Canadians: Do you vote for a party or a candidate?
January 21, 2006 10:57 AM   Subscribe

Dear Canadians, Brits, and other citizens of parliamentary democracies: Inspired by this comment, how important is party affiliation to your vote? In other words, how much of an asshat does your party's parliamentary candidate have to be to force you to switch sides in an election?

Here in the US, personal identity and philosophy of a Congressional candidate is far more important to the average voter than his or her party affiliation. This helps explain, for example, why Democrats from Nebraska and Republicans from Rhode Island are elected to the U.S. Senate, despite being heavily "red" and "blue" respectively in presidential elections.

Given that the executive functions of the country are, in parliamentary systems, entirely concentrated in the hands of the majority party or coalition, you'd expect to see straight party-line voting in all but the most extreme cases. If you, say, vote for a Conservative candidate but expect (or hope) that the Liberals retain power in Parliament, are you banking on more helpful or efficient constituent service? Or do you expect that your candidate will offer a balancing influence on the majority rule? Or are you merely opposed to the idea of casting your vote for someone you find represhensible?
posted by Saucy Intruder to Law & Government (40 answers total)
I'm in the UK.

I was raised as, and am proud to be, a socialist. I was in the Labour Party until the day that Blair became leader. I left the party because it was obvious that any and all socialist values were going to purged in a bid for power simply for the sake of power. Since then, I've voted Liberal Democrat.

However, since the recent antics of the LibDems, and the back-stabbing of their leader, Charles Kennedy, by his Parliamentary colleagues, I'd never give them my vote. So, effectively, I've been disenfrancised.

There's no way that I'd ever vote Conservative. No matter how they try to repackage themselves, they'll always represent the landed gentry, and a class system that should have disappeared forever a century ago.
posted by mad judge pickles at 11:06 AM on January 21, 2006

In my experience in Canada and the UK, people almost always vote by party. The only time that individual candidates become a big issue, for most people, is when they really are an asshat. Most MPs aren't high-profile enough to let you have a strong fix on their identity, or their degree of asshattery, but you often hear about people voting against Cabinet ministers, regardless of party affiliation, or of people in the midst of some kind of scandal (obv.). The recent spate of votes on issues like gay marriage and pot (or the upcoming debate over copyright) have resulted in similar voting-for-the-person.

Sometimes people will know candidates personally, or talk about whether or not they're really going to bat for their constituencies, but to be honest the vast majority of people don't give a hoot. Backbench federal politicians really don't seem to impact the ridings where they live very much.
posted by Marquis at 11:15 AM on January 21, 2006

I'm not going to cite this, so don't ask me to, but it's true none-the-less.

Research shows that in the USA people, on average, tend to vote for the candiate they like best. Sometimes this is after reviewing everyone's policy, sometimes just based on family norms, but they are making a positive choice.

In Canada, on the other hand, people, on average, vote for the party they dislike the least. So they go though eliminating their dislikes until they're left with one party remaining. In Canada at least, this means people are usually voting along party lines with almost no regard to the name/actions of the local candiate. It is very rare to see more than 30% of a local election campaign focus on individual candiates records or actions. In parlimentary democracies the parties tend to live or die by the actions of their leaders (and vice versa - you loose 1-2 elections and you're replaced as party leader.)


It's important to bear in mind that individual MPs are MUCH less powerful than Congresspeople are, and can and will be kicked out of the party for as little as one single vote against party line. I see MPs get away with this more often in the UK (but they have a larger number overall and thus usually a larger majority). In Canada if you vote against the gov't you can expect the party whip to cut your reserach funding, bump you from committees, or possibly have the leader kick you right out, which costs you a lot in terms of staff budget and access to resources.


