Burkina Faso a-Blaise

Burkina Faso, a marginal democracy, perhaps, but one with competitive elections, is suddenly in the news. Government buildings are ablaze, and its president, Blaise, is in danger of overthrow. So my thoughts naturally turned towards the question of how the country’s parliament is elected.

Balise Compaoré has been president for 27 years. The trigger to today’s violence and declaration of a state of emergency, and reports of some soldiers defecting, was a meeting of the parliament to consider lifting a term limit that otherwise prevents Compaoré from running yet again in 2015.

The most recent presidential election was in 2010, and it was not exactly a close contest. Compaoré won 80.2%. He had won a similar total five years earlier, which was quite a decline from his 87.5% in the election before that.

In the election for parliament (which was dissolved late today), held in 2012, however, the president’s party was in a much less dominant position. The Congress for Democracy and Progress (CDP), won 48.7% of the national votes and 70 of 127 (55%) of the seats. No other single party was close–the two next largest parties each had around 11% of the vote and 18 and 19 seats–but the election results over the past fifteen or so years show a general, if slow, decline in CDP dominance.

The electoral system is unusual and interesting. As best I can tell, it is a parallel two-tier PR system. There is a national tier with a district magnitude (M) of 16, of which the CDP won 8 seats. This tier is quite clearly not compensatory: the seats won here are just added to the seats won in the provincial contests. It is in the latter that things get interesting. There are 111 provincial seats divided among 45 provincial districts. This works out to an average magnitude (ignoring the national seats) of 2.47.

Of the 45 districts, 37 have M=2. These 74 seats represent two thirds of all the seats in the provincial tier, and 58% of the entire parliament. This must be the highest share of two-seat districts of any country other than Chile (where all districts in both houses elect two members*). As we know from Chile, or from electoral-system theory, two-seat districts with a non-majoritarian formula systematically favor the second-largest party or alliance, in contrast to the usual rule that smaller magnitudes favor larger parties under proportional or “semi”-proportional allocation formula. Such over-representation was the explicit aim of the Chilean system’s designers, who were inside the former dictatorship and had evidence from the 1988 plebiscite that they would be the second largest political force in the country upon a return to fair elections.

I know nothing about Burkina Faso politics prior to what I have learned today, but it is hard to imagine that an electoral system with a majority of its seats elected in two-member districts was not deliberately designed to offer a boost to the second political force in each province. I can’t say the second nationally, as in Chile, because it appears that there is no single nationwide force in opposition to the CDP. Even so, the second largest party, the Union for Progress and Change, with 19 seats in the parliament, was significantly overrepresented: 14.96% of the seats on 11.1% of the national votes. (I should note that it is not clear to me whether voters get a single vote or separate national and provincial votes, although it seems that they might be separate; Adam Carr reports “voting for members elected from national lists” and that is what I am referring to here, until I turn to “voting for members elected by province” below). The 18 seats for the third largest party in parliament, the Alliance for Democracy, give it 14.17% on 11.2% of the votes. So the Chilean pattern is evident here, too.

Moreover, unlike Chile’s use of D’Hondt, in which a list wins both seats if it doubles the votes of the second list in the district, in Burkina Faso there are cases of the second list being well under half the votes of the CDP yet getting a seat. So not only the district magnitude, but also the formula, appear designed to boost the seat share of the runner-up. Take the case of Banwa province. Here the CDP had 55.6% of the vote and the Alliance for Democracy had 15.3%. That’s a votes ratio of 3.6:1. Yet each has one seat. There are numerous other examples of ratios of 2.5:1 or greater in the two-seat districts, but the seats splitting 1:1.

Of course, sometimes the CDP is not the largest party in a province, and the M=2 system then benefits it. For example, in Bougouriba, the CDP won 37.8% to 42.4% for the Union for Progress and Change. There are three other districts, all with M=2, where the CDP came in second place, but strong enough to get a seat. In addition, there were six districts, also all M=2, where the CDP managed both seats on vote percentages ranging downward from 88% to 60.3%.

What about the districts with magnitudes greater than two, aside from the national district? We have four cases of M=4, two of M=3, and one each of M=6 and M=9. Note the dominance of even magnitudes. Aside from M=2, the most favorable to parties other than the largest would be, of course, M=4. In each the four M=4 districts, the CDP got two seats on vote percentages ranging from 37.8% to 52.4%. In one of them, Yatenga, the runner-up won both of the other seats on just 35.5% of the vote (to the CDP’s 45.5%). This was one of only two provincial districts in which a party other than the CDP won more than one seat; the other was the one M=9 district. Even there, the second party was somewhat over-represented (2 seats on 20.2%).

The CDP’s 55% of the nationwide seats on 48.7% of the national list votes is, of course, over-representation. However, based on Adam Carr’s results showing different numbers of parties contesting some provinces than others, and often fewer than are reported in the national list results, there likely are separate ballots. If there are, it is possible that the CDP’s aggregate provincial list vote is more than 50%.** In any case, it is clear that the party would have won many more seats if not for an electoral system that systematically over-represents whichever list comes second in a given province.

It appears the district tier of the current system may already have been in place in 2007, with the parliament consisting of 111 seats, the same number as the 2012 sum of provincial seats.*** In that election the CDP won 59% of the votes and around 65% of the seats, but the second largest party was over-represented despite trailing far behind (14 seats on 10.7% of votes). In 2002, by contrast, the system had divided 91 seats among 13 regional districts (with no national tier). That means an average magnitude of seven; the range was 2-10, but only one district had M=2 in that election. The CDP then won 47 seats on 49.5% of the vote, and almost proportional result even if technically a manufactured majority. That’s at least three different electoral systems in three elections–stability in the presidency, but institutional instability for a legislature that is much less dominated by the ruling party.

Burkina Faso politics suddenly look interesting!


* Pending an in-progress electoral reform.

** The motivated reader is encouraged to convert the results to spreadsheet (or search for a source that has them in such a format already) and let us know in a comment.

*** Adam Carr does not show district-level results in 2007.

Fixed term parliaments to be revisited?

Democratic Audit UK has a good discussion of the issue of fixed terms for the UK House of Commons, which were legislated by the current coalition government that took power following the 2010 election. A group of Tory backbenchers has proposed doing away with the 2011 Fixed Term Parliaments Act.

With a single-party majority in 2015 looking unlikely, it is not surprising that many Conservatives would prefer a return to the old pattern whereby a minority single-party government would just bide its time till things looked promising for going to the polls and potentially securing a parliamentary majority. (As I have noted in the recent past, there are such attitudes present in Labour Party quarters, as well.)

Arguments given by supporters of repeal are that MPs are more accountable when elections could come at any time and (predictably, given the source) that fixed terms give the junior partner in a coalition too much power. In the event of a future coalition, the supporters of repeal suggest there could be a “gentleman’s agreement” that the coalition should end only when both parties wish it to end. (Isn’t that precisely that the Fixed Term Parliaments Act was for? To make sure the “gentlemen” could mutually police their agreement?)

Democratic Audit’s editorial offers a series of reasons why keeping fixed terms is preferable. This was a matter that was discussed in a couple of threads here (#1, #2) at the time. What do readers think now?

Botswana election, 2014

I’ve long been skeptical of Botswana’s classification as democratic/free by standard datasets we political scientists rely on. Based on a pre-election report by Amy Poteete for The Monkey Cage, skepticism seems justified. Mysterious accidents and other odd events involving political rivals, increasing partisan use of state assets…

The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), the only ruling party Botswana has ever known, is feeling the heat, and is experiencing internal tension, including cases of losers in candidate selection running against the party’s official choice.

In the 2009 election, the BDP won over three fourths of the seats* on just 53% of votes (FPTP). That’s some serious disproportionality, but a result like that reveals electoral precariousness.

Using the dataset of the Constituency Level Electoral Archive, I took a look at just how many seats the BDP won only narrowly in 2009. In that election, its median margin over the runner-up was .188 of the district’s valid vote. It would need to lose at least 15 seats to fail to retain its majority. The 15th most marginal seat was won by .116. (Five were under .05.) There were 17 seats that it won with vote shares below that of its nationwide share of .533, including seven won with under half the vote. Thus the party looks somewhat vulnerable if there is a modest swing against it or if the defecting candidates are in close districts and take some chunk of the BDP vote with them.

Nonetheless, the BDP in 2009 did not face a single opponent in many districts; of the 17 districts where its vote was below the nationwide share, it won with a median margin of .081. Thus unless its opposition is more coordinated in 2014, the BDP will probably hang on even in the face of an adverse swing.

The election is on 24 October.

* The data I am working with show 44 seats, which would be 77.2%, while Poteete says 79%.

New Zealand split-vote results released

The New Zealand Electoral Commission has released the split-voting statistics from the 2014 general election.

This is a great service provided by the Electoral Commission, showing in each electorate (district) what percentage of voters for each party list cast their vote for that party’s candidate or any other candidate in the electorate. To make it even better for those who like analyzing voting statistics, they offer CSV files.

The NZ Herald offers a summary of key electorates.

