:: Friday, May 04, 2007 ::

Circus Games

The story of the Scottish elections so far have been dominated by the chaos of the voting system. Most regional votes still haven't been announced and up to 100, 000 spoilt papers have been recorded. Constituency after constituency reported 1000, 1200 or more spoiled papers. In the overwhelming number of cases this will be because of voters making mistakes and voting wrongly, for example marking a cross on their council paper or numbering their Scottish Parliament paper. The decision to have both the council elections and the Scottish parliamentary elections on the same day, with two different voting systems and three different votes was a disaster.

Instead of two ballot papers for the constituency and the regional lists there was one with the regional list on the left (although previously this was popularly known as the 'second vote'. The paper said to mark two crosses on this ballot paper with an arrow pointing directly down to the regional list vote (although it meant one for each vote). Those mistakenly marking two votes on the regional list had their votes discounted.

On Radio Scotland polling clerks and counting clerks are saying that smaller parties suffered worst from this confusion.

Additionally, unlike in previous elections, ballot papers were not supposed to be folded before being placed in a ballot box. This would be confusing for older voters especially. It's not clear whether this would invalidate these votes, though I tend to think not.

In addition to that a new electronic counting system was introduced and there were major problems with the postal voting system. In some constituencies the winning parties majority was smaller than the number of spoiled papers.

It has been a terrible night for democracy.

For the left the night has been bad. In reality our hopes were to get maybe one or two seats. However neither side of the SSP split have succeeded in being elected (there are still some results to come in as I write but this is how it looks like turning out). In the previous Scottish Parliamentary elections the fact that the left was united made it credible and gave it a boost that was more than the sum of its parts. The reverse has proved to be true this time with a divided left losing credibility all round. But probably a bigger factor was the big swing to the SNP and the polarised situation between the SNP and Labour. SNP votes went up in the constituencies and on the regional list. They recovered the list vote in spectacular fashion and smaller parties suffered accordingly.

From here we can only look for consolation in the council election results. After that we need to re-assess where we are politically. A divided left is not viable but overcoming that division could take years. Campaigning will return to the streets, workplaces and communities. A lot will also depend on the outcome of the election. A neo-liberal SNP government will expose their politics although the possibility of constitutional crisis may overshadow that. A weakened labour coalition will lead to a heightened polarisation between the SNP and Labour and the circus will carry on.

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:: Alister | 9:40 am | save this page to del.icio.us Save This Page | permalink⊕ | |


Ally, I've put on my blog a possible reason regarding the low votes for SSP and Greens. Not the only reason but one caused by the ballot papers.

By Blogger Kevin Williamson, at 9:51 pm  

If the Lib-Dems continue to insist, as they are doing, on being in opposition, then there can only be one of two outcomes - Lab-Con coalition or new poll as no party can form a government within the 28-day time limit.

By Blogger Reidski, at 5:21 pm  

It's looking at the moment like a minority SNP govt with issue by issue voting. Getting ill or going on holiday will be banned for 5 years.

The tories won't go into coalition with anyone, and no one would have them. Still too much stigma attached to them it would be political suicide.

A fresh election is too risky for either the SNP or Labour and I can't see it happening. If it did I would predict an even bigger margin of victory for the nationalists.

By Blogger Alister, at 7:37 pm  

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