French MMM?

From the thread on Russia, it seems there is discussion of adding (or should I say grafting) a small list tier on to the French two-round system for National Assembly elections.

In that thread, DC says:

The French are planning to add a national PR tier (15% of the seats in the lower house of parliament). This appears to be parallel rather than compensatory, with two ballots. However it is constantly referred to as the “German model”, which demonstrates journalistic ignorance about PR is nor confined to Anglo-Saxon countries.

Vasi adds:

The French PR tier is supposed to help “inclusivity”. Currently small parties (that don’t make a deal with a large party) can be completely shut out of national politics. Rather than alienate those voters who never see their interests represented in parliament, the French state would rather coopt them by allowing them some representation, but not very much. It appears that completely revamping the electoral method was outside the mandate of the commission in any case, so any reforms were bound to be minimal.

Should the proposal be implemented, the most meaningful effect will almost certainly be the Front National gaining a dozen or two seats in parliament. Will that increase their legitimacy and power? Force them to compromise? It’s hard to know!

DC again:

I think the point of it is that the PS and the UMP will no longer be obliged (or at least will be less obliged) to court smaller parties at district level.

So called “useful voting” will probably see lots of French voters split their ballot between the district and PR levels, as we saw in Japan, thus a small party seeking representation will not waste a lot of resources at local level unless they have a solid existing base (the PCF, or the PRG, for example).

Any meaningful fair representation will see the FN in parliament-its basically unavoidable. I’m sure a large part of the reason the PR component of this reform is so niggardly is an attempt to avoid a situation where the FN would systematically be the third or fourth party, potentially holding the balance of power.

It could be worse-they could have tried to impose the awful system for regional elections (two-round list PR with “winners” bonus) at a a national level, which was apparently a proposal at one point.

Thanks for the “pre-planting” discussion!

6 thoughts on “French MMM?

  1. I’m not as sure as DC that we’ll see such “useful voting”. In the 2009 EU Parliament election—which used proportional allocation—the major parties received a combined 44% of the vote in France. This isn’t so far from the 56% that they got in the first round of the 2012 national legislative elections. If I look at a couple of countries with proportional representation at the national level, say Germany and Sweden, they show similar gaps of around 10% between major party share in EU and national elections. This suggests to me that voting in the first round of French elections is relatively “honest”, and that we shouldn’t expect voters to change their party-votes if a proportional tier is added.

    Obviously I haven’t looked at a lot of data points here, so this isn’t a terribly robust prediction. But as a tangent, I think it would be terribly interesting to analyze closely the differences between vote shares in all EU Parliament elections and their most proximate national elections. Maybe one could tease out which factors (size/diversity/system of govt/electoral system) lead to larger or smaller changes. Do you know if anyone has done this?

    I’m very hopeful that the electoral system actually would be a significant factor. One of the problems in simulating the results of electoral reforms is always predicting how much votes would change if the system was different, and this provides somewhat of a natural experiment.

  2. I shouldn’t have been so categorical in my statement, which is just an hunch. Vasi is right to point out that the major parties in France aren’t so dominant in the first round.

    This is significant because as far as I am aware, the district level vote will continue to use a two-round ballot, which is of course an important difference between this proposal and the Japanese and (possible) Russia systems. So there is still room for first round competition at district level.

    So the various minor parties could end up having a Komeito-style relationship with their bigger ideological counterparts, depending on the district-this would be especially true of the left, where the general practice is for the strongest left candidate to move ahead into the second round, and other qualified left candidates step down.

    The risk in places where the left is weaker (but where there continues to be a second round opportunity in three-way contests because of the relative strength of the far right) is that the entire left will fail to qualify-there a voter dissatisfied with the left-wing front-runner may play it safe and vote “usefully” at a district level, rewarding his true choice with a list vote. Again that’s just a hunch-as its a parallel system, you may as well vote for your favoured party at both levels-but I could see it as a possibility.

  3. Hey, where are these plans spelled out? The ‘Jospin commission’ (nov. 2012) recommended only 10% in parallel (not compensatory).

    In the mean time, for the departmental councils, a bill proposes a switch from SMD to M=2: every ‘binôme’ would be a closed list of a male and a female candidate. Does anyone has seen this elsewhere before?

  4. I am aware of some unions and student associations that use the STV equivalent of the zippered list. Roughly, once 50% of the vacancies are filled by candidates of one gender, all remaining candidates of that same gender are eliminated and the rest of the count plays out among the other gender.

  5. Indeed, the the Jospin Commission recommends electing 10% of the deputees (58) by nation-wide list PR with no threshold. This is to provide some representation of political diversity. Voters would have two votes. Dual candidacy would not be permitted.

    I have not looked into how this is being received.

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