Posted on February 10, 2009Israel today held parliamentary elections, using its extreme form of proportional representation with national, closed party lists with a very low threshold for parties to win a seat. The options for voting reform are poorly understood in the United States, with some commentators even suggesting Israel might want to elect all members by U.S.-style, single-member districts.
For an entertaining and informative corrective to suggest thinking and insightful posts, visit the Fruits and Votes website of UC-San Diego Professor Matthew Shugart, co-author of Seats and Votes and many important articles about elections and electoral reform. Among several recent posts about the Israeli elections, Shugart points out:
"If only the media could cover elections in normal democracies without saying things like "[party name here] failed to win a majority" or "no party is likely to have a majority." Majorities of seats are actually not so common in democracies around the world, and majorities of votes are downright rare. "What was so distressing this morning is that I heard a line like this about Israel's election. Yes, Israel, where even a quarter of the seats makes you a big player and the last time a party won over a third of the seats was in 1992. Yet the reporter's line gave the impression that there might be just this very small chance that someone would get over 50% of seats. Moreover, while I have come to expect this sort of comment from American reporters (few of whom can get past "complex form of proportional representation"), this particular incident was on Deutsche Welle. Yes, from Germany, where no party has won a majority of seats in the country's history of competitive elections (back to 1871).: