Majoritarianism with little strategic voting in Andorra

The Pyrennean microstate of Andorra held a parliamentary election in March.

The principality’s General Council consists of 28 members elected by a majoritarian mixed-member system (MMM): half is elected proportionally from national party lists (largest remainders; the threshold is one Hare quota – 7.15%) and the other half, in parallel, by list plurality (party with most votes takes all seats) – 2 from each of the country’s seven parishes, with quite a bit of malapportionment.

The results were as follows:

Party District List PR Total
seats
Votes (%) Seats Votes (%) Seats
Democrats for Andorra 39.4 (38.6) 10 37.0  (36.3) 5 15
Liberal Party of Andorra 27.5 (26.1) 4 27.7  (26.7) 4 8
PS+VERDS+IC+I 23.6 (24.0) 0 23.5  (24.6) 3 3
Social Democracy and Progress 9.5   (11.3) 0 11.7  (12.5) 2 2
  • The figures in brackets exclude votes from the two parishes where one or more parties did not put forward a slate of candidates.
  • The Democrats and Liberals were allied with various local parties and independents in most parishes.

Curiously, though the tiers are clearly separate, the parties’ vote shares in the different tiers were almost identical (a total of 4.9% when adding up the differences, 4.7% when disregarding votes from districts with incomplete nominations). The same pattern largely holds across districts, and can be observed in previous election results. The only times there has been a significant difference between vote shares in the two tiers occured when certain parties did not nominate in a district.In the districts, the Democrats and Liberals were allied with different parties and independents.

These results run counter to the expectation of strategic voting in the district tier, where the smaller parties had little chance of winning seats. Such strategic voting (in one tier) is common in mixed-member systems. If we can call the pattern in Andorra’s results cross-tier contamination, it would seem to run from the list tier to the district tier rather than the other way. However, this may not the best way to look at it.

Maybe the lack of polls in this small country left voters with too little information to vote strategically? But they could still have learnt about the different parties’ chances from previous elections (of course, strategic voting elsewhere predates the proliferation of public opinion polls anyway). Andorran parties certainly seem to have nominated more strategically in the past, most notably in the previous election (2011) when only two parties competed in each district; this was more rare this time, but alliances between parties remain common.

It may not be of any great significance, but I think it’s a fascinating anomaly.

Greece: What next?

Anyone wish to enlighten–or just to speculate–as to what prompted Greek PM Alexis Tsipras to call a referendum to take place after the current financial lifeline is to run out?

I would have assumed–and may be totally wrong–that the package of reforms would pass parliament if he submitted it there. It would have been a spectacle to see a bloc of Syriza MPs vote against, and the measure pass with the help of New Democracy and Pasok, but that seems like what would have happened. Would Tsipras then be forced out by his own party?

I further would guess that the referendum itself will pass, given that Syriza itself won only 36% of the vote in the election in January (winning almost half the seats and able to lead a coalition due to the electoral system), and most of the other parties are more moderate (leaving aside the nazis of Golden Dawn, of course, who got around 7%). Of course, who knows what will happen to the outcome of the referendum if the week between now and then is as chaotic as now looks possible.

Did Tsipras call a referendum that may provoke a deeper, more devastating crisis for his country just to save his “radical left” credentials? That seems hard to believe, but I can’t figure out what the motivation could be otherwise.

I can’t help but think that amateurs running the Greek government have made a bad situation worse. Discuss…

Denmark election, 2015: Connecting election results and government under multipartism?

For better or worse, Denmark’s election yesterday is a clear example of the connection (or lack of connection?) between election results and likely governing alliances in a multiparty system.

The party of the (outgoing) Prime Minister, the Social Democrats, actually gained seats and remains the largest party by a 10-seat margin. However, Helle Thorning-Schmidt submitted her resignation because her “Red” bloc will have fewer seats than the (former) opposition.

Meanwhile, the core party of the traditional Danish right, the Venstre (liberals, not actually “left”) lost 13 seats, but will be part of the new government. In fact, its leader, Lars Løkke Rasmussen, is the most likely next PM. A Guardian headline even declares that he “wins slender victory”.

The big gainer in the election is the “populist” Danish People’s Party, which gained 15 seats and finished second. It is thus the largest party in the expected new governing “bloc” (if it is even accurate to call it that). However, its leader surely will not be prime minister, and may not even be in the government. More likely it will support a minority government* of the center-right.

