Ireland's Government Formation

It seems Ireland might end up in an interesting situation where each of the three parties win the same number of seats.

In any case the ruling party will have less than a quarter of the seats. This speaks to an issue of electoral reform that is not talked about much. That is the topic of government formation. The process of going from a parliament to a subset of it becoming the ruling government.

I made a post about this before

There are many better ways to do it than “Leader of largest party is the Prime Minister and their party rules”. I would think an approval vote would be best. Really any non-partisan method would be better. Thoughts?

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Isn’t it actually leader of the largest coalition is the prime minister? Thus the election is more like asset voting where the candidates are the leaders of the different parties and how many votes they have prior to negotiations is how many seats their party has (perhaps there are rules in some parliaments about the prime minister being the leader of the largest party in a coalition which would change things though this is almost always the case anyways).

Though I agree that the best option would be an approval vote to determine which MP should form government and the MP that does form government shouldn’t have to be the leader of a particular party (though this will probably be the case the vast majority of the time).

Also, is a parliamentary system better then a presidential system (assuming that a horrible voting method isn’t used to elect the president)? One of the advantages of the parliamentary system is that the prime minister is held accountable 24/7 (the parliament can vote them out at any time) while under the presidential system they are only held accountable on election year (if they know they’re going to lose then for their remaining duration in office they’re only held accountable in cases of impeachment or when the parliament/congress has the ability to make the election happen sooner). Another advantage to the parliamentary system is it gives the parliament negotiating power in how the head of government forms the government. While one advantage or disadvantage of a presidency is that voters can elect their head of state directly (and if the MPs are elected in districts that are susceptible to geographic distortions then another advantage is that presidential elections would bypass this assuming that an electoral college system like in the US isn’t used).

Thus how good is this compromise between the two: a parliamentary system where on election year voters also vote directly for the prime minister and their proposed government (who they will probably appoint for each position) where the parliament still has the ability vote them out at any time (though how they would vote them out would be voting for the parliament to hold a vote in which they and all of the other MPs contesting to be the prime minster are candidates for the prime ministry and they are also the voters choosing the prime minister) or instead just call for an earlier election if the need to remove the prime minister isn’t as urgent? This allows the head of state to be held more accountable when there isn’t an election coming up and forces the head of state to make concessions when forming government (if they don’t appoint the people they say they are going to or fire those people early on, parliament can vote them out for breaking their promises). The prime minister will also only be able to be voted out for good reasons because voting to replace the person that voters directly elected should be seen as unpopular if there is no reason for it.

It is important to realize that most systems have both a head of state and a leader of the parliament.

In Canada, the leader is of the parliament is the PM and the Queen (but represented by the governor general) is the head of state. In this situation the head of state does virtually nothing and the PM has all the power. The Gov Gen is intended to make sure the government plays by the rules. But as we have seen recently since the Gov Gen is appointed by the PM they do not do their job. At least in the states the impeachment of Trump went to trial. In Canada PM Trudeau was found guilty on four counts but nothing happened because it is the role of the Gov Gen to enforce.

In the US, there is almost the opposite power situation. The the head of state is the president and has basically all the power. The speaker of the house is like the leader of the parliament and does not have a ton of power.

I am pretty sure there are countries where the power is more balanced. Germany I think is sort of like this. Anybody know how this works in Ireland?

In any case there should be a leader of the parliament and it is likely best that they form the governing body. The Westminster system where there is a person like the Gov Gen to make sure the Government does their job is a pretty good system. The issues is that the Gov Gen is not often elected. So my suggestion would be to add an election by the Parliament to get a PM. And an election by citizens to get a Gov Gen to make sure they are not corrupt.

I said the head of government. The queen of England is your head of state and your prime minister is your head of government. In presidential systems the president is the head of government and in prime minister systems the prime minister is the head of government (though some countries like France make things more complicated by having both a president and a prime minister).

On the other-hand, in presidential systems the president is both the head of state and the head of government. As for parliaments that don’t have a monarch, I think this is the case as well where someone is the head of state and the head of government.

Yea that’s sort of my point. Should the head of the representatives be the head of the government or the head of the state? I do not think a directly elected head of government is a good idea because it is sure to result in demagoguery. Filtering it through parliamentary elections seems a good way to go.

Germany is an interesting example since it is a presidential system but the chancellor runs the government not the president.

Anyway, we are getting a little off topic. I was more interested in a better way to find the leader of the parliament/house independent of what role they fill. Seems the leader of the biggest faction/coalition is dumb particularly because of the situation we are seeing in Ireland. What would they do if there was a three way tie. Wait for them to negotiate? There have been situations where that has taken years.