In other good news, you find a lot less "reprehensible" characters in Canadian politics, although there are a few. There's a large % of the Canadian population who will happyily vote Tory or Liberal depending on the weather, or more particularly, on who's in power now and how they've been doing recently. Canadian's like to swtich governments once in a while whether it's needed or not.
posted by tiamat at 11:15 AM on January 21, 2006

In Canada, on the other hand, people, on average, vote for the party they dislike the least.

Funny; my day planner says exactly that for Monday.

I don't know the first thing about UK government, but in Canada, I find our multi-party system to have at least one advantage to the United States': I find it easier to vote for the least of several evils than the lesser of two.
posted by S.C. at 11:25 AM on January 21, 2006

Yeah. I'm a Brit who has been a political animal all my life, and a Lib Dem voter since I was 18. I grew up politically in the 80s, when it was de rigeur to depise Tories (and I find it difficult still to imagine voting for them. However, I don't now consider it impossible).

The thing to remember is that any party is essentially a coaltion of sorts: the party which holds Blair also holds Ken Livingstone (and recently held George Galloway). The same wide differential will be found in the Tories, and the Liberals. Indeed, I would guess that you will find some Tories who challenge Blair from the left, and some Labourites that challenge the new Tory leader from the right. It's like definitions of race, inasmuch as you'll find a broader range of difference within (so-called) races, than between different (so-called) races.

Having said that: am I a strictly party line man? I vote Lib Dem in national elections, green in local elections (we have a decent represetation in the city council here). Both are keen on proportional representation, which was the key issue for me as a teenager (political nerd, was I). I may have been seduced by Blair prior to 1997, when he was making noises about constitutional reform & PR. But then he basically lied, betrayed the Lib Dems and failed to bring in PR. I do not expect this cycle ofseduction to change, and so I will never vote Labour (his deceit over Iraq and licking the grufties off Dubya's hindquarters has not served to change my opinion of him).

So what do I do when I get disillusioned with the Lib Dems? I guess I'll be in the rather unrealistic position of deciding between the Greens & the Tories. And I don't think the Tories will ever produce a platform that's attractive to the gay, liberal son of immigrants.

But I could be wrong.
Er, yeah, party is important, the Whips Office makes sure of that. But it ain't the be-all & end-all.
posted by dash_slot- at 11:32 AM on January 21, 2006

As an Indian, I'd vote for whomever I dislike the least too. I just want what's best for the country & the city (Mumbai), so I'd vote for whomever annoys me the least.
posted by riffola at 11:32 AM on January 21, 2006

I too have heard it said that Canadians, unlike Americans, don't vote for a party or candidate, they vote against one. A prime example was when BC voted in Gordon Campbell and the BC Liberals in 2001, giving them 77 of 79 seats. We weren't really voting in the BC Liberals, we were just voting out the NDP. And now we're paying the price.

Personally, I guess I am a typical Canadian. Usually, I am voting for a party, unless I explicitly dislike the local candidate. For this election, I explicitly dislike a particular party leader, so I'm voting against him. There really aren't a lot of choices in this country (albeit more than the US has), so once you know you you are NOT voting for, you pretty much know who you are giving your vote.
posted by cgg at 11:44 AM on January 21, 2006

For a certain sector of the population -- i.e. the kind of people posting here -- the advent of WriteToThem (formerly Fax Your MP) and TheyWorkForYou has really helped understand what an MP does and says once he/she goes to Westminster. My old MP has been a Blair lickspittle, in spite of early suggestions that he'd show more independence.

Yes, most people vote by party: the old line about voting for a dog with a red rosette certainly applies in much of my native north-east. But many are now more aware of what they end up getting. (There's no primary system in the UK; you get who the local party -- or national party, oftentimes -- deems worthy.)

There are some geographical variations: a suburban Tory is likely to be more ideological (i.e Thatcherite) than a 'knight of the shires', and while you might not vote for Sir Bufton Tufton if you live in rural Norfolk, you might not feel too bad about having him as your MP.

