Australian minnow socialist parties give the left the mandate to govern!
The Australian election over the weekend has dealt a hung parliament with neither Labor or Liberals (ie Tories) with a overall majority.
Straight away the Tories started screaming that because they won the most number of seats and the highest number of primary votes they should be the government. This is constitutionally a lot of bullshit and is based on some self serving mathematics.
Under a Westminster style parliament government formation is based on gaining a majority in the House of Representatives. If Tony Abbott cannot gain the support of 76 MPs in a house with 150 seats he cannot be Prime Minister. Projected results expected to give Tony Abbott one or two more seats than Labor. Yet if the centre-left can combine the support of the Greens and a few independents they will be able to form a legitimate government.
The inescapable fact is that no party won the election. While there was a 4.87% swing against Labour, the party led by Tony Abbott only gained 0.63%. Hardly a strong mandate to be Prime Minister. The Greens gained by far the largest positive swing of all the parties, gaining 3.63%. While the election of the first Green MP in the lower house is to be celebrated, the inescapable fact is that the Greens were robbed by an electoral system that is fundamentally broken. With 11.42% of the primary vote the Greens would have won 17 seats under proportional representation. It is a small consulation that the Greens hold the balance of power in the upper house (the Senate).
Back to Abbott's dodgy maths. Abbott is attempting to claim a mandate because the Liberals and the parties that normally support the Liberals gained more votes than Labor on its own. Of course its is fundamentally ridiculous in this situation to compare a coalition of parties on the right and not also add the Green vote to the centre left.
If we add the Labor total of 38.51% to the Greens 11.42% we get a figure stupidly short of a majority - 49.93%. Rather amusingly, it is the stupidly small Socialist parties that push the centre left over 50% and give the left the mandate on a first preference basis. These are the Socialist Alliance and the Socialist Equity Party, on 0.07% and 0.09% respectively!
Hence my tongue in cheek title :)
The Labor party won the popular vote, on a two party preferred basis, with 50.67% of the vote, compared to the Liberal share of 49.33%.
Over on Red Alert, Chris Hipkins wonders about the public reaction in the situation where the government ends up being led by the smaller of the two major parties. This could happen in Australia as a result of this election, and is even more likely to occur in New Zealand given we have a proportional electoral system.
The public reaction will only be a problem if the born to rule screaming from the Tories is given the oxygen it does not deserve. What it represents is a demand for single party rule on the basis they failed to gain the support of a majority of the population, just as the Tories used to demand their right to rule under First Past the Post when over 60% of the population did not vote for them.
Despite it being constitutionally improper and fundamentally undemocratic Tory friendly commentators in Australia on Saturday night started the screaming - 'our party won the most seats'. They were just following the lead of the UK Conservatives who attempted the same swindle in the aftermath of a hung parliament in the UK earlier this year.
In the case where the smaller of the two main parties gains a majority in the house by forming a support arrangement/coalition with a minor party, in my view the left needs to welcome this as a result representative of the wishes of a larger number of voters.
I look forward to the day the National party in New Zealand is stranded on 55 seats, and Labour forms a government with say 49 MPs and support from the Greens and other parties providing 12 or so seats. Let the Tories scream away - it will be a day to celebrate as our proportional electoral culture matures once again, and the FFP mindset of the dinosaurs finally gives up for dust.
PS: Of course there is an argument that the policies of the Australian Labor party are essentially those of a centre-right party, and it is true that many Labor MPs would have more in common with the Liberals than they do with the Greens or the real social democratic left. A grand coalition of the major parties is not going to happen - the aim of my post was to highlight Abbott's dodgy maths and willful constitutional ignorance.
PPS: The percentages may change over the next few days!