At least for now, a “contentious” proposal to add about 15 list seats to Ireland’s single transferable vote system has been left out of the main governing opposition party’s ambitious proposals for political reform. (See Irish Times for full story and politicalreformireland.ie for periodic updates and links.)
Reidar Visser has an appropriately entitled post on the “Constitutional Disintegration” in Iraq, in the wake of the veto issued by the Sunni member of the presidency council. Regarding the provisions that were vetoed:
Hashemi protests the low quota of seats assigned for out-of-country voting, aka the “national” and compensatory” seats that will total 5% of the total seats less a minority quota of 8 seats. The specific figure is set not by the law but by the Iraqi elections commission (IHEC) based on ministry of trade statistics, and in practice has recently been stipulated to 8 seats. The constitutional requirement is one parliamentary deputy per 100,000 Iraqis; accordingly, unless one really believes there are less than 800,000 Iraqis abroad, it is very hard to disagree with Hashemi. The minuscule quota of “national” and “compensatory” seats” that is left after the deduction of minority seats is probably the most explicit violation of the constitution that can be found in the amended electoral law, and as such the law should be eminently vetoable.
So, the decision by “vice president” (but really a co-equal member of the three-person presidency council, as I will come back to) to veto the bill is clearly admissible constitutionally. The bigger questions come from both the attempt to veto only part of the bill, and from how the parliament and cabinet have responded.
This is an attempt at rejecting only a single article of the amendment to the election law. Through instructing the parliament to revisit only a limited section of the bill, Hashemi is entering unchartered constitutional territory…
Many constitutions contain provisions for partial vetoes, which can have one of two effects (depending on specific constitutional provisions): either (1) leading to the promulgation of the rest of the bill, with the vetoed parts separated from it and sent back for reconsideration by the legislature, or (2) requiring that none of the bill be promulgated until after the legislature has chosen between its original bill and the bill as amended by the executive. The latter is common in many Latin American systems, and appears to be what Hashemi is trying to do. In fact, this morning I saw (on Mosaic via Link TV, originally from Al Arabiya) an interview with the chairman of the presidency council (or “the president”), Jalal Talabani, who was trying to put a good spin on his colleague’s decision. He said that the council had “voted” to “approve” the bill, and that preparations for the elections should go forward, but that the council was requesting that the parliament revisit the objectionable provision (on Iraqis abroad) in the near future. If this is what the presidency council was attempting, it would be a case of the first type of partial veto, as I sketched above. Only one small problem: the Iraqi constitution has no provision for this sort of veto.
Then it was parliament’s turn to respond. Visser again:
If the attempt by Hashemi to restrict the veto to a single article thus seems somewhat problematic, reactions to the veto by Iraqi parliamentarians have been even more worrying and serve to reinforce the impression of constitutional frailty in today’s Iraq. In a strongly worded letter, the second speaker of the parliament, Khalid al-Atiyya, a Maliki [the PM] ally, today dismisses the veto for being unconstitutional “because it does not refer to a violation of a single clause of the constitution or to the by-law of the parliament”.
As Visser goes on to say, there is no requirement of the presidency council to stipulate constitutional objections in issuing a veto. (It is, after all, an executive veto, not a judicial one.) As for the politics of the veto, it should not be surprising. Sunnis are over-represented among Iraqis who have fled during the war and occupation–their regions of the country have been the most violent. In fact, it was precisely to protect Sunni interests that Iraq’s three-person presidency was created. As I noted at the time ( September, 2005), the last-minute change from a unitary to a tripartite presidency was a “nontrivial concession to the Sunni negotiators.”* Now its minority-veto provision has been exercised. (I am not sure if this is the first time or not, but it certainly is highly consequential.)
Vetoes by the presidential council can be overturned by a three-fifths majority (one of the rare cases in a parliamentary democracy of more than 50%+1 being required to override a veto).
As for the electoral law itself, an earlier post by Visser provides a table of the magnitudes of each district (governorate) under the new law. The district magnitudes will be higher this time, partly because the assembly size is increased (from 275 to 323) and partly because of the reduction in the number of seats that are to be allocated in a national compensatory tier.
