SNP majority under MMP

In the Scottish Parliament elections, the Scottish National Party (SNP) has won a majority of seats on around 45% of the votes.

As Thomas Lundberg, writing in the Herald Scotland, says, the result defies those who designed the system to thwart the SNP.

The electoral system is mixed-member proportional (MMP), but with relatively modest-sized compensation districts (rather than a single PR tier). The underlying issue, from a compensation perspective, is that the SNP performed extraordinarily well in the single-seat races.

14 thoughts on “SNP majority under MMP

  1. I fear that the shrinkage of NZ’s compensation tier will a accelerate with faster migration northwards out of Christchurch. Something to keep an eye on, rather than an immediate issue, however, especially if the Maori seats are scrapped at some point.

    Good that the SNP leader seems to be making comments designed not to annoy potential future coalition partners.

  2. So the Scots don’t allow for Overhangmandates, unlike the Bundestag?

    Sounds as if MMP has operated here the way the Jenkins Commission wanted “AV-plus” to work – deliberately too few seats to achieve full proportionality, just enough to dampen massive swings.

  3. MMP has always struck me as an unlovely kludge: the least sophisticated proportional method grafted together with the worst single-winner method in wide use.

  4. NZ allows overhangs seats (1 in 2005, 2 in 2008, all for the Maori Party), and does not use ‘balance seats’ to maintain proportionality of the overhang holder. We are less likely to get the situation of a party getting a majority of seats without majority of the votes than Scotland (we have similar # of district and list seats to them), as we have a national list. It could happen with a high number of votes going to parties that don’t meet the 5% threshold (which is a plausible scenario in 2011, if not likely)

  5. MMP in Scotland is not the most proportional of electoral systems. The Gallagher least squares measures of disproportionality give an index of around 7 in the first three elections (I haven’t done the calculation on last Thursday’s election yet). There are no overhang seats. As Matthew notes above, the SNP did very well in single-member districts, actually sweeping the (ten-district) North East Scotland region and even gaining one more regional seat there due to its winning of nearly 53% of the regional vote. Each of the eight regions allocates seven members (normally from closed party lists, but individuals can stand as candidates) and has an average of nine single-member districts, so the average district has a district magnitude of 16.

  6. Should more List seats be introduced to ensure more proportionality? Or should the regional list seats, be abolished, and replaced with a single list tier all over Scotland to insure proportionality as NZ uses MMP with one list tier?

    It seems to me that this system of MMP should be called MMP lite.

    It seems to me that Scotland would have been better off with Open Party List PR or STV than this fake masquerade system of MMP.

  7. In regards to Suaprazzodi’s comment about the regional system, I have run the total regional votes for all parties from the Greens up through the D’Hondt method using at-large top up. The results would look like this:

    [party]/[total seats]/[% of seats]/[% of overall regional vote]




    Liberal Democrats/7/5.43%/5.20%


    These results give an overall Gallagher Index of 3.86, as compared to the official results which give a score of 7.46.

  8. What would be interesting is modifying the rules of the district part of MMP. I suggest that a candidate must get either 50%+1 of the votes in the district or get at least 40% with a margin of 10% over the runner-up.

    If the candidate reaches the threshold, such candidate will be immiediately elected. If not, the seat(s) will be added to the list seats.

    • Derek, OK, but let’s not call that MMP. And the concept would probably not be acceptable in a place like Scotland where apparently district representation is still seen as important.

      To be a mixed-member system, the outcome of contests within nominal-tier districts must be decisive, based on the nominal votes (i.e. those cast for candidates) themselves. The nominal tier can be decided by any of the various rules one might think of (FPTP, runoffs, AV, STV, SNTV…), but if the voters in the district lose district-candidate representation for failing to coordinate, then it is not MMP.

      Variations on rules where districts forfeit a seat to the list pool under given circumstances now exist in Romania (if I recall correctly; go to the S.E. Europe block here at F&V for previous discussions) and before 1994 in the Italian Senate.

  9. Sorry to beat a dead horse, but does anyone know what’s going on with the Überhangmandate problem in Germany?

  10. Schmaltz, it seems the deadline to fix the problem of “negative vote-values” will be missed, meaning that Germany will be without a valid electoral law starting 1 July. The deadline was imposed by the Constitutional Court three years ago when it ruled against that inherent paradox.

    From what I just read it seems the problem is that the CDU wants to keep its current advantage but has been unable to come up with changes that would be constitutional as well as practical. The coalition parties say they will introduce something after the summer break, so that this rather Merkelian disarray is ended.

    For those who read some German, is probably the best source on this, especially since they were among those who brought the suit in the first place.

  11. Found this post
    Last night I had the good fortune to attend a briefing at Holyrood by Professor John Curtice** of work commissioned by the Electoral Reform System and hosted by Neil Bibby, former Scottish Regional Co-ordinator for Yes to Fairer Votes and now an MSP.

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