Law Office Evgenia Fotopoulou
6, Vasilissis Sofias Ave., Athens, Greece. P.C. 106 74
Phone: 210 36 24 769, 211 7 80 80 80

Proposal for a new voting system

The electoral system in effect in Greece for the conduction of the parliamentary elections is the reinforced proportionality system, a mixture of the proportional and the plurality voting systems, which, in the attempt to produce powerful, self-sufficient governments, is accused of interfering with the basic democratic principal, the one establishing that every vote counts equally. The result is the disproportionately large representation of the first party in Parliament at the expense of the rest of the parties, and, consequently, the general will is not expressed as in the elections. However, elections are the only means for the people to come forward, express their will, castigate, award, and, ultimately, govern. Therefore, the – as great as possible – accuracy of the reflection of the general will is of utmost significance, in order to safeguard the concept of democracy. The announcement of the final elections result leads to persons taking power that determine our lives in ways that are of utmost significance. Nonetheless, when the power of political parties is calculated according to the electoral system per constituency, and members of the parliament are elected as regional political leaders, while simultaneously it aims at producing a strong government at any cost by assigning “bonus” seats and devaluating the portion of the people that voted for candidates who accumulated a percentage lower than 3% (by boosting the first party with percentages that do not correspond to them), then this – as greater as possible – kind of accuracy is not achieved. In this electoral system, the number of the Parliament Members for the entire nation is three hundred, and the country is divided in constituencies. Out of these three hundred Members of the Parliament, two hundred and eighty eight are elected from the constituencies that correspond to these respective parliamentary seats, while the remaining twelve are distributed in a unified way nationwide, without receiving votes by cross. Every constituency is entitled to a specific number of seats based on its population, that is, a number of parliament members that will represent them, except that during the distribution of the constituencies and the nationwide seats, participation is allowed only to the political parties or the individual candidates that have accumulated a general percentage of votes larger than 3%. Since the general rule is that a lot more than one of the parties have a percentage less than 3% nationwide and are disqualified from being assigned parliamentary seats, these may altogether even surpass a 10% percentage, which means that a large portion of the people who voted for these parties is not represented in the upcoming parliament. Of course, this percentage might have been larger, if voters were not discouraged by the loss coming from their voting for smaller parties; hence, they usually vote for their second choice, that is a party that will be part of the parliament. Also, to determine how many seats a party will receive nationwide, the calculation that takes place is based on 250 seats, as the rest 50 seats have to be “kept” for later, after the completion of the voting process, so as to be granted to the party that comes first and so that the government has the so-called “declared confidence” of the parliament, even in this violating and fictional manner. By calculating seats according to population per constituency, parliamentary elections acquire a sectionalist attitude, deeming from the beginning that the fact that every constituency has “its own parliament members” is obligatory and self-evident, when there is the local authority that sufficiently serves the promotion of local interests. What results from calculating parliamentary seats per constituency is the exclusion from parliament of those candidates that receive many more votes compared to members of the parliament who, because of the system-based assignment of seats per constituency definitely received fewer votes and, consequently, represent the general will more weakly. Finally, a party or a candidate being out of parliament after receiving below 3%, precludes any possibility for a “bright” candidate to join the parliament, after accumulating even more votes than all the other candidates, but not accumulating 3% nationwide. However, strong political voices that are not members of a political party and obviously enjoy people’s trust, can only be an asset to the parliament through their participation. With a parliament that does not reflect the general will, because at the same time it tries to serve local interests, assigns “bonus” seats to produce strong governments and excludes the minorities, democracy starts converting into another kind of institution, which may indeed try to be just, but ends up being a “multi-fuctional” tool, failing to fulfil sufficiently any of its goals. Ultimately, the group of people that govern emerges not within a democratic context, but within a system that may have been based on elections, but during the assignment of seats was distorted to produce an awkward result. It is indeed challenging to accurately reflect the general will in combination with a government that will receive the “declared confidence” of the Parliament. We made an attempt to think of and propose an electoral system which will be able to produce a Parliament in which every seat will reflect, as proximately as possible, people’s choices, even if that may require certain amendments to the Hellenic constitution.
