What was it that I said yesterday (in the immediately previous post) about not trusting exit polls in the political and security context of Palestine? What was it I said about the multi-seat plurality races being especially hard to estimate based on exit-poll sampling, even under the best of conditions for the polling itself?
From the Jerusalem Post:
Exit polls on the night of the vote gave the ruling Fatah Party a slight victory, a finding that was dramatically reversed on Thursday when Fatah and Hamas leaders said Hamas had won a clear majority of the 132-seat legislature.
The discrepancy may have been due to a reluctance by some voters to admit to pollsters that they were abandoning the ruling party. The polling errors appeared especially glaring in district races, where smaller numbers of voters were surveyed. [my emphasis]
Not only would a smaller sample be a problem, but so would the basic process of estimating from that sample, given that a typical pattern of multi-seat plurality systems (as I have noted in more detail in past posts) is that voters do not necessarily give all their ‘nominal’ votes to candidates of the same party or even use all of the nominal votes they are entitled to use.
The story goes on to say that Hamas apparently won a “large majority” in the district races, just as I suspected they would, because their voters would be more likely to vote the full slate than would voters of the internally divided Fatah.
In fact the scale of the Hamas win in the distrists vastly exceeds what I could have imagined. Another Post story says that Hamas won nearly all of them, and 75 seats overall. Yet another story I read (at Ynet) said that Hamas might have won 80 overall.
I have not yet seen updated votes totals, but remember–the vote estimates that were reported last night from exit polls might prove to be much closer to reality than the seat results, because the nominal (district) and PR-list seats are allocated completely separately (in ‘parallel’) in Palestine’s variant of a mixed-member system. A multi-seat district plurality system–Palestine’s nominal tier–can produce wide divergence between votes and seat shares, especially when one major party has a more cohesive electorate than the other. This is precisely what I have meant in past posts when referring to the votes-seats conversion probably benefiting Hamas relative to Fatah–and that was evident even in the estimates that the exit pollsters gave.
Moreover, this electoral system is a ticket-splitter’s dream. Not only do the list votes (which surely is what the exit poll was reporting) not have to match the candidate votes, but (reiterating here) within a district voters can split among candidates of different parties.
These factors compound not only exit-poll estimation, but also any systematic real-results relationship between votes and seats.
With a clear majority in the parliament, Hamas will now have to form the government. Palestine has a semi-presidential system with a relatively strong presidency, but requires that the cabinet have the confidence of the parliament. Already, the cabinet has resigned.
I will leave it to others more versed in the Middle East to assess the significance of this result.