And yes, in the absence of proportional representation, tactical voting plays a significant part in parliamentary elections.
posted by holgate at 11:45 AM on January 21, 2006

Here in the US, personal identity and philosophy of a Congressional candidate is far more important to the average voter than his or her party affiliation.

By "average voter" you mean "me and my friends." Virtually my entire family consists of yellow-dog Democrats who would leap into a lake of fire before voting Republican, and there are a lot of people like that (on both sides) in these United States. Don't make shit up.
posted by languagehat at 11:45 AM on January 21, 2006

you'd expect to see straight party-line voting

Your premise is based on the assumption of a single-member plurality voting system, which is quite a rare method of elections except in the US and Britain (for Westminster elections, and not for the devolved Scot/N Irish/Welsh governments). It is relatively common in ex-British colonies. The constraints of pkurality voting systems seems to lead to "tactical voting" behaviour where the same pressures are not present in voting systems that enable multiple simultaneous votes or multi-seat constituencies.

In an STV or PR system, you do not get a single vote but can vote pretty much as many (or as few) times as you want for a swathe of candidates, and rely on the ranking scoring system coupled with quota calculations to apportion your voting preferences accordingly.

It's therefore possible for people to be able to actively support two or more parties or platforms at the same time. Of course, some parties become quite adept at local vote management schemes in order to funnel the correct number of preference votes to specific candidates or coalitions. Ireland's Fianna Fail party has recently enjoyed a noted consistent ability to score seats in excess of their voting represention using precise vote management and number crunching.
posted by meehawl at 11:52 AM on January 21, 2006

There's also the party list PR system, of course, where parties get to allocate members based on a single count of all national votes. Israel and some EU election use this. Not one of my favourite election systems.
posted by meehawl at 11:55 AM on January 21, 2006

Response by poster: Languagehat, you're wrong. Scroll to the bottom:

Majorities in parties have voted across party lines at some point, but more Republicans say they have voted for Democratic candidates than vice versa. Among Republicans, 22% remain loyal while 71% say they vote across party lines. By comparison, 38% of Democrats say they are loyal in their vote, while 56% sometimes cross party lines.

Among registered voters, there are 32% Republicans, 35% Democrats, and 25% independents. Thus, only (.32 * .22) = 7% of the voting public are Republican loyalists, and (.35 * .38) = 13% are Democratic loyalists, meaning that you can make an accurate prediction based on party affiliation for only 1 in 5 voters.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 12:05 PM on January 21, 2006

UK voter here - someone might disagree with me but in my opinion most people know very little about their MPs other than party affiliation and what position they took on one or two high profile local issues.

For my part, I'll stick to voting Labour so long as the candidate doesn't have any glaring ethical issues and has a reasonable record of turning up to Commons votes (if they are a sitting MP). The only other thing that might change my mind would be if one of my personal heroes stood for one of the other parties or as an independent.
posted by teleskiving at 12:07 PM on January 21, 2006

I've voted by candidate, not party, for the past five or six years (including two UK General elections). And I'm fiercly tribal by nature and instinct - a born and bred Labour supporter, genetically Labour, the sort of person who still stands by reflex if they hear the strains of The Red Flag.

Obviously, the Blair government's rightward shift was the initial catalyst for me abandoning party affiliation, but I wouldn't say that I feel disenfranchised or alienated. In a sense, it's actually quite liberating. For one thing, it's made me appreciate that the differences between candidates within a party are often greater than the differences between some parties. Over the past few elections, I've voted Labour, Liberal Democrat and Green - based on a combination of policy, personal qualities and the context of the constituency.

Essentially, what it's made me do is go back to the essentials of our electoral system - I'm voting for one individual to represent me in Parliament, and nothing else.
posted by flashboy at 12:07 PM on January 21, 2006

Speaking as a Canuck and only for myself, I dislike all political parties and think they are the worst creation of the democratic world.

I hate to say it but I guess I am somewhat of a strategic voter, atleast this election. I tend to view all right of centre parties as being the same and usually vote for the candidate that I happen to think will do the best for my riding, often ignoring any party affiliation.

