Kosovo 2021: A single-district electoral system that violates the rank-size principle

In the previous planting asking whether free-list PR violated my own definition of a “simple system, I mentioned the criterion of avoiding violation of the rank-size principle in allocation of seats to votes within district (see footnote 2). I later happened up a major example of violation of the rank-size principle: Kosovo in 2021!

It is a single district of 120 seats, but per Wikipedia:

The Assembly had [under the Constitutional Framework] 120 members elected for a three-year term: 100 members elected by proportional representation, and 20 members representing national minorities (10 Serbian, 4 Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian, 3 Bosniak, 2 Turkish and 1 Gorani). Under the new Constitution of 2008, the guaranteed seats for Serbs and other minorities remains the same, but in addition they may gain extra seats according to their share of the vote.

The result of this is that there are parties with as much as 2.5% of the votes but no seats (there is also a 5% legal threshold for non-ethnic parties), and parties with as little as 0.14% who have seats when somewhat larger ethnic parties do not. For instance, the United Roma Party of Kosovo has a seat with 1,208 votes while the Innovative Turkish Party, which I presume is an “ethnic” party, with 1,243 votes, has none. That would be because the two set-aside Turkish seats were won by the Turkish Democratic Party of Kosovo, which had almost 6,500 votes (0.75%).

Perhaps it is not a “single district” and we should think of each ethnic group’s set-aside representation as a distinct district in addition to the general constituency. But that is certainly not how I generally understand “district.” In any case, there is nothing “simple” about the provision or its impact on outcomes, particularly regarding the rank-size criterion.

In addition, these provisions result in the odd case of a party with a majority of the vote not getting a majority of the seats, which is certainly unusual for a proportional representation system!

6 thoughts on “Kosovo 2021: A single-district electoral system that violates the rank-size principle

  1. I guess I would be inclined to see the ethnic minority seats as being a separate district in the same way that the seats for Afro-Colombians and Indigenous people in Colombia, or the seats for Italians and Romani (?) in Slovenia are separate. It’s less explicitly demarcated on the ballot, but parties file to run in those seats separately and a fixed number of seats are allocated within those ‘districts’ separately. A comparison might be to the ‘functional constituencies’ in Hong Kong, although here voters self-select into constituencies.

    The more complex element of this system seems to be that ethnic minority parties can avoid the threshold and can (seemingly) win seats in the general district as well. I know of other countries which allow ethnic minority parties to skip thresholds (Germany, Poland and Romania) but afaik none of these systems also have reserved seats. I also don’t know of any ‘simple’ systems with such a rule, but it seems quite plausible. In any case it seems like this represents an oddity in the ‘simple’ nature of the threshold rule, although not one likely to have much significance in the grand scheme of things

    • It’s the first sentence of the second paragraph that leads me to think of it as one district, the set-asides notwithstanding. That and–maybe even more importantly–that the larger parties appear to be getting their seats calculated on the basis of the full 120 seats (albeit underrepresented due to some of the ethnic parties not having sufficient votes for a seat if not for set-aside provisions), rather than on the basis of the 100 “general” seats.

      That is, if conceptually these were separate “districts” shouldn’t the largest party, with just over 50% of the votes (maybe 52% of above-threshold non-ethnic votes), have about 50 (or about 52) seats? Instead it has 58. It should not be that high if it is effectively competing in a 100-seat district, with the other 10 seats being in separate “districts”.

      It looks to me like the Ste-Laguë divisors are being run on a magnitude greater than 100, albeit smaller than 120. In fact, I am going to estimate it is on 110, as Serb List (which won 10 seats on 5%, and representing a community for which there are 10 set-aside seats available) was the only ethnic party above the threshold. So I am suggesting that the other 10 set-asides are allocated “automatically,” deducted from the total (120-10), and the remaining parties win seats based on what their vote shares entitle them to out of this adjusted magnitude (110). When I do some rough calculations, this seems to work out. But I could have this all wrong!

      Now, I wonder how it would have worked out if the Serb List had won 4.99% instead of 5.09%. Then all of its seats would have been in the set-aside portion. I am not sure how that would have changed the results. I came up with 54 seats for the largest (which is wild, as it means even having a larger share of the above-threshold vote they lose seats), but I can’t say to which parties it would have lost seats! Maybe my calculations are just off. I said they were rough!

      By the way, in Colombia’s Senate, as well, an ethnic party can win a general seat if its votes are high enough to qualify. I know this was the case in at least one election.

      • The Venice Commission has a copy of Kosovo’s electoral law here . It’s slightly confusing. Section 111.1 seems to suggest that the number of minority seats is not fixed, saying that

        “Parties, coalitions, citizens’ initiatives and independent candidates having declared
        themselves representing the Kosovo Serb Community shall have the total number of seats
        won through the open election, with a minimum ten (10) seats guaranteed if the number
        of seats won is less than ten (10)”

        This would seem to imply that any seats the Serb List wins in the general seats are deducted from the overall Serb allocation. However, the actual piece of the law that allocates seats makes no mention of this. 100 seats are allocated

        “amongst Political Entities representing Albanian majority community who have won at
        least five percent (5%) from general number of total valid votes for Assembly elections
        and Political Entities of the Kosovo Serb and other non majority communities”

        and the remaining twenty seats are allocated to the minority parties. So that would seem to suggest that my interpretation is right. However, I share your confusion at the fact that this allocation mechanism has somehow ended with Vetëvendosje winning 58 seats off 50% of the vote given how few parties actually seem to have missed the threshold.

    • I believe the other reserved ethnic seat in the Slovenian Parliament is set aside for the Hungarian minority. Or possibly the Croats? But it’s certainly not there for Roma people, or German speakers for that matter.

  2. Pingback: Kosovo electoral system note | Fruits and Votes

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