The increased district magnitudes (which now range from 7 to 68 rather than 5 to 59, as in 2005) would imply greater proportionality at the district (governorate) level. However, the sharp reduction in national compensation seats (only 8, given that 8 other national seats area reserved for various ethnic minorities and Iraqis abroad) implies that the overall system will be less proportional. The average magnitude now (ignoring the “compensation and minority seats”) would be 17.5, whereas the effective magnitude was previously 275 (12.8 at the governorate level, but party shares in parliament determined as if one national district).
Visser further notes that, at the district level, “surplus seats are also distributed to winning lists only.” I do not know the formula to be used to allocate seats, but from this brief reference to surplus seats, I assume it is some form of quota and largest remainders, but that the district threshold for earning a seat is a full quota (which would be 1/M if it is simple quota or 1/(M+1) if it is Hagenbach-Bishoff). But I am only speculating here.**
And then there is the question of list type. Supposedly, the lists are open. However, I have yet to see with certainty that preference votes alone determine the ranking of lists–the definition of open lists. I understand this to be the case in the new law, but I still have some doubts (simply because many times open and “flexible” lists are confused).
A move to open lists would be consistent with the near-elimination of national compensatory seats, given that it is hard and unusual (though not impossible) to design an open-list system with preference votes also applying for the compensation seats. (Typically compensation seats are distributed via closed lists.) Assuming the district-level allocations are indeed now by open lists, I do not know how the few remaining compensatory seats are to be allocated to candidates, but they are such a small part of the total system that it barely alters its logic.
Of course, all this could be moot if the entire debate over the electoral law–which got quite heated–is reopened and the election is delayed, on account of the veto by the presidency council.
It is also worth noting that if the law ultimately goes ahead with its basic form intact, Iraq will have used, in just over a five-year period, each of the three main list types: closed lists (for the original constitutional assembly–in a single national district–and for the first parliamentary election, in governorate districts with national compensation), flexible lists (for the governorate assembly elections), and now open lists (in governorates with minimal national compensation) in 2010. Iraq has become quite a laboratory for list PR!
* The constitution talks about “the president” throughout, but one of the late amendments that brought Sunni actors along was a transitory passage that states that wherever the constitution says “president” it refers to the “presidency council.”
** It seems that a full quota of the national vote was not required in 2005, as a simple quota would have been 0.36%, yet there were parties with less than this represented in 2005. So, if I have correctly understood that this time there will be a threshold of a quota to obtain a seat, that is yet another reduction in proportionality. However, I would not make too much of either the near-elimination of compensatory seats or the threshold, as quota (whether simple or Hagenbach-Bishoff) and largest remainders (for quota-earning lists) with an average magnitude of 17.5 is still a quite highly proportional system.
If you spend some quality time with Y-net’s interactive map (in Hebrew, color-coded by party if you zoom in), you could come pretty quickly to the conclusion that electoral reform would not make a large difference in the country’s party fragmentation. Even in the very unlikely event that a single-seat district system were plopped down in Israel, many of the smaller parties would remain quite viable. A more realistic reform, such as to a medium-sized district system, probably would not reduce the number of parties by much.
For instance, here are the largest few parties’ vote percentages in selected cities, listed more or less from north to south:
(These communities differ widely in population, but only the first two, plus Ariel and Sderot, are under 25,000; Katzrin is quite small.)
Haaretz also has tool for looking at the Israeli vote by city or sector (in English), but most of its levels of aggregation are bigger than the Ynet tool. It does, however, show that Ra’am-Ta’al dominated the Bedouin communities, with 80%.
Strikingly, almost every party is the largest or second largest somewhere, including some that have less than 5% of the national vote. Certainly, there is no guarantee that all these would survive electoral reform. The largest party is not over 30% in many cases and one or both of the top two parties might be displaced by new alliances of currently trailing parties in any given region. Nonetheless, it is unlikely that any districted electoral system would significantly cut into Israel’s political fragmentation (although if the districts were small enough or if the threshold were raised significantly, it could certainly make for a lot of disproportionality) .
The one relatively large party that does not show up in the top two anywhere among the cities listed at Ynet is Labor. It runs third or lower everywhere, except the Kibbutz sector (shown at Haaretz).* So if the objective of electoral reform is to squeeze out Labor once and for all, it might be achievable. If the goal is to make a substantial dent in the country’s fragmentation, quite possibly not.
