Is Venezuela taking the ‘P’ out of MMP?

Rob Richie (of Fairvote) sent me this item. It seems to imply that Venezuela’s electoral system, which has been mixed-member proportional since 1993, may be on the verge of becoming something far less proportional.

Excerpted from El Universal:

Election watchdog sees deteriorated quality of the democratic system

Criticism against the Organic Law on Electoral Processes (LOPE) continues. Non-governmental organization Ojo Electoral said, in a statement, that the legal instrument undermines the democratic quality of the electoral laws and Venezuelan society.

Members of the electoral watchdog highlighted that the LOPE eliminates, in Article 7, the principle of proportional representation set forth in article 63 of the Venezuelan Constitution, by removing the link between nominal election system and proportional representation through the establishment of lists.

The group explained that this situation “removes the provision that ensures proportionality and, on the contrary, it provides the pernicious effect of the so-called twin ballots, a party duplication technique that contradicts the spirit of proportionality, without the need to use this mechanism.

The NGO deems it possible that the new law could permit the establishment of politically-biased electoral districts to allow the creation of electoral districts in which a powerful constituency could elect more government positions than those opposing a given political project.

The elimination of the link between the nominal and list tiers would imply a move to a “parallel” mixed-member majoritarian (MMM) system.

9 thoughts on “Is Venezuela taking the ‘P’ out of MMP?

  1. Several recent news stories cover the final version of the new electoral law.

    Venezuela Re-Jiggers Election Rules to Favor Chavez Ruling Party

    Election processes law to be passed confirming proportional representation

    Venezuelan election law ignites opposition fears

    It’s clear that the new system is less proportional, but it’s not clear to me how much less and, in particular, what is the new formula for allocating lists seats. The only point I understand is the reduction of list seats from 40% to 30% of the total. If the formula is not also being changed, then that’s wouldn’t be a big deal. But there are sentences that appear to say that the new formula gives an Italian-style bonus to the majority party.

    Does anybody know what they really did? The journalists don’t seem to.

  2. I’m sorry but an explanation of the change in circumscriptions, in Spanish
    http://puzkas.blogspot.com/2010/06/21-circunscripciones-definiran.html
    I summary even if the opposition gets more popular vote they will not have the majority of the seats. Maybe the important thing , facing the 2012 election would be the fact that president Chavez could not be the main protagonist forever, and the will not get 2/3 of the assembly to do whatever they want.

  3. Chavez’s party has won 60% of the seats on only about 48% of the party vote.

    The electoral system is evidently highly malapportioned, with regions where Chavez is popular having a much higher seats/voters ratio. I was under the impression that the allocation process remained compensatory (i.e. MMP), but that link indeed suggests it is now MMM.

    In any case, compensation in Venezuela’s MMP has always been state-by-state, so it would not correct for underlying state-level malapportionment, nor for the gerrymanding of both district lines and magnitude (the nominal tier includes multi-seat MNTV districts). But, of course, changing to parallel allocation would only exacerbate the disproportionality–and would also be seemingly contrary to the Venezuelan constitution.

  4. The degradation of Venezuela’s MMP system is a classic case of blowback. The “twins” mechanism (the same trick used by Berlusconi in Italy) was introduced by a Chavez opponent in the 2000 legislative elections. The anti-Chavez governor of Yaracuy state, Eduardo Lapi, set up a new “dummy party” called “Lo que Alcanzo por Yaracuy” (what was done for Yaracuy) whose acronym, LAPY, phonetically was the same as Lapi. Brilliant. When it was ruled legal, Chavez had to copy it; MMP became MMM. What has happened more recently I’m not sure.

  5. I pondered over the question whether the electoral system was deliberately manipulated and how to prove it. I tried to analyse each step in the allocation process:
    (I disregard the 3 indigenous seats)

    1) Apportionment of seats to states. Every state begins with 3 seats, only the remainding 90 seats were apportioned proportional to population. (art. 10 Ley Orgánica del Procesos Electorales)
    This is malapportionment (Gini-index of 17,7%), but has not a strong partisan bias: applying D’Hondt per state to the 2009 referendum results, 56,0% votes (yes) gives 58,6% (95/162) seats; applying D’Hondt per state to the 2010 list results, PSUV 48,2% – MUD 47,2% – PPT 3,1% gives 85 – 74 – 3 seats (52,5% – 45,7% – 1,9%)
    But I think this bias (the 3-seat-per-state-rule) existed before Chaves. Moreover, Senate with parity per state (even more malapportioned) was abolished by him. Other Latin-American countries have a similar bias even in their lower chamber (Gini-index: Chile 19%, Brazil 15%).

    2) List tier: The change from compensatory tot parallel allocation of list seats. In fact, after the plurality seats were awarded, it was the opposition that needed compensatory seats. If the government knew this beforehand, the switch to parallel allocation can be a deliberate manipulation.
    If the list seats were compensatory, the result would have been: PSUV 85 (71+14) – MUD 74 (38+36) – PPT 3 (1+2) seats (overall the same as pure D’Hondt per state: 4 overhang seats for both blocs cancel each other out)

    3) Nominal tier:
    a) borders between the districts (gerrymandering sensu stricto): Districts are build by adding together large units (municipalities and, when municipalities were too big, parishes, see art. 19.1 LOPE). Given this restriction, there were few possible combinations to build approximately equal compact districts and when mapped, the districts do not seem strangely shaped.

    b) magnitude of the districts (tullymandering): Most districts (68) were SMD, but the law did not impose them, so the map includes 15 two-seat- and 4 three-seat-districts. In every multimember district, the result was one bloc winning all seats. (*In general, the voters did not split their ballot between list and nominal tier or between different nominal tier candidates)
    It’s difficult to prove that multimember districts were used to ‘drown’ opposition strongholds. I was able to draw a SMD-map for Carabobo and Distrito Capital (two interesting states because PSUV was defeated in votes but has won more plurality seats, including all seats in multimember districts), resulting in three or four extra opposition winners (from a total of 14), but this isn’t solid proof.

    In any case: part of the pro-PSUV bias in the nominal tier can also be a result from the inefficient distribution of the opposition vote, meaning the opposition in general wins with huge margins, while PSUV in general wins tight races. (Was this the case?)

    But, now I return to the list tier rule: if the government knew there was a strong pro-PSUV bias in the nominal tier (irrespective of its origin: deliberate tullymandering or the factual distribution of opposition votes), the switch to a parallel allocation of the list seats, constitutes a deliberate manipulation of the electoral system.

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