But in this election I happen to be very afraid of one party leader and the religious nuts he believe he is beholden to so I will probably vote for the candidate that has the best chance of winning and is not from the that party.
posted by Razzle Bathbone at 12:23 PM on January 21, 2006

My view is virtually identical to mad judge pickles (great name, btw).

My local MP is a Conservative, and, although she is a pretty good constituency MP, I would rather cut off my hand in the polling booth than mark an 'x' for the Tories.

My local councillors are LibDems, but I don't know if I'd vote for them again. They are pusillanimous.

I had high hopes for Blair's first Government but it soon became apparent that he was just another self-serving megalomaniac, disguising Tory policies under the banner of New Labour.

Totally disillusioned.
posted by essexjan at 1:05 PM on January 21, 2006

Australia has preferential voting, which changes things a bit (as meehawl said above). Though I won't get to vote here til the next election, my understanding is that your options are either to A) "give" you votes up to the party you nominate to disperse as they see fit, or B) individually rank every person running for a seat. This can mean ranking literally dozens of people, which is a major pain and that's why most folks just do A. Unless you're like my husband and you take great pride in carefully ranking 73 candidates just so you can put the person whose politics you hate the most dead last.
posted by web-goddess at 1:31 PM on January 21, 2006

I'm Canadian born, and I've seen little party loyalty during my lifetime. People vote for the leader they like best, or failing that the leader they dislike the least, or failing that if there's someone they are really against, for the leader who has the best chance of winning.

This last option is what's going to happen this election. The majority of socially liberal and populous central Canada hates Stephen Harper and his gang of rednecks, and will vote Liberal, which will give Martin a minority government again.
posted by orange swan at 1:42 PM on January 21, 2006

A prime example was when BC voted in Gordon Campbell and the BC Liberals in 2001, giving them 77 of 79 seats. We weren't really voting in the BC Liberals, we were just voting out the NDP.

[beats head against wall] God, I hope we all learned our lesson from that particular debacle. If we vote that lying SOB into power again, I'm gonna... well, weep, I suppose, 'cause I doubt I'm gonna get up the gumption to kill him.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:46 PM on January 21, 2006

I live in Scotland and would never under any circumstance vote Tory, no matter how lovely the candidate's personality. To paraphrase Jules in Pulp Fiction, we'd have to be talking about one charming motherfecking Tory here. They'd have to be ten times more charming than that Boris Johnson on 'Have I Got News for You!' before I'd vote for them.

However amongst leftwing parties where I've less policy disagreements it would make a difference to me if a candidate was objectionable - a sexist or anti-gay or simply a nasty piece of work. There are about four left-wing Scottish parties I could vote for without too much trouble and I sometimes do base my vote on the strengths of the candidate.
posted by Flitcraft at 1:50 PM on January 21, 2006

This last option is what's going to happen this election. The majority of socially liberal and populous central Canada hates Stephen Harper and his gang of rednecks, and will vote Liberal, which will give Martin a minority government again.

I'm voting Liberal, but they don't have a hope in hell of forming the next government. No chance at all.
posted by solid-one-love at 2:05 PM on January 21, 2006

Just spoke to my Australian husband, who clarified that the "party dispersing your preferences" thing really only happens at the federal level, since there are so many candidates there. At the local level you have to rank everybody. With regards to the asshat issue, he says that he's never voted against a party he wanted to win because the candidate was an asshat, but he has voted for parties that he wouldn't normally consider because the candidate was a "really top bloke."
posted by web-goddess at 2:06 PM on January 21, 2006

One thing to add: the views or behaviour of a particular candidate or sitting MP from a party you generally support may make the difference between going out to vote and staying at home, but it's rare (i.e. Neil Hamilton rare) that it will get you to switch.
posted by holgate at 2:30 PM on January 21, 2006

Canuckistani here too. I am influenced by party, definitely, but generally for for the candidate that will do the best job in the riding I'm in---which is why I hate the idea of list-based PR so much. I've voted for the three major parties, but tend to vote NDP most of the time.

