Iraq electoral system change

The Iraqi parliament has passed a new election law. That is interesting in itself, but what really prompted me to “plant” about it was this stunning line from the caption to the photo accompanying the Al Monitor article, saying that the new law would establish:

a first-past-the-post system to replace the complex mix of proportional representation and list voting.

I’ve often remarked in the past about how journalists who clearly do not get electoral systems just call any PR “complex.” But a “complex mix” of PR and list voting? That is a new one on me. The current system is not such a remarkable variety among the larger orchard of electoral systems–it’s a districted list-PR system in which lists are open and the governorates serve as electoral districts.

Moreover, the new system is not going to be FPTP. As I understand it from a couple of contacts, it will be single non-transferable vote (SNTV). In terms of how most electoral-system experts tend to think of these things, that would be a substantial retrogression, adopting what most specialists consider one of the worst of all systems.

In connection with the change, the number of districts will be increased. The consequence thus would be a lowering of mean district magnitude. At least the reformers got that part right; if you must use SNTV, use small districts. The article, however, is confusing as to how the number of districts is being determined (to be honest, it is confusing about almost everything).

The political blocs agreed Sept. 14 to divide each of the country’s governorates into a number of electoral constituencies that reflect the number of seats allocated for women in parliament under the Constitution, which is 25.

For example, the capital, Baghdad, which has about 71 seats, including 17 seats reserved for women, will turn into 17 electoral constituencies.

I guess this just means the existing number of women’s set-aside seats is being used and, presumably, one winner in each new district will need to be a woman. But I can’t say for sure if my interpretation is correct. As for the new mean magnitude will be, in Baghdad the numbers cited imply it will be just over 4 (=71/17). However, if the size of the parliament (329) is staying the same and there will be just 25 districts, that would imply an overall mean magnitude of 13. This can’t be right. Surely there will not be 17 districts in Baghdad and only 8 in the rest of the country. So, who knows!

The article also offers some overview of opposition from groups who fear–probably for good reason–that they will be more poorly represented under the new electoral system.

(Note: The caption refers to the parliament having passed the law on Dec. 24; however, the news story is dated Nov. 2, 2020.)

UPDATE: Apparently the average magnitude indeed will be around 4; the article apparently has the total number of districts wrong. Not 25 districts, but existing women’s representation target (on which districting will be based) of 25%. See comments. If the assembly size is staying constant, then the number of districts should be 329/4=82.

Ukraine honeymoon election today

Ukrainians are voting today in an assembly election. It is a relatively extreme “honeymoon” election, as the new president, Volodomyr Zelensky, was just elected in March-April of this year (two rounds). There was already an assembly election scheduled for October of this year, which certainly would have qualified as a honeymoon election. But in his inauguration, Zelensky announced he would dissolve the Verkhovna Rada and call an election even earlier.

And why not? Based on much experience in presidential and semi-presidential systems, we know that there is a strong tendency for the party of a newly elected president to gain a large boost in votes the earlier it is held following the presidential election. This topic of the impact of election timing has been a theme of my research ever since my dissertation (1988), an early APSR article of mine (1995), and most recently in a whole chapter of Votes from Seats (2017).

At the time Zelensky was elected, various news commentary had the all-too-typical concern that the new president would be weak, because he is an “outsider” with no established political party. We got similar useless punditry when Emannuel Macron was elected in France in 2017. And we know how that turned out–his formed-on-the-fly party did slightly better than the 29% of votes I projected, based on an equation in Votes from Seats, prior to Macron’s own runoff win. (The electoral system helped turn that into a strong majority in the assembly.)

In May of this year, I projected that Zelensky’s Servant of the People party could get around 34.5% of the votes in an election held on 28 July. (One week earlier obviously does not change anything of substance.)

Early polling had him short of this (not even 25% just before the presidential first round), but predictably, SoP has been rising in the polls ever since Zelensky took office. The party almost certainly will beat this projection, and may even have an electoral majority. If short of 50% of votes, the party still looks likely to win a parliamentary majority, given the electoral system (discussed below).

A bigger boost than average (where the average across systems with nonconcurrent elections is what my projections are based on) is to be expected in a context like Ukraine, in which the party system is so weak. That is, poorly institutionalized party systems would tend to exaggerate the normal electoral cycle effect. The effect will be only further enhanced by low turnout, as opponents of the new president have little left in the way of viable political parties to rally behind. Thus a performance in the range of the mid-40s to over 50% of the vote would not be a surprise.

As for the electoral system and election itself, Ukraine is using again (for now, at least) its mixed-member majoritarian (MMM) system. It consists of 225 single-seat districts, decided by plurality, and 225 closed-list proportional representation seats, in a single nationwide district. The two components are in “parallel”, meaning seats won by any given party in districts and seats won from party lists are simply summed; there is no compensatory process (as with MMP). There is a 5% threshold on the list component; quite a few small opposition parties may waste votes below this bar. Due to parts of the country being under Russian occupation, only 199 single-seat contests will take place.

In some past MMM elections in Ukraine, a large share of the single-seat districts have been won by independents or minor parties, whereas the national parties (such as they are) have, obviously, dominated the nationwide list seats. It is probably quite likely that this rather extreme honeymoon election will result in most of the seats in both components being won by “Servants.”