Maharashtra 2014: BJP taking post-poll support from ex-ally of Congress

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) continues to show signs of seeking to break out of the post-1998 pattern of two large pre-electoral coalitions that have taken turns governing India. While the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) remains the governing formula at the federal level despite BJP having a majority of seats, the BJP played serious hardball in the recent campaign for the Maharastra state assembly. In elections on 15 October, the BJP won 119 of the 288 seats (41.3%). It appears that it will take “outside support”–i.e. post-electoral cooperation but no governing coalition–from the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). While the Times of India on 19 October referred to this offer of support as “unexpected“, it was pretty clearly foreshadowed by the frenetic reshaping and ultimately breaking of alliances in the week leading up to the deadline to declare candidacies.

The significance of these developments is that the BJP has an alliance at the federal level with a Maharastra-specific party, the Shiv Sena. In the Lok Sabha election earlier this year, these parties continued their pre-election alliance, in which the parties agree not to compete against each other in districts and to support one another’ candidates. It appeared as if the alliance was critical to the strong BJP performance in the state in those elections. Further, Shiv Sena sits in the federal cabinet of BJP PM Narendra Modi. Meanwhile, the NCP is (or was) an alliance partner of the Indian National Congress Party (INC), in both the 2004-2014 federal government and in the state of Maharashtra until the run-up to these elections. The INC and NCP ruled the state in alliance for 15 years.

In late September, there was a flurry of media reports of a “seat-sharing row” between the BJP and the Shiv Sena, with the former demanding the right to contest districts currently held by the latter. The BJP was explicit in saying that there had been a “Modi wave” and that it was thereby entitled to a larger share of the districts. Meanwhile, the NCP played hardball with its ally, Congress (INC), demanding additional seats and an alternation in the Chief Minister’s post.

On 25 September, days before the candidate-filing deadline, the BJP announced it was dumping its ally, Shiv Sena. Barely an hour later, the NCP broke its alliance with the INC.

Given the concurrence of the demands from the national partner (BJP) against its ally and against the BJP’s national rival by a state partner (NCP), and the quick succession of the two announcements, it is hard to believe it was not being coordinated. It was seemingly foreshadowing the formation of a BJP-NCP post-poll alliance if the BJP won the most seats, but not a majority. And, of course, that is precisely what happened.

It was all quite dramatic, and it appears to be part of a BJP strategy of supplanting its erstwhile allies in favor of single-party minority government (when a majority is not (yet) in reach). It is especially telling that it would prefer to take outside support from an erstwhile Congress ally instead of continue a relationship with its own former pre-poll partners. (The Shiv Sena, contesting alone, won 61 seats, according to preliminary results, while the NCP won 42 (and Congress 44); BJP is 27 seats short of a majority.)

In my first post-election entry on the Indian federal result, I said that I doubted the BJP majority meant a re-writing of the fundamental rules of Indian politics. Yet the pre-poll and post-poll politics in Maharashtra suggests the BJP is attempting just such a re-write. Several key state elections are coming up in the next year, and the NDA partners have been put on notice.

The KC sweep and run differentials

The Kansas City Royals have completed a sweep of the Baltimore Orioles in the American League Championship Series. This follows the sweep of the Los Angeles Angels in the Division Series and the sensational one-game Wild Card playoff against the Oakland Athletics. Both the Angels and the Orioles had far superior regular-season records and significantly better run differentials during the season. The A’s had the league’s best run differential, despite their late collapse from a runaway division title to a ten-game deficit at the hands of division winner LAA. It really is hard to fathom how they are doing it. Royal blue smoke and mirrors? Best explanation I can offer.

In the just-concluded ALCS, the Royals continue to maximize wins out of few runs. In fact, their run differential is the smallest ever in a LCS sweep, by a good margin. In the series, they scored 18 runs, and the Orioles scored 12. They +6 differential beats the previous LCS record by three runs (1988 A’s over Red Sox, +9).

The +6 differential is reminiscent of the White Sox sweep of the 2005 World Series; as I noted at the time, only one prior World Series sweep had ever featured such a low differential (1950, Yankees over Phillies, also +6). Since 2005, there have been two more sweeps, but with typically large differentials (+19 in 2007 and +10 in 2012).

Obviously, the minimum possible differential in a four-game sweep is +4. So if you win with a +6, like the Royals just did, you are being exceptionally efficient in your run distribution.

Across all sweeps of best-of-seven World Series (19 of them), the average differential is +12.5. In the two leagues’ Championship Series, which have had this format since 1985 (when, incidentally, the Royals overcame a 3-1 deficit to win in seven), there have been six sweeps before this one. The average differential in those six was also +12.5. The Royals sweep was thus historic, setting a record for LCS and tying a record for all best-of-seven series. Too bad they scored that superfluous run in the top of the ninth in Game 2. They could have beaten the all-time best-of-seven sweep “efficiency” record.

(All data calculations by me, from Baseball Reference)