MMP's fatal weakness


As I’ve explained before, this is my biggest concern with the MMP system: that enough strategic voters can break the internal mechanism that keep MMP proportional, distorting the election results and forcing voters on the opposite side of the political spectrum to counteract by also voting strategically until the electoral system just devolves into parallel voting.

After that election, Albania repealed MMP and just switched over to party lists:


Ugg they went back to party list… literally the worst possible system.


Is there ANY way that we could potentially make Asset Voting a marketable solution to PR problems? Right now it seems like STV/IRV are way ahead in the race, with single-winner stuff like Approval/Score/STAR struggling to catch up.


I would chose party list over FPTP any day of the week.

That is unless you are talking about Brazil’s version of PR (see their chamber of deputies here) where forming a coalition requires bribing (I know that not everyone here is a fan of TYT/no filter but they did a pretty good job summing up the current crisis in Brazil) 14 different political parties ranging from the far right to the far left to join your coalition.

On the other hand, (with the exception of sometimes New Zealand which uses MMP) all the countries that consistently rank the highest on the democracy index, happiness index, press freedom index, corruption perception index, or just about any index that you can think of use party list PR (and for the Canadians among us @Keith_Edmonds, Canada also ranks above the US in every one, so there’s that as well). Though you could also attribute this to the fact that there are a lot more party list PR countries then FPTP countries, or argue that it is a result of all the countries at the top of those lists being relatively left leaning and left leaning countries are more likely to use PR, etc.

My personal opinion is that unless your version of PR requires on average more then 5-10 (the tipping point is probably somewhere in this range) different parties to work together to form a government (or your at the the other extreme where one party keeps winning supper-majorities but if you have this problem, FPTP would probably just exacerbate this issue), party list PR is a much better alternative to FPTP.

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I would even put single member plurality (ie FPTP) ahead of MMP.

I understand your reasoning but I think it is wrong. I will try to explain why. The goal of representation is to select members of parliament which have a representative set of political goals to the population. A sortition would do this but we also want competent people not random people. The goals of a person can be basically divided into two types regional and ideological. Party List tries to cover the ideological issues exactly and totally ignores regional. I tend to think the regional ones are actually more important but that is due to my individualist disposition. There is also a good case for why decentralization is a good idea for government in general. A Party list system not only ignores all this but it tends to strengthen the partisanship and ideological uniformity inside parties. This is due to the fact that people are only voting for parties not candidates. The parties choose which candidates can run and act as gate keepers. The whipping becomes more powerful and the candidates become more ideologically similar. This means that moderates and minorities do not get their ideological representation. Many good candidates are left out of the conversation if they can’t form their own party. This means that individualists get left out of both the candidate and voter representation representation leading to a more authoritarian government, independent of ideology.

On the other hand SMP has “maximal” regional representation and some degree of proportional representation. It tends to form big tent parties since the candidates have a fair bit of power. Good candidates who are well known in their communities are picked up by parties. Unlike in Party List where many candidates are from the capital and have a history with the party. This means that in the end SMP leads to better representation than Party List if regionality is at all important. It clearly is in huge countries like Canada but might not be the case in places like Israel it might not be so clear.

Another issue is also that of accountability. If you are only voting for a party then who do you petition when you have an issue? In short I think you are thinking from a too abstract and partisan view point. Most people do not have an ideological view point consistent with any parties platform

The best argument for high proportional representation does not come from an argument for good representation of the citizens. It really comes form the imbalance of power created when a government is formed. In SMP you often end up with the larges party ruling without a majority of seats or popular vote. To me this is more of an issue with government formation. You know I have ideas about good systems with high PR but I would not really flavor a push for such a system. A good single member system like score with better government formation would get us just as far with less complicated voting. I have invented a system of consensus government formation which works for this. Government formation needs reform too. Look into this issue. Happy to share a longer explanation of all this if you email me.

As to your point about more countries using party list than SMP. This is not really a proof of advancement. It is largely due to historical reason and beyond that mostly attributable to partisanship.


Aren’t the methods used for Party List PR the same as plurality in the single winner case? Since you could have party list PR in multimember districts, for a fixed chamber size, there is a spectrum of “regional representation” and “proportional representation” where the former gets finer the smaller the districts get, and the opposite is true for the latter. Would you always choose smaller districts over finer proportionality, or would the best result likely be between nationwide PR and FPTP?


No but it is a useful analogy for understanding the interplay between regional and partisan representation. First lets sort out some semantics. This is the center for election science so lets be scientific and not use terms invented to be pejorative. “First Past the Post” is not a good description of the system. There is no post and there is no concept of first since it is not the first person to get some number of votes. It is the person who gets the msot votes after everything is counted so maybe “Most votes wins”. Anyway, the election science term is Single Member Plurality so lets use it. Rant done

OK so yes there is some case to be made for Single Member Plurality (SMP) being very similar to Single Member Party List (SMPL). There is however one huge distinction that comes with partisan voting which I got into in my previous post. This is about the direction of of the flow of power. Presumably in SMPL each party would assign a person to each district. They would be more likely to just be some party adherent and as such all be from the geographical center of power for each party. Presumably the capital of the country. In SMP this still happens but it is very rare. In most cases the candidate is a popular person from the district and they choose a party. There is also the related problem of how partisan voting tends to lead to much more ideologically uniform parties leaving large gaps of unrepresented people in the inter-party void. If ignore these complication for the sake of the argument then SMP and SMPL are basically the same.

