Friday, May 08, 2015

Electoral history: One thing about the British election

... is how Canadian it seemed.  Not just in the large array of parties complicating the choices, and of a regional independence party scooping up seats in the national legislature.  But also in the apparently successful delegitimization of parliamentary authority.

Remember Stephen Harper's repeated claims that only the largest party was entitled to form a government, and that any combination of other parties to oust his minority would be illegitimate, contrary to the popular will, a coup d'etat?  Particularly so when the opposition forces included an independentist party.

Many worthy Canadian commentators (me too, quite likely) denounced this as a false characterization of a parliamentary democracy, where what matters is not which party has the most seats, but what government can secure the support of a majority of members of Parliament. But it seemed to resonate in the Canadian electorate, for whom party leaders are everything and members of parliament mostly cattle.

Anticipating minority status before the results came in, the British Conservatives had been hitting the same themes hard.
Voices on the right are starting to say that Labour can’t form a legitimate government unless they are the largest party ...most voters don’t know it’s constitutionally kosher for the party coming second to form the government
It's all academic now, but even in Britain now it seems to be a credible statement that an election is not for a parliament but simply chooses one party leader to be prime minister (and the others all have to resign immediately).
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