I have voted "strategically" in the past, that is, vote for a party I don't particularly like to force out a particularly bad member from a party I generally favour. As I say, candidates are more important to me than party affiliation.
posted by bonehead at 2:31 PM on January 21, 2006

Well, I am a Tory - a risky thing to admit in this thread I suspect... Nonetheless I have nearly always voted party before persom - if for no other reason than parties cam achieve things, individual MPs or councillors rarely can on their own.

Look at Wyre Forest Constituency where a local doctor was successfully elected on a campaign to save the A&E dept at nearby Kidderminster hospital - which didn't really succeed. A very successful local campaignn or excellent candidate != changing anything. A party is much better able to.

So - I guess I'll vote tory in most cases - inless the candidate is a real asshat.
posted by prentiz at 3:07 PM on January 21, 2006

In the British system, people really do have to be asshats. But it does happen.

One famous example was in 1997. Tory MP Neil Hamilton had been accused of taking cash for asking questions in the House of Commons. He sued but dropped the case at the last minute - everyone hence assuming he was guilty after all.

Despite this he decided to run again for Parliament in the general election.

There was then this big hunt for someone to try and get him kicked out. This was tricky as he was in something like the third safest Tory seat in the country. An ex-BBC journalist called Martin Bell was found to run against him. Bell was uber-clean - morally and sartorially (he wore a white suit) and everyone liked him. He won.

On the other hand, George Galloway (a total tool if ever there was one) managed to kick out the perfectly nice Labour MP, Oona King, in Bethnal Green by running on a bizarre anti-war ticket. Galloway had been previously been slung out of the Labour party for his views - his support for Saddam was such that he was dubbed the MP for Baghdad Central. Famously he saluted Saddam's "indefatigability".

So people generally do vote for the party not the wo/man. But sometimes they don't. It doesn't make much difference but at least it makes elections marginally more interesting.
posted by TrashyRambo at 3:44 PM on January 21, 2006

(Australian here). Just wading into the debate over loyalty patterns in U.S. voting, remember that the big difference between the U.S. and the UK/Aust/Canadian(?) model are the off-year congressional elections, divorced from the Presidential campaign.

Australian federal campaigns, though they might be for the election of a parliament, are almost entirely presidential in nature -- the leaders of the parliamentary parties are the only ones on T.V., and public perception of the leader goes a long way to determining a person's voting choice. When I was in the UK last year for their election, my perception was of an election fought on very similar lines. (I don't know about Canada.) The point that there's often very little focus put on local candidates.

What Australian/UK voters miss out on is that opportunity provided by the U.S. off-year elections -- to have an election campaign where the local candidate is the issue. This might go some way to explain why party loyalty is diminished in the U.S. relative to other parliamentary democracies. Place the public and the media's focus on the local candidate and the voter may feel it necessary to make a personal assessment of the candidate, divorced from their party's platform.

I'd also put on my psephologist hat here and say on those rare opportunities that Australian voters have had to vote at federal level on their local candidate, outside of the regular nation-wide election campaign schedule (i.e. by-elections following the death/retirement of their local member), they have exhibited some remarkable breaks from the trend, usually in the form of a "protest" vote against the incumbent government.

e.g. Voters in the electorate of Higglesthorp, who always vote an X party candidate in, will suddenly switch in droves to the Y party's candidate in a by-election. They will do this as a protest against the X party's policy on widget subsidies and in full knowledge that their protest will not result in the X party losing its parliamentary majority. Then, at the next federal election, the X party will announce $20 bajillion dollars allocated to widget subsidies, and the loyal voters of Higglesthorp will return to the fold (or alternatively, the X party won't announce anything regarding widget subsidies, knowing full well that the voters of Higglesthorp couldn't countenance a Y government.)