Then we need to talk about how the size of the districts really only sets a lower bound on the proportional representation. SMP can result in perfect proportional representation but typically gets a moderate amount. So as you increase the number of candidates per district you are lowering regional representation but typically not effectively increasing Proportional Representation until you get above 3. Once you get to the other end with the whole parliament being elects from one district there will be no regional representation. So you are going from Moderate PR and perfect regional to Perfect PR and No regional. Not a flip.

I mentioned before the big lie of Proportional Representation in party list systems is that it assumes that most people are ideologically aligned with some party. This is not true for 99% of the population. It would be better to use a term like Partisan Representation since it is not really clear how much ideological representation is achieved for a given level of Proportional Representation. For example my Ideological Position is that of a Classical Liberal. I have no party with these values in Canada. Each party has some but many values are not represented in any party. So even if I had the ability to totally rig a Party List election I would not be ideologically satisfied.

We when we go to full PR with one big district we are likely still not doing great in terms of ideological representation even though Partisan Representation is exact. But then what is more important Regional or Partisan representation. I would argue that Regional is likely more important but even if it is 50/50 it looks like a loosing game to increase district size at all.

I would argue that this works if you start with Single Member Score and try to move in the direction of multi-member districts in a way that preserves all the nice properties of score. This is exactly what I did when designing my Local Hare Score system I did this by taking a score approach similar to Single Transferable Vote since I knew partisan voting is bad. If you start with SMP you are starting with a bad single member system so how would turning that into a multi-member system make it much better? Especially if you resort to partisan voting to ensure high proportional representation.

I think the issues your are bringing up stem from the same issue as @parker_friedland. You are thinking about it as a closed mathematical system with a fixed set of axioms. In this world you are totally right but the system is much larger and more complicated. You need to take into account the dynamics of many other parts of the electoral system. I hope that I have made some of them more clear.


describes Approval, and in a sense IRV as well. Use “Choose one voting”.

I would argue that the US uses a “non-partisan” election method, yet parties are practically the only thing that matter when it comes to having majority support for a bill.

If there were a truly competitive multi-party system, then anyone in any particular area of the void could just start a new party.

But the problem is, if they use gerrymandering, Proportional Representation is shattered and Local Representation is also messed up. It’s much harder to gerrymander 5-districts than 1-districts.

Of course, by this logic, anything short of Direct Democracy has no PR. With a reasonably sized legislature (i.e. under 1000), there will be more possible viewpoints than seats in the legislature. Someone has to give.

This is a great idea. However, my reform model for the US uses Asset voting to elect the House and Score or STAR for the Senate and presidency.


I am not talking about how partisan the system is. SMP is 100% non-partisan in implementation but parties play a huge role. I am talking about how the selection of the candidates is done.

Why do we need to force it through the mechanism of a party? The idea of a representative democracy is to be represented by people not parties. Lets make a good version of a representative system.

Gerrymandering can be easily solved in ways other than election methods.

Nether Partisan Representation or Ideological Representation is thought of as binary. These are metrics. Getting good ideological representation would be equivalent to getting a typical value of a sortition. The parliament should be a fair down-sampling of the population. Another way to think of it is to try to minimize the distance in ideological space between each voter and their closest candidate. I doubt that the ideological space is a Hilbert Space so no distance measure could be made but I am sure you get my meaning.

This is what we are doing in the Wolf Comittee. Hopefully we will have some results soon.

I do not think Asset is viable for a number of reasons which have been expressed elsewhere on this forum.


OK, then a really good system would allow independents to win.

Anything other than IRV and Score/STAR/Approval is unviable because FailVote consumed the entire voting reform debate into one horrible system and then convinced RepresentUs to adopt that horrible system… and RepUs grew rapidly.


Yes, I would make this a requirement for any system to be able to claim representation.

#13 likes IRV, but also says

But we also encourage folks to pursue systems that you think would work best for your community!

They’re not unreasonable, from what I’ve experienced, just misinformed.

(And many of the people advocating for better systems are just… really bad at advocacy. I do my best to sound like a reasonable person when interacting with them, but I’m not great at it, either.)


I’m not sure all MMP systems are equally bad though. The subject also came up in the old Google Group when Warren Smith was asking for suggestions as to what Canada should do with their electoral system, and I gave my answer here:!msg/electionscience/aP7ybKMb1zs/giaYAh6wAwAJ It is an MMP system that uses score voting. There is also a video on it here: but I might do a more concise version.