A just-released poll by Borge and Associates, reported in El Nuevo Diario, shows Sandinista leader and ex-president Daniel Ortega right on the cusp of victory in the first round of Nicaragua’s 5 November presidential election.
Nicaragua is one of the countries in Latin America that uses a variant of qualified plurality to elect its president. In Nicaragua’s case, 35% suffices for a one-round victory, as long as the margin is at least five percentage points (and 40% would suffice, regardless of margin).
Daniel Ortega, 33.9%
Eduardo Montealegre, 28.8%
JosÃ© Rizo, 17.2
Edmundo JarquÃn, 13.8
With a week and a half to go, Ortega is within the margin of error of a first-round victory. However, if he fails to make the 35%, or Montealagre rises to within five points of Ortega, the latter probably will not return to the presidency. Ortega probably can’t win a runoff, although in trial heats all the matchups are too close to call.
Interestingly, variants of qualified plurality–a threshold vote share less than 50%, with or without a margin requirement–are used nowhere outside the Americas that I know of. Some US states have 45% or 40% thresholds for first-round victory in statewide offices, Costa Rica has a 40% threshold, and in addition to Nicaragua, there are combined threshold and margin requirements in Argentina (including some provincial governors) and Ecuador (and Uruguay for party presidential primaries).
I like the qualified-plurality concept generally, though I prefer a moving threshold and margin, where the farther the leading candidate is from 50%+1, the greater the margin over the runner-up must be in order to avoid a runoff. For example, under the Double Complement Rule,* the plurality suffices if the runner-up’s shortfall from 50% is double that of the leading candidate. So, to win with 35% of the vote, the leading candidate would need a fifteen-point margin over the second candidate. Will Ortega lead by fifteen points? No; probably not even ten. But five is quite possible, and will suffice if he himself reaches 35% of the vote.
Thanks to Sean, one of my students, for the tip on the poll. And thanks also to Bancki for alerting me to an error (now corrected) in the final paragraph.
* Originaly proposed by Rein Taagepera and Matthew Shugart, in Comparative Political Studies, 1994. (At the time, there were no systems in place with margin requirements; only thresholds.)