Alina Mungiu-Pippidi in Evenimentul zilei
Neither the qualities, nor the flaws of the uni-nominal vote are those mentioned during our public debate. The topic cannot be turned into a magazine-suited one, nor into one fit for scandals. If we get to a referendum, which would only be normal, the public must now exactly what they’re voting on.
A Two-Round Majority
The Social Democrats’ proposal allows for a majority vote, expressed during two rounds of elections, the same way mayors’ elections take place. It is the most advantageous one in terms of forming a clearer majority in Parliament. This process, of manufacturing a majority, is achieved by means of over-sizing the parties that enter the second round of elections, by comparison to those eliminated during round one, which may as well vanish off the political scene, as is now the case of France’s National Front. The two-round uni-nominal vote eliminates the biggest disadvantage posed by the majority vote, a decrease in representation. If your candidate is eliminated during the first round, you pick another one for round two.
The party you’re rooting for sees itself forced to negotiate between the two rounds of elections for the support of the candidates who haven’t left the race yet, while voters are publicly steered toward one candidate or another, so you know whom your partner is backing and, therefore, cannot realize, post-election, that they’re making unfit alliances.
Candidates have clear circumscriptions, so each voter feels they have control over them. This process works in France, because there is an unwritten pact which says that alliances with the National Front are to be avoided. Their percentage of voters is similar to the one held by Romania Mare. The system is successful due to this informal, commonsensical rule that says no concessions will be made to extremists. Would this work in our country, where everybody will make friends with the devil, just to get to cross the river? This also poses the risk of potentially stimulating migration.
Those directly elected by the voters will deem themselves owners of the popular vote, a capital which they can pack up and carry along to another party. Today, mayors migrate twice as often as MPs, who are elected according to lists.
A possible referendum question could be formulated as follows, “Do you agree to choose your Senate representative and your Chamber representative by voting in uni-nominal circumscriptions, not according to lists, in two rounds, should no candidate earn a majority of votes during round one?”
The Mixed Vote
Initially posited by the ApD and backed by the Alliance, this formula stipulates a mixed vote. Its advantage is maintaining decent proportions and having half the seats distributed according to the uni-nominal principle. Its disadvantage is that the party still gets to decide on the candidate and circumscriptions are development regions, statistical fictions with no identity.
Its influence on shaping a clear majority, which we sorely need, is weaker than under the Social Democrats’ system. Half the seats are still up for grabs on lists. Just like in the other system, the risk of migration runs higher than at present. A possible referendum question could sound something like, “Do you agree to choose half of those who represent you in Parliament (the chamber can also be named) through direct, uni-nominal vote, while the other one is chosen indirectly, off of party lists?”
The formula proposed by the Coalition for a Clean Parliament – European Elections, which includes the ApD, SAR and other organizations, but which has not been adopted for the European elections, was to express a preferential, optional uni-nominal vote, which can also be called a ‘list-based uni-nominal vote’.
In any circumscription in which the party has one seat, the voting bulletin will indicate two or three candidates from the same party, those who wish to submit their candidacies, and the voters themselves will decide who they prefer.
Voters who don’t know the candidates will be able to vote by stamping the party logo on the left-hand side of the page, while the others will select a candidate from that party by stamping the right-hand side of the page. Those who only stamp the party logo are actually indirectly granting their votes to the candidate the party placed in position 1. Those who want to have a say about the candidate will put their stamp on no. 3 or 4, whomever they prefer, and then that candidate will receive the vote.
This is the only formula according to which candidates are not selected by parties, so the overall number of candidates will be larger. The formula does not sit well with the parties, as it encourages internal competitions, although the candidates can be filtered through internal rules. It does not impact the formation of a majority, as it is a proportions-based formula, but it definitely does not entail any risks. A possible referendum question would be, “Do you agree to elect your representative out of several candidates from the same political party, other than party logo?”
Wager on Integrity
These electoral systems run evident risks. But they are smaller than pre-2007. European Romania is a stable democracy, albeit a dysfunctional one. It doesn’t matter if the vote favors one party or the other, we’re talking parties who are a part of European families.
None of the formulas we choose, however, will solve the problem with the political class overnight, and it particularly won’t solve the main issue, the profiteering and irresponsible behavior of a large part of it. Will it help us to set apart the honest characters from the rest of them? Only if, and this is a major ‘only if’, there is one party that wagers on integrity and is mindful about appearing much cleaner than the rest of them. And if any party would prove so brave, it would stand much more to gain, even within the current electoral system.
Alina Mungiu-Pippidi is the President of SAR and a Senior Fellow al St. Anthony’s College, Oxford University.
How do we vote:
1. Two-round majority vote: If your candidate is eliminated in the first round, you rally for another in round two.
2. Mixed vote: You vote both for people, as well as for lists.
3. Preferential vote: Choose your preferred candidate from the list proposed by the party.
Three possible questions:
1. Do you agree to choose your Senate representative and your Chamber representative by voting in uni-nominal circumscriptions, not according to lists, in two rounds, should no candidate earn a majority of votes during round one?
2. Do you agree to choose half of those who represent you in Parliament (the chamber can also be named) through direct, uni-nominal vote, while the other one is chosen indirectly, off of party lists?
3. Do you agree to elect your representative out of several candidates from the same political party, other than party logo?