Mexico: PRI will be short of majority

See the comments for some updates on the preliminary seat totals.

According to preliminary results, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) has won the most votes and seats in the midterm Chamber of Deputies election.

Turnout was around 45%, which is higher than at the last (2003) midterm election, despite a “null vote” protest movement. (Null votes themselves were about 5% of total votes cast, which was barely any larger than in 2003.)

This is the firstsecond time in Mexico that a party other than that of the President will have the plurality of seats in the Chamber of Deputies. (Thanks to Manuel, below, for the correction.)

The PRI has not won enough votes to qualify for a majority of seats, as Mexican electoral law prohibits a party from having more than an 8-percentage point over-representation. The PRI has a preliminary total of 36.2% of the vote.

Thus it will not be divided government in the narrow sense of majority opposition, unless the PRI and other parties cooperate after the election to control the Chamber in opposition to the President. That is possible, but I would think unlikely.

The National Action Party (PAN) of current President Felipe Calderon is a distant second, at 28.0%. At about 5 percentage points, this is not much of a midterm decline for the incumbent party, and it is about 3 percentage points worse than its 2003 votes result. However, given the large boost the electoral system and three-way competition in the single-seat-district tier gave the party in 2006 (when it won about 41% of seats), it will likely have suffered a bigger decline in seats.

The Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) did quite badly, with only 12.2%, or barely more than a third of the votes that it won in 2006 when it narrowly lost the presidency.

The Green Party, which is an ally of the PRI, has 6.5%. These two parties had a partial pre-electoral coalition, running jointly nominated candidates in 63 of the 300 single-seat districts, but separate party lists for the “parallel” tier of 200 proportional list seats (as well as, of course, separate candidates in the other 237 single-seat districts). While seats totals are not yet reported (as far as I know), it is unlikely that these two parties would have a joint majority, despite 43% of the votes, as the Greens presumably have won no single-seat districts (outside of coalition districts, where they might have helped the PRI fend off another party’s candidate). I wonder if there will prove to have been districts where the PRI and Greens running separately might have “spoiled” a chance at a PRI win. Perhaps the parties’ pre-electoral strategy was sufficiently targeted to have avoided such an outcome.

The electoral law, and changes made in 2008 (see explanation by Manuel in the previous thread), permit parties to have their separate ballot symbols in districts where they have a joint candidacy. Because there is no separate vote for the list tier, this is important to parties in a coalition: they can still collect their separate PR seats despite the common candidacies. However, any pre-electoral coalition is bound to lose some votes for one of the parties from voters who dislike the partner (or its candidate in the district). Presumably this is why the parties ran separate candidates in the vast majority of districts.

The smaller Workers Party (PT), however, ran a coalition in all 300 districts with the Convergencia. And here I need some more help on how the new electoral law works. These two parties are shown having 3.6% (PT) and 2.4% (Convergencia) for their separate ballot symbols and 0.2% for the coalition, per se. So do voters have the choice of endorsing the coalition as a whole or choosing one of the component parties? Obviously any of these options would be a vote for the candidate in the given district, but how are list votes calculated in the case of voting for the coalition? (For the record, the PRI-Green coalition obtained 0.4% in addition to the separate votes by party reported above). (Again, Manuel to the rescue in the comments!)

Despite all the talk of a “comeback” by the PRI, this result is roughly the same as its performance in the last midterm election, 2003. Maybe 35-38% is just the party’s “natural” level of support in Mexico’s new democratic era. Of course, it does look like a comeback from its dismal third-place showing in 2006, but even then its congressional vote was only about eight percentage points worse than its showing in the current election. That is well within normal election-to-election variation in democracies–especially in presidential systems, where every legislative election takes place in the context of voter evaluations of the parties’ presidential candidates, or of the incumbent president. In the concurrent election of 2006, the PRI suffered defections due to an unusually strong PRD presidential candidate who was the main challenger to the PAN. The PRI also had an extremely weak candidate of its own in 2006: Roberto Madrazo, one of the ultimate “PRIosaurs.”

The PRI thus remains about where it has been since 2000: the pivot party in congress, with a strong regional base (having won most of the governor races in recent years including apparently four of the six up yesterday). Yet it remains a party that will need a very good candidate in 2012 if it is to reach the 40% range that will likely be needed to win back the presidency if the PRD does not make it another strong showing three-way race.

9 thoughts on “Mexico: PRI will be short of majority

  1. “The smaller Workers Party (PT), however, ran a coalition in all 300 districts with another party (who is it?; I can’t make out the symbol).”

    Probably, the Convergencia.

    [Yes, of course. Thanks!–MSS]

  2. According to to the PREP results, the PRI won 137 districts on its own and another 50 in coalition with the Greens. The PAN won 71 districts, and the PRD 39. The PT coalition won in three districts.

    The PRD managing to win 39 districts while polling only 12% of the vote is somewhat surprising, going through the returns it appears that their incumbents won a large number of close races while the PRD vote collapsed in districts where they didn’t have incumbents. The PT won its three districts in the capital with very low vote percentages.

