It's a parliamentary geekery open thread, and everyone's invited!

As requested by one of ITQ’s more shy and retiring readers, a thread to debate just exactly what constitutes a mandate to govern:

Media and others keep floating the idea that if the party that attracts the most votes in an election wins a minority of seats in the House, that voters are therefore signaling their preference for a minority government.

This is untrue. The only choice on the ballot is which party candidate do you want to represent you in your riding. (From this one might infer that it also asks which party do you want to form a government.)

However, there is clearly no choice at all on the ballot as to whether a voter  prefers a minority or a majority government. To contend otherwise is either dumb or disingenuous.

Similarly with the notion that a party that emerges from an election with the most seats, but less than a majority, has a “mandate” to implement their policies, or even worse, has a mandate to ram their policies through the Commons under threat of another election.

They don’t have that kind of mandate at all. Quite the opposite, in fact, since the majority of voters and members in such an instance presumably support the policies of parties other than those of the party with the largest number of seats.

What the party with the most seats has, in that setting, is simply a limited mandate to try to form a government, and to assemble the House, and to introduce legislation that may or may not win the support of a majority of members. Period.

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