UPDATE: See the comments by Manuel for important detail and alternative scenarios!
The results of the Salvadoran legislative (and municipal and the Central American Parliament) elections are now posted at the site of the Tribunal Supremo Electoral.
The seats in the assembly are as noted earlier:
There is also a votes summary that can be downloaded (under “Otros Reportes” strangely enough, as if it’s an afterthought). As far as I can tell there is no posted national summary of votes. If one wanted to add up all the departmental votes one could confirm the final vote total for the FMLN (last reported at around 43%) and other parties. But this one does not want to.
The departmental summary is interesting, however, in that it gives the full allocation process, showing the quota, seats by quota, remainder, and seats by remainder. Once again, the PCN lives a charmed life, winning one seat in each of 11 departments, always on a remainder. The large parties use up most of their votes on quotas, leaving the PCN to win a seat even in a 3-seat district like Chalatenango where it had only 11.4% of the vote.
While the FMLN is probably not happy with its showing, it is worth remembering that if it indeed won 43% of the vote, that’s the highest total a party has obtained in any of the last five legislative elections. The only higher share since the FMLN began participating was in its first election, 1994, when ARENA scored 45% (in the election that was concurrent with the presidential election). It would also be the FMLN’s own highest total ever, by around 3 percentage points.
In 2005, parties that got the most votes appointed members for seats. This time, an “open ballot” will allow voters to choose individual candidates within parties.
Of course, the article–which is actually quoting a UN envoy–propagates the common ignorance of how closed-list systems, including in Iraq in 2005 work*: parties “appointing” members, as if those elected members had not been nominated to their ranked positions on lists prepared before the election.
I continue to wonder, however, if this system really is open list, or something else. For instance, some time ago I had an e-mail from someone in Iraq–someone I do not know but who seemed to know what he was talking about–who said, in part:
We’re looking at an open list system with non-transferable votes–once a candidate receives enough votes to be elected, any extras do not accrue to his or her party.
This is similar to some vague references to “hybrid” that I quoted in the original discussion, liked above.
The quote from my correspondent in Iraq could be interpreted as SNTV, rather than open lists. What sort of list system throws away votes for a candidate beyond those needed to be elected? Or perhaps it is SNTV, but with pooling of losers’ votes, but not of winner’s surplus? That would be odd, but I suppose it is possible. (I have e-mailed back and hope to get a clarification.)
UPDATE: A post from September at a blog called Abu Muqawama has a description that reads for me as precisely open-list PR. However, he contrasts this “OLPR” system with one he calls “OL,” by which he evidently means what the rest of us would call SNTV. This terminological issue appears to be the source of the confusion that implies OLPR is a hybrid of PR and something else rather than just one of the alternative forms of list PR.
* The only confirmed exception being Nepal’s recent election, apparently.
My latest paper, now under review, is now posted at my Working Papers page (scroll down, past the list of “Research projects in progress,” for a link to the paper in PDF).
Title: ‘Party System Rationalisation and the Mirror Image of Interparty and Intraparty Competition: The Adoption of Party Lists in Colombia” (co-authored with MÃ³nica PachÃ³n).
Abstract: We analyze the adoption of a party-list electoral system in Colombia, replacing a former highly â€˜personalisedâ€™ system (in which seats were allocated solely on candidate votes). Consistent with theoretical expectations, there were two major changes. First, the party system was â€˜rationalisedâ€™: the number of parties competing is now more consistent across districts. Formerly one-party dominant districts now feature interparty competition, and districts that formerly had numerous tiny parties now have fewer parties. Second, changes in the intraparty dimension â€˜mirrorâ€™ those on the interparty dimension: where interparty competition increased, intraparty competition decreased, and vice versa. The results are important to both practical reform efforts and furthering knowledge on the effects of electoral systems and their reform.
Comments on the paper are invited, either here or at one of my e-mail addresses.
This planting inaugurates a new orchard block of work in progress that I hope to use regularly as a way of announcing new postings at my academic website.
And, of course, congratulations to MÃ³nica, who just defended her Ph.D. and is now starting her new academic job at the Universidad de los Andes!