According to this research paper by the Parliamentary Library, in the 141 by-elections held since Federation (1901):

# On 34 occasions (24.1 per cent) the party complexion of a seat has altered at a by-election (i.e. the incumbent party lost).
# Twenty-four of these (17.0 per cent) have been in seats lost by the government of the day.
# The average two-party preferred swing against the government of the day has been 4.0 per cent, while the average swing in government-held seats was 5.0 per cent against the government.

So the outcome appears to be that if you give the electorate the opportunity to have a risk-free shot at their incumbent, they will often grab it with both hands.
posted by bright cold day at 4:03 PM on January 21, 2006

I change ridings so much (because I move so frequently) that I rarely consider the local candidate. My main concerns are federal issues, and for the vast majority of issues (recent exception being same sex marriage) MPs are bound to vote with their party. Thus, I definitely vote party lines.
Now, depending on the election I may vote *for* a party, or be voting strategically *against* one. For this election, the idea of a Tory majority scares the hell out of me, so I am in a sense voting against them. It works out though, because I am generally an NDPer , and they will almost certainly win my riding regardless.
posted by aclevername at 4:11 PM on January 21, 2006

This might go some way to explain why party loyalty is diminished in the U.S. relative to other parliamentary democracies

That's probably a part, but I'd think that the bulk of that is simply due to the legally-enforced weakness of American parties. American parties-as-organizations have very little control over who uses their party labels.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 4:42 PM on January 21, 2006

All three (party platform, local candidate, party leader...pretty much in that order).
posted by Kickstart70 at 5:49 PM on January 21, 2006

languagehat, maybe you need to spend less time with your friends and family. Have you been paying attention to your own state? Massachusetts hasn't had a Republican senator in more than 25 years, nor a Republican Representative in nearly 10, yet has had Republican governors for the last 15. Quit making shit up.
posted by TimeFactor at 6:10 PM on January 21, 2006

To add to what the other Aussies have said, Australian party discipline is strict. Crossing the floor is extremely rare. So really, you have to vote for the party. For the senate (and legislative council in state elections), you can indicate a preference between the potential senators within the party of your choice - though I rarely do. While this may seem to suck a bit compared to a system where voting for particular parliamentarians on the basis of their individual views, the obvious deficiencies of first-past-the-post voting mean that I'm far happier with this system than, say, that of the UK or US where there seems to be very little point in voting for anything but one of the big (and, to my mind, near indistinguishable) two.
posted by pompomtom at 8:50 PM on January 21, 2006

Diito from an Aussie. I'm constantly amazed (and fairly impressed) by the "bipartisanship" you see in US politics - you never hear the word here. Labor is Labor. Liberal is Liberal. Green is Green. Never the twain shall meet. Independent candidates can get ahead based on their personality, but apart from that, people generally vote for a candidate based on what they think of their party, and what they think of their party's leader.
posted by Jimbob at 10:24 PM on January 21, 2006

Jim, do they have to form coalitions tho to govern? or can they just stay separate? (and our bipartisanship is a crock of shit--since Gingrich, there hasn't really been any--all you see here is, on specific limited issues only, 1 democratic and 1 republican senator/rep will get together to sponsor something like gun control or something--never for big issues)
posted by amberglow at 11:41 AM on January 22, 2006

There is the odd occasion in Canada (and probably in other parliamentary systems too), where voting specifically for a fringe/minor party such as the Greens can show as a distinct percentage of the vote moving away from mainstream parties.

Those mainstream parties, such as the Liberals, can see that - in this case, the Greens - are syphoning off hundreds of thousands, if not more, votes they might have potentially received.

Thus while the party itself may not have any more chance of getting in power, their ideology gets a slight thrust into the limelight in a way it may not have otherwise.

