Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The political "power quotient" and the futility of Canadian elections.

Imagine a completely mythical country in which the legislature consists of 100 seats, currently represented as follows: 49 Lefties, 49 Righties and two Wingnuts. Now, if all legislation requires a simple majority of legislators to vote for it, one can ask what the political power (or, if memory serves, what someone else called the "power quotient") of each party is. And the answer might surprise a few people -- they're absolutely identical.

It's obvious that no single party can ram through legislation all by itself, just as it's obvious that the combination of any two parties can do just that. In effect, then, despite the monstrous disparity in numbers, all three parties have an equal power quotient.

Now imagine that she's white. No, no, wait ... wrong imagery. Now imagine an election that produces massive changes in representation: 34 Lefties, 34 Righties and 32 Wingnuts. The Wingnuts have made spectacular gains, with the end result being ... well, the same as it was before. Once again, despite the massive increase in the number of Wingnut legislators, all parties still have exactly the same power quotient they had before. In short, if we ignore the possibility of legislators crossing party lines, the election accomplished absolutely nothing. (There is a more complicated formula for calculating the power quotient of a party when there are more possible combinations -- I'll have to dig it up, unless someone else knows what the heck I'm talking about here.)

Which brings us to this article, "Liberals set to win minority: poll,"

Canada's ruling Liberals would retain power in the January 23 election but only win enough seats in Parliament to form another minority government, according to a poll released on Monday.

Regardless of how the representation in Parliament changes, it would be amusing to recalculate the power quotient of each party and see if the election made even the slightest bit of difference in political power. And wouldn't it be a boot to the nads if this whole thing was an exercise in futility?

A MORE COMPLICATED SCENARIO: Consider four parties with respective representation 42, 31, 21, and 6 seats. What's amusing here is that the fourth party -- the one with six seats -- has absolutely no power whatsoever. While the first three parties have equal power to form coalitions and pass legislation, there is absolutely no situation where including the fourth party would make a difference in getting a majority of votes. In effect, no one cares what they think.

This is an entertaining observation since, in our first scenario, a party with only two seats wielded the same power as the larger parties whereas, in this second situation, a party with even more seats has no influence whatsoever. I can't wait to do this analysis after the election.

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