The country will be subdivided in 30 constituencies with an equal number of voters. Every time there is a census, modifications will take place, if necessary, regarding the constituencies and going into effect under ministerial decisions, so that the constituencies have an equal number of voters. Voters will be able to assign up to five (5) favorable votes by ticking candidates. Furthermore, every voter will vote against up to five candidates whom s/he does not wish to be a member of the parliament in a second ballot box (“negative vote”). This vote will concern single candidate members of parties (i.e. individual candidates) and not the parties. This means that all candidates of all parties will be recorded on a list, out of which every voter will be able to choose up to (5) candidates s/he does not want to be elected. The choice of these persons, from 0 to 5, can concern one or more parties. For the sake of economy, the individuals receiving a negative vote can be listed on the regular ballots, printed with the inscription “negative vote.” In case a candidate accumulates the 50% + 1 of negative votes in every constituency, s/he will not be elected, even if s/he would have been under different circumstances. The next candidate with the most votes from the same party will take his/her place. The place of the party will not be affected by negative votes. Every party will be able to have 30 candidates of their choice in every constituency. The electoral procedure can take place on one or two Sundays (with a month interval) according to the election results of the first Sunday. Specifically: in order for a strong government to be formed, the latter will have to possess the “declared confidence” of 151 members of the parliament. All members of the parliament will be elected according to voting by cross. There will be no state members of the parliament. After the elections of the first Sunday, the President of Democracy will assign the forming of the government to the leader of the party that received the most votes nationwide. If the latter is not able to form a government that enjoys the confidence of the parliament within three days, then the President of Democracy proceeds according to the inspectional orders of article 37 of the Hellenic Constitution. If the government receives the vote of confidence, they are to govern of the country for the next four years; otherwise, that is, if they do not succeed in receiving the confidence in any stage, then the last subparagraph of paragraph 3, article 37 of the Hellenic Constitution is not in effect, i.e. the parliament is not disbanded, but the elections are repeated on a second Sunday, after four weeks from the first Sunday of the elections; then, voters will be called to choose which of the two parties which received the most votes on the first Sunday of the elections will form a government. During the elections of the second Sunday, no members of the parliament will be elected; instead, every party will present to the people a government models: the party that came first will present two full government models, while the party that came second will present one government model; people will have to vote in favor for one of the three government models to be implemented. Consequently, voters, by voting a party, at the same time vote the persons (ministers) that will govern. The two government models proposed by the party that came first will have to consist of different persons up to their 2/3. The votes received by the first party with the two proposals will be summed; if that sum surpasses the votes received by the proposal of the second party, then the party with the majority of the votes will govern with the government model that received most of the votes. After the election of the party and the members of the government, the new government model will not need a vote of confidence from the parliament to start governing, as they will have received the vote of confidence/the mandate from the people. The tenure of the elected parliament and government will last for four years. During these four years, any case of “censure” against the government is prohibited, but after two years, a re-confirmation of confidence has to take place towards the government (vote of confidence by 151 Members of the parliament). The re-confirmation of confidence will have to be expressed by the parliament (at least by 151 members of the parliament). If the parliament does not express (re-confirm) its confidence towards the government, then the government will have the right, if they so choose, to be re-confirmed by the people via a referendum (simple advantage of 50%+1 among voters). If the people do not express their confidence to the government, then (snap) elections will have to be declared, under a caretaker government. During the month before the re-confirmation, the government will have the opportunity to reform (if deemed necessary by the governing party), in order for the new government to receive the re-confirmation. In the meantime government formations are prohibited (except for isolated, exceptional cases of substitutions of ministers, in case someone resigns for an extraordinary reason, which means that s/he will not be able to receive a ministerial position in the next government formation), since there is no provision for a vote of confidence procedure to the reformed government. The governing party or any other political party, does not have the right, before the four years are over, to claim span elections for any other reason (apart from the obligation for an official “re-confirmation” of the parliament). The members of the parliament are elected according to the votes by cross accumulated by their party, and according to the favorable votes by cross that they accumulated as individual candidates. Specifically, every political group will be able to elect a number of parliament members, according to the crossed votes that the political group has received nationwide and according to the system of proportionality. For the calculation of the number of parliamentary seats assigned to every party, only the whole numbers of the percentages of votes received by every political party and not decimals are taken into account (e.g. if a political group received the 28.32% or the 28.79% or the 28.96%, the percentage will be counted as 28%, for the assignment of parliamentary seats). To cover the number of seats corresponding to every political party, the members of parliament elected will be the ones receiving the majority of votes nationwide, as if there were a unified ballot, according to the simple mathematical formula of proportion (e.g. 300 x 28% = 84 members of the parliament – the first 84 persons with the majority of votes in the party will be elected, as if the whole country were one constituency). The parliamentary seats remaining for the rest three hundred members of the parliament, after the assignment of seats to the parties according to the whole number principle, will be granted to the candidates that received the largest number of votes nationwide, independently of which political party they belong to or if they are independent candidates, i.e. as if all the candidates were in one unified, nationwide ballot. For the counting of votes, the country will be considered to be one unified constituency, and proportions will concern the country as a unified whole. With the abovementioned system, Greece may well be divided in constituencies, with an equal number of voters, but this does not play a role in the counting process – during this process, Greece is considered to be a unified constituency; it happens so that the candidates of all constituencies have equal possibilities of election in the parliament and, at the same time, in order for the voters to know that their vote is not, as far as possibilities of being represented in the parliament are concerned, less powerful compared to voting within a constituency that elects more members of the parliament. This might also constitute motivation for wider participation in the voting process. Nevertheless, during the counting stage, Greece is considered to be a unified constituency and not every constituency will elect a specific number of members of the parliament, to avoid incidents in the parliament where some of the Members appointed had received fewer votes than other candidates that accumulated more votes, but were not appointed members of the parliament. The sectionalist attitude of the parliamentary elections is thus eliminated; actually, it does not have a reason for existence, as long as there are regional authorities that sufficiently promote local interests. It is indeed true that if there is a just system in the assignment of parliamentary seats, it is quite possible for the political groups not to accumulate the required self-sufficiency to form a government that enjoys the declared confidence of the Parliament. Besides this is the main accusation of the reinforced proportionality system. At this point, people are called to directly choose the government that the first two political groups will propose, rendering a further vote of confidence from the parliament to the government unnecessary, since it will be the people that will have made that option directly. At the same time, the parliament will be composed of all the members that the people directly chose to be represented by, also allowing for the participation of individual candidates that may stand out with their ideas – of course, as long as they have accumulated the required number of votes – who will be able to participate in the Parliament via the unassigned seats that remained so due to the decimal numbers in the percentages produced by the parties. The fact that this government cannot be displaced for any reason for two years is, first of all, a stable ground and a space for action for the government, as well as a chance to make an effort to be maintained for the next two years. After these two years, the parliament will be the one to provide the vote of confidence, with the possibility of reformation at this stage. If the parliament does not provide the vote of confidence before the conduction of elections and its disbanding, the people will directly have the final word on whether the assigned government will be maintained for another two years (of course, with an advantage of 50%+1 of the valid votes) via a referendum, if the government so chooses. At this point, legal adjustments are necessary in order for the parliament not to be dismissed due to issues that usually have that effect today which concern matters that definitely have to be voted for. For example, when voting for the government budget, a legislation could be proposed, prescribing that the person that does not vote for the government budget will have to counter-propose a full budget proposal, or else his/her vote will be counted as a vote in favor of the budget. In case s/he counter-proposes a full budget proposal, then that proposal will be put to voting as well. The pioneering “negative vote” is proposed in order to expel persons – and not parties – from the parliament, that may, for any reason, have well received a number of votes, but have nonetheless been clearly rejected by the 50% + 1 of the voters. These are extreme cases that will concern not candidates whom the voters are indifferent about, but those candidates for whom the majority of voters clearly expresses the will not to be represented by in the parliament. Such a parameter is too significant not to be taken into account. Finally, to eliminate the productive ground for the formation of authorities, the institution of state members of the parliament that do not get elected, is abolished. There can be no Democracy that is fully representative and direct. But the attempt to choose an electoral system that reflects as close as possible the principles of democracy is an obligation of those in charge, even if that choice results in the downfall of particular leading persons. We considered the above electoral system – it could be called a majoritarian proportionality system – to be the system that mostly reflects the general will and is, at the same time, sustainable; however, it can function only if some parts of the Hellenic constitution are amended. Indeed, in cases where change is an obvious necessity, a fruitful counter-proposal, rather than sterile criticism, is the only way out.

Evgenia Fotopoulou
Alexios Fotopoulos