A new party has been formed by Ephraim Sneh, a former Labor Knesset member (MK). The party will be known as Yisrael Hazaka (“Strong Israel”). Other Labor party members, although not MKs, have joined the party.
Sneh has resigned his Knesset seat, to be replaced by Druze party activist Shakib Shanan.
The Haaretz story (linked above) also notes, updating an item of note here previously:
In addition, the Green Party asked Labor MK Ophir Pines-Paz several months ago to head the party, and Labor officials think he could accept the offer.
This development is also of interest to me because of Shanan’s entry into parliament:
Shanan, 45, is an educator who lives in the western Galilee. As No. 20 on the Labor list, he almost got into the Knesset, but an appeal over the election results gave the party 19 seats instead of the 20 it had first appeared to have won, and Shanan did not make it into the chamber.
He was thus a first loser, a category of politician I have particular (peculiar?) interest in, along with last losers. Generally, we might imagine that parties have reasonably good information about how many seats they might win, give or take a seat or two. Thus the marginal candidates are of special interest in terms of what their nomination (to a given rank on a closed list), but uncertain election, might signal to whatever constituencies they might represent. I previously commented on a similar case with respect to the Shas list after the 2006 election.
Of course, that Shanan has now made it into parliament is a reminder that some (many?) first losers ultimately do serve, as most list systems replace members who leave early with the next available candidate on the original list. Given that a new election is looking more and more likely some time in 2009, this is rather late in the life of this Knesset, but it’s a seat for a marginal candidate at the last election, and representative of the Druze community.
A common divisor method for allocation of seats to lists based on their votes in PR systems or to jurisdictions based on their population is named for the Belgian who “invented” the method in Europe.1 But what was the Belgian’s name? Victor d’Hondt? Victor D’Hondt?
I learned d’Hondt. And this seems to be how most of the political science literature on electoral systems spells the name. It is also how the most recent book on the quantitative analysis of electoral systems spells it: Rein Taagepera, Predicting Party Sizes (Oxford, 2007).2 However, the glossary of the edited volume by Michael Gallagher and Paul Mitchell, The Politics of Electoral Systems (Oxford, 2005), says, in part and at p. 632:
Devised by Belgian law professor Victor D’Hondt (1841â€“1901). Often spelled ‘d’Hondt’ but correctly spelled with a capital D (see any Belgian library catalogue, including that of his former university, the University of Ghent)
That is pretty persuasive (all the more so because the Gallagher/Mitchell volume contains a chapter on Belgium, authored by a Belgian specialist in electoral systems).
So, I am making the transition to D’Hondt3 It is hard, however, as I have spent years “correcting” students or authors of papers I was reviewing when they wrote it as D’Hondt rather than d’Hondt.
It would be so much easier to just refer to it by the name of the man who actually invented an identical rule, in a proposal before Congress in 1792.4 There is, as far as I know, no controversy over how to spell the name of Thomas Jefferson.5
Next up: The great pronunciation controversy. Don’t mis-pronounced it!
The rule divides the shares (of votes won by parties or populations of jurisdictions) by successive divisors starting with 1 and increasing each by 1 (i.e., 1, 2, 3,…). It then allocates seats according to the resulting quotients. [↩]
Of course, it was from Taagepera that I learned how to spell the name of the common divisor formula. But, as I noted, he is hardly alone in using that spelling. [↩]
And wishing the US Democratic Party would do as well. Though if they prefer to use d’Hondt, that would likewise be an improvement. [↩]
Some other common ‘PR’ formulas also had earlier US inventors for apportionment of House seats among the several states: Sainte-LaguÃ«/Webster and Hare/Hamilton (a quota-and-largest-remainders rule, rather than a divisor method). A very interesting point in Taagepera’s book, at pp. 32-3 (citing Colomer 2004:44), is that d’Hondt is the “remainderless quota” or “sufficient quota”; i.e., the quota for a given votes distribution that is sufficient to allocate all seats without any recourse to remainders. All the more reason why it is arguably the more desirable ‘PR’ method. As Taagepera puts it: “It is at the crossroads of quota and divisor methods.” [↩]
And, it would be sensible for a US party to use the formula invented by one of the founders of the Democrat-Republican Party! [↩]
I have been meaning to post on the Danish election, which is 13 November, and on its interesting electoral system.