So there we have it: the PM’s party gains seats, the largest party by a good margin will head the opposition, the second largest party will be an outside support party, and the PM will come from the party whose seats declined the most!

None of the above is meant necessarily as criticism: in a multiparty parliamentary system, the government is comprised of that set of parties that is at least tolerated by a majority of elected representatives, not necessarily the largest (or even second largest!) party. In general, I admire the Danish electoral, party, and governing systems. But an outcome like this does raise questions about the accountability mechanisms of this pattern of multiparty politics. At the very least, it offers a great teaching case–too bad the Danish could not hold this election a couple of weeks ago when I was indeed teaching a course for which this is highly relevant!

Finally, for fans of Borgen, some help from The Local Denmark.

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* I can’t argue with the first two sentences of that article: “It seems to be the season for shocking elections. Rarely has the job of political scientists been so interesting.”

Turkey 2015: The AKP’s non-majority is not a surprise, and higher thresholds can only increase the largest party’s seat share

The reporting on the Turkish election results is treating the AKP’s fall to less than half the seats as a really big surprise. There was even a column in a Turkish newspaper that suggested the high threshold may have been a reason for the non-majority. This post attempts to set the record straight: these claims are bogus.

Was the AKP losing its majority a surprise?

Pre-election polls suggested the AKP would earn around 40% of the vote, which proved spot on. (The link there is an article from May 28, which I cited in my pre-election post.)

The Turkish electoral system is sufficiently proportional (although only modestly so) that a leading party with around 40% of the votes would be highly unlikely to get a majority of seats–UNLESS there were sufficient numbers of wasted votes for parties falling below the threshold. That threshold is set at 10%, and applied nationwide, in spite of all seats being allocated in 85 multi-member districts. In the past, the AKP had won parliamentary majorities on less than half the votes (and as low as 34%), but only due to a large below-threshold vote for minor parties and independents (many of them Kurds who this time coalesced behind the HDP).

Once the HDP cleared the threshold, there was essentially no way for the AKP to get a majority. In the same pre-election polls, the HDP was in the range of 8.5-11.5%. Thus it was a knife edge whether it would clear, but hardly a big surprise. And if the HDP had a good chance of clearing the threshold, the AKP could not get a majority unless its vote share was considerably higher than anticipated.

Did the threshold actually hurt the AKP this time?

Regarding that threshold, there was a piece in the Monkey Cage blog that was otherwise a very fine overview of “How the Kurds upended Turkish politics“, but in which one point makes no sense:

As editor of the English-language Hurriyet Daily News Murat Yetkin shrewdly pointed out, the AKP may have been a victim of its own dependence on the unfair 10 percent threshold rule. If the threshold had been lowered to 5 or 7 percent, argued Yetkin, the AKP still would have been prevented from adopting Erdogan’s presidential system, but its parliamentary majority would have been salvaged.

That point actually does not seem so shrewd to me. Yetkin himself further says:

Because of the complicated calculation system that the 10 percent threshold brings with it, the AK Parti has lost its parliamentary majority.

The system is indeed somewhat complex, but there is nothing complicated about how thresholds affect the outcome. If you attain the stipulated minimum vote share nationwide, you qualify for seats in any of the 85 districts in which you have sufficient votes.

How could it be that a LOWER threshold would INCREASE the seat share of the largest party?

he only thing I can imagine Yetkin may have meant–although he does not spell this out–is that the HDP vote itself would have been lower if the threshold had been lower, and implicitly, the AKP vote would have been higher. In other words, HDP, according to such an argument, may have benefited from strategic voting by voters who wanted to ensure it got 10%. Given that it got almost 13%, which was–as I noted above–more than pre-election polls predicted, while the AKP result was in line with those polls, such an argument (which, again, Yetkin did not actually make) seems a stretch.

A “normal” result, given the electoral system and HDP being over the threshold

The bottom line is that the result of this election, while quite a watershed for Turkish politics, has given Turkey a fairly “normal” result for an electoral system of its average magnitude (around 6.5). The threshold, in the end, did not bar any significant political force from representation, unlike in previous elections. A largest party winning around 47% of the seats on about 41% of the votes is nothing out of the ordinary. Whether Turkish-Kurdish politics can be as “normalized” as the election result itself is another matter. Stay tuned to the government-formation process and aftermath for clues.

