Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Tunisia elections underscore value of proportional representation in emerging democracies

Tunisia on October held its second national  elections since its people  launched the Arab Spring movement nearly four years ago. This time the Nidaa Tounes party won the most seats, with the ruling Ennahda party finishing second. A system of proportional voting was used, meaning that Nidaa Tounes' vote total (expected to be about 38%, as opposed to Ennahda with about 29%) will not result in an inflated majority. Even so, he secular Nidaa Tounes party is expected to lead  the next government, potentially with the Islahmist Ennahda party in a unity government

In 2011-2012 we ran a series of articles on Arab Spring, highlighting the importance of a fair electoral system of proportional representation for promoting negotiation among rivals -- with pieces contrasting post-Arab Spring elections in Tunisia and Egypt, for example.. While clearly not the only factor in allowing representative democracy to take root, fair representation voting is among the most important ones. Tunisia certainly provides a stark contrast to Egypt, which has returned to military rule after problems tied in part to winner-take-all democracy.

The Washington Post editorial page ran a piece by David Ignatius last January on the inclusive nature of Tunisia's new constitution, with a piece last weekend echoing a hopeful view of Tunisia by Jackson Diehl. Neither one mentioned proportional representation, however-- a detail that must be understood as central for creating opportunities for true representative democracy in emerging democracies and, I might add, longstanding ones as well.

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