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April 1, 2009

Irish Politics and BC-STV

Enda Kenny, the Fine Gael leader, blamed most of the "domestic mess" on the Government's "incompetence" and called for a cut in the lower rate of VAT from 13.5 per cent to 10 per cent.

Eamon Gilmore, the Labour Party leader, said that the rising jobless figures were spreading "fear" throughout the country.

Advocates of the Single Transferable Vote (BC-STV) would have referendum voters believe that changing how we elect MLAs could turn politics into one big group hug, making it less adversarial. Someone forgot to tell the Irish that they are supposed to get along!

Political parties in Ireland are going after each other with a vengeance. It's only been two years since their last election, one where US political consults were imported for advice on running negative campaigns. A year after that vote, the Prime Minister, called the Taoiseach, resigned in scandal. The stakes are now high with the long governing Fianna Fail at its lowest point ever in the opinion polls. Ireland's current Taoiseach has predicted a 10% drop in living standards over the next two years.

An emergency budget will be tabled on April 7th, after which the government may collapse. Some predict that Ireland will be electing TDs (members of its lower house) at the same time they go to the polls on June 5th to elect local governments and members of the European Parliament. If that happens, British Columbians will be able to witness the first weeks of the Irish election campaign before BC votes on the STV referendum. A ringside seat to an Irish political brawl is just what is needed to put claims about STV creating more cooperation between political parties in true perspective.

British Columbians might look to the Republic of Ireland for an idea on how STV might work. Ireland has the same population as BC, although in area it is about twice the size of Vancouver Island. Other than Ireland, the use of STV is confined to Malta with a population of only 403,000, Tasmania, an Australian state with a population of under 500,000 and a few municipalities. Some senates use variations of STV, but either not with universal suffrage, or in the case of Australia with a provision used by 97% of the voters to mark a single "X" for a party's slate. Politics in those less relevant places can also be described as politics as nasty as usual, but it is probably best to pay attention to politics surrounding elections to Ireland's lower house, the Dail, to see that claims about STV are misleading.

BC-STV would produce many things, including:

What supporters of BC-STV shouldn't promise is less nasty politics; just keep your eye on Ireland to see why.


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