In addition, because percentage of votes does affect research funding, once a party gets over 2% (I believe) of the popular national vote, they get $1.75 per vote in funding. That can amount to decent research and promotional funding for an otherwise very under-resourced party.

This strategic voting is both a "for" and "against" strategy and can be effective when the mainstream parties stop to think of creating their policies - and just of Canadians' mind-sets in general.
posted by iTristan at 11:42 AM on January 22, 2006

I have no party affiliation: I vote for the person I find least reprehensible. My politics are pretty left and pretty liberal. I know enought to make distrust the default position when dealing with politicians and their parties. The type of person who seeks political power is almost invariably driven by personal ambition and ulterior motives, and the very few who aren't generally get kicked into order by the slimy majority.

Therefore I don't trust a single one of the grubby little weevils as far as I could spit. In my time I have voted for Green, Labour, Independent and Liberal Democrat candidates based solely on who seemed to be the best of the bad lot at the time. I voted for Bliar in 1997 because I could see that, finally, we might overturn the Tories, but I had to hold my nose to do it because I could also see what an egomaniacal,right-wing religious scumbag he was. Since 2001 I have voted Lib Dem. Labour will have to work extremely hard to win my vote back, because of Bliar and because of the fact that the spineless creeps of his party backed him in his war crime. And also because Lib Dem policies are now far closer to my own political position than Labour's.

So: no party affiliation, but driven by the quality of the individual and the policies of the party - as far as they can ever be believed.
posted by Decani at 12:04 PM on January 22, 2006

TimeFactor, you should have been in Massachusetts 15 years ago. John Silber, the Dem candidate for governor, was the kind of guy who'd go to the local Mexican-American Club, and give a speech against "wetbacks who come to Massachusetts to take advantage of our generous welfare", then head over to the Italian-American Club, and talk about "dagos" and make bad Mafia jokes. He was somewhere to the right of the John Birchers and rude to boot.

Folks where I lived were wandering around in shock, unable to vote for Silber, but not quite able to cope with the previously unthinkable - voting for a Republican (and an old-fashioned conservative Repub, not a neo-con).

I was raised that to vote anything but Democratic was to vote for baby-eating, union-smashing, greedy, elitist capitalist pigs, but I couldn't bear the thought of voting for Silber either.

Being a borderer, I envy my Canadian friends. They have parties on the left that even elect some MPs. I'd cheerfully cut off my right arm to vote NDP, even if Jack Layton is slimy.
posted by QIbHom at 12:05 PM on January 22, 2006

amberglow wrote: do [Australian political parties] have to form coalitions tho to govern? or can they just stay separate? (and our bipartisanship is a crock of shit--since Gingrich, there hasn't really been any--all you see here is, on specific limited issues only, 1 democratic and 1 republican senator/rep will get together to sponsor something like gun control or something--never for big issues)

Australian parties generally don't form "coalitions" -- the two-party preferred system of preferential voting generally grants a majority to someone.

The two parties generated by this system are the Labor party and the capital-C "Coalition", the latter being an enduring deal between the two parties representing rural (the National Party) and urban (the Liberal party) conservatives.

I say capital-C "Coalition" so as to differentiate from European usage (which implies the permanence of yoghurt left out in the sun). By comparison, the Lib-Nat Coalition has lasted decades (mainly because the Liberals generally need the Nationals' rural electorates to counter Labor's support in the cities).

The Coalition is so tight that when the Liberals won a landslide majority in their own right in a recent parliament, they still respected their agreement with the Nationals, and awarded them their usual Cabinet/Ministerial posts (Deputy Prime Minister, Min for Transport, Min for Primary Industries, etc.). Business as usual.
posted by bright cold day at 2:03 PM on January 22, 2006

thanks, bright--that's so respectable--honorable even, considering we're talking about politicians, after all. : >
posted by amberglow at 4:16 PM on January 22, 2006

Trust me, there is nothing honourable about the Coalition. :)
posted by bright cold day at 5:25 PM on January 22, 2006

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