  3. Thanks, Ed!

    Assuming those results hold, that would be 45.7% of the nominal-tier seats for the PRI on its 36.2% of the vote, a 1.26 advantage ratio. Pretty good. Coupled with 36.2% of the PR seats, that should mean around 209 seats overall. Or about where the PAN is in the outgoing congress (on a similar vote share in 2006 to that of the PRI now).

    That’s impressive that the PRI Green coalition won in 50 of the 63 districts it contested! If those seats are added to the nominal-tier total of the PRI, these parties have 62.3% of the seats in that tier. The two parties might combine a majority, so maybe there is divided government after all. (It is not clear to me how much we can expect the PRI and Greens to work together to control congress and whether they have a common legislative program.)

    The PAN would be only slightly underrepresented, with 23.4% of the nominal-tier seats. Given 28% of the vote, the party’s list seats would be around 56, for 127 overall (25.4%).

    The PRD’s nominal-tier seats would be almost perfectly proportional. A bit unusual given FPTP, but it would underscore the extent to which the PRD is a regional party. Its votes obviously were concentrated in strongholds. Interesting point on the districts currently held. (Of course, none of the incumbents was running this time, because immediate reelection is not permitted.)

    The PT-Convergencia coalition’s 3 seats in single-seat districts is actually even more surprising to me than the PRD’s 39. But if it took votes from the PRD in multiparty capital-area districts, I suppose that explains it.

    Thanks, again, Ed!

  4. “This is the first time in Mexico that a party other than that of the President will have the plurality of seats in the Chamber of Deputies.”

    Actually, the second: PRI had a plurality in the Chamber from 2003 to 2006, when PAN’s Vicente Fox held the presidency. In fact, in many ways the outcome of Sunday’s election is a re-run of 2003, with PRI ahead of PAN, and PRD a distant third.

    Also, if I’m not mistaken PRI will be very close to an absolute majority, and it would hold an overall majority in coalition with PVEM: PRI currently leads in 137 congressional districts on its own, and the PRI-PVEM alliance is ahead on another 50, so it would have 181-187 FPTP seats, depending on how many of the six PVEM candidates in the partial coalition actually won.

    Now, based on the latest figures PRI would be entitled to 79 PR seats, which would bring their Chamber seat total to 260-266; however, this would be more than eight points above the 39.5% PRI share of the valid votes cast for qualifying parties, that is excluding invalid ballots, votes cast for non-registered candidates and votes cast for PSD, which fell below the two percent threshold, so PRI would be limited to a total of 237 seats (47.4% of the total number of Chamber seats, which is just under 39.5% + 8%).

    Meanwhile, PVEM would be initially entitled to at least 15 PR seats; however, since PRI would be capped to 50-56 PR seats, the Greens’ PR seat total would increase to 18, plus any FPTP seats won in the partial alliance with PRI. At any rate, the two parties would have at least 255 seats in the Chamber of Deputies, for an overall majority of ten.

    By the way, I agree with Ed: PRD had an excellent FPTP result – 13% of the seats with 12.2% of the vote – but that’s largely because of the concentration of PRD support in the Federal District (i.e. Mexico City) and also in Michoacán state: PRD topped the poll in both, winning 17 of 27 congressional districts in Mexico City and 8 of 12 in Michoacán.

    Finally, according to the last entry on the Preliminary Election Results Program FAQ, votes cast for coalitions are distributed in equal parts among constituent parties; any remaining votes due to fractions go to the coalition party with the largest vote total.

  5. Yes, I should have realized that the PRI had a plurality in 2003-06. Thanks for the correction.

    I think my comment (and the new follow up on the main page) more or less crossed in the ether with yours, Manuel.

  6. You’re welcome, Matthew: it looks like we were working on our respective comments at the same time.

    At any rate, I’ve just checked and it appears that PVEM has won four of the 50 FPTP seats captured by the PRI-PVEM partial coalition. As such, PRI would have 183 FPTP seats and a capped total of 54 PR seats, for a total of 237 mandates, while PVEM would have 22 seats (4 FPTP, 18 PR). Therefore, the two parties would have 259 of 500 seats in the Chamber of Deputies, for an overall majority of eighteen.

  7. To what extent was this election impacted by fraud? Its played a big role in other Mexican elections.

    The NY Times story on the election said that there was a split in the PRD, with its presidential candidate ALMO supporting another small leftist party. Maybe this was the PT and explains their success of winning three seats in the capital. The article gave the impression of a PRI victory.

    Its worth noting, in the context of citing their articles on the country, that the NY Times is at least part owned by the wealthiest man in Mexico.

  8. Mexico has one of the best anti-fraud systems in the world, with a rigorously independent electoral tribunal and a separate supreme electoral court that can overturn an election if there are grounds for it.

    So, until those who allege fraud have met the burden of proof, I am going to assume fraud was not a factor here. It is not as though this election was close, though I know some individual districts were (and there could be recounts and litigation in some cases).

    Yes, the PRD has been very divided since the 2006 election, with its actual elected leaders in various states trying to distance themselves from the electoral liability otherwise known as the AMLO Parallel Government (or should that be Parallel Universe?).

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