Espen beat me to the part on the electoral system (in a comment at another thread), so why don’t I just copy what he had to say here (with some minor editing that I hope Espen will not object to):
Although the parties have considerable flexibility in how they nominate and to what degree they give their own voters the ability to influence which candidates get elected, in most cases the following is true:
Each candidate is selected in one of 92 nomination districts (opstillingskrÃ¦dse). They all compete for votes in larger electoral districts (now ten in number) where party proportionality applies (also subject to national compensation). Thus, voters are free to choose among candidates nominated in any district within the larger, upper-tier districts, or to simply vote for a party without indicating a preference. In most cases, party candidates are elected in order of personal votes, although some parties in some upper-tier districts instead will choose either to count votes given straight to the party as support for the candidate standing in the respective nomination district, or to establish a ranked list, which the voters may only influence by letting lesser candidates reach a certain quota of personal votes (party-wise Droop, I believe). There is no requirement that all nomination districts will get someone elected, but there certainly is an incentive in the system for local associations to nominate visible candidates who will seek out personal votes in order to get elected. This also may help counteract somewhat the tendency in open- and flexible-list PR for personal votes to be concentrated at the top of the list, among candidates who would be elected anyway. [MSS here: Such a tendency does not, by definition, exist under open lists: only those with the top s preference votes, where s is the number of seats a list has won, can be elected. But what Espen says about flexible lists appears to be a typical occurrence.]
The system is a relic from 1918, when Denmark (outside the capital) had MMP. To promote proportionality, the FPTP element was removed in 1920, but the nomination process was kept at a very local level, in the former single-member constituencies (although the parties were made free to nominate at-large instead). There was major redistricting around 1970 and 2006, tied to local government reforms.
The Slovenian electoral system has similar traits, though I am not sure of the exact details there. Such “soft MMP” (which is not MMP at all, of course) also applied to the Italian Senate from 1948 to 1993, but there voters were limited to choosing candidates from within the smaller, lower-tier districts (the Regions constituted the upper-tier districts). Curiously, the 1994-2006 system was voted in, by referendum, simply by abolishing the 65 percent hurdle for direct election in the lower-tier Senate districts. The Parliament then tidied up the system and established a roughly similar system for the Camera. But that is another story.
Thanks for that, Espen!
Regarding Slovenia,1 the main difference is that parties do not have an option in how they structure their lists: they must nominate candidates in nomination districts, and voters are (as far as I know) able to cast votes only for those cast in their own nominating district. (Did I understand Espen correctly that even a party in Denmark that uses nomination districts must allow voters to cast a vote for a candidate in the larger allocation district if they prefer one of these to the one nominated in the local nomination (sub-) district?)
Indonesia also used (or attempted to use) a similar system–ACE Project calls it “proportional system with district characteristics“–in 1999, after the fall of the Suharto dictatorship. For the 2004 election, the system was changed to a more conventional flexible list.2
One could say the Danish/Slovenian nominating districts have a parallel (so to speak) in the list tier of the Japanese lower house mixed-member majoritarian (MMM) system: Parties may choose to “clump” at the same rank on the list several candidates who are nominated in a single-seat district as well as on the list. In such a case, the final ranking of the clumped candidates is based on how close they came to winning the plurality in their single-seat race.
As for the election itself–in Denmark, that is–one of the interesting developments is the formation of a new political party by a Syrian immigrant, Naser Khader’s New Alliance. It may displace the anti-immigrant Peoples Party as a major partner in the upcoming coalition. (See the recent preview in The Economist.)
See the translation of a 1995 Parliament of Slovenia document describing the system, which I believe is unchanged. The most relevant portion regarding the nomination districts is at the end:
When the list of candidates is determined, so is the respective electoral district in which each will stand, since only one candidate from the list stands in any one electoral district. Candidates may stand in one electoral unit [i.e. the larger multi-seat districts used for interparty allocation] and appear on one list only.