On that theme, a tweet by Bermet Talant makes the following points (and also has some nice polling-place photos) based on conversations with voters in Kyiv:

• Ppl vote for leaders. Few know other candidates on party lists, even top5

• Servant of the People = Zelensky. Bscly, ppl vote for him again

• In single-member districts, ppl vote for a party too, not candidate

This is, of course, as expected. It is a completely new party. Many voters will be wanting to support the new president who created the party. The identity of candidates will not matter, either on party lists (where at least the top ones might be known in a more conventional party) or in the districts (where the vote is cast for a candidate). The single-seat districts themselves are referred to as the “twilight zone” of Ukrainian elections in a fascinating overview of the candidates and contests in the district component published in the Kyiv Post. These contests attract “shady candidates” many of whom are “largely unknown”. If a given election lacks a strong national focal point, it would tend to favor independents and local notables. In an election with an exceptionally strong focal point–as in a honeymoon election, more or less by definition–that will benefit whoever has the “Servant of the People” endorsement.

The timing of the election, and the likely dominance of an entirely new pro-Zelenskyy party, really is presidentialization at its very “finest”.

I am just going to quote myself, in the final paragraph of an earlier post about Macron’s honeymoon election, as it totally applies here, too: “All of the above should serve as a reminder of two things: (1) the purpose of the upcoming election is to ratify the new executive’s direction, not to be a second chance for an alternative vision; (2) the honeymoon electoral cycle matters.”

Expect the new Verkhovna Rada to be Servants of Zelenskyy.

Following the Indian campaign

The first of several phases of the 2019 Indian general election is underway. I just found a really neat feature at the Times of India that gives summary of the two major party leaders’ activities each day.

Also, on India:

“180 turmeric farmers refused to withdraw their candidature from Nizamabad on the last day of nomination… no choice but use ballot papers” instead of electronic machines.

That’s a lot of candidates, and also a pretty expensive protest (apparently around $400 per nomination), as well as a headache for election administrators.

Pakistan, 2018

Pakistan elections were today.

Something to watch is how well new religious parties do. One of them, Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan, has a campaign poster that features a woman candidate, although you will need a little imagination to see her.

One of the party’s male candidates explains, “The party has nominated a few women… because… it is mandatory under the election law.”

I understand (via experts on Twitter) that there could be many by-elections in the weeks to come. One even spoke of a “wave” of them. Some of these will be mandated by a provision that invalidates any constituency result in which at least 10% of women on the voter roll did not participate. Others will be necessary because candidates can run in multiple constituencies and, if they win more than one, they have to step aside in all but one. Still others will be needed because several candidates (at least 8) have died since nomination; it is not clear to the extent the deaths are natural or due to election violence.

The electoral system is mostly FPTP. The total size of the National Assembly is 342, and 272 of them are from single-seat districts via plurality. Others are reserved for women or ethnic minorities; some form of PR is supposedly used for these, but I do not have the details. Perhaps someone will enlighten us in the comments. This election is the first under a newly delimited constituency map.

Early results put Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, led by Imran Khan, in the lead.


Unless I say so explicitly, mention of parties or candidates on this blog is not an endorsement. That is especially so when I have no clue what a party’s poster appearing with my entry even says!

Lebanon 2018

Lebanon votes on 6 May. The new electoral system was previously profiled here at F&V by Amal Hamdan. Now we get to see the system in action!

Ali Harb at Mideast Eye also has a discussion of the system, complete with a map of the districts, and notes a change in ballot format beyond the adoption of open lists:

Another change is that the interior ministry will be solely responsible for ballots on election day. In previous elections, ballots were handed to voters by campaigners for various political parties.

In past elections, less popular candidates were able to slip their names onto the lists of other parties in a phenomenon known as “booby-trapped ballots”.

Lebanon, welcome to open alliance lists!

Lebanon’s election is coming up (6 May), and the country is getting its first look at a new open-list proportional electoral system (profiled previously here by Amal Hamdan).

An interesting blog post from 12 March by Gino Raidy has just come to my attention*: “Why Political Parties are Terrified of Forming Lists”. The author discusses the perils for parties joining on an alliance list. Because the lists are open, it is possible for one party to help boost its partner’s seats but elect none of its own candidates. On the other hand, it is also possible that parties (and alliances) will want to recruit relatively independent figures who can appeal to a wider electorate.

These sorts of issues may be new to Lebanon, but they will be familiar to readers of this blog. I have talked about them before, most recently in a discussion of Brazil and Finland, where open alliance lists have been in place for some time.

____
*Thanks, Dan W.!

Lebanon’s New PR Electoral System: Undermining Proportional Outcomes in a Proportional Representation Electoral System

This is a guest post by Amal Hamdan

In May 2018, parliamentary elections are scheduled to be held in Lebanon using a PR electoral system for the first time. The last parliamentary elections in Lebanon were held in June 2009. Since then, parliament has extended its own term twice. After years of deadlock over electoral reform, Lebanon’s two main rival political alliances, the March 14 and March 8 blocs, passed a law in June 2017 abolishing the Block Vote [MNTV–ed.] electoral system, used since 1958 for legislative elections, and introduced Open List Proportional Representation (PR) (Law No.44). An analysis of key technical aspects of the new law – namely, the formula used to distribute seats to lists and an informal threshold for list eligibility – suggests that it was designed to enhance the chances of candidates within the March 14 and March 8 blocs to be elected and diminish the possibility of electing candidates outside these alliances. Lebanon has been politically polarized between the March 14 and March 8 blocs since 2005, following the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafic Hariri which led to an end of Syria’s hegemonic grip over Lebanese politics. The main political factions comprising the March 14 alliance are the Future Movement (FM), the Sunni community’s main political representative; Maronite Christian Samir Geagea’s Lebanese Forces (LF); and the Christian Kataeb party. The March 8 bloc comprises the main Shia political parties, Hizballah and the Amal Movement and their mainly Maronite Christian ally, the Free Patriotic Movement. Until 2009 Druze leader Walid Joumblatt’s Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) was also part of the March 14 bloc but has since withdrawn, further reinforcing Joumblatt’s ability to play political kingmaker in Lebanese politics.

