Saturday, July 3, 2010

SNTV - how we got here

After my episode wonking out, the natural question from those who tolerate my professorial mode was "well, how did such a system come into place?"

The single, non-transferable vote (SNTV) was implemented in the 2004 election law. At the time, the apparent benefits were that 1) it's easy to vote (there's really nothing simpler than checking the box for an individual candidate), 2) it's easy to count (same), and 3) province-wide districts minimize the distortion effect of population-guessing in the absence of a complete census.

Finally, it discourages the formation of strong political parties. The Afghan Constitution bans all political parties formed around ethnic, linguistic, regional or religious ties (which is to say, the most natural fractures) in the hope that the central government can function as a unifying, rather than dividing, force. Selecting an election system that discourages party formation extends this goal.

The irony, then, is that by producing a relatively unpredictable parliament (and by leaving the parliament constitutionally weak to begin with), this greatly raises the stakes for presidential elections, where only one candidate can win the office.

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