Alternatives to lists and quotas to reduce clientelism and offer the electorate more diverse voting options

Guest Post By Daniel Sullivan

In this piece, I’m going to try to outline two of the problems in how the electoral system currently functions, coupled with some of  the practical realities that accompany them, and then suggest two forms of electoral change that would actually address those problems. These problems and from which almost all others, in my view, stem is a lack of real diversity being offered to the electorate in our parliamentary and local administrative elections and a surfeit of clientelism. Continue reading

Can we do it ourselves or must we await visionary leadership?

The Irish Times has an interesting series this week on where we should go from here. Some of the ideas so far are insightful and thought provoking. Joseph O’Connor points to the huge programme of political reform which is needed and argues for a bottom up approach that envisages change coming from the people inlcuding citizens, artists and sportpeople among others. He points to the affinities we owe to one another, as citizens of this “still beautiful place”. Maureen Gaffney
on the other hand while also recognising the need for reform appears to be envisaging a more top down approach with a hankering for visionary leadership.  Whether that is on offer is a moot point but there is surely a possibiity that the current elites may agree to a bottom up approach if only to assuage the current absence of trust in all polticians and the political system.

Thank You.

The editors of wish to thank contributors and posters for participating in the website over the last six months. To date, over 100,000 hits have been recorded and this project continues to grow with new contributors and a greater variety of topics.

Any suggestions on how to develop the website would be most appreciated. Are there topics which we should focus more on for instance?

Watch out for some exciting developments around these parts in the New Year.

In the meantime, here’s to a politically reformed Ireland in 2011.

Elaine Byrne
David Farrell
Eoin O’Malley
Jane Suiter
Matt Wall


Guest post by Eleanor Fitzsimons (posted by Elaine Byrne)

The prospect of a general election early in 2011 has seen the re-emergence of a contentious debate as to whether our sizable diaspora should be allowed to vote. Ireland is unusual in the fact that those not ‘ordinarily resident’, i.e. living in Ireland on 1 September in the year preceding the coming into force of the voting register are currently precluded from having a say in who should govern their home nation.

Yet a 2006 study undertaken by Global Irish, a website dedicated to Diaspora issues, concluded that 115 countries, including all of Ireland’s EU partners, allow their overseas citizens to vote, although restrictions are imposed in several cases. France reserves parliamentary seats for citizens who live abroad, while several countries require emigrants to return home or complete a postal ballot.

Continue reading

Newstalk “General Election 2011” prediction survey: A Commentary

Adrian Kavanagh, 21 December 2010 – latest updates: 30 December 2010

As an alternative perspective to the opinion poll results that have been published over the past few weeks and my constituency-level models and analysis of these, Newstalk 106-108 FM this  morning presented the findings of a prediction survey that was able to draw on the local knowledge that the poll figures and my poll analyses cannot tap in to. This survey involved asking personnel in local independent radios across the state to make their predictions as to how they saw the seats falling in their own local constituencies at the upcoming general election in Spring 2011. While this obviously is drawing on the subjective views of a number of different local commentators, it does have the advantage of offering a locally grounded perspective to complement the figures emerging out of recent opinion poll analyses. The findings are very interesting and intuitively seem to tally up better with how the general election results may pan out than has been suggested by the more recent opinion polls and the analyses of these. This survey was carried out a few weeks ago, so figures for Sinn Fein could be viewed as being under-estimated in the light of recent poll trends.

Based on this Newstalk survey, the number of seats to be won by each party at the next general election is predicted as follows: Fianna Fail 43, Fine Gael 63, Labour Party 40, Sinn Fein 6, Green Party 2, Independents and Others 12. Continue reading

Meteors, Dinosaurs and Political Reform

David Farrell (December 20, 2010)

Political systems are very sticky. It takes a lot to uproot and alter them. This is why very few of the world’s established democracies have experienced the sort of radical reform that websites like this are calling for Ireland. The fact is that political systems are hard to change: once established the norm is to prefer the status quo.

There are instances of major change in established democracies, but they’re rare enough: France’s Fifth Republic; Italy’s reforms at the start of the 1990s; New Zealand’s new electoral system also in the early 1990s, and so on. It would be wrong to suggest that political change is common, easy to produce, or, indeed, always successful.

But it can and does happen. And what we know from previous experience is that one vitally important ingredient for change is a major political shock: a large-scale crisis that causes citizens to question the very institutions of state. The more cataclysmic the event the greater the impetus for change.

Could what we are currently going through be more cataclysmic?