Welsh politics professor raises concerns about ‘closed list’ proposals for Senedd elections
A Welsh politics professor has raised concerns with proposals for Senedd reform, saying that a closed list system will deny voters choice.
The Welsh parliament voted last month to rubber-stamp the reforms which will see the number of members expanded from 60 to 96.
The 32 Westminster new constituencies will be paired to create 16 large constituencies, electing six Senedd members each.
Senedd elections will also use closed proportional lists with integrated statutory gender quotas, in practice giving parties full control over their list of candidates.
But Professor Laura McAllister, who chaired an Expert Panel on Assembly Electoral Reform in 2017 that produced many of the recommendations on which the reforms have based, raised concerns with the closed lists.
The pairing of proportional representation and a party-chosen list of candidates would in practice almost guarantee some prospective representatives seats in the Senedd.
Writing for the Constitution Unit Blog, Prof. Laura McAllister said that their expert panel had rejected the closed list system as it lead to less “voter choice and accountability”.
“It is a strange choice, as there are a host of problems with closed list PR systems, most notably over promoting party control over voter choice,” she said.
“Under closed lists, voters have no influence on the hierarchy in which candidates are elected – this being pre-selected by the party, locally or nationally.
“Furthermore, in this specific case, candidates will be ordered not only by party preferences but also by gender, which gives even less independent choice for voters.”
The new system of 16 Senedd constituencies electing six members each using the D’Hondt system as its counting method was also problematic as it was “likely to produce only marginally more proportional outcomes” than the current system.
“It also favours the parties already represented in the parliament, larger ones especially,” she said. “The obvious attraction to Labour needs little explanation in this instance.”
Today however three unions closely affiliated with Labour have said that they oppose the voting reforms for the opposite reason, saying that they are concerned they could make it harder for Labour to hold on to power in Wales.
GMB, Community and Usdaw told the BBC that they opposed the proposals.
They are however still expected to pass with the backing of Unite and Unison. The vote will be taken at a Labour conference on Saturday.
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