Surprise, surprise. Now, Fatah would like any new parliamentary election in the Palestinian Territories to take place under a proportional system. Better late than never, but how much of the recent conflict might have been avoided had PR been used in January, 2006?
In the 2006 election, as I discussed at length at the time in various plantings (click “Palestinian Territories” above and scroll down), Fatah only narrowly lost those elections in the party-list vote, 44-41. Yet, the seat allocation was extremely disproportional, thanks to a variant of MMM (mixed-member majoritarian) that was based on a nominal tier of MNTV (multi-seat districts in which the voter could cast votes for as many candidate as there were seats in the district).
Hamas’s narrow plurality on 44% of the party-preference votes translated into close to three fifths of the seats, partly because of the inherent tendency of such a system to exaggerate pluralities and partly because of the far greater discipline of Hamas voters, who were somewhat more likely to cast all of their votes for Hamas candidates than were Fatah voters to do so for their candidates.
One must be cautious in a setting like the Occupied Palestinian Territories about attributing too much to institutions, but without a Hamas parliamentary majority, President Mahmoud Abbas could have appointed a Fatah-plus-independents cabinet with Hamas constituting the opposition. Not a fully peaceful opposition, surely–this is Hamas we are talking about–but in such a scenario, the US, Israel, and EU would not have had the justification for the boycott of the Palestinian Authority that has done so much to destroy both infrastructure and hope.
Thanks to the folks at Fair Vote for noticing Fatah’s expression of support for PR. I have a small disagreement with Jack’s conclusions in the just-linked post, however. He suggests that Fatah’s substantial underrepresentation was a result of over-nominating, that is, having too many candidates for its votes to support. That would be a valid conclusion were the nominal tier elected by SNTV or limited vote, or if voters for the largest party had not been so party-oriented. But given that in most districts, Hamas had the plurality of voters, who were generally willing to give all their votes to Hamas candidates, a different nomination strategy could hardly have made a significant difference in the outcome. The problem was the electoral system itself, and not nomination strategy.