128 parliamentarians will be elected in 15 new ‘major’ electoral districts. Many, but not all, of these 15 districts are comprised of minor constituencies [qada]. Each voter casts a ballot for a list of candidates; voters have the option to cast one preferential vote for their favorite candidate, as long as the candidate is on the same list they have chosen. There is a key restriction on candidates’ preferential vote: if the major electoral district is comprised of more than one minor constituency, voters can use their preferential vote only for candidates within their minor constituency, and not any candidate in the major electoral district.

The new electoral law adopts the Hare Quota Largest Remainder (HQLR) formula to distribute seats to lists. Under the HQLR, the ‘price’ of a seat, in the currency of votes, is determined by dividing the total valid votes cast in a district by district magnitude (number of seats allocated in the district). This provides the quota or price of a seat. Under Lebanon’s PR system, for every whole quota a list has won, it receives a seat. If there are unfilled seats, they are allocated to lists with the largest remaining votes.

Only lists that receive one full whole quota are eligible to seat allocation; any lists that receive less than 1.00 or a full simple whole number are disqualified. One full whole quota or the threshold for lists to qualify for seat allocation varies across districts from 7.69% of votes (Mount Lebanon 4) to 20% (South Lebanon One). Table 1.1 identifies the major constituencies and the effective threshold in each district for lists to qualify for seat allocation. The minor constituencies or qada within each major district are in brackets.

Table 1.1

Major Constituency Effective Threshold of List Votes
South Lebanon One (Sidon; Jezzine) 20%
Beqaa Two (Rashaya; West Beqaa) 16.67%
Mount Lebanon Three (Baabda) 16.67%
South Lebanon Two (Tyre; Zahrani) 14.29%
Beqaa One (Zahle) 14.29%
North Lebanon One (Akkar) 14.29%
Beirut One 12.50%
Mount Lebanon One (Jbeil; Kesrewan) 12.50%
Mount Lebanon Two (Metn) 12.50%
Beqaa Three (Baalbeck-Hermel) 10.00%
North Lebanon Three (Zgharta; Bcharri; Koura; Batroun) 10.00%
Beirut Two 9.09%
South Lebanon Three (Bint Jbeil; Nabatieh; Marjayoun-Hasbaya) 9.09%
North Lebanon Two (Tripoli; Minnieh-Dinnieh) 9.09%
Mount Lebanon Four (Chouf; Aley) 7.69%

 

Besides the threshold, an additional provision in Lebanon’s PR electoral law favors well-established alliances such as the March 14 and March 8 blocs and strongly reduces opportunities for less established, smaller parties or electoral alliances from winning seats.  Under the new law, the Hare quota will be calculated a second time excluding the votes won by a list or lists that did not achieve the electoral quotient. A hypothetical example of three lists competing in the newly-created South Lebanon One constituency, which has a total of five seats allocated to its minor constituencies, Sidon and Jezzine, demonstrates how provisions in Lebanon’s PR electoral law decreases chances of candidates not running on major ballots from winning. The following table provides seat and confessional allocation in South Lebanon One:

South Lebanon One ‘Major’ Constituency
Minor Constituency (Qada) No. Seats and Confessions
Sidon Qada 2 Sunni
Total Seats in Sidon Minor District 2
Jezzine Qada 2 Maronite
1 Greek Catholic
Total Seats in Jezzine Minor District 3
Total Seats in South Lebanon One 5

To calculate the threshold for a list to qualify for seat allocation, the total number of valid votes cast for all lists in the South One district are combined and divided by district magnitude. Assume there are three hypothetical lists competing in the South Lebanon One district. The number in the brackets next to each candidate indicates the candidate’s preferential votes.

Lists Contested in South Lebanon One Major Constituency
Minor Constituency and Confession List A List B List C
Sidon Qada      
Confessional Seat Sunni A1 (25,460) Sunni B1 (13,512) Sunni C1 (7,543)
Confessional Seat Sunni A2 (23,041) Sunni B2 (5,266) Sunni C2 (4,289)
Jezzine Qada
Confessional Seat Maronite A3 (10,792) Maronite B3 (15,648) Maronite C3 (7,399)
Confessional Seat Maronite A4 (5,403) Maronite B4 (13,285) Maronite C4 (4,338)
Confessional Seat Greek Catholic A5 (5,220) Greek Catholic B5

(14,914)

Greek Catholic C5

(6,498)

List’s Total Votes 73,917 64,826 33,168

Note: The total votes won by each list exceeds its total preferential votes because voters have the option of voting for the list without casting a preferential vote for a candidate (Article 98, Clause 1)

 

The first step is to calculate whether lists are eligible to qualify for seat distribution; only those with at least one whole quotient will be eligible.

Step 1. Calculate the electoral quotient:

Electoral Quotient: (73,917 List A votes + 64,826 List B votes + 33,168 List C votes) = 171,911 ÷ 5 seats = 34, 382

Step 2. Calculate if lists won a whole quotient by dividing each list’s total votes by the electoral quotient:

List A: 73,917 list votes ÷ 34, 382 electoral quotient = 2.15.

List B: 64,826 list votes ÷ 34, 382 electoral quotient = 1.88.

List C: 33,168 list votes ÷ 34, 382 electoral quotient = 0.96.

Since List C won less than one whole electoral quotient it is disqualified – even though this list won 19.29% of total votes cast. Since a list has been disqualified, a second electoral quotient using the HQLR formula must be calculated to distribute seats to eligible lists.

 Step 3. Calculate the second quotient:

 Formula for second quotient: Qualifying Lists’ Votes ÷ District Magnitude.

Second Quotient: (73,917 List A votes+ 64,826 List B votes) = 138,743 ÷ 5 seats = 27,749.

