Wednesday 24 February 2016

Election Special

As I mentioned in passing a comment about the Marriage Equality Referendum, we are suffering an Election in Ireland on Friday 26th February. It has so far been a sad example of pork-barrel promises, where the Pols are offering us the sun moon and stars if we elect them.  How is it that our society is so bankrupt that it requires elected representatives to achieve basic rights for people in need? If you are poor or homeless; or have an intellectual disability or use a wheelchair; or have a widening pot-hole outside your gate; you cannot get what the constitution and the law (not to mention compassion or common courtesy) says you are owed . . . unless your TD (MP to Brits) puts in a word for you. It suits the politicians to claim credit when good things happen even if they would have happened in the normal course of events. And so the cycle continues. We live on the edge of one of the most stable constituencies in the country: with unchanged boundaries, Carlow-Kilkenny has been returning TDs to the Dáil since 1921. But people in Carlow would rather not vote for representatives whose bailiwick is in Kilkenny and vice-versa. Heck, most people would rather vote local than vote along strict party lines.  And in Waterford, the city-sophisticates are unwilling to vote for a rural hick and vice versa.
Q. Why vote for someone whose mother knows your mother from the Legion of Mary?
A. Because you never know when you may need to call in some leverage.

On the last weekend before the Election, the radio was wall-to-wall political commentary and  as I was driving down to the Waterford Coast, I got to hear a chunk of this opinion and prediction.  One of the most ominous factors of modern elections is that we are barraged by opinion polls. I think they subvert the democratic process because they enhance the sheep-like tendencies in the electorate. If you hear that your party of choice has slumped another 3% points in the polls, you will be more inclined to vote tactically: to give your vote to someone who has a chance . . .  even if they come from two villages over.  I suggest that is bad for diversity.

From the foundation of the states in 1922 until the end of that century, candidates were required to front up a deposit (then £300) in order to get on the ballot paper. This was designed to prevent frivolous candidates making a mockery of the whole democracy thing. You got your deposit back if you secured 5% of the vote.  In 2002, this tilting of the process towards those with spare cash or a political party to bankroll them was deemed 'repugnant to the Constitution'. Now all candidates of registered political parties - which might include the People's Front of Ireland as well as the Irish People's Front - are deposit free.  Independents have to find 30 people in their constituency who will sign a nomination paper. If you haven't got 30 adult pals, you need €500 for the deposit which you get back if you secure 1/4 of a quota which is something North of 4,000 votes if there's a 60% turnout. In our constituency, that wiped out the Green Party, the Socialists, and all 7 Independents in 2011, the last election. These independents polled only 820, 471, 345, 277, 207, 119, and 70 votes. As the ballot boxes from each parish are tallied up separately, with numbers this small some of the Independents will have realised that none of their neighbours voted for them - despite prior assurances of support.  We do have the facade of a secret ballot but it's sort of see-through.

If you have a vote in Ireland you should stop by which has brought dating agency techniques to the process of picking candidates.  They've asked a series of questions of all the candidates in all the constituencies - which is a massive logistical exercise - and recorded their answers.  You answer the same questions and they use multivariate statitistical analysis to find the person who is most nearly a clone of yourself. The Beloved's niece pushed it at the family and Dau.II discovered that it identified 3 of her top 4 prior-picked choices.  Me, I was surprised: it delivered the Green Party top, which is fair enough, but the next three of 'my' choices were off-planet whoowahs from the left. For starters I can't vote for Noonan the GP chap because he comes from the other county.  It just can't be me - I'm a pillar, I've worn a tie, I didn't express any strong prefs on 29/30 of the questions . . .

"Dear Abby, I did the smartvote quiz, does the outcome mean I am a pinko flake from the Planet Zorg . . .?"

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