Friday, August 27, 2010

Nailbiter in Australia -- if only this happened in Canada

Talk about a nail-biter!   A week after the 2010 Aussie elections, we finally have some preliminary results.   With 83.2% of the votes counted and a magic number of 76, the challenger Tony Abbott of the Liberal / National coalition has 73, the "incumbent" (if you ignore she shoved out Kevin Rudd in a coup) Julia Gillard of Labour has 72, the Greens 1 and 4 independents    One "National" from Western Australia has already pulled out of the caucus and will sit as an independent as well so it's actually a dead tie at 72 each.

Both Gillard and Abbott are claiming they won but for different reasons.  Gillard claims she won and has the right to govern based on leading in the two party preference percentage (Australia uses a preferential instant run-off ballot for the lower house and she is presumably in the lead after votes for minor parties have been redistributed after being knocked out).   Abbott claims that on the popular vote on the first round, he was in the lead by at least 800,000 votes and therefore he has the right to be the PM.

Oh to be one of the six MPs who now hold the balance of power.   The concessions they can wring out to be king or queen-maker.

Not to mention the chaos in the Australian Senate (where voters either choose one party list, or ranks all candidates in order of preference from 1 to x even if x runs into the low hundreds) -- with the Green Party now holding the balance of power there by a wide margin.

So unlike Canada where a minority party can rule as if it was the majority and does as long as it retains the "confidence" of the house.    Oh yeah, we have first past the post.   So many winners aren't really that, just the ones who got the plurality (not the majority) of votes.

If we ever got our act straight and have real election reform in Canada, imagine how fun we'd have on election night .. or week.

Mind you, there is one huge difference between their federation and ours.   We have an entrenched bill of rights.   They don't at the federal level (although the national capital, Canberra, and the state of Victoria have in their basic laws).   Even the British, which have experimented with one for a dozen years (when they merely adopted the European Charter as domestic legislation), were thinking of limiting its application or withdrawing from the treaty all together (although at present the law allows both the courts as well as Parliament or the devolved legislatures to adopt a "declaration of incompatibility") but the coalition ruling there now says they'll leave well enough alone for the time being; and by next year the country will have a national version of PR anyway, as they do now for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

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1 comment:

Radical Centrist said...

"by next year the country will have a national version of PR anyway"

Only if the referendum on AV is successful, and there's certainly no guarantee of that. The Conservatives are against it, and even though Labour had proposed AV before the election, they're planning to campaign against it out of spite for the Lib Dems. Plus, a lot of people who want real PR (including a lot of Lib Dems) don't want AV.