Guys, if I can briefly distract your attention from the ongoing flaming six-train pileup that is the US elections I need you to take a look at what’s happening in Ireland right now.
What’s happening in Ireland?
We had an election, and nobody won.
What? How is that even possible? Did nobody vote?
On the contrary, turnout this election was a very healthy 60%, down from 2011 but still high for a country where voting isn’t mandatory.
So what’s the problem?
Okay, a little background. Ireland elects the Dáil (our parliament) with the Proportional Representation: Single Transferable Vote. It’s the system that most accurately reflects the views of voters and using it makes the Dáil one of the most democratic legislatures in the world. Compare that to our upper house, the Seanad, which isn’t even fully elected and is probably the least democratic legislature in the developed world. Ireland: A land of contrasts. Basically in PR:STV you are allowed to not simply vote for your favourite candidate but to rank all the candidates in order of preference. This allows people to vote for smaller parties that better align with their politics without worrying that their vote will help parties they disagree with (think, being able to vote for Nader without worrying that you’re helping Bush to win).
That sounds super complicated.
It’s really not. You put a 1 by your favourite candidate, a 2 by your second and so on. Easy peasy.
No, I didn’t mean the voting, I meant the counting the vote.
That is SUPER complicated, yes. It’s a Lovecraftian, nightmare inducing madness but hey, I just vote so it’s not my problem. Although if you’re interested, this video explains the whole process better than I ever could.
So what happened?
The people cast their ballot and at the end the vote looked like this:
Holy shit that’s a lot of parties. What am I even looking at?
Okay, so the blue bar at the top is Fine Gael, currently in government in coalition with the Labour party (the lighter red bar). Second down is Fianna Fáil who’ve been the party of government for most of Ireland’s history but were banished to the land of ghosts and shadows in the 2011 election because the 2008 crash happened on their watch. They’ve bounced back in a huge way this election because apparently a quarter of the country suffered some kind of head trauma that effects medium term memory. The bright patriotic green guys three rows down are Sinn Féin who are ABSOLUTELY NOT AFFILIATED WITH THE I.R.A. IN ANY WAY AND NEVER HAVE BEEN.
And below them? That big long black 13%? The independents, just ordinary men and women without even a party who managed to collectively come in fourth over all.