Friday, August 20, 2010

Australia Votes AV

The Australian Federal election is underway.

There are three differences from the British General election.

The first is to note that voting in Australia is compulsory. This changes the entire nature of the election campaign from “motivate and get-out-the-vote", as it is here, to “vote for us first and put the other parties in the right order on your ballot paper”.

The second is the Alternative Vote. This means putting the parties in the right order is vital as the preferences of the easily defeated candidates are added to the remaining ones until a single candidate polls over 50 per cent of total vote. I believe voting is a civic duty, but not a compulsory one to be enforced by the full majesty of the law. Abstention can also be a powerful political statement, whether by spoiling a ballot paper or just not going to the polls. For AV, the results are not necessarily proportionate (if you are a fan of PR) and there is something grubby about elections being decided by the second, third or fourth preferences of voters who plumped for fringe parties. Why is their fourth choice vote as valid as my first preference?

One further difference is that the Australians also have a system of triennial parliaments, something the British dropped in 1715…

However, the system is still a democratic one and works for the Aussies.

Oh, and if you are reading this in Australia,vote Liberal...

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