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Welsh politics professor raises concerns about ‘closed list’ proposals for Senedd elections

01 Jul 2022 2 minute read
Prof. Laura McAllister

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.”

‘Attraction’

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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Erisian
Erisian
5 months ago

Open lists are undoubtedly more democratic, half the probl;em with Welsh and English politics is that the parties have too much say, and the voters can only vote

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
5 months ago

First rule of politics…don’t trust a politician, any of them…

Phil
Phil
5 months ago

As I’ve said before you’ll end up with a system similar to the Chinese method in Hong Kong’s ‘democratic’ elections…. “You can vote for the people we’ve vetted and pre-approved for you”

Arwyn
Arwyn
5 months ago

We all need to keep pushing for STV. Use the 32 Westminster constituencies. Each elects 3 candidates. Pair constituencies so equal numbers of male and female candidates are selected between them. At least that way we retain the link with local constituency representatives and if there’s someone the electorate doesn’t like, they have a better chance of removing them at the ballot box.

Adrian Meagher
Adrian Meagher
5 months ago

Yes, closed lists potentially give more power to party bosses than STV does. On the other hand gender balance is easier to achieve with closed zipped lists. Can anyone square this circle? Laura, it’s over to you!

hdavies15
hdavies15
5 months ago
Reply to  Adrian Meagher

What’s the point of gender balance when they are all selected by party managers ?. You might as well pick lists full of donkeys. Go STV and produce a clear mandate for successful candidates. Good women, like good men, are pretty scarce but you are more likely to get them from open lists than a schedule of party manager’s favourites.

Paddy
Paddy
5 months ago
Reply to  Adrian Meagher

I’m pretty sure Plaid Cymru had a system that did exactly that for Assembly list candidates.

Keith Gogarth
Keith Gogarth
5 months ago

I take voting seriously but if they introduce this system I will not vote.

Richard
Richard
5 months ago
Reply to  Keith Gogarth

I think that might be the aim my friend ✅

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
5 months ago

There must be a compromise found as arguing does nothing but play into the hands of the rabid centrist Tories who are quite happy to see Wales destroy itself. The English Conservatives no doubt are secretly delighted to see Labour constituency members and affiliated Unions doing their dirty work for them by arguing against any Senedd expansion citing harm to Labour’s electoral chances. This expansion is about the very future of our democracy and ability to function not bloody Labour’s god given right to dominate the political landscape of Wales for pity sake?! They the Tories are under our very… Read more »

I.Humphrys
I.Humphrys
4 months ago

Prefer ability balance.

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