Vanuatu 2012

Vanuatu, one of the last cases of the Single Non-Transferable Vote, held general elections earlier this month.

Jon Fraenkel of Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand, sends along the following tidbit about the challenges of vote distribution under SNTV:

Ralph Regenvanu, a reformist MP elected last time out as an independent but this time around seeking to establish a political party, contested the 6-seat Port Vila constituency and tried to get a running mate elected, but apparently failed to divert votes away from himself to that running mate, so a load got ‘wasted’, and his colleague failed.


4 thoughts on “Vanuatu 2012

  1. I seem to remember reading (possibly here) that SNTV was introduced during the decolonisation of Vanuatu to avoid the electoral dominance of the Anglophone majority over the French-speaking minority that would have resulted from a simple plurality system (I think proportional representation was avoided on the pretext of a lack of broad literacy).

    How has it succeeded in terms of maintaining a broad balance between English and French speaking Vanuatans? (even if the results for individual politicians can be unfortunate). Is ther any support for moving to a more proportionate system, or conversely towards a plurality system?

  2. Interestingly enough, Puerto Rico also uses SNTV for its at-large House and Senate seats (the only other places that I can think of that use SNTV are Japan and South Korea).

    In PR, there are 11 seats in each chamber (41% of the Senators and 22% of Reps). The two large parties run 6 candidates each, and the smaller parties one candidate island-wide. The parties put different candidates on top of the list in each precinct (sort of a self-selected Robson rotation), and voters are supposed to vote for whomever is on top of their list (if they cast a straight party ticket, their vote is automatically cast for the person on top of the party’s list in their precinct). Most of the time, the party which wins the most votes gets 6 seats, and the 2nd place party gets 5 (for a time, it was consistently 5-5-1), and that’s indeed what happened in last week’s House vote.

    However, in the Senate vote, the ruling PNP’s vote management strategy failed them utterly. Their average vote for the 6 candidates would have won them all 6 seats if they’d split them evenly, but their best candidate earned 154,983, 31441 above the average, pushing both their 5th and 6th candidates out of the Senate and allowing the PPD to take all 6 sats and the Independence Party to take 1 of the seats (the candidate got more than three times the votes as their congressional delegate candidate did).

    went to the Great Recession)votes, the They had an average of 131,523, which would have won them 6 seats if they’d split their vote evenly (the 6th place PPD candidate got 126,489), but their best candidate earned 154,983 while their 5th place earned 126,122 and 6th place earned 123,542. Not only was that bad enough to cost them the 11th seat, but somehow the Independence Party candidate managed to get 126635 votes (over triple the number of votes their congressional delegate candidate got) to finish 10th, pushing the 6th place candidate for the PPD to 11th and leaving the last two for the PNP without seats. That 6-4-1 margin is unheard of as far as I know.
    It’s hard to know if they just misjudged their support that badly in some areas and distributed certain candidates to too many strong areas, or if voters simply like the man that won the most votes (Thomas Rivera-Schatz, current President of the Senate) and voted for him even if he wasn’t on top of the list in their precinct.

    Combined with a PPD landslide in the district seats, that makes the Senate 18-8-1 in an election where the gap between the gubernatorial candidates was 0.7% and just 4 years after the PPD did so badly they qualified for compensatory seats; for the most proportional election system in the United States, one of the least proportional results ever (though not as bad as the instant where a PIP member won a list spot with 127 votes, and another candidate with 60k did not, thanks to a quirk in the electoral system.

  3. The vote goes to the candidate who the party has put in the first position, not exactly to the party itself (and one may ignore it).

    The whole election isn’t SNTV, but rather 11 seats per chamber, but even given the ability to have party votes count for the party’s designated candidate in the district, I find it hard to describe the system as anything other than SNTV (each voter has a single vote in a multi-winner election, and if a candidate gets too many votes, those are wasted votes which don’t benefit other candidates in the party). Puerto Rico’s large parties theoretically have a major advantage compared to parties in most countries with SNTV in that they control who is in the top position on each voter’s ballot and that voting the straight ticket option casts a vote for the party’s designated candidate in your precinct, but as your vote doesn’t go to any of the party’s other candidates and can’t transfer I find it hard to call it anything other than SNTV. I guess you could classify it as limited voting, but when limited voting is limited to selecting one candidate, I assumed that it was by definition SNTV.

    Plus Manuel Alvarez-Rivera’s site also describes it as SNTV (

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