An exit poll by Bir Zeit University in Ramallah showed Fatah winning 63 seats in the 132-member parliament with 46.4 percent of the vote and Hamas taking 58 seats with 39.5 percent.
I would be really cautious with exit polls in an electoral system like this–even if it were a ‘normal’ environment in which people felt free to talk to people on the street asking them how they just voted. By that I mean that this electoral system–multi-seat plurality, plus list PR in parallel–means the pollster needs to know:
(1) whether the voter used all his/her votes in the nominal tier (the local multi-seat district);
(2) the identities of all the candidates he or she voted for;
(3) and the party list the voter checked.
That’s a lot of moving parts for each interviewee. And then the exit-polling company has to extrapolate from a sample and somehow generate a national allocation. That involves lots of assumptions about how completely other similar voters filled out their slate of candidates in the nominal tier. In general, multi-seat plurality races are very hard to predict because small vote shifts for individual candidates can make substantial differences in the outcome of the election in a district. It is not as though the outcome can be extrapolated just from knowing the party a voter preferred when the voter has more than one vote and can use all or none of them and spread them out on candidates of multiple parties or concentrate them all on one party.
Wow, if the exit pollsters get it right other than by just luck, I will be really impressed!
OK, so let’s assume I will be impressed–really impressed–and the projection is about right (for all I know it might be). Then the advantage ratio for the second largest party (Hamas) exceeds that of the largest party (Fatah). The advantage ratio tells us how over-/under-represented a given party is, and is calculated as %seat/%votes.
For Fatah, 47.8% of the seats on 46.4% of the votes would mean an advantage ratio of 1.03. For Hamas 43.9% of the seats on 39.5% of the votes would be 1.11.
On December 28, after surveying the electoral system, I said that this is the sort of electoral system that would manufacture a majority for a party of around 45% if that party’s voters tended to vote the full slate in the multi-seat districts. However, given divisions in Fatah, I doubted that would happen. Referring to the factions in Fatah that re-united only after the deadline for registering candidates was extended, I noted:
That is, some voters may vote only for the candidates they recognize as â€œFutureâ€ or â€œofficialâ€ Fatah members, and not for the candidates of both factions. To the extent that happens, and Hamas voters are more unified, the result could still favor Hamas relative to Fatah in the votes-to-seats conversion.
Again, I think we need to be cautious about projections from these exit polls. But if the results are relatively close to the projection, it would show this very unusual electoral system working pretty much as expected, given the different levels of unity of the two largest parties.
Many more details, of course, at The Head Heeb, where Jonathan expects the final seat tally for Hamas to be closer to that of Fatah than is the case in the projection. If he is correct, and if the votes projection is fairly accurate, then the final result would be an even greater advantage to the more unified Hamas in votes-to-seats conversion. (And I would expect the final votes to vary less from the exit-poll projection than the final seats would, because I assume the votes being projected are the party-list votes. These, being a single choice for each voter and pooled nationwide, are not subject to the difficulties mentioned above for the nominal tier, aside from normal sampling error and potential interviewing bias.)
Also see Political Artithmetik for district-level comparisons of the turnout in this election and last year’s presidential election.