Maybe “a month after election day, take a vote and allow the largest coalition to take over, breaking ties based on which coalitions represent more voters (i.e. when adding up the votes from the original election, though each coalition may have an equal number of seats, one is very likely to have gotten slightly more votes overall).
Then, if a majority vote for a different coalition to take over at any point, such a coalition wins. If a plurality vote for a different coalition, then that same plurality must vote for that different coalition once a month 3 months in a row in order to trigger a change.” In general, once the largest coalition is seated in a 3-way tie, it seems it’d be very difficult for enough support to be developed for 3 months straight to switch to any one particular other coalition, since the politicians would likely take a lot of flak over whomever they try to commit to working with over that time period. This idea works pretty much the same with Approval rather than FPTP as the base method.

Also, it’d be interesting if the voters could vote for someone who then decides which coalition will rule; it seems disappointing that voters have few opportunities to make their voice heard on which coalitions are acceptable to them. Or if the ballots could be analyzed to determine the most satisfying coalitions based on voter preferences between the various parties somehow.

I would think that if we changed the process of government formation to something like the alternative described here, then candidates would not longer be endorsed by parties. The better strategy would be to talk about who you would endorse for PM if you and they are elected. Voters would then base their candidate vote on who each candidate would endorse for PM. This would make something like asset voting naturally evolve out of the system with no specified formality. Not having to specify a particular implementation of asset voting and letting it come out naturally is much more democratic. This also greatly reduces the need for parties. They will still exists as it is human nature to be tribal but they would not be a deeply embedded in the process. I would actually expect that over time it would become less and less likely that the leaders of parties would be elected PM. The leaders of parties are by definition partisan. Members who split the difference between two party’s ideologies would be more viable for PM. This would drive compromise and unity.

I’m not sure I really agree with the idea that within an elected parliament there should be a majority government that gets to make all the decisions. Where is the logic in “OK, we have now elected parliament, now let’s find out within that which up to 49% of that we get to shut out”?

I think it would be better if parliament vote among themselves for the cabinet positions, including Prime Minister, and there could be some form of PR within that. So we then have the body that proposes the legislation to be voted on by the whole of parliament. And for each piece of legislation, it’s then in their interests to find something that over 50% of parliament will vote for. And it doesn’t have to be the same >50% every time - the “government”, whether single-party or coalition.

I mostly agree but the government does not make all the decisions. All bills are voted on by the whole parliament. I think there is need for an Opposition as much as there is need for a government. Checks and balances are good. There is also good reason for the PM to choose a cabinet which will support them. Read this.

In Israel if no one can form a majority then they hold a new election. It’s not working very well. They held elections in April 2019, then September 2019 after no one got a majority. The new election only made it harder for a majority coalition to form. Now they’re holding a third election in March.

In Ireland the major parties have a disincentive to avoid holding new elections: the Sinn Féin gains in this election were limited by the fact that they didn’t run many candidates. They will be able to run more candidates and thus gain more seats if another election is held soon. However, if no one can get a majority, they would have to hold another election.

How would votes of no confidence work with an approval vote-selected prime minister? If no PM candidate can win majority approval, then they may not be able to win a confidence vote, either.

Personally, I would have each MP make an official list the PM candidates whom they would support. The PM is whoever is included on the most lists at the end of some day before the opening of Parliament. The government/confidence and supply partners consist of those MPs who support the PM. The Leader of the Opposition is the candidate on the most lists that do not support the PM. The lists can be updated after a PM has been selected, and if another candidate for PM winds up getting more support, then at the end of the day, that candidate takes over, and a new government forms consisting of that PM’s supporters. (There may need to be some sort of waiting period to allow MPs who are unaware of the impending change to update their lists before this happens.) For early elections: each MP also records whether they would support holding new elections, and if a majority (or perhaps some sort of supermajority early in the session, because going to the polls every 6 months and getting the same outcome over and over like Israel is doing is silly) is recorded as in favor at the end of the day, then the matter is put to a floor vote at the beginning of the next day.

I do not see why this is different than now. Canada has a minority government and most of the parliament does not have confidence in Trudeau. There are good reason not to force a new election. The first being that it will likely not really change much. The second being that if it does change the incumbent government has the advantage of being able to say that the parties which voted them into a new election are wasting time and money.

How is that different from just asking for a vote on some day. It should be an open vote so people know who each MP voted for. I wonder if the game theoretic results for people having to show eachother before the vote would be a net positive. My guess is that it would encourage strategy.

I would have a second vote. A vote would not really cost anything.

In any case we broadly agree that a system like this would be way better than the current system. How do we start advocacy for this?