James Macintyre: Europe's undemocratic system not a model to use

What do Donald Trump, the Scottish referendum and the European referendum have in common? It is called democracy. It may not be the best system of government, but it sure beats whatever is in second place.
It may not be the best way in the world, but voting is what we haveIt may not be the best way in the world, but voting is what we have
It may not be the best way in the world, but voting is what we have

It seems that many people only support democracy when it gives the answer they are looking for, and if the answer is not correct in their thinking, then either the voters are deluded or they do not understand the outcome of their actions.

A referendum is a referendum – not the ifs or buts that seem to punctuate the aftermath of these votes.

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Many of the remainers in the EU vote and the Yes voters in Scotland will do everything possible to undermine the democratic voice to gain a second referendum.

There is one important caveat – in the American presidential elections the outcome depends on the number of Electoral College votes gained by each candidate and the minimum number to succeed is 50 per cent plus one.

Each state has a number of college votes and the winner in the popular vote in each state takes all.

The rules are set out in the US Constitution, and were designed by the Founding Fathers to ensure that the states with the large populations could not usurp the smaller ones.

In the European Union – not the EU Parliament – there is a Qualified Majority Vote where the number of votes held by each member state is determined by the size of their population. In either case the winner of the popular vote could lose the election.

In the Scottish and European referendums the result was determined by a simple majority, and in both cases the answer was almost a draw.

Any referendum of this importance should have criteria that shows the strength of both sides. A truly democratic referendum should require a turnout of 75 per cent of the electorate qualified to vote, and a majority of 66 per cent is required to overturn the status quo. This would discourage the stalking horses and the loose cannons from taking nations into uncharted waters.

The European Parliament gives only a semblance of democracy to an undemocratic system controlled by France and Germany.

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We could adopt the Swiss model, which allows voters to decide on the result of all major government proposals. Switzerland is a small country and can easily cope with several votes each year, and the system itself will limit the number of motions proposed, as politicians will not wish to have their views overturned.

In the UK where we already suffer from referendum fatigue, there could be positive resistance to such a scheme.

The Swiss system could be used for local authority issues and would obviate criticism from dissenters.

Democracy is democracy.

James Macintyre is a retired chartered accountant. He lives in Linlithgow, West Lothian.

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