Democracy not for sale

In a time of political instability there has been talk of changes to the electoral law to the effect that "the party winning a majority of votes at an election would be automatically given a three-seat majority to be able to form a stable government".  The idea is that "in our system, there is the danger that a government will be held hostage by a single MP" and that there might be "too much power in single MPs hands" (see here). The automatic knee-jerk reaction is to (arbitrarily) tweak the electoral law to the advantage of the political parties (Nationalist and Labour).

I claim that such amendments would continue to erode our democracy. Many have seemed to develop the atrocious idea that governmental stability is a cornerstone of democracy. It most certainly is not, for democracy is founded on the most basic of principles including, amongst others, free speech, equality and tolerance, universal suffrage and other fundamental liberties and duties of free citizens. 

First of all, if the electoral (constitutional) law were to be tweaked in this way it would not be truly representative of the electorate's wishes. The electorate, whilst willing to give one particular party the right to govern, might not want to give it a strong mandate simply because it might not trust it enough to govern unfettered and in a unilateral manner. We should recall that notions such as 'bipartisanship'  and 'meritocracy' assumed greater public importance as a result of a mere 1,500 majority (or 750, rather) between the governing party and the opposition. The idea is that: "Yes, you are the governor, but only just. Do not forget that and do not discard the other 49% that did not vote for you".  

Secondly, such amendment would almost nullify the idea that MPs can keep the government in check. It is a sacred constitutional principle that a well-functioning democracy is one where the institutions of the state 'balance and check' each other. This is a particularly strong weapon against arbitrariness and unfettered power. Just to prove my point: a government minister once said that the legislature simply need not meet for government has a five-seat majority in parliament (pre-2008). 

Thirdly, it would effectively destroy the purpose of having third parties. Even if a third party manages to get one member elected in the House I would assume that the party with an absolute or relative majority would still be automatically given a three-seat majority. Although a major victory for the third party, the whole concept of coalition government would be redundant. That third party would not be able to influence the policies of its coalition partner. 

In a true democracy, government should be challenged and scrutinised consistently. It might win a comfortable majority and in that case other institutions (especially the press) would have to do an even better job of scrutinising the workings of government and public officers. But if it does not, we should not fear the influence or power a single MP might wield. MPs, after all, should not be gagged and demonised simply because they do not swear blind fealty and submission to government. 

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