Jordanian SNTV (or is it not SNTV?)

Frequent commenter Bancki noted the following about the Jordanian election of this past week:

When you think you’ve seen it all, Jordan invented a new hybrid electoral system: SNTV with virtual sub-districts: on the one hand, every voter has only one vote for one candidate in his multi-member-district (SNTV), but on the other hand, the district is divided in as many ‘virtual sub-districts’ as there are seats and every candidate stands in the sub-district of his choice. Not the M highest vote-getters are elected (SNTV), but the winner in every sub-district.

See the preliminairy statement of the NDI electroral observation mission

I have no idea why this sub-district complexity was added (who enacted the electoral law change anyway?), but it seems to me it’s more difficult (compared with simple SNTV) for a well-organised minority (say worth a Droop quota) to get a candidate elected: if their opponents know in which sub-district the minority concentrates its votes, the majority can overrun the concentrated minority in that sub-district, while winning on low numbers in other (less contested) sub-districts.

Even though someone who was following the Jordanian election closely sent me a detailed description which I was traveling this past summer (and which I subsequently lost), I do not understand this odd twist, either. Maybe someone can enlighten us. The NDI report is not exactly clear on this point. For example:

The new law preserved the single, non-transferrable vote system, which has been controversial in Jordan as some argue that the system favors tribal voting over the development of political parties. It also increased the number of seats in the lower house from 110 to 120, adding four seats for heavily populated areas in Amman, Irbid, and Zarqa, as well as six new quota seats for women. […]

Jordan’s government tried to address a long-standing complaint about Jordan’s single non-transferable vote system (often described as “one man, one vote”) with the creation of “virtual” sub-districts. In some polling stations, the candidate lists were broken down by sub-districts while in others only the overall candidate list was displayed. Voters had to make their choice without knowing the full list of competitors in each sub-district. This system should be improved or changed for future elections.

If the candidates are actually only in competition with other candidates in a given sub-district, then how could the system be considered SNTV at all?

Finally, a terminological issue. The reference to “one man, one vote” as SNTV is odd, unless one realizes that the alternative (used in some past Jordanian elections) is MNTV. Of course, the term, “one man, one vote” normally refers to an absence of malapportionment, not to the number of votes per voter. If districts had equal voter populations, it would be “one man, one vote” whether it was MNTV, SNTV, or some other system, because all voters would be represented equally.

There is still malapportionment, albeit less than before:

One of the most significant features of the electoral context in Jordan remains the disproportionality among electoral districts. The underrepresentation of urban, largely Palestinian-origin voters, has long been an issue of political contention.

One thought on “Jordanian SNTV (or is it not SNTV?)

  1. Pingback: Jordan’s new electoral system – the more things change… | Fruits and Votes

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