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).