The appendix to Gary Cox’s Making Votes Count (1997) also has an excellent summary of the system. [↩]
The ACE project says:
The restricted open-list system finally agreed requires voters to vote for one party and, if they wish, one candidate from that party. However, this will only result in the election of a particular candidate out of the order in which names appear on the party list if that candidate gains more than a full Hare Quota of individual votesâ€”which made its likely effect minimal, as proved to be the case in practice in the 2004 elections to the legislature.
The ruling New Democracy clings to a narrow majority: 152 seats (50.6%) on 41.8% of the vote.
I still am not clear on the details of the electoral system, but by backwards induction from the result, it appears that the proportional seats are indeed calculated as if there were a 260-seat national district, with the additional 40 seats added on for the party with the nationwide plurality of the vote.
Via EuroTrib, the parties that made it into parliament have the following seat totals, vote percentages (and change in seats and votes from 2004):
Those parties combine for 93.7% of the votes cast, leaving 6.3% to be wasted on parties falling below the 3% threshold.
ND’s 41.8% would thus be 44.6% of the above-threshold national vote. Give them the 40 seats they automatically get rewarded with just for having the vote plurality, and you get an expected seat total of 156, or 4 more than the ND appears actually to have won:
(.446 x 260) + 40 = 116 + 40 =156
I am not sure what proportional formula might be used for the above-threshold national allocation, but it actually appears to have slightly under-represented the leading party (before the addition of the bonus seats, that is).
As was widely reported as expected prior to the election, the various smaller parties (including the far right) did very well. But not well enough to deprive the incumbents of their less-than-deserved new term.
The EuroTrib post, linked above, has some really valuable background information on the campaign and the parties (posted by a Greek writer who notes he voted for SYRIZA, as your Orchardist no doubt would have, had he had the opportunity.)
See also the Greek Interior Ministry site with results (yes, in English!). The pages still show seats by district, so while it appears (as I noted above) that the overall result is calculated as if there were a 260-seat district, evidently the 260-seat PR portion remains a two-tier system.
Greeks went to the polls today in general elections. It looks like it will be yet another cliffhanger result. We sure have had a run of those the last several years around the world.
The incumbent New Democratic Party appears ahead, according to exit polls, but a four percentage point lead (42-38) makes it too close to call.
In part because of the recent devastating fires, various news reports indicate there is likely to be a rise in protest votes against the two party dynasties–Papandreou of the social-democratic PASOK and Karamanlis of the center-right New Democracy–and thus that the votes of smaller parties could be greater than at recent elections.
According to London Greek Radio, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis has vowed not to form a coalition government. Thus if his party fails to get a majority of seats, and he holds to his pledge, a new election could come rather soon, unless PASOK were able to form an alternative coalition or minority government.
A far right party that failed to clear the 3% threshold at its first try and has been internationally denounced for its “virulent nationalism, anti-semitism, racism and xenophobia” may make it into parliament.
Greece’s electoral system has long been a form of party-list “PR” but with many small-magnitude districts and upper tiers of allocation that “reinforce” the lead of the largest party (the exact opposite intent and impact of most upper tiers in party-list PR systems). Thus the electoral system has manufactured majorities in the recent past, on as little as 41.5% in 1996 for PASOK. The current ND majority was manufactured on 45.4% of the vote in 2004.
In any event, the London Greek Radio item, cited above, suggests there has been a change to the electoral system:
Under Greece’s new election law, 260 seats in parliament are allocated by proportional representation, and the remaining 40 automatically go to the party with the most votes. It replaces a complex system that gave greater weight to regional results.
That automatic boost to the largest party would seem to make a manufactured majority more likely, but LGR suggests otherwise:
The change could benefit smaller parties which have more scattered support geographically.
That implies that the small districts that were the backbone of the former system may have been replaced. The story also quotes a pollster as saying that 41.5% may be enough for a “working majority” (whatever that means) and that the three smaller parties (Communist, Left Coalition and the far-right Orthodox Rally) would need around 17% combined to result in a hung parliament. So, the outcome indeed looks close, but ND may have just enough for a majority of seats.
Oh, and yes, the previous system was indeed complex.
