Demockracy 1; Danger
Danger in Democracy
when increasing democracy may damage democracy
This is a rewrite of what started as a short essay. In order to better explain the arguments I am trying to present.
I believe that democracy is in danger — although to explain what is the ‘danger’ is diversionary. The reasons for the ‘danger’ are partly mathematical.
And ironically, the danger to democracy comes when there are moves to what would seem to improve democracy — where new political parties are established to speak to a specific part of the electorate.
When there are two main political parties in a democracy — they are usually and sometimes broadly left-wing and right-wing — near 50% of the population do not get the government they want. In other words, the winning party gets 55% and the loser 45%.
(For make my argument simpler, I exclude those smaller parties, even though some of them may get close to 10%.)
Over the past five years, new-or-reworked political parties have been established in a few countries (particularly in Europe, but almost certain to spread). Generally, they are single-issue parties. The most common are Green, Populist (often related to immigration). And Brexit in the case of the UK — although the Brexit Party is actually Populist with a different name.
There are now more political parties that support what many in the population feel strongly about. That sounds a positive trend.
However, my argument is that in democracies where there are three and often four, major parties (say with at least 20% of the voter share?), there is a danger for democracy.
Firstly, assume for illustrative purposes that in a general election, each of those four main parties gets around 25% of the vote. One of the four — usually the one with the biggest share of votes, say 30%, would be asked by the head of state to form a government.
This means broadly, that for 70% of the voters, their political party will not be in a position of power.
But as the leading party, with 30% of the votes, cannot rule with that 30% (in theory; minority governments have worked, albeit usually for a short time), they will need to form a coalition with one of the remaining three parties.
That would usually be the next highest, say with 25% — although some parties intensely dislike some of the others, this is politics, and compromises are common.
But to get the agreement of that 25%-party to join the government, the 30%-party would have to offer something . That could be an important or prestigious ministerial post and an agreement to implement one of the 25%-party’s main election promises. Such as a higher minimum wage, say, or nuclear phase-out, or green tax, or tighter immigration.
Still with me?
But that could (in fact, likely) mean that voters for the 30%-party will be forced to accept something they did not vote for, and even may have voted against.
Likewise for the 25%-party that plans to join the leading party as the junior party in a coalition. But some of the 30%-party promises will now become part of the new coalition ruling-group promises — even, again, if some voters in the 30%-party did not vote for them, and even may have voted against.
100% of the voting public will not have the government they wanted, introducing the policies they wanted and voted for.
What will they do? How will they react?
Will they opt out of the system? That is not good because it means that governments are elected with an ever-smaller share of the population. Or will they vote populist, act violent/non-democratic (as France’s gilets jaunes), demand referendums, other?
An essay such as this should perhaps attempt to propose a solution. Unfortunately, I cannot see anything, or at least something that at least seems democratic. Those solutions might be compulsive voting, higher minimum voting shares (15%?) before entering into the country parliaments, minimum existence before standing for parliaments (no just-formed parties; two years?),
There are others — each party must present to head-of-state three months before election their positions and policies on specific subjects (5? Economy, employment, immigration, others.) And each must participate in two televised (or at least diffused) debates with party leader three and two months before election, half with fixed questions, half open but same questions to all. In addition, a third debate with another leader from the parties. There must be more.
This party splintering (into three or four main parties) is happening, at the time of writing, in Europe in the bigger countries of France, Germany, Italy, Spain, UK. And in many other countries in west Europe. Big holdouts around the world are Australia, Canada, Japan, US, which are still mainly 2-party democracies.