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.

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Vanuatu and vote management

The following entry is contributed by 

The small island nation of Vanuatu held an election for the Parliament on 22 January. The election was called after fourteen MPs, including the Deputy Prime Minister and a number of other cabinet ministers, were sentenced to prison terms between 3 and 4 years for bribery. Despite an attempt by the Speaker (who is acting president when the President is out of the country, and is also one of those found guilty of bribery) to pardon himself and the other MPs accused, the sentences stood. Following this, President Baldwin Lonsdale (on the advice of Prime Minister Sato Kilman, who knew that he would likely face defeat in Parliament when it was recalled) called an early election.

I have written more extensively on Vanuatu’s political history here, but that’s quite a long story. It was initially a colony, governed by both the United Kingdom and France (with two entirely seperate systems of government, justice and law enforcement). At independence in 1980, Vanuatu’s politics was dominated by two parties; the anglophone, socialist Vanuaku Party, and the more conservative, Francophone Union of Moderate Parties.

However, over the years, this two-party system has totally disintegrated. In 1991, two new parties split from the Vanuaku Party, and this has started a trend of both party splits and new parties. At the first post-independence election, the effective number of parties in terms of seats was 2.1; at this election, it was 11.36 (and even that number is an understatement, as it treats independents as one party). This has led to very unstable governments; in the 2012-2016 parliament, there were four Prime Ministers, and in the 2008-2012 term, there were six.

While personality clashes within parties have lead to some of this instability, the electoral system is also a factor. Vanuatu is one of the few countries to still use the single non-transferable vote (introduced before the 1975 colonial elections by colonial officials who were not provided with any information on alternatives). As many of you will know, this system is linked with factionalised parties, and Vanuatu is no exception. However, unlike Japan and Taiwan, the factionalised parties at the start have not stayed together, and have split. Under SNTV, there is relatively little incentive for parties not to split, at least from an electoral perspective.

I was in the country up until polling day, for unrelated reasons, and had a look at some of the campaigning (for images of posters, see my Twitter account). In terms of political reform (and with the caveat that I don’t speak the language, though Bislama is not too hard to understand) I noticed little discussion, other than from the Vanuatu Presidential Party (whose position should be obvious). There was vague talk about ending corruption and supporting decentralisation, but nothing, as far as I could tell, about the electoral system.

Vote distribution is an important part of the single non-transferable vote. If a party nominates too many candidates, their vote will be too split to elect many MPs; if they nominate too few they risk winning not enough seats. The vote also needs to be spread equally amongst the candidates, so as to ensure the maximum number of candidates are elected. You would think that a nation like Vanuatu, which has used the single non-transferable vote for a long time, would be doing this well. This is not the case.

For example, in the seven-member district of Santo, the Union of Moderate Parties was the largest party in terms of votes, winning 14.34% (yes, that makes them the largest). However, they ran five candidates. Each one got no more than 4%, and they won no seats. In the two-member district of Epi, the Vanuatu National Development Party was the largest party, with 20.78% of the vote. However, they ran two candidates, and each one got about 10%. The two seats were won by one independent and one UMP candidate, who was the only UMP candidate.

These sort of errors were widespread in Vanuatu, and the incompetent attempts for the larger parties to divide their vote only compounded the fragmentation, as they allowed small parties with only one candidate to win seats easier. The below chart shows how the seats were distributed, and how they would have been distributed under the D’Hondt system (applied only in areas where it would have made a difference).

As you can see, the new system would be a boost to the largest parties (the VP and UMP), while it would remove some of the smaller parties and independents. This would likely be an advantage for government stability.

One other thing I am interested in comparing is the equation outlined in Shugart, Bergman and Watt (2013), for estimating the vote share for the first candidate under the single non-transferable vote to the results in Vanuatu (this equation being ‘P1=C-.75, where P is the vote share within the party of the highest polling candidate and C is the number of candidates).

The below chart shows the correlation between the expected and the actual vote shares within parties is fairly strong.

The exact correlation coefficient is 0.687, which seems to me to be quite good given the very odd circumstances in Vanuatu. Bear in mind that this includes losers, which Shugart has advised me are not neccesarily applicable to the equation. If they are removed, the coefficient jumps to 0.76.

One final interesting point; the below graph plots the difference from the expected vote share for the highest polling candidate against the advantage ratio for the party in that district.

It’s worth noting that the linear trendline (as well as the correlation coefficient of 0.288) in this graph is relatively meaningless; the graph is dramatically skewed by the single data point in the top right. If removed, the coefficient drops dramatically, to -0.03. However, I don’t have anything to compare this against, and I am curious as to whether the high number of independents and single-candidate parties means that parties where the highest polling candidate polls higher than expected do better. I intend to look into this further.

