After a long wait and some unnecessary game playing by the Taoiseach who – oddly enough – is the one who is allowed to choose the date of a General Election, the date has finally be announced for Fri 26 February 2016.
From now until 10 March, Ireland will be without a parliament and any laws that were intended but didn’t get to completion will have to started anew when the new Dail (parliament) will be formed in March,
In the next three weeks, all parties will try to convince you that you should vote for them and if you talk to their representatives, they will tell you what they will do in Ireland if and when they are in power. But the surprise might be big – or at least it SHOULD be big – when people will NOT find the possibility to vote for a party on their ballot paper on election day. Instead, you can only vote for one of 3-5 people in Ireland (depending on the size of your constituency it will be 3,4 or 5).
So, what’s up with that?
Well, in Ireland you can only vote for an individual and then you are totally dependent on the moods, abilities and personal wants of this individual. If your representative, the person you have voted for, gets elected, he/she can do whatever he/she wants for the next 5 years and you have no control anymore. If your representative was a member of Party X and that’s why you voted for him/her, but a day after being elected he/she leaves that party and either becomes a an independent (automatically with no influence) or joins another party, you just got the opposite of what you wanted. And it gets worse: If you vote for a candidate that does not get elected, it is possible that your vote will have absolutely no influence on the future composition of the parliament.
This is quite undemocratic!
If you could vote for a party and separately for an individual of that party, the risk would be reduced, but as long as all depends on that individual you have no democratic choice.
It is shocking that this system is still in place and if this was a South American or African state that had such a screwed up system, we would demand their system to be changed!
It has happened numerous times in the past that a TD (member of parliament) was kicked out of his/her party or decided to leave that party over issues that were not even current at the last election. So you would have never had a chance to discuss this issues with the candidate and then decide if you still want to vote for him/her. But after he/she was kicked out or has left, now your intended vote for Party X is not supporting that Party anymore.
Unless you support a party because your father and grandfather did, most people decide who to vote for based on promises this party makes before the elections, but because you never were able to vote for a party, you have NO way in Ireland to decide for or against the programme of a party.
Look into it and you will be amazed about the oddness and undemocratic-ness (that word SHOULD exist! ;-) ) of this system!
If you are interested into further details, have a look at Michael Marsh’s 24-page document, published by the Department of Political Science at TCD. The paper in PDF format is here.