The price of a seat dropped from 34,382 to 27,749 votes. Arguably, the provision to calculate the price of a seat twice is aimed at lowering the cost and enhancing the March 14 and March 8’s blocs chances of sharing seats (presuming these alliances remain in tact).

Step 4. Distribute seats to qualifying lists.

This is determined by dividing the qualifying lists’ total votes by the second electoral quotient.

 List A: 73,917 ÷ 27,749 = 2.66 = 3 seats.

List B: 64,826 ÷ 27,749 = 2.33 = 2 seats.

The next step is to distribute seats to candidates. Seat distribution to candidates across lists will not be straightforward in Lebanon since PR will be implemented alongside a confessional quota. The next section demonstrates how implementing a PR electoral system alongside a confessional quota will likely lead to anomalies in seat distribution and consequently, anomalies in representation.

The Potential Anomalies in Seat Distribution under Lebanon’s PR Electoral System

Lebanon is comprised of 18 officially recognized religious communities, known in Lebanese jargon as confessions or sects. These 18 sects are mainly Muslim and Christian denominations, although there remains a small Jewish minority. None of these 18 confessions are a majority, making Lebanon a country of minorities. All 128 parliamentary seats are reserved for 10 Muslim and Christian confessional communities. One seat is reserved for ‘minorities’, meant to represent the remaining communities not designated seats.

To distribute seats to candidates in qualifying lists, each candidates’ percentage of preferential votes is calculated; then all candidates are ranked in a single list from highest to lowest percentage and seats are distributed accordingly. However – seat distribution will also need to take into account the confessional allotment of seats and their allocation to minor constituencies: if all the seats reserved for a confession have been filled, a candidate can be disqualified even if he or she is ranking higher than their opponent. A candidate may also be disqualified if all the seats allotted to their minor constituency have been filled. Drawing on the hypothetical example from the South Lebanon One district where List A won 3 seats and List B won 2 seats clarifies these points and demonstrates how potential anomalies in representation could arise in Lebanon’s new PR electoral system.

Step 1.  Calculate each candidates’ percentage of preferential votes.

This is done by dividing the number of preferential votes won by a candidate by the total preferential votes cast for all candidates, regardless their confession, from qualifying lists in each qada separately. For example, the formula to calculate candidate Sunni A1’s percentage of preferential votes in the Sidon minor constituency is calculated by dividing their preferential votes by the total preferential votes won by candidates in qualifying lists in Sidon alone, rather than the major constituency:

% of Preferential Votes: Candidate in Qada ÷ Total preferential votes for all candidates in qualifying Lists in Qada.

Sunni A’s % percentage of preferential votes: Sunni A preferential votes ÷ Total preferential votes from qualifying lists in Sidon = 25,460 ÷ 67,279 = 37.84%

The following table calculates candidate’s percentage of preferential votes in each minor constituency in the South Lebanon One electoral district.

South Lebanon One District
Minor Constituency (Qada) List A List B
  Candidate No. Preferential Votes % Preferential Votes Candidate No. Preferential Votes % Preferential Votes
Sidon Sunni A1 25,460 37.84% Sunni B1 13,512 20.10%
Sunni A2 23,041 34.25% Sunni B2 5,266 7.83%
Total Preferential Votes in Sidon Qada  

67,279

 

 

Jezzine Maronite A3 10,792 16.54% Maronite B3 15,648 23.98%
Maronite A4 5,403 8.28% Maronite B4 13,285 20.36%
Greek Catholic A5 5,220 8.00% Greek Catholic B5 14,914 22.85%
Total Preferential Votes in Jezzine Qada  

 

65,262

 

Step 2. Rank all candidates from both constituencies from the highest percentage of preferential votes to the lowest.

Candidates’ Ranking According to Percentage of Preferential Votes, South Lebanon One District
Rank Candidate Minor Constituency % Preferential Votes
1 Sunni A1 Sidon 37.84%
2 Sunni A2 Sidon 34.25%
3 Maronite B3   Jezzine 23.98%
4 Greek Catholic B5   Jezzine 22.85%
5 Maronite B4   Jezzine 20.36%
6 Sunni B1 Sidon 20.10%
7 Maronite A3   Jezzine 16.54%
8 Maronite A4   Jezzine 8.28%
9 Greek Catholic A5   Jezzine 8.00%
10 Sunni B2 Sidon 7.83%

 

Step 3: Distribute seats to candidates.

Seats are distributed to candidates in descending order of their percentage of preferential votes, but with these critical caveats:

  • If the seats for a confession in a minor constituency have been filled, the remaining candidates from that confession are excluded, even if they have won higher percentages of preferential votes than candidates from other confessions;
  • once the seats allocated to a list have been filled, the remaining candidates for that list are disqualified, even if they have higher percentages of preferential votes from other lists.
  • If candidates are tied for preferential votes and are both eligible because the confessional quota in their district hasn’t been filled, the older candidate wins the seat.

In the hypothetical example, the distribution of seats to candidates according to minor constituency and confessions is the following:

List A: 3 Seats List B: 2 Seats
Candidate A1 (Sunni/Sidon)  B3 (Maronite/Jezzine)
Candidate A2 (Sunni/Sidon) B5 (Greek Catholic/Jezzine)
Candidate A3 (Maronite/Jezzine)

 

This demonstrates exactly the potential anomalies in representation under Lebanon’s new PR system: although the candidate in rank 5, Maronite Candidate B4 won 20.36% preferential votes, he or she was disqualified because List B’s two seats had been filled and consequently, the seat was awarded to the candidate in rank 7, Maronite Candidate A3, who received 16.54% of preferential votes. The candidate in rank 6, Sunni B1, was also excluded because all the Sunni seats in Sidon were filled; even if they had not been filled, List B also already been allocated its two seats.

