Catalonia 2017 result

(Following up on the pre-election entry, where I said the electoral system could make a difference to the result!)

If we aggregate the parties’ votes and seats in this week’s Catalan regional parliament election by pro-independence and pro-union blocks, we find the election produced a plurality reversal. That is, the pro-union parties won more votes, but the way the separate parties’ votes were translated into seats by electoral system resulted in a pro-indepdence assembly majority. The voting result between the blocs was not even very close, those opposed to independence winning by about 4.6 percentage points. This sort of thing should not happen under PR, but can happen when the system is malapportioned and the geographical distribution of party support favors the over-represented side.

I thank David Lublin for pointing this out, via an email message, the contents of which I am sharing here, with his permission.

In this first table are the votes by party and electoral district (data from El País). The main pro-separatist parties are JxC, ERC, and CUP, and these together have 70 of the 135 seats (as the second table below shows), but only 48.3% of the vote.

Barcelona 856382 615201 669108 491201 272632 141363 140786
Girona 79022 148702 87949 34898 16331 21539 11453
Lleida 40608 77695 63852 21618 9318 12052 10839
Tarragona 119870 95223 104057 51643 23443 17524 19976
CATALONIA 1095882 936821 924966 599360 321724 192478 183054

And here is a table David prepared of the same votes run through alternative electoral systems.

David looked at the outcomes considering:
(1) Malapportionment (actual system) v. Fair Apportionment;

(2) D’Hondt (actual system) v. Ste. Lague; and
(3) Four Districts (actual system) v. Single District.
As the following table reveals, the current setup greatly advantaged the pro-independence forces:


Back on 8 November, David had noted in a Monkey Cage post that the electoral system of Catalonia was “stacked” in the separatists’ favor. In that post, David said that Barcelona, which is the most pro-union of the districts, has 14 fewer deputies than it would have, based on its share of the population. (That would make its district magnitude 99! Of course, they could divide it into multiple districts.)

Manuel Alvarez-Rivera had previously noted the impact of the electoral system on the 2015 election, at which such a reversal also occurred. Manuel’s observations can be found both here at F&V and at his own blog, Electoral Panorama. The 2015 reversal was less severe than this year’s because in the earlier election the pro-union parties won the vote just 48.1% to 47.8%.

Catalonia and the rest of Spain need many things to work out their relationship (with or without separation). But one thing that clearly would help would be an electoral system for Catalonia’s own parliament that reflects how its people actually vote.

7 thoughts on “Catalonia 2017 result

  1. One problem with this election is how to look at CatComú–Podem, which (by popular vote, but not by seats) holds the balance of power. They support Catalan self-determination, I gather. Perhaps they cannot be labelled “pro-union?” Its predecessor CSQP got 11 seats in the 2015 election, but I cannot find out how they voted on 6 September 2017 on whether to hold a referendum — maybe they voted yes? — and on whether to declare independence on 27 October. Can someone clarify?


    • The 11 Catalunya Sí Que Es Pot deputies in the previous legislature don’t seem to have voted as a bloc on those two key questions, but unlike the three hardline unionist groups, they did not boycott the session when those issues were bring discussed. In the vote on a referendum there were 10 MPs against with officially no absentions as the three ‘constitutionalist’ parties had left the chamber. For the vote on the declaration it went along similar lines. There appear to have been two blank votes, but they could’ve come from one of the separatist parties or from a unionist who defied the whip by remaining in their place during the debate.


    • I believe the official position of Podemos at a Spain-wide level (not 100% sure for their Catalan branch) is that they are supportive of self-determination and of a vote for Catalan independence, but believe that Catalans should vote “no” in such a vote.


  2. Isn’t Barcelona where all the Spaniards live? Maybe there’s a little “poetic justice” in discounting their region’s votes?


  3. The apportionment in the Catalan parliament is still the same as in 1980 and Barcelona is capped at 85/135 in the autonomy statute itself. Underrepresneting the urban provinces is unfortunately rather common in Spain : well known is the malapportionment in the national Congress and Senate, but such malapportionemnt also exists in many regional parliaments, especially in the Canary and Balearic islands and in the Basque Country. Catalonia is no exception, but this is no excuse.

    On the voting behaviour of CQSP: in the Catalan Parliament, they stayed in the chamber but abstained on the referendum law (19/2017 of 6 sept.) and voted against the transitional constitution (20/2017 of 8 sept.).In the Senate Podemos voted against authorising article 155.


  4. Pingback: Catalans vote to retain a pro-independence parliament | On Elections

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