Palestinian Territories 2006: Visualizing (what may or may not have been) overnomination

The election may have been eight and a half years ago, but it continues to fascinate me…

If you have not read at least the latest of the two (and more) posts on this election, you may need to do so before this one will make sense.

I am looking for ways to visualize the relationships among Fatah, Hamas, and the independent candidates in the (mostly) multi-seat districts of the nominal tier of the Palestinian 2006 election. The question is to what extent Fatah may have cost itself seats–maybe even an achievable plurality–by “overnominating”. If a party overnominates, it has more candidates than its votes allow it to elect. In this case, because the voter could cast up to M votes (where M is the magnitude of the district), a party can nominate M candidates and be OK, provided it gets its supporters to cast all their M votes for their M candidates. However, if there are independents (or candidates of other parties) who appeal to the same block of voters, a party might see attrition of its voters and fail to elect as many as it might have with fewer candidates. The problem is that there may be a “camp” of Fatah plus Fatah-rejected independents, the latter having been denied the party endorsement but deciding to run anyway.

Here are some different ways of trying to assess the question of whether the Fatah camp overnominated from the available data. (In each case, you can click the image and get to a larger version.)

The first graph shows the total vote share of independents in each district on the vertical axis. On the horizontal axis is the party’s ratio of nominal to list votes in the district. That is, the sum of all the party’s endorsed candidates, divided by the party’s list votes. The red line is the local regression (lowess), and we have separate graph panels for Hamas and Fatah.

Graph Ind Ratio

From this graph, it seems there was attrition from both parties to independents, albeit only sometimes in the same districts. (For example, in Tulkarem, where the vote share for all independents combined was around a third, Hamas had a much lower ratio than Fatah; the latter was at over .9.) It certainly is the case that both parties have a lower ratio where the district’s share of independents is greater, but there is no question that Fatah has a stronger relationship between the two variables. So, yes, it seems like Fatah may have seen more attrition from list to nominal for its candidates than did Hamas. However, I was surprised at how much a relationship there was for Hamas as well.

The second graph is a box-and-whiskers plot summarizing the distribution of a “candidate ratio” across both major parties in each district. Above each district abbreviation there are the numbers 2, for Hamas (Change and Reform) and 3 for Fatah. The candidate ratio needs a little explanation. First, I start with a magnitude-adjusted vote share for each candidate. This is their individual votes, divided by V/M, where V is the total number of nominal votes cast in the district and M is the magnitude. This way, we can normalize the shares across districts of varying magnitude. Then the ratio–what is actually being graphed–is this magnitude-adjusted candidate vote share divided by the party’s list votes. The purpose of this mathematical gymnastics is to get an idea of how much each individual candidate of a party deviated from the party list vote in the district. Thus where the box or whisker or an individual outlier point is above 1.0, it implies a candidate more popular than the party in the district, and where it is less than 1.0, the candidate ran behind his (rarely her) own party.

Graph box cand ratio

I had previously noted that the standard deviations of individual candidates’ votes were pretty small for both parties, but greater for Fatah. This is clear here, in that the “whiskers” are farther from the box for Fatah (party 3) than for Hamas in most districts. This is especially so in Jerusalem (Jsm). And all the Fatah candidates ran quite far behind their party in Bethlehem. In fact, I think the “two slates” thesis–that Fatah (or more precisely the “Fatah camp”) shot itself in the foot by nominating an extra set of candidates–really rests on these two districts. There is rather less evidence for it elsewhere. However, one can still see that, in general, Fatah candidates seem to run a little farther behind their party than do Hamas candidates, and most of the cases of the candidate ratio being over 1.0 for an entire party are Hamas.

(In cases where the data plot is just a horizontal line, we are looking at a single-seat district. Note how far ahead of his party the Fatah candidate was in Jericho. This is Saeb Erakat.)

The final graph is a little bit overwhelming, I know. But I wanted to plot all the candidates’ individual votes. Here again, I am using the magnitude-adjusted vote share. The constituencies are indicated by numeric codes (because that is the only way I could (think of to) do it in Stata), but I made sure they are in the same order as they appear in the second graph.

Graph votes_cand cst_a jitter
This version has “jittered” data points so that it is easier to see where two or more candidates were very close in votes. This is helpful, given the low intra-party deviation. The original, un-jittered, version is still on my Flickr site.

