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Real Democracy Now! a podcast

Real Democracy Now! a podcast answers the question: can we do democracy differently? If you're dissatisfied with the current state of democracy but not sure how it could be improved this is the podcast for you. You'll hear from experts and activists as well as everyday people about how democracy works and how it can be improved. Then you get to choose which reforms you think would make the most difference.
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Real Democracy Now! a podcast
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Now displaying: April, 2019
Apr 22, 2019

In this episode, I’m talking with Antony Green about the Australian electoral system and Vote Compass, a tool which allows voters to explore how their views align with the major parties.

Antony is an Australian psephologist and commentator. He is the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's election analyst. As well as being an Adjunct Professor University of Sydney in the School of Social and Political Sciences.

I spoke with Antony about how he came to be Australia’s best-known election analyst - he said he was in the right place, at the right time, with the right skills.

He identified three institutions which define Australian politics:

  1. Compulsory voting
  2. Preferential voting
  3. Bi-cameral Houses of Parliament

And highlighted a couple of institutional challenges in Australia

  • The power of our Senate undermines the mandate given to the House of Representatives to implement the policies they took to the election
  • Strict rules around what counts as a validly completed ballot paper results in around one-third to a half of all votes being considered informal.

I also asked Antony what he thought of the idea of a Citizens’ Senate. He noted that it would be difficult in practice due to the need to amend the Australian Constitution and that there would be many questions to be answered about how it might work in practice.

Anthony has been involved in the development of Vote Compass here in Australia and I asked him about the benefits and limitations of the tool.

My interview with Antony was recorded some time ago and we are currently in the midst of a Federal Election here in Australia. As Antony suggested in his comments on Vote Compass, it has been extended to include the ultra-conservative party One Nation. It will be interesting to see the impact of a party to the right of the Liberal/Nationals on where people’s policy preferences align.

If you would like to see how your policy preferences align with four of the political parties contesting the upcoming 2019 Federal Election visit the ABC’s Vote Compass.

Apr 15, 2019
In this episode, I’m talking with Dr Camille Bedock about her book Reforming Democracy: Institutional engineering in Western Europe, 1990 - 2010 and also about her more recent research with Sophie Panel on citizen conceptions of how democratic their democracy is and with Nicolas Sauger on how electoral systems with majority bonuses affect electoral competition.
 
Camille's book is based on her thesis and looks at electoral and other reforms in Italy and France [1.35] with a focus on the determinants and processes of institutional reform. 
 
For her research, Camille focused on formal institutions [3.50] which regulate the functioning of democracy. In particular, she looked at bundles of reforms [5.25] building on Lijphart’s work in Patterns of Democracy, finding that often institutional components 'move together.’ She proves examples of such bundles of reforms [8.05] such as changes to the length of the Presidential term and the electoral calendar term in France. Her research concludes that bundles of reforms are the norm rather than the exception.
 
Camille identifies three key findings of her research [10.15]
  1. Institutional reforms are not exceptional or rare
  2. Political elites make reforms in reaction to events rather than in a proactive way
  3. To understand change and stability we need to look at the processes of reform which are either consensual or conflictual.
In considering democratic legitimacy and trust [13.45] Camille notes that whilst lack of legitimacy can lead to institutional reforms there is little evidence available about whether institutional reforms can restore legitimacy and trust. And she points out that legitimacy and trust may depend on an individual’s views on how democracy should operate. Her recent research with Sophie Panel [16.15] on the views of French people on how democratic their democracy is, suggests that people who hold minimalist views on democracy have a higher regard for their democracy as do people who voted for the party which won the last election.
 
Finally, Camille in conjunction with Nicolas Sauger [18.55] has looked at the impact of majority bonus systems on electoral competition and representative outcomes.
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