Elections today, 28 June 2009

Albania and Argentina have legislative elections today.

The election in Albania, a parliamentary democracy, will be its first under a pure list-PR system (which is, of course, much too “complicated” for us to even try to understand, according to the obliging WaPo). At various times since the end of the communist government, Albania has used mixed-member systems of both the majoritarian and proportional variety.*

Of course, the NY Times saw fit to print that the proportional system was “prompting concerns that a messy coalition-forming process could plunge the country further into murk.”

The WaPo story (first link) notes:

At one polling station in the mountainside town on Kruja, famed as the 15th-century stronghold of resistance to Ottoman invasion, a Reuters correspondent saw two separate incidents of men casting ballots for elderly women dressed in black.

Ah, Kruja. Fascinating place. A small personal aside: on my trip to Albania as an electoral system adviser (but don’t blame me for the “murk”!) in 1991, our delegation’s driver took us on an off day to Kruja (Kruje?). The museum of Albanian culture was closed, officially. But being so excited by the appearance of the then-rare Westerners, the caretaker opened it up and showed us around. On the same trip, I drank raki with Sali Berisha, who was already one of the main non-communist leaders then, and is currently Prime Minister.

OK, back to the elections…

Argentina’s election is a midterm legislative election. The president, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, succeeded in moving up the date of the elections, which would normally not have been held till October.

Argentina is among the relative few presidential systems to have both concurrent and midterm legislative elections (as are the USA and Mexico, with the latter’s midterm elections a week from today). Argentina is also the only democracy in the world that I know of that has staggered elections for its first (or sole) chamber (as well as for its second chamber).

As is typically the case with midterm elections in presidential democracies, the election is being seen as a “referendum” on the executive.

Argentina’s Chamber of Deputies is elected by closed-list PR, but it is not very proportional, due to both malapportionment and many small-magnitude districts.** The Kirchner couple has used the closed-list system rather creatively to try to hold on to votes for their Peronist party. As the WSJ noted on 10 June:

The campaign has also seen the phenomenon of “testimonial candidates:” star names like Buenos Aires Governor Daniel Scioli and actor Nacha Guevara added to Kirchner’s list of fellow candidates even though they are widely expected to never take office. Two judges have already turned down opposition efforts to ban those candidacies, arguing that there is no way to determine ahead of time whether they truly intend to take office or not.

Of course, the governor could not take up legislative office without giving up the (far more valuable) governorship.

Although the election date was moved froward several months, the installation date for new members is unchanged, giving the outgoing chamber, many of whose members will have been replaced as candidates by their parties or as legislators by the vote outcome, a long lame-duck period.

* The first competitive election, in 1990, used two-round majority. See the comment thread of the second link for discussion of some problems Albania had with its mixed-member systems.

** And, of course, due to the staggering. That is, each provincial district (and the Capital Territory) votes on new legislators at each election, but on only half its delegation (or half, +/-.5, in the case of odd numbers from a district).

5 thoughts on “Elections today, 28 June 2009

  1. Round on Rotation: A brief treatise thereon

    Argentina’s Chamber is not only “absolutely unique” (as far as we here know) in having rotation for its lower house, but is also relatively unique (so to speak) in having rotation for a chamber with population-based apportionment among sub-national districts.

    In other words, almost all other rotating chambers either:

    (a) have elections at large, without any sub-divisions (and are therefore wholly turnout-based) – eg, the NSW and South Aust Legislative Councils, and the strangled-at-birth Senate of the Irish Free State; or

    (b) if they do have sub-divisions, allocate seats among these without any regard at all for population (eg the US, Australian, Argentine, Brazilian etc, Senates). Seats are never reallocated, nor are boundaries ever revised, to reflect shifts in population.

    There have been very few examples of rotating terms combined with pre-election reapportionment based (in whole or part) on population. Most are nearly a century old – eg, the Netherlands 1850-1917 used 2-seat electorates with one MP chosen at each election.

    By contrast, the French Senate, India’s Rajya Sabha, the Dutch First [sic] Chamber, and those US State Senates with rotating terms instead use what I call “sequential rotation” – ie, each division votes only once in each series of elections, and doesn’t vote again until its last electees’ terms have expired. Eg, each French college of Grands Electeurs votes in only one out of every 2 (formerly 3) Senat elections per cycle. (We could notarise this as, eg, “1 of 3 elections every 9 years” or now “1 of 2 elections every 6 years)”.

    Argentina is then truly unique in being the only remaining example of population-based (what I call) “repeated rotation” – ie, each division votes at every election in the series.

    The US federal Senate is a mixed case, which is also unusual – partly repeated, partly sequential rotation (ie, each State votes in 2 of 3 elections every 6 years).

    In Australia, the Victorian, WA and SA State Upper Houses used to have repeated rotation in districts but now have abandoned it. (NSW and SA still have rotation, but the repeated/ sequential rotation distinction has no meaning when all seats are filled at large). Tasmania’s Legislative Council, the only remaining State Upper House with districts and rotation, uses US-style sequential rotation (each Province votes in 1 of 6 elections every 6 years). Upper House electoral divisions in Australia (formerly “Provinces” if majority voting, now “Regions” if PR) were only very loosely based on population, but nonetheless their boundaries did get revised every now and then; they were not permanently fixed, unlike the State borders. I don’t know what transitional arrangements Vict, WA and SA formerly used when their Legislative Council boundaries were revised or the number of MLCs was changed.

    Now, back to Argentina…


  2. A possible correction: Wikipedia says the Czech Senate has 81 members elected in rotation (one-third every 2 years) in single-seat elections, but isn’t clear (given the standards of Wikipedia editing!) whether there are 27 or 81 constituencies, or whether these are based on population or on regions. (I note there are 13 regions – if there were 27 or 81 one might assume the seats were apportioned per stirpes rather than per capita.)


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