Luxembourg term limit referendum

On June 7th, the same day as the Turkish and Mexican elections, Luxembourg held three referenda: one proposal would have reduced the voting age to 16, another would have extended voting rights to foreigners living in the country for more than 10 years and the last one would have imposed a ten-year term limit on serving as member of the government. All three proposals were resoundingly defeated, though the term limit measure came closer to being approved than the others (30% in favour).

The background for the term limit proposal is the premiership of Jean-Claude Juncker, who served lasted for no less than 18 years before resigning in 2013 amidst a corruption and spying scandal (he went on to become EU Commission President). Following early elections, a new government formed which excluded Juncker’s party, CSV, from government for the first time since 1979. It is this government that initiated these constitutional amendment proposals.

Though being very common among (semi-)presidential countries, term limits are exceedingly rare among parliamentary systems; the only examples I know of are Thailand and South Africa.

[MSS adds: Perhaps also Botswana among parliamentary systems. In semi-presidential systems, there certainly are cases of term limits on the president, but I do not think there are any such limits on membership in the cabinet. We might also add here that, as far as I know, the only cases with term limits on legislators are all pure presidential systems–some Latin American countries, including Mexico, as well as the Philippines and some US states, including California.]

Mexican elections 2015

In addition to Turkey, about which we already have an active thread, there also are elections today in Mexico.

The entire Chamber of Deputies is being elected today, along with governors in nine states. Those nine states, plus some others, have elections for their state assemblies.

This is the first midterm election under a president from the Institutional Revolutionary Party since 1997. Each of the preceding has seen the familiar “midterm decline” phenomenon, whereby the president’s party sees its seat share of the legislature reduced in an election near the mid-point of the president’s term. Will this one defy the trend?

An average of polls that I have seen* put the PRI on around a third of the vote, which is approximately what it won in 2012. The National Action Party (PAN) also was polling around the same range as it won in the last election (around 27%). The difference maker could be the left, where the Party of the Democratic Revolution suffered a split: former leader Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador set up a new party, Morena, after the 2012 election. This party will compete with the PRD (and allies) for votes from the left.

The Mexican electoral system is a mixed-member system. Its PR-list component is neither fully compensatory nor fully parallel, but it is somewhat more the latter. That is, a party that wins a lot of the 300 single-seat districts will tend to be over-represented, even after the 200 list seats are allocated.** For instance, in 2012, the alliances of the PRI (33.6% of the vote) and Greens (PVEM, with 6.4%) took 241 seats (48.2%).

Given the disproportionality of the electoral system, it is not out of the question that the PRI (and PVEM ally) could gain seats even if it loses some votes from 2012. In much of the center and south of the country, the PRI’s main competitor is the PRD. With the PRD split, the PRI could pick up districts (which are decided by plurality) that the PRD won last time, even if its votes did not increase.

The caveat is that I have not looked at district-level patterns from 2012, nor have I seen state-level (let alone district-level) polling for this election. So I do not know how plausible this scenario is. But it is something to watch as the results come in later. This is not an mixed-member proportional (MMP) system, so coordination matters. And the left does not appear well coordinated in this election, a factor that should benefit the PRI, the president’s party, more than the PAN.

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* Sent by a contact in Mexico.

** The basic feature is that seats are allocated in parallel (i.e. based on nationwide proportional share of the 200 list seats) up to the point at which a party has an over-representation that is more than eight percentage points. Once a party has hit that cap, any remaining list seats are allocated proportionally among parties that have not hit the cap. There is a 2% threshold. Voters have just one vote, so parties must have candidates (their own or an alliance partner’s) in the single-seat districts to collect “list” votes, which are simply aggregations of parties’s candidates’ votes. (It is a bit more complex than this, but these are the main points.)

Alberta election follow-up

The ThreeHundredEight blog has a follow-up on the recent Alberta election. Key point of interest:

The idea that the PCs and Wildrose share the same voter pool is simply wrong. The right wasn’t divided. Rather, the anti-PC vote was divided between the New Democrats and Wildrose.

I suspect this is a more general phenomenon: when it appears that some party won due to divisions in its main opponent’s base, things are quite likely not as they appear.