Gov’t sets out proposals for voting system

The government yesterday unveiled its proposal for a new electoral system and invited opposition parties to a dialogue but stressed that it was prepared to go it alone in passing the necessary legislation. The proposal is aimed at achieving greater proportional representation in Parliament while still guaranteeing that the winning party will be able to command a comfortable majority. The main opposition New Democracy party, which is leading in recent opinion polls, has rejected any change to the electoral law while the smaller left-wing parties demand simple proportional representation with all seats distributed proportionally to the votes won by each party. «We seek the broadest possible consensus, but if necessary we will continue on our own. The government is determined to pass the new law,» Interior Minister Costas Skandalidis said. The Constitution mandates that any change in the electoral law can be used only after the following elections. The current electoral law is heavily weighted toward giving the top two vote-getting parties seats in the 300-member Parliament, at the expense of smaller ones, with only 60 percent of votes cast being apportioned according to percentages won by parties clearing the 3 percent threshold. Two variations presented by Skandalidis will result in between 80 percent and 88 percent of parliamentary seats being shared proportionally. In the first proposal, 80 percent of seats (or 240 of them) will be shared proportionally among parties getting into Parliament, with the winning party getting another 48 seats and the second one 12. In the second proposal, 85 percent (or 255 seats) will be shared proportionally by all parties with the winner getting the other 45. Skandalidis said that, in effect, the first proposal resulted in 81 percent proportional representation and the second one up to 88 percent. Election expert Ilias Nikolakopoulos said on Mega Channel television that a party winning 40-41 percent of the vote could have a clear majority in Parliament. This is similar to the current system. Other proposals include: single-seat constituencies will go to the party that wins the most votes; in other constituencies, parties will divide seats according to their number of votes, with the median determined by the division of valid ballots by the number of seats in the constituency; the number of «state deputies,» who are elected according to a list, may rise to 15, from the current 12; large constituencies may be divided, with the Athens B area (which contains 42 seats) being divided into five and the Athens A, Thessaloniki A and Rest of Attica constituencies into two each.

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