Green is for Hamas, black for Fatah, and orange for independents. Solid symbols indicate winners, open losers, though down near the bottom of the graph there are so many bunched together that they sometimes look solid. It should be noted that where there are Fatah winners around .20 or lower, these are Christian quota candidates.*

This graph allows one to visualize where there were independents in a district who were well ahead the pack of minor independents, and also where losing independents are found amidst losing Fatah candidates, or just behind the losing Fatah pack. I don’t actually see a lot of them, but I can imagine that the highest-polling losing independents in Nablus (code 9), North Gaza (10), Salfit (14), and Tubas (15), at least, may have robbed Fatah of a seat it (and its camp) could have won. It is worth noting that Salfit and Tubas are one-seat constituencies won by Hamas candidates who had under 35% of the vote. Other candidates for seat-robbing are Bethlehem and Jerusalem, where there are several independents with over 10%, and where we already saw big drop-offs in Fatah candidate votes, relative to the party list–and where I already conceded that the “two slates” thesis might have legs. But remember, from the first graph, Hamas also had substantial drop-offs in these two districts. It could be that some of these independents, albeit possibility from the Fatah camp, appealed to Hamas voters precisely because they were independent and not Fatah-branded.**

Rather than draw firm conclusions here, I just want to put the visualization of the data, by these three different but related means, out there for folks to comment on. Maybe someone will see patterns beyond those I pointed out.

_________

* There are two of these in Bethlehem, with nearly identical vote shares, and two in Jerusalem; in addition, one of the independent winners in Gaza City is a Christian whose votes, it might be noted, are higher than any Fatah-affiliated candidate. He is the third ranked independent winner in that district.

** If so, that would have been even better reason to give the official endorsement to fewer candidates, thereby allowing some in the camp to appeal across party lines.

Key to districts, their codes (in the third graph), abbreviations, and magnitudes (in that order).

cst_n cst_a cst_abbrev mag
Bethlehem 1 Bet 4
Deir Albalah 2 Dei 3
Gaza City 3 Gaz 8
Hebron 4 Heb 9
Jericho 5 Jch 1
Jenin 6 Jen 4
Jerusalem 7 Jsm 6
Khan Younis 8 Kha 5
Nablus 9 Nab 6
North Gaza 10 Nor 5
Qalqilya 11 Qal 2
Rafah 12 Raf 3
Ramallah and Albireh 13 Ram 5
Salfit 14 Sal 1
Tubas 15 Tub 1
Tulkarem 16 Tul 3

The Palestinian 2006 election revisited

I wrote about the 2006 election for the Palestinian Legislative Council quite a lot at the time. For instance, as exit poll results were coming in, I warned not to believe their reported lead for Fatah, and indeed they quickly proved inaccurate. Once the results were in, I noted that the magnitude of the Hamas sweep was a product of the electoral system.

In light of recent events, I decided to go back and take an even closer look at the results of that election in January, 2006, which turned out to be not the prelude to a period of calm while Hamas figured out how to use a legislative majority and the near-majority of cabinet seats it received in a unity agreement more than a year afterwards, but a prelude to three major flare-ups of violence between Hamas and Israel. More specifically, I was prompted to go back and look by a remark in Peter Beinart’s article in Haaretz, entitled “Gaza myths and facts: what American Jewish leaders won’t tell you“. The piece itself makes some decent arguments, although I think Beinart is selective in his facts to a degree that is not entirely distinguishable from these apparently monolithic American Jewish leaders he refers to. However, let me stick to the one set of facts I do know something about: the distribution of votes and party strategy in the 2006 election.

Beinart says that one of the reasons Hamas (running under the label, Change and Reform) beat Fatah was “because Fatah carelessly and foolishly ran both its slates in too many parliamentary seats.” Underneath those words he has a link to a You Tube video of a talk by that noted specialist on comparative electoral systems, Bill Clinton (please pardon my snark). On the one hand, I am thrilled that Beinart and Clinton acknowledge that electoral systems and party strategy matter. On the other hand, they actually are perpetuating a myth here. Fatah lost because it had fewer votes, not because it split its vote. Clinton uses the analogy of southern Democrats and their factions in the past when they were dominant in the region. But the analogy is not helpful.*

Fatah did indeed run more than one candidate per district because, well, districts (most of them) elected more than one seat. Hamas did the same, and it did not hurt them. In fact, this was a system in which voters had the possibility to vote for as many candidates as there were seats in their district. Parties could not pool votes, voters could not cumulate nor could they just select a party. (I am not speaking here of the totally separate closed-list PR portion of the electoral system, and from the context I presume neither is Clinton.) A party would win all the seats in a district if it ran a candidate for every seat, and if its voters gave all their votes to candidates of the party. And, of course, if its candidates had the top-M vote totals, where M is the magnitude (number of seats being elected in the district).