Lebanon’s new electoral system

This is a guest post by Steven Verbanck

Lebanon finally has rewritten its electoral so that parliament can be renewed in 2018 (the sitting parliament was elected in 2009). The best explanations I’ve found so far are on Blog Baladi, Moulahazat, and Executive Magazine. Until I’ve found a translation of the text of the law itself, I have to rely on these sources.

1. Lebanon makes a major electoral system change by changing from multiple non-transferable vote (MNTV) to (open) list PR with average magnitude of 8,5 (128 seats in 15 districts, range 5 to 11).

It’s in line with a more general trend: many countries once started with MNTV but when elections become more partisan, search for ways to make the outcome less risky. One way to do this is to reduce district magnitude, with many countries ending up with M=1 (FPTP). In Lebanon the endpoint was the qada as district (law of 1960 and Doha law of 2008: 26 districts). Designing even smaller districts is too difficult given the predetermined allocation of every seat to a specific religious community.

The districting still bears the mark of majoritarian thinking: they avoided merging districts that differ too much in their religious makeup.

Introducing a proportional system makes the outcome less risky in competitive districts (51%-49% -> 3-2 instead of 5-0) but on the other hand, in districts who were until now won overwhelmingly, competition become viable (80%-20% -> 4-1 instead of 5-0)

Specifically, they have chosen single quota largest remainder as allocation mechanism between lists. The quota is also threshold and the quota is recalculated with the vote total of the lists still in the running.

2. The intraparty allocation of seats to candidates is rather complex because they combine proportionality between parties with the prefixed allocation of seats to religious communities and to sub-districts (= nada).

A voter is not restricted to candidates of his own religious community but can only give a personal vote to a candidate of his sub-district. It’s unclear to me if a voter has the option of a list vote without a personal vote for a candidate of that list.

All candidates (irrespective of their list or their religious community & sub-district) are ordered according to their personal vote share in their sub-district (not the absolute number of personal votes to balance sub-districts of different sizes).

Seats are then awarded one by one to the candidates in that order. As soon as a list is awarded all its seats, all lower candidates of that list are defeated and as soon as a religious community & sub-district is awarded all its seats, all lower candidates of that religious community & sub-district are defeated. Or put in another way: a candidate loses if enough higher placed candidates of his list have already won to fill the vacancies of that list or if enough higher placed candidates of his religious community & sub-district have already won to fill the vacancies of that religious community & sub-district.

For lower-placed candidates this can be somewhat erratic and unpredictable: you can end up defeated because your list or religious community & sub-district has already enough winners, while lower placed candidates overtake you because their list and their religious community & sub-district still have vacancies. (This will even more be the case if personal votes are concentrated on the first candidate on the list: the differences in personal votes between lower candidates then becomes less meaningful but stays relevant for the allocation.)

For the last vacancy, there can be only one winner because there is only one list left with one vacancy and only one religious community & sub-district left with one vacancy, no matter how few votes that candidate received. (Compare with Romania 2008 where the Hungarian party won the last seat, the only seat of the expatriate district for Africa & Middle-East with only 2% of the votes in that district.)

I have no idea what happens if there is no such candidate: does the seat remain empty? (Compare with Mauritius where sometimes no candidate meets the requirements for the best loser seats.) This problem, proportionality in two dimensions (rows and columns, parties and preset religious communities & sub-districts) can be solved in a better way .)

More parliamentarism in Central Asia

The Venice Commission has published an generally positive opinion on the Georgian government’s proposal for constitutional reforms. The reforms were proposed after the governing Georgian Dream party won 115 seats in the 150 member legislature in elections, slightly more than the three-quarters majority required to amend the document.

Specifically, the amendments propose repealing direct elections to the Presidency, replacing it with election by a 300-member electoral college composed of members of the national legislature and local councillors. In addition, most of the powers of the Presidency are stripped. This creates a parliamentary system, with a Prime Minister only removable through a constructive vote of no confidence.

The previously unicameral legislature will be replaced, nominally, with a bicameral legislature, comprised of a Senate and a Chamber of Deputies. However, the Senate specifically includes members elected from Abkhazia, currently under the control of a separatist government, and is only to be created after “appropriate conditions have been created throughout the territory of Georgia”. This would seem to imply that the chamber can only be created when Abkhazia returns to government control, and the Venice Commission’s report confirms that they understand its creation will be delayed.

In addition, there are changes to the electoral law. The existing mixed-member majoritarian system with a roughly even split between single-member constituencies elected using the two-round system and party-list PR with a 5% threshold will be replaced with a system of list PR only, still with a 5% threshold. While there is little elaboration, the document does specify that seats shall be allocated by the Hare quota, but instead of allocating seats by largest remainders, all remaining seats are allocated to the largest party (a method used in Greece in one of their endless electoral system changes).

The change bears some resemblance to the relatively recent amendments in Armenia. Like Georgia, a semi-presidential system with a legislature elected with a mixed-member system transitioned into a parliamentary one with a legislature elected under a list system with a bonus (though Armenia’s bonus is somewhat more elaborate, and guarantees a majority government in one form or another). While drawing broad conclusions off two examples is obviously bound to be, these two results may suggest that there is a shift away from politics centred around an all-powerful directly elected presidency, and towards more party-based politics.

A more tenuous argument along these lines could be made in relation to the electoral system. In both cases (along with Kyrgyzstan, which actually moved from single-member districts to MMM to party list), a system in which individual candidates were an important part of legislative elections (especially in the years shortly after independence) has been replaced by a system in which parties are the dominant actors. On the other hand, the pendulum has moved the other way elsewhere in the region, in Russia and the Ukraine.

