Farry condems d’Hondt system

“Many commentators are speculating that the results from the Assembly Elections will make it impossible to elect a First and Deputy First Minister team under the current rules. There has been less comment on how the system of d’Hondt will work, or rather fail to work, after the elections.”

“At present, there are five unionist and five nationalist ministers in the Executive, in addition to the First and Deputy First Ministers. Most people assume that this was a 50:50 rule written into the Agreement. It was nothing of the sort. D’Hondt is a very crude form of proportionality. The greater the number of parties, the greater is the likelihood of distortions occurring. The 50:50 split between unionists and nationalists was actually a fluke outcome. The real balance within the 1998 Assembly was a 5:4:1 ratio between unionists, nationalists, and others.”

“It remains to be seen if both the DUP and Sinn Fein will make gains at the expense of the UUP and SDLP. But two things seem at least certain. First, in line with changing demographics, the overall nationalist vote will go up, and the overall unionist vote will go down. Second, the DUP will swallow up most, if not all, of the smaller anti-Agreement unionist seats.”

“If this is the case, both the UUP and DUP will each win a number of seats in the mid to high 20s, while the SDLP and Sinn Fein will be in the low to mid 20s range. When d’Hondt is applied to this, it will produce three seats each for the UUP and DUP, and two seats each for SDLP and Sinn Fein. Therefore, in the context of an increased nationalist vote, the balance in the Executive will move from 50:50 to 60:40 in favour of unionists! The SDLP, who wrote the system into the Agreement, will lose a seat to the DUP.”

“D’Hondt is not used anywhere else in the world for the allocation of positions in Government. Northern Ireland is set to discover why after the forthcoming Assembly Elections.”


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