Parliamentary system works better

Mar 4th, 2009 | By | Category: Columns

Kimberly McGarry

Recently, one of Obama’s appointees, Carol Brown, was discovered to be a member of the Socialist International’s Commission for a Sustainable World Society.

Whilst it sent right-wing bloggers to their keyboards to send out the call of “socialism” and “world government” with gleeful grins on their faces, it set me to thinking.

Why in this day and age is it STILL so onerous to be a socialist?

My next thought was about representational government. In America, a self-proclaimed Socialist and agnostic is unelectable.

Often, as in the election in 2008, socialism is used to denigrate the candidate.

So, who is representing those in the “unelectable” segment of the populace in the Congress?

Wouldn’t a parliamentary system make more sense? It seems to make sense to our ex-executive legislature.

When we formed Iraq’s new government, it wasn’t a presidential system, it was a parliamentary one.

Thinking of the last two years of Bush’s reign, wouldn’t it have made more sense to dissolve his government (which had a 20 percent approval rating which left him as one of the lamest ducks in history) and send him home rather than endure his failures for the rest of the term?

A prime minister can try and form a new government, acknowledging that he no longer enjoyed the confidence of his party and constituency, but preserving his party’s rule — that is essentially what Tony Blair recently did, paving the way for his Labour Party ally Gordon Brown to take over as prime minister.

But if there is still a dramatic lack of support, the government falls and new elections are called. Voters don’t have to wait many long months, perhaps years, before they get to weigh in again.

The prime minister is not elected directly by the voters, but rather is the top leader of the political party, or parties, that holds a majority of seats in the national legislature. This ensures that the executive and legislative branches mostly move in synch.

In our system, the president is elected, more or less, by a popular vote as is the congress, often resulting in a president from one party governing with a majority of the other party.
Stymied from the get go, the term is spent in attempting negotiation, also known as the “quest for the elusive bi-partisanship.” We know how THAT goes!

With a prime minister, the top dog of the party there would be no more two-party presidential elections, no more electoral college.

Each vote would count as cast, not as in a winner-take-all victory.

Another aspect of a parliamentary system, the one which would answer my question, “Who represents the unrepresentable?” is that it is representational and proportional.

Voters choose one area representational candidate for the national legislature.

The plurality of the winners then composes the next legislature.

The party with the most votes is the dominate party.

There is seldom a huge party majority, so the government is one of coalitions.

BUT all parties receive proportional power within that legislature…meaning that the legislature could be composed of several parties, with different percentages of power.

Whilst this method produces a more fragmented legislature, it does ensure proportional representation.

The libertarians, the greens, the socialists, all would be represented.

Do you remember Ross Perot? He received 19 percent of the popular vote in 1992, but no electoral votes.

Who represented that 19 percent of voters?

Not a soul.

In reality, our current party system is already composed of fragments.

There are the right-rights, center-rights, left-rights, centers, right-lefts, center-lefts, and the left-lefts, with many coalitions within each niche, not to mention the tiny parties unable to compete because our election cycles are dominated by big parties with big money.

Because parliamentary elections are not held in the scheduled manner of America, once every 2-to-6 years, elections would not be the money-based races they are now.

It wouldn’t be financially feasible, especially if the parliament can (and sometimes is!) dissolved in a rapid cycle over a short period of time.

This would enable smaller parties to compete on a more level playing ground, enhancing proportional representation.

No more “wasted votes.”

This type of bloc voting would also encourage more responsibility in the legislature, reducing the amount of time “campaigning” and increasing the amount of time legislating.

To me, it would solve many of the problems we currently grapple with: the lack of a broad spectrum of electable candidates due to the increasing cost of campaigns which eliminate the underfunded candidates, the “single-issue” voter, “wasted votes”, campaign finance issues and the all or nothing election cycle.

Legislatures could focus on legislating rather than campaigning and the little understood delegate/electoral college system would be put to rest.

Republicans would have still won in 2000, but their cycle would have ended in 2006 when another party took over, with Prime Minister Bush passing the torch to Prime Minister Pelosi.

The thought alone is enough to start a campaign for the parliamentary system!

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