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How a minor change to the electoral system could stop Farage’s party from topping the polls in next year’s Euro elections?

July 25th, 2013

Simply switch from the closed to an open list voting system

There’s an intriguing move developing that could lead to a change in the way the EU elections are carried out resulting in an electoral system that’s less UKIP friendly.

A report just out from the LSE for the Electoral Reform Society suggests that UKIP’s chances in next year’s EU elections could be seriously undermined if an “open list” voting system was used rather than, as at the moment, the “closed list” one.

The headline numbers from the document are in the chart above showing how such a change would benefit the Tories most at the expense of Farage’s party.

The essential difference between the two approaches is that voters select individual candidates to vote for rather than simply allocating their vote to a party list which was introduced by Labour for the 1999 Euro elections.

Using a sample of 8,000 the LSE team worked with YouGov to test out the impact of the two systems. The detail of their methodology can be found here which is well worth looking at.

This is the report’s conclusion:-

“..Our experiment shows that if the electoral system for the European elections in Britain allowed for within-party competition, support for UKIP would decrease, and the overall vote share for the Conservative party would increase. The magnitude of this effect is large, and would have real consequences for the distribution of British seats in the European Parliament.

Thinking more broadly, there are two reasons to expect voting behaviour to differ under different ballot types. First, open-ballots encourage candidates to compete for votes by increasing their constituency work, delivering infrastructure projects, and building a strong local profile. This is because candidates are aware that through these activities they can build their own ‘personal vote’ on the open-list, which improves their election prospects vis-à-vis their co-partisans. The incentives to do this are much lower in the closed-list system (where no personal vote is possible), and we should therefore expect different voting outcomes to the extent that candidates engage in such activities. This phenomenon has been widely studied in the political science literature..”

The Open-list systems is used in EU Parliament elections in 18 of the 28 member nations and it is being said that a change could be brought in for the 2014 elections if the coalition wanted.

    On the face of it voting for individuals rather than just a party appears more democratic and would make individual MEPs more accountable.

Would the government bring in such a change? Hard to say but based on this research it has attractions for all three main parties.

If it happened then my 10/1 bet that the Tories will win most votes would look like a possible winner.

Mike Smithson

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