Opinion: More votes for all

POSTED: 03/17/14 6:30 PM

Manuel Kneepkens, a former faction leader of the City Party in Rotterdam has about had it with the current election system in the Netherlands. Since there are initiatives for electoral reform in St. Maarten in progress, it may be worth our while to get acquainted with his ideas.

First of all, Kneepkens notes that the voting system is a nineteenth century relic in the twenty-first century. For decades, voters have had only one vote. With that single vote the electorate is expected to give its opinion for four years about a significant number of complex social problems. That is not doable.

Kneepkens has a solution: give voters ten votes instead of one. He claims that the benefits are evident – though we are not so sure. This is how he sees it. A habitual GreenLeft voter with sympathy for the Socialist Party and a desire for a leftwing cabinet that requires the support of the PvdA, could give five votes to GreenLeft, three to the SP and two to the PvdA.

Kneepkens furthermore claims that such a system is the solution for a typical centrist party like the CDA. Suppose a CDA-voter wants a center-left cabinet. He will give 7 votes to his own party and 3 to the PvdA. If he wants a center-right cabinet he gives the other 3 votes to the VVD. An SP-voter who totally disagrees with his party’s position on Europe gives the SP 7 votes and the Europe-party D66 3.

In this system, the result of elections for the Second Chamber will be a surprise, Kneepkens predicts, but he does not make clear why this would be so. Still, he maintains that the makeup of the parliament would be a truer mirror of the electorate’s will that the current system would produce.

We foresee only disaster coming from such a system, because many voters will simply throw all their ten votes in one bag, and send them to their preferred party. On the grand total of votes, it will not make any difference.

Voters in St. Maarten’s most recent elections, in 2010, cast around 13,000 votes. Under Kneepkens system, they would cast 130,000 votes. That would make the threshold for winning one seat in parliament at 8,666 – a devilish number if you ask us.

An upstart party would then need 867 voters who cast all their votes in one direction. So what is the difference with a one (wo)man one votes system? Nada, because with 13,000 votes cast, the startup party would also need 867 votes for a seat.

Besides, the local party system does not offer many flavors. We will have the Democratic Party, the National Alliance, the United People’s party and a few upstarts in the field. We do not see how an NA-voter is going to waste two or three sympathy-votes on one of those upstarts, let alone on their sworn political enemies.

The truth is that the numbers will always favor the larger parties and in our current political constellation we have only two: the NA and the UP. The DP disintegrated in the 2010 elections, but it is still holds a position of power because it is able to swing a majority either way. Whether this will still be true after this year’s elections remains to be seen.

More votes for all then, as Kneepkens suggests? We don’t think so. It is not going to happen and it won’t make any difference anyway.

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