It was actually Hamas that did not always run M candidates. However, the places where it ran fewer were either where some of the seats were set aside for Christians (not surprisingly, Hamas, the name of which is an Arabic acronym for Islamic Resistance Movement, did not contest the Christian seats), or where the seats it did not contest were won by independents. For instance, in Gaza City, eight were elected (M=8). Hamas ran five candidates, Fatah ran eight. Hamas elected all its five, and Fatah elected none. But the reason Fatah did not elect anyone was not that it had too many candidates. The other three seats went to independents. One of these was a Christian, for a set-aside seat. The other two were independents whose vote totals were more than 11,000 votes higher than that of the most popular Fatah candidate. These independents may have been “quiet” Hamas affiliates not bearing the label. One, Jamal Naji El-Koudary, is an academic at the Islamic University of Gaza.

Neither party suffered greatly from any failure of its voters to be willing to cast a full slate by voting for all the party’s candidates running in the district. However, Fatah did suffer a bit more. I calculated the standard deviation of each party’s candidates’ votes in each district. The closer this number is to zero, the closer the candidates were to having identical vote shares:

    Hamas, .016.
    Fatah, .026.

Not much difference, but enough to make a difference in some places. But this does not mean that Fatah’s running of too many candidates was the reason for winning fewer seats. In this type of electoral system (what I like to call Multiple Non-Transferable Vote, but others call Block Vote), a higher standard deviation can help you win more seats than you otherwise would, in cases where your party overall ranks second. That is, some of the districts where Fatah elected some candidates despite Hamas having one or more candidates with higher vote shares were precisely where it had individual candidates who were more popular than the party as a whole.

For instance in Nablus (M=6), Hamas ran five and Fatah six. The winners were all five Hamas and one Fatah. An independent (Hamas-affiliated?) was the second loser, just behind the second Fatah candidate. The one Fatah candidate who won had 39,106 votes, whereas the party’s next highest vote-earning candidate had 35,397. The five Hamas candidates had from 44,957 to 36,877. The most important point here is that Fatah could not have won more seats simply by running fewer candidates. This is not a single-vote system (like SNTV or like the US primaries Clinton referenced) where running multiple candidates can split your vote. Had Fatah run fewer candidates, its voters would have cast either fewer votes or given the remaining votes to other parties’ candidates, or to independents. It could have won only by running candidates who could beat a Hamas candidate–getting more than the 36,877 won by the district’s sixth-ranked candidate.

Fatah’s biggest problem was that it just was not as popular. Its collective vote total for candidates was higher than that of Hamas in only six districts out of sixteen. And some of those where it was in second place were the bigger districts, where even a small plurality for Hamas, combined with a low standard deviation of its candidates’ votes, would mean a Hamas sweep. Hamas won a plurality of the candidate votes in Gaza City (M=8, 32.7%-31.7%) Hebron (M=9, 51.1%-35%), Jerusalem (M=6, 33.7%-26.4%), Nablus (M=6, 38.2%-36.5%), among others.

Those vote totals show that Hamas was often well short of a majority. In fact, nationwide, its candidate votes amounted to only 40.8%, but Fatah was well behind (36.6%). That is a lower vote share than in the national list vote, where Hamas won only about 44% to Fatah’s 41%. In fact, I had never summed up the nominal (candidate) votes before. I have always reported the outcome as 56% of seats on 44% of votes, but that is list votes. Given that it was the nominal tier that was the disproportional part of the electoral system, it is actually more accurate to say that Hamas won 56% of seats on not even 41% of votes. It does not change (or reform) the outcome, but it underlines just how disproportional the system was.

A non-proportional electoral system of mostly multi-seat districts sure can turn a small plurality into a big majority. Hamas was more popular, but well short of a majority. The electoral system mattered in a big way, but Fatah’s running multiple candidates was in no sense the reason why Hamas won.

One final observation from the election results: Hamas has controlled the Gaza Strip since its rebellion against the Palestinian Authority in mid-2007, and the Strip was long an important base of operations for Hamas. However, in the election it did not show significantly greater strength in the Gaza Strip, where it won 41.3% of the nominal vote, hardly different from its West Bank support. It did dominate Gaza City’s list vote, however, with 56.7%, which was by far its best showing on the list within in any nominal-tier district. (The list was national, but results are disaggregated by district.) Interestingly, its candidates collectively won only 37.3% in Gaza City. Let’s just say that the personal vote was not how Hamas won, but the disproportionality of the nominal tier more than made up for relatively weak