The President, though endorsed by the Georgian Dream party at the 2013 election, does not appear to have been overly enthusiastic about the landslide victory. The Venice Commission did express some concerns about the power of a government with an overwhelming parliamentary majority, but that seems less likely in Georgia than in Armenia, owing to the more proportional system.

Uttar Pradesh, 2017

Election results have been released for the state assembly of Uttar Pradesh, India’s largest state. It was a big win for the federal ruling party, the BJP. The seat tally shows 312 for the BJP, with the second highest being the Samajwadi Party (SP) at 47. The SP, the ruling party since 2012, was in a pre-election coalition with the Indian National Congress (INC), which won just 7 seats. The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), which has been a significant party in the state in the past, won 19 seats.

Unlike 2012, when the SP majority in the assembly was achieved on not even 30% of the vote, this year’s BJP victory was a big win in votes, too. Not a majority, but a decisive plurality, at 39.7% of the vote. The SP-INC combine had 28.0% and the BSP 22.2%.

Note that the BJP managed a three-fourths majority (77.4%) of the 403 seats on not even 40% of the vote. The advantage ratio (%seats/%votes) was 1.95. That must be one of the biggest manufactured majorities under FPTP anywhere, at least in a large assembly.

Several other states have had recent elections as well. The news was better for the struggling INC in some, including Punjab, Goa, and Manipur, though its pluralities in these are short of majority status. The Aam Aadmi Party (which governs Delhi, but has had minimal success elsewhere) managed a distant second place in Punjab. See the results at the second link in this entry.

Jordan’s new electoral system – the more things change…

By JD Mussel and Henry Schlechta

Jordan held a parliamentary election last month, for the first time under a proportional party-list system. This reform, in line with many previous proposals, replaces the earlier Single Non-Transferable Vote or (mechanically FPTP) pseudo-SNTV (it’s not clear which one was actually used last time around) which at the last election in 2013 was accompanied by a small national list-PR tier.

Reform of the previous single-vote system was a long-running demand of opposition parties, a number of which have taken part in these elections after having repeatedly boycotted them in the past. However, what they may not have noticed (yet) is that the new electoral system may turn out to be remarkably similar to the old SNTV.

A total of 130 non-reserved seats were filled proportionally from open lists of candidates in 23 districts, out of which 9 seats are from 3 parallel Bedouin districts (similar to NZ’s Maori districts) electing 3 seats each. The districts range from 3 to 10 seats, with a median of 4. Spread out among all the districts is a quota for 15 women and (among the non-Bedouin districts) there are quotas for Christians (9 seats) and Circassians/Chechens (3 seats). With more seats allocated to the cities, there seems to be less malapportionment than under the previous system, but it is not clear how much less.

The lists are open, with seats going to candidates with most votes within each list. This was presented as a kind of return to the ostensibly similar multiple non-transferable vote (MNTV) which had existed before the introduction of SNTV: voters have as many votes as there are seats to be filled, and can cast them for a list as a whole or for any number of individual candidates on the list. Candidacies must be as part of lists with at least 3 candidates up to the number of seats available.

Largest-remainder PR and ‘SNTVization’

Now, technically, the system is proportional. However, the apportionment formula is largest remainders, using the Hare quota. The potential problem is that the combination of these features and the open-list aspect may present incentives that roughly approximate SNTV. Larger quotas (the Hare quota is the largest of the commonly used ones) are advantageous to smaller parties: the fewer seats are allocated by quotas, the more seats allocated by remainders. The smaller number of votes required to win a seat by remainder means that smaller parties are able to win these seats. On the other hand, for a large party to win multiple seats, they must fill multiple quotas.

The possibility of getting seats from remainders can encourage large parties to turn themselves into multiple small parties, through running multiple lists and dividing their votes between these lists[1]. Hong Kong represents the best example of this tendency. While on paper it is a party-list PR system with largest-remainder and the Hare quota, the 2012 and 2016 elections saw no ‘list’ win more than one seat. Instead, larger parties like the Democratic Alliance ran multiple lists, and divided their votes between them. If no seats are allocated by quotas, the M-lists with the highest vote are allocated one seat. The effect of this is to create a system approximate to SNTV.

District magnitude does not appear to be an especially important factor in this process, with 5-member districts in Hong Kong and the 100-member nationwide district for the Colombian Senate (up until 2002) both being on paper party-list but effectively acting as SNTV.

Of course, there are other relevant institutional considerations. The new law’s requirement for at least three candidates per list could theoretically limit this tactic, though it could probably still be possible for a list to consist of one politician with public profile and two other ‘decoy’ candidates. It is not clear if there are any legal restrictions on one political party registering multiple lists; however, in the context of an electoral politics where parties are still weak and fragmented (and which was until now dominated by independent politicians), it is unlikely to be difficult to register effectively duplicate lists under similar labels.

Political impact

The results of the election show a continuation of the party fragmentation that existed before; barely any parties won more than one seat in each district. However, fragmentation was occasionally an outcome of the electoral system, as there are a couple of cases where lists that won a single seat received more than double the votes of other winning lists. This would have given them two seats if they had presented two separate lists, at least if they had managed to keep the vote distributed evenly between them. Of course, electoral systems take time in order to affect behaviour; however, it won’t be long before politicians will notice this outcome, and the strategic response would seem to be obvious. Therefore, more than likely, the new party-list system will continue as an obstacle to the development of larger and more cohesive party organizations, despite the fact that it was presented as a reform designed to bolster party-politics.