I have mentioned previously that the Moroccan electoral system, while having the fundamentals of a proportional representation (PR) system, it actually potentially quite majoritarian, on account of low district magnitude. If it fails to produce a large boost to the leading party sufficient for it to win a majority, it must be due to regional disparities, and not to the electoral rules, per se. And, with neither the 2002 nor the 2007 elections having resulted in a leading party with more than 50 of the 325 seats, it is obvious that regionalism is indeed the key.
Normally, our standard typologies of electoral systems conflate nominal systems (candidates win seats based on votes cast for them by name) and majoritarian systems (favoring a large party). They also tend to conflate party-list systems (candidates win by being nominated and ranked–whether by the party or by voters–on a list of candidates over which votes are pooled) with proportional representation. But Morocco’s system is among those that should be a reminder that these conflations can lead us astray. It has the formal provisions–allocation process and ballot format–of a party-list system, but too low a magnitude to be proportional. The low magnitude would appear to increase the chance for a leading-party boost, as majoritartian systems do. Yet the actual outcome, it appears that local and regional elites are more important than political parties, despite the party lists.
Small magnitude and regionalism are much more compatible with nominal voting systems than with party-list “PR” systems, and not only because a nominal system (e.g. FPTP or SNTV) would be more likely to prevent reporters from rushing to the conclusion that “complex” proportional representation must be the reason no party wins a majority (see the first-linked item). A nominal vote system is also more compatible because it works with, rather than against, the grain of a regionally based political process in which, one might presume, local notables are more important than national political parties.
In fact, given that most districts elect only three members, and many of the parties elect only one candidate per district, it is almost nominal: more often than not only the list-head will be elected. Even where two or more might win, it is highly likely that parties assemble their lists with locally known candidates.
Yet there is no sense in which we could classify this regional-elite-enhancing electoral system as “nominal.” The reason was very much apparent to me as I saw a report on the voting on DW-TV’s Journal (via Link-TV): the ballots show only party symbols and party names. Candidate photos or names do not appear on the ballot.
Thus, while there are solid theoretical reasons (and empirical results confirming) that candidates are more likely to have “personal vote-earning attributes,” notwithstanding closed lists, when district magnitude is low, in Morocco the party would have to ensure that the voters knew which candidates were on its list. A voter can’t tell by looking at the ballot, as is the case in a nominal-vote system (almost by definition) or in a closed-list ballot that includes candidate names (as many do, unless magnitude is very high).
Whether this ballot design enhances the voters’ identification with political parties more than an actual nominal system is an interesting question (for which, alas, I have no answer). But Morocco’s actual outcomes (like those of Benin, which I have mentioned previously) look similar to those of a low-magnitude nominal system, yet the electoral system and especially the ballot format are very much party-list in nature.
Updated with more information on the electoral system (next to last paragraph).
The Kingdom of Morocco–a semi-democratic regime–has parliamentary elections today. The Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD) expects to emerge as the largest party, Reuters South Africa reports.
Then Reuters goes on to say:
But a complex voting system will make it almost impossible for any group to win a majority.
It is a pretty standard party-list “proportional-representation” system–as best as I can tell from sketchy information: multi-districted and lists appear to be closed. I am unsure whether the threshold for representation was changed from 3% to 7%, or possibly 6%, as proposed a year ago. If it is now 7% (or even 6%), that’s actually not such standard PR, but it is also neither complex, nor a feature that reduces the chance for a parliamentary majority. In any event, in an electoral system based on many small districts, even as high a threshold as 7% would matter only in the few high-magnitude districts, unless the threshold is like that of Turkey, banning a party from winning a seat it has the local votes for if it has not passed a national minimum.1
According to the Database of Electoral Systems and the Personal Vote, the Moroccan electoral system is of a variant that shouldn’t even be called PR. The average district magnitude, at least as of 2005, is under 4, and while there is a national tier, it comprises less than 10% of the seats. This electoral system would be relatively “majoritarian,” despite employing party lists and a “PR” formula.
It’s not the electoral system–and certainly not any complexities within it–that may result in no party winning a majority of seats. It’s that the voters are divided in their preferences amongst several parties and, almost certainly, that much of that division is regionally based. (Small magnitudes with fragmentation but at least one nationally strong party would make a (manufactured) majority rather likely.)
