Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Plurinominal Scourge

Pedro Ferriz de Con advocates the disappeareance of the plurinominal, party-list deputies:
The first of the actions that we must take is getting rid of deputies. There are 200 that get in the way...The plurinominals have no reason to exist. The leadership of the parties is dominated by them. The bridge of the party line. They are the point of the spear than harms or kills ideas, proposals, solutions.
I find this argument extremely unconvincing. (More here. And here, though I can't remember exactly where.) First of all, for all his certainty, Ferriz provides nothing to support the idea that by virtue of plurinominal election, a senator loses his creativity. The obvious counter-example to that supposition is Manlio Fabio Beltrones, who's tossed more ideas out there than anyone in the PRI over the past three years, and who was elected by plurinominal votes.

More broadly, why shouldn't a party be able to tab its most talented figures for indefinite service? Wouldn't the Democratic party be better off if the rightward swing of South Dakota didn't mean that Tom Daschle was out of the Senate? Wouldn't the Republicans be better off if Jim Leach or Chris Shays could have perhaps survived the anti-Bush backlash?

On the other hand, the perils of strictly geographic voting are well known to followers of American politics. Strictly local priorities are regularly placed ahead of a broad conception of the national interest. Consequently, pork is as vital to the political body as blood is to my physical body, and important and undeniably beneficial legislation is held hostage, for example, to Ben Nelson's relationship with Nebraska's banks.


David said...

The plurinominal also delivers loathsome characters into Congress such as union bosses, campesino group leaders (usually loyal priistas) and the owners of small parties - PT party president Sen. Alberto Anaya and Green party president Jorge Emilio Gonzalez (aka Niño Verde).

But notice that the PRI has been pushing hardest for plurinominal changes. One political science professor told me before the July midterm elections that the PRI would win easy majorities in the Senate without the plurinominal and come close to majorities in the Chamber. Keep that in mind the next time PRI president Beatriz Paredes starts talking about legislative reform and making the Senate more "federativa."

pc said...

Yeah that's a downside. It's definitely a double-edged sword, but I think on par, the plurinominal system does more good than harm. The biggest thing for me is the way strictly geographic representation filters everything through a local lens. I think people look at Tip Oneill's old line about all politics being local as charming, but think it leads to more legislation. I also think there could be less severe ways of dealing with the downside of plurinominals that haven't really been exploreed other than doing away with them entirely.