Hence, it looks like the reform may have been a clever stratagem by the government: it can be presented as an ‘abolition’ of SNTV and ‘return’ to MNTV, yet it will likely retain the incentives caused by SNTV. Or it could have been accidental. Whether or not this was intentional, it would certainly seem advantageous to the King: in public opinion, it enhances the regime’s legitimacy (the best evidence of this being how it brought an end to the Islamist boycott); nonetheless, in reality it will likely continue the previous incentives for fragmentation which weaken the parties (most importantly, the Islamists) and, crucially, the House of Representatives, which needs to remain fragmented for the King to maintain substantial power in what is constitutionally supposed to be a parliamentary system[2].

 


[1] The ideal number of candidates elected from each of these lists is one, since a party can win only one seat by remainder.

[2] There are of course other factors relevant in determining whether or not a given ‘constitutional monarchy’ is more monarchy or more parliamentary democracy (as demonstrated by the recent constitutional amendments giving the King more power over appointments) but hopefully it can be agreed that the crucial factor is whether or not governments are responsible to an elected house of parliament, by which I mean that a prime minister and cabinet can be removed by that house. Jordan’s constitution, at least since 2011, makes the government responsible to the House of Representatives.

Nepal’s new constitution

After its revolution in 2007 more than seven years of discussion, missed deadlines and constitutional deadlock in two consecutive constituent assemblies, Nepal finally passed a permanent constitution earlier this year, which entered into force on September 20th. A two-thirds majority was required to pass it.

The new constitution establishes the country as a federal parliamentary republic, with marked similarities to India and Pakistan. The president is elected for a five-year term by an ‘electoral college’ consisting of the federal parliament and provincial assemblies. Executive power is vested in the cabinet.

Legislative branch

Parliament is to be bicameral. The cabinet is responsible to the House of Representatives, which, like the Constituent Assembly, will be elected for five years through Mixed-Member Majoritarian: 165 seats by single-seat plurality and 110 by party-list PR, with no districting. The unusually-named (for an upper house) National Assembly have 59 members: 8 members from each of the 7 provinces elected by Provincial Assembly members, joined by local representatives (chairpersons and vice-chairpersons of village councils, and Mayors and Deputy Mayors of Municipal councils) whose votes will be weighted, presumably according to each local authority’s population; the other 3 will be appointed by the government. They are to serve a six-year staggered term, with one-third retiring every two years.

The National Assembly may delay financial bills by 15 days, and delay other bills proposed by the lower house for two months. Only bills that were introduced in the upper house but lack bicameral agreement are to be sent to joint session. Thus, Nepal’s bicameralism is far weaker than in India and Pakistan, where joint session is the deadlock-breaking mechanism for any non-financial bill. And even on bills that make it to joint session, Nepal’s upper house is weaker as it is smaller in relation to the lower house (India is roughly 2:1, Pakistan 7:2 while Nepal will be about 9:2).

With this weak upper house, the constitution enacted has no constitutional ex-ante checks on the power of a majority government to pass legislation. A large number of the proposed drafts contained a more powerful upper house. Sadly, the main parties probably made short shrift of such proposals, preferring not to have their ambitions checked when taking part in future governments.

The constitution can be amended by two-thirds majorities in both houses, with changes to provincial boundaries also requiring the consent of the assemblies of the provinces involved.

Judicial branch

Lastly, the Supreme Court is to be appointed on the recommendation of the Judicial Council, out of which a special Constitutional Bench will be formed including the Chief Justice and four other Justices chosen by the Judicial Council. The Chief Justice is appointed for a six-year term on advice of the Constitutional Council. All Justices serve until mandatory retirement age of 65.

The Judicial Council will consist of:

  1. the Chief Justice, presiding,
  2. the most senior Supreme Court Justice
  3. the Federal Law & Justice Minister,
  4. a senior legal expert appointed by the PM, and
  5. a senior legal advocate appointed by the Nepal Bar Association.

The Constitutional Council will consist of:

  1. the PM, presiding,
  2. the Chief Justice
  3. the chairman of the upper house
  4. the speaker of the lower house
  5. the deputy-speaker of the lower house, and
  6. the Leader of the Opposition

Enduring controversies

Far from settling Nepal’s political quagmire, the new constitution has proven to be very controversial. Its (impending) passage sparked demonstrations and unrest around the country. Protesters have blocked roads and vital supplies and dozens have died in clashes with police over the past few months.

The most contentious issue remains as it was during the years of deadlock in the Constituent Assemblies: the drawing of the boundaries of the new provinces. While the final boundaries are said not to be completely settled yet, the schedule is quite specific, and it provides for largely multi-ethnic provinces. There is therefore a great deal of opposition from groups wanting a linguistic and ethnic delineation providing them with their ‘own’ provinces.

Other disputes include women and minority rights in the new constitution (including in particular the definition of citizenship, which favours the father), its secular nature, the lower proportion of lower house seats to be elected by PR (45%, compared with 58% for the Constituent Assembly), and the federal terms concerning provincial autonomy. There are, of course, also those happy the constitutional deadlock is over, if not with the constitution itself, but

It will be interesting to see whether the final provincial boundary-drawing will be affected, and how the salience of these constitutional issues evolves. The first regular elections will not be held for several years, as the term of the Constituent Assembly, now transformed into ‘Legislature-Parliament’, will end in January 2018.

Bihar 2015: Indian democracy still works

The ‘Modi wave’ has been flattened in Bihar, one of India’s biggest states.

This past Sunday, the Electoral Commission announced the results. The BJP, the national ruling party since the 2014 federal election, was trounced.

A ‘Grand Alliance’, including among its main components two state parties (one of which formerly ruled the state in alliance with the BJP) and the Indian National Congress (INC), won an overwhelming majority. According to results currently posted on the Commission’s front page, the BJP remained the largest single party in votes (24.4%), but the combined votes of the three main grand alliance partners came to 41.9%. Other smaller parties that participated in the “seat-sharing” (whereby one of the partners represents the alliance in a given constituency) bring the total to around 46%. Of the main alliance partners, the Rashtriya Janata Dal won 80 of the 243 seats, the Janata Dal (United) won 71, and the INC 27.