Looking at incomplete results for 2002 at Adam Carr’s site, I am guessing it is a threshold of this sort, making Morocco even less typical of PR systems–and more majoritarian. It appears no district had more than 5 seats, meaning a 3% (or even 6% or 7%) threshold at the level of allocation district would have no impact unless fragmentation was extreme. Also, the smallest party on nationwide votes shown to have won seats in these incomplete data had just over 3%. [↩]
The current Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen is the head of the Centre Party, which will have 51 of 200 seats. The conservative National Coalition is not part of the current governing coalition, but is now one seat behind the Centre.
Compared to 2003, the Centre Party lost support, even though it remains the largest party. The Social Democrats fall from the 53 seats they had won in 2003 to only 45 now. Thus it looks like there could be a realignment of the Finland’s coalition government towards the right.
Analysis: Government possibilities
Given that a Centre-National coalition would have exactly one more than half the seats, a narrow center-right government could form. However, that does not mean it will form, and there is a fairly strong tendency of Finnish governments to be greater than minimal winning (and you can’t get more minimal than 101 seats out of 200). Therefore, it is not a given that a rightward shift of the coalition will result. See Michael’s more-detailed analysis, in which he notes that two other leftish parties combined for 32 seats and two others of the right for just 12.
Analysis: Impact of (not-quite fully) proportional representation
It’s worth noting that the proportionality in Finland is not calculated nationally, but rather in a series of regional multi-seat districts of varying district magnitude. Thus a party with an optimal geographic distribution does slightly better than one that may have a similar nationwide votes share but less optimal geographic distribution.* (See Alex’s comment for more.)
Look at the advantage ratios (% seats/% votes) for the top three parties:
Social Dem, 1.047
These are not huge differences, and would be almost trivial compared to what we see in less proportional systems. However, in such a close election, they matter. In fact, the Centre-National minimal winning coalition is possible only because those two parties were somewhat over-represented, compared to the Social Democrats.
If all three of the leading parties had had the same advantage ratio as the Social Democrats, the seats would have been a bit different: Centre (48), National Coalition (46), Social Democrat (45), instead of 51-50-45. The Centre-National coalition would not be feasible.
I do not know Finnish politics well enough to predict the result of the bargaining that will now follow. However, the advantage that the National Coalition (and, to a lesser extent, Centre) obtained from the electoral system gives likely Prime Minister-designate Vanhanen and his Centre party leverage over the Social Democrats that it otherwise would not, even if Vanhanen ultimately reconstitutes his center-left coalition.
In very close elections, even very small deviations from proportionality matter. If the Social Democrats had won the most votes by the same narrow margin as they trailed in the actual results, but with the parties’ having their same respective advantage ratios, we would have had a plurality reversal in the seats relative to the votes. ** That did not happen here, but it was close, and the actual differential treatment of the parties by Finland’s PR system may yet affect the coalition result.
* The differential treatment of the Finnish parties appears to be another case of the bias introduced against predominantly urban parties by magnitude variance. The bias results when one set of parties (usually conservative) are especially strong in rural areas that have lower district magnitude, and thereby benefit from the lesser proportionalityof votes-to-seats translation in those districts. On the other hand, the (usually leftist) parties that are strongest in urban areas with very large district magnitudes do not get the same sort of bonus out of their own strongholds. Meanwhile, the “rural” party has a (minority) constituency within the large urban districts, it gets proportionally repersented there, thanks to the large magnitude. (The “urban” parties get under-represented in the smaller districts even if they have a comparable minority share of the vote in such districts, which they may not.)
Of course, this bias, while real, is nothing like we see in plurality systems.
(Added 21 March: See Alex’s comment on the geographic distribution. Unlike me, he actually bothered to look at the district-level data and saw that the National and Centre did quite well in several large districts. However, the higher advantage ratios for these parties can’t result only from large districts, given the inherently greater proportionality of such districts. So, there is clearly more to the story. As Alex also reminds us, the provisions in the Finnish electoral law for inter-party alliances (vote pooling across lists) are undoubtedly also part of the picture.)
** Excuse me for almost wishing something that interesting had happened.
If by my laws you walk, and my commands you keep, and observe them,
then I will give-forth your rains in their set-time,
so that the earth gives-forth its yield
and the trees of the field give-forth their fruit.
--Vayikra 26: 3-4