creates a government that can act quickly and change things. In the modern world I feel this is necessary. Gridlock, cumbersome bickering coalitions, and hamstrung governments are just too slow in what is an increasingly rapidly changing world.  
by observer393 on Tue Sep 20th, 2005 at 01:19:38 AM EST
I've spent a large chunk of my life living through exactly that "necessary" rapid change - and I can assure you that it's not fun.  In fact, people here were so pissed off by the experience of repeated betrayals by political parties who stood on one platform, then delivered another, or who enacted grossly unpopular policies over the heads of the electorate literlaly in the dead of night, that we changed our electoral system to ensure it could never happen again.

No Right Turn - New Zealand's liberal blog

by IdiotSavant on Tue Sep 20th, 2005 at 08:36:38 AM EST
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This has been a good thread. Hope it keeps going a while.

To those who see the advantage of FPTP as promoting rapid change and decisive governance (an argument only relevant to parliamentary systems, and not to the US with its separation of powers) I would ask two things:

  1. Is it good to get rapid change that has been endorsed by much less than 50% of the electorate? Perhaps we should consider major changes in the policy realm that are endorsed by 40-some percent (or even less) as less than desirable.

  2. Can't a single-party government just as easily resist needed change as promote it? The Muldoon government in New Zealand before 1984 is a good example. It ignored the swelling deficits and inefficiencies in the economy, letting the crisis worsen, and it had twice been outvoted by Labour. It did not even represent a plurality of the NZ electorate.

To those who worry about small parties holding too much power under PR, I don't see it. For that to happen, it seems you need (1) the party in question to have a really secure constituency with narrow demands and be (2) utterly unprincipled in who it makes coalitions with. Some of the small religious parties in Israel (where the threshold is very low) might be examples.

But in most multiparty systems--and I think this applies to Germany and New Zealand, as well as Norway (which also just had a very close election)--even the little parties have constituencies that are more fluid at the same time that they have principled policy stances. If such a party demands too much it risks losing voters, possibly to one of the bigger parties, or another small party that is not seen as trying to hold everyone else "hostage."

And if there is only one major party or bloc that the small party can credibly make a coalition with, then it is much more constrained in what it can demand in exchange for its support. Otherwise it risks a very bad outcome for its voters: the seating of a government from the other side.

by Moosa Man on Tue Sep 20th, 2005 at 01:13:58 PM EST
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Is there an example of a FPTP parliamentary system where there are many small parties? Or is the proliferation of minority parties entirely the result of the PR system?

If there are no obvious counterexamples, I might argue that an advantage of the few-parties-FPTP system is that the party platform is made public in advance of the election, so voters know what they are voting for. In contrast, in the many-partis-FP system the coalition is not decided until after the election, so you don't know what you're voting for.

A current example would be if the German Greens were to join a coalition with the CDU on the right. Would Green voters have gone for the CDU if they didn't have the Green option? Or are they a more natural SPD partner...

by asdf on Tue Sep 20th, 2005 at 01:32:50 PM EST
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