The total alliance seat take represents over 73% of the seats, offering a stark reminder of just how disproportional the FPTP system can be, especially when multiple parties cooperate and there is a relatively uniform swing.

I had suggested back in May, 2014, that I did not think the BJP win meant a fundamental change in how the country would be governed, despite the fact that the BJP had won big in Bihar itself in the national election. The outcome of the Bihar election is yet another reminder of the centrality of alliance politics in India.

District magnitude and reelection in Iran (and what is a mixed-member system)

A recent entry at the Washington Post’s Monkey Cage blog by Paasha Mahdavi (Georgetown) is a summary of the author’s really fascinating research on Iranian MP reelection rates. Mahdavi finds that MPs from more resource-rich regions are more able to secure reelection because they get credit from targeted spending in their districts.

Reelection rates in Iran are overall low: “Since 1980, less than 30 percent of politicians running again in Iranian parliamentary elections retained their seats.” However, rates vary substantially across districts.

The relationship between increased resources and reelection rates is statistically stronger in those districts that elect one MP than in those that are multi-seat districts (graph at Mahdavi’s blog entry). Mahdavi argues this is due to the stronger accountability relationship when there is only one MP.

So far so good. It is terrific to see this sort of research in any country, but especially in Iran, which of course has an authoritarian regime, yet one with regular semi-open elections (which have long fascinated me).

However, can we please get the terminology right? Mahdavi writes:

Iran’s parliament is elected by what political scientists call a “mixed-member system.” Some districts only elect one representative while others elect two or more.

The term, “mixed-member system” does not simply mean a system in which the country contains a ‘mix’ of different magnitudes, including some that are single-member. (If that were the case, there would be many more “mixed-member” systems than there in fact are, as magnitudes ranging from 1 to some higher number are pretty common.*) A mixed-member system is defined by the following two minimal criteria:

    1. The entire country is divided into districts in which candidates win on their own individual votes (“nominal” election, some of us call it). These districts in practice usually are all single-seat, although that is not a defining requirement for many typologies, including mine.**

    2. Every voter also resides in a multi-member district–which may be the entire country, though could be regional–in which legislators are elected via party lists (in practice, almost always proportionally).

It is these overlapping components or tiers, one individual (and usually single-seat plurality or majority) and the other party list (proportional) that make a system mixed-member. Numerous other features define sub-types (mixed-member proportional, where the list seats are allocated in a compensatory manner, vs. mixed-member majoritarian, where the two sets of seats are elected separately or “in parallel”); there may be separate votes in the two types of districts (as is usually the case) or your candidate vote might also count for the candidate’s party’s list (as in Mexico). Despite these variations, the two criteria mentioned above are required for the system to be mixed-member.

In Iran, there are no party lists (as this term is understood in the electoral systems literature). All candidates win based on their own nominal votes–that is votes cast for them personally. The system for parliament (and some other elected bodies) is probably best characterized as a form of multiple nontransferable vote (MNTV); however, unlike most such systems, I believe that there is a provision for a second round where sufficient candidates have not met some threshold of votes*** in the first round.

I read something like Mahdavi’s fascinating Monkey Cage post and have two thoughts: (1) Very cool research that I wish I had done; (2) I still have plenty of my regular work to do, because even as vast as the subfield of electoral-systems analysis has become, political scientists in other subfields still make fundamental errors about well established electoral system terminology.

____________
* One example: the current Venezuelan system clearly meets the two criteria here for qualifying as mixed-member; several of its nominal-election districts elect more than one member.

** Finland, Peru, Spain, and Switzerland are among the districted PR systems having at least one district has a magnitude of just one seat. There have been examples of electoral systems in the past (although I can’t think of a current one) with numerous single-seat districts along with other districts that are multi-seat. There also have been many cases of mostly single-seat districts but some districts electing two or more candidates, non-prorportionally. (India in its first elections was such a case, and farther back, UK.)

*** I do not know details here. Majority? If so, how determined, given magnitude greater than one, and the possibility that not all participating voters use their full M votes (M=magnitude of the district)?

Sri Lanka legislative election, 2015

Sri Lanka held its legislative election on 17 August. The election was billed by the Western media, such as BBC, as a fight between the premier appointed by the incumbent president and the ex-president whom the current one defeated.

The United People Freedom Alliance, led by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, won just 95 seats out of 225. The United National Party (UNP) of the premier, Ranil Wickremesinghe, won 106. This is good news for President Maithripala Sirisena, who is actually of the same party as Rajapaksa, but defeated him at the head of a pre-electoral coalition consisting of the UNP, and parties representing ethnic minorities, including Tamils.

Official results at SriLankanElections.com are different from those in the BBC report, although they agree on the scale of the UNP lead.

In the preceding legislative election, in 2010, the United People Freedom Alliance won 144 seats (60.3% of the vote) to 60 for the UNP (29.3% of votes).

Given that the president has the authority to dissolve the legislature, I was surprised that Sirisena did not go to the polls earlier following his victory in January. I believe the legislative term is six years (is that the longest anywhere for a first/sole chamber?); the preceding election had been in April, 2010.

The system of government is president-parliamentary. That is, the premier is responsible to the legislative majority, but also subject to dismissal by the president. In the case of Sri Lanka, the powers of the presidency are enormous, and one of Sirisena’s campaign promises was to reduce presidential power. It is unclear to me what, if any progress, has been made in this front (beyond what JD reported here), or is likely to be made.