Do Preference Transfers Assist Moderates in Deeply Divided Societies? Evidence from Northern Ireland and Fiji
37 Pages Posted: 13 Aug 2009 Last revised: 12 Oct 2009
Date Written: 2009
It has been suggested that preferential voting systems encourage moderate candidates in polities where electoral loyalties are habitually expressed along communal lines. Only two deeply divided territories in the world – Fiji and Northern Ireland – currently use preferential voting systems in national parliamentary elections. In Fiji, the Australian-style alternative vote (AV) was adopted in 1997, and has been used in three elections (1999, 2001 and 2006). In Northern Ireland, the single transferable vote has been used since 1973. We use the evidence of vote transfers in these two countries to assess claims about pro-moderation outcomes, and we review the significance of choice of electoral system for the overall composition of assemblies. Our data permit us to point to some striking contrasts – but also some striking similarities – between the movement of vote transfers in these two cases. We conclude that the “moderating” effects of preferential voting are strongest when the climate of interethnic relations is at its most stable and peaceful – precisely, ironically, at the very time when the need for such moderating devices is lowest.
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