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I have to say I love the Irish Single Transferable Vote multi-seat constituency system. It's quite complicated to understand completely but the level of voter understanding of its minor nuances is sometimes amazing and provides endless fascination for political and electoral nerds.

It's reasonably proportional although larger parties often do relatively better but minor parties and independents also have a fair chance of picking up seats. It encourages a more collaborative culture as more extremist candidates tend not to get a lot of transfers from other candidates.  

Some people criticise it for encouraging clientelism and overly rewarding candidates with strong local name recognition rather than more policy orientated national candidates, but for me it usually achieves a fine balance between keeping members of parliament connected with local people and issues while at the same time having to contribute to national debate.

List systems can be more directly proportionate but are very national party hierarchy orientated and don't encourage much engagement between candidates and local issues. Most people in Ireland will know at least one of their local Teachta Dála - members of parliament - and those I have known have often been fine people if limited in certain ways.

It's very unusual for any one party to get an overall majority, so coalitions are the norm, but that also forces people of different persuasions to work together. People used to FPTP and winner takes all systems say that almost as if its a bad thing - two much back-room wheeling and dealing but that for me is the essence of politics - finding negotiated settlements to conflicting interests.

In my view the system in Ireland has been instrumental in reducing the level of voter apathy and alienation from the political system so widespread in democratic societies world-wide. That and the fact that the people actually have a say in the make up of the Constitution, something which is less obvious in the case of the UK unwritten constitution.

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by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Sep 5th, 2019 at 04:26:50 PM EST
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