Right to vote versus Compulsory voting system and Parliamentary Seat

Compulsory voting versus Voting rights

Sunday, 26 May 2019, election day. I had to vote for 4 parliaments: the European Parliament, the Belgium Parliament, the Brussels Parliament and Brussels' Flemish Representatives in the Flemish Parliament. In Belgium it is "I MUST" because here we have compulsory voting. The reason? Probably because Belgians are too stupid to decide for themselves whether or not they want to vote and this in contrast to most other developed countries.

And thus, as Belgium opted for compulsory voting, I think this obligation should be enforced until it becomes ridiculous. Indeed, illness should be the only exception that people don't "must" vote. As elections are announced sufficient time in advance, people can organise themselves in such a way they can vote and thus they shouldn't be able to use excuses such as they are on holiday. Indeed, if a system decides voting is mandatory than people who don't vote should be penalised; if they are not penalized when they didn't vote than the system is free just as in democracies should be. Thus, if Belgians are penalised for not voting because even today many Belgians continue to defend this system as superior to any other, than Belgians may become adults who demand voting right so they can decide whether or not to vote and don't need to find excuses, similar with most democracies. Because people should not be forced to defend democracies if they prefer not to vote, they should want to defend democracy by going to the polls. Of course, I understand politicians who continue to defend the Belgian system as fluctuations are less likely so the same politicians can remain in power for decades.
 
Lists with candidates in Brussels for the European, Belgium, Brussels and part of Flemish Parliament
Thus, I think people can't defend compulsory voting without punishment for those who refuse to vote, or it is hypocrisy; politicians have the possibility to change the system if they think people should not be punished when they refuse to vote. Further, compulsory vote can create inequality unless everyone who doesn't vote is treated in the same way and thus not depending on the district where someone lives.

I'm also in favour that elections are organised during weekdays so civil servants can survey the elections during their work hours (although with overtime to allow a sufficient long election day so most people who want to vote can do so). When elections are organised during workdays and not during weekends or holidays, it will probably cause less disruption to most people's agenda and thus it is more likely people who want to vote will do so vote while it doesn't bother those who don't want to vote but that should be each person's individual decision and not society's problem. Yes, as I wrote higher, I'm in favour of voting right. Of course, with a system of compulsory voting, this can be organised on any day, including weekends as people must vote.

Party system versus Candidate system

Another I think outdated system is that people can't vote for people on different lists, i.e. different parties, not even when they think candidates from different parties would make a good team. Instead, a few politicians at the top can force their policies on people who want to join their party as they demand loyalty from party members in return for a good position on the party's election list. Therefore, I think the political party system should be abolished and replaced with a system whereby candidates with the highest preference votes are directly elected for Parliament although people can unite in movements to get their voices heard much louder. Still, candidates and not parties should receive funding to take part in elections. Of course, each region or district should have its number of electable seats in Parliament according the population of each region to avoid some regions are over or under represented. This is no longer unrealistic: President Macron was elected via a movement and thus outside a political party.

Successor list, I'm not a fan

Belgium also has a successor list in case the real candidate is elected but decides not to take the parliamentary seat because, for instance, the person becomes minister in the government (I think only elected people should be allowed to become minister and not what are called "technocrats" as they could have taken part in elections if they wish to govern and during the election propose their program). I'm not a fan of this successor list although I understand why some people may argue to keep it.

  • First, how does it work now?

In Belgium, the person who was elected for Parliament may prefer a position in the government and therefore is replaced in Parliament with someone from the successor list; during elections people can vote for candidates on that list. However, and I think this is wrong, when the minister decides to leave the government for whatever reason, the politician can return to Parliament and retake its parliamentary seat while the successor has to leave Parliament, even when that person was very active.

  • When the successor list continues to exist

Thus yes, this successor list may be useful to fill the parliamentary seat that is free because someone joins the government and thus immediately after the election. However, I think it should not be used afterwards but also that the person who took the minister's position should not be able to return to Parliament unless after new elections because this will disrupt Parliament as someone else, i.e. the successor will lose the seat. Ones a government is formed, I think the composition of the government and Parliament should be final (see further below).

  • Abandon successor list

I think that such a successor list is not needed: when someone becomes minister the next effective candidate with the highest number of votes can take the parliamentary seat. This way, it is a politician who is really chosen by the people and thus the politician with the higher number of votes can't return after the end of the ministerial position because a real candidate became Parliamentarian.

  • What in case a Parliamentary seat becomes vacant?

I prefer the system whereby, when a person doesn't take the parliamentary seat (except immediately after the election when someone may become minister and thus someone else takes the parliamentary seat - see above paragraphs) because of resignation or death, new elections should be organised in that district so people chose a new representative. I also think that, when someone is candidate for one Parliament but is already a member of another Parliament than the person should leave the Parliament in which the person has a seat. A successor list is wrong because it allows a candidate to sit in Parliament 1, be electable for Parliament 2 and when elected, the person can choose to sit in one or the other Parliament while the successor takes the seat in the other Parliament until the real elected person may decide to take the seat in the other Parliament; when writing it down it doesn't seem right and straightforward. When a candidate must choose between one or the other Parliament and loses the right to return to the other Parliament unless after new elections for that Parliament, than I think more people have an effective chance to be a candidate. In case a person moves to the other Parliament, the seat in the other Parliament becomes vacant and new elections for that one seat should be organised in the district of the person who left. As there is also the risk that the new elections changes the power balance of Parliament, certainly in a party-controlled Parliament, it is less likely politicians will resign to join another Parliament.

As already mentioned, also ministers shouldn't be able to return because their seat is taken by either the person on the successor list or the candidate with the next highest number of votes (see higher). Doing so, politicians will think twice before they decide to become a candidate in each election and thus more people have a possibility to be candidate and be elected. Now often the same politicians are candidate in every possible election while some move from position to another position or they can return to their parliamentary seat when they lose another position. In my preferred system, politicians can't return to Parliament before a next election as they lose permanently their seat until next elections if they choose something else such as a ministership and thus more candidates will get a chance.

Parliamentary wages DURING political career

During the career, I think politicians' presence in Parliament should be made public. In case certain politicians never turn up, I accept they were elected and thus they receive their monthly payment as any other politician but at least voters are informed who deserved their money because they worked and who didn't. Of course, the absence of politicians doesn't mean they didn't work; still, when they are never present they have no influence on the outcome of voting and thus this can be considered as they didn't work. In case people decide the person who is rarely present is again elected for a new period than that's the voters who decide; in a normal society politicians who don't work will not be re-elected.

Payment AFTER political career

When
  • ministers decide to resign (this is possible when e.g. they don't agree with policies of the majority of colleagues or with new legislation voted in Parliament) or
  • persons are no more elected for Parliament (thus not when Parliamentarians resign as in Parliament people vote according their conscience for or against new legislative without having to implement the policies if they don't agree; this vote can have a difference on the outcome)
than they should not be rewarded via their own system but as anyone else, i.e. receive benefits until they can start a new job. I accept they receive three additional months after they find work as some persons stopped progress in their old job when they were elected. But, when a Parliamentarian resign, this should not be a reason to finance the person (except for those 3 months) because the resignation was probably because the person found another job.

When politicians who lose their position are paid the same as what ordinary citizens receive when they lose their job will bring politicians back to the level of everyone and thus, they will understand what it means to be unemployed. And thus, no more exaggerated bonuses for resigning or losing a Parliamentary seat.

In summary

Maybe I'm wrong but, I think, if a certain system is chosen than this should be enforced, even when it means to penalise people who decide not to vote when a voting system is chosen that is mandatory. Further, I think people who are candidate for a certain election and win the seat should take that position or lose it in favour of someone else. Finally, people should not be able to go from one election for a certain Parliament to another election for another Parliament but choose before they become candidate and thus should only be able to become elected for one or another Parliament - the latter may be too severe and maybe people may be candidate during the election for another Parliament while still sit in the other Parliament and only after the elections they may choose what they prefer.

Note: The above are personal thoughts and anyone can comment to inform about possible errors or further improvements - After all, it should become a movement.

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