Dear Sir,

Your interesting informational piece on the rights of alien residents of Spain to vote painted an inaccurate picture of the straightforwardness of the first pass the post system. Take the UK election of 1931. The results were: Conservative 470, Liberal 32. National Liberal 35, Labour 52, Irish National 2, National 4, National Labor 13 and Independent Liberal 4. So who became Prime Minister? The Conservative. Wrong. The head of the National Labour party Ramsay MacDonald was chosen. There was a pre election deal on an early election. The polls got around it, before the election. The important thing about elections systems is that they be fair and the rules known in advance. Don't worry the connivers, and all politicians are essentially connivers, will change within the rules. In two party countries the juggling takes place in party conferences or behind closed doors and then a united front is put forward for the public in the election. A political scientist once described the American two party system as 100 parties, two to each state, that once every four years form an alliance for a single presidential election. In every presidential election there are state parties that deep six their pro forma candidate. This is why most states go uncontested. Your average Rhode Island Republican prefers a Democrat president. Your normal Wyoming Democrat wants a Republican president. All election systems have there pluses and minuses. Where and when the conniving takes place depends on the rules. Don't worry though it will take place. The English system is not as clear as it appears. Would Blair have gotten in, or had the majority he had without the Lib–Lab alliance. They did the deal making before the election, rather than after it. As I recall Paddy Ashdown seemed to think that he got shortchanged. Gordon Brown seems to be of the same opinion as to himself. Politics involves a lot of humans jostling each other. It is never completely above board. Indeed total openness would possibly lead to paralysis. Somewhere along the line, from among all the factions of the querulous species called human, a working system has to be constructed. As Bismarck said of the consensus that we arrive at in legislation, it is sort of like a sausage, it is best enjoyed when you do not know how it was made. As you can tell I am a student of these things and the new Spanish local system is interesting. In the United States there is a history of letting aliens vote in elections. A few local governments allow it though more did a hundred years ago. Today it is accomplished informally by only cleaning up the voting roles before general elections. The failure to do so in Florida in 2000 was one of the great untold stories of that election saga. There is no doubt that Bush garnered an easy majority of legal votes. The Democrats left tens of thousands of illegal voters on the roles and allowed them to vote in select counties (the ones they controlled). Without careful oversight the same will develop in Spain as local officials will not want to offend the voters who elected them and with whom they pretty much agree. They will see an advantage to sloppy bookkeeping. It is a rare politician who is not willing to bend the rules to win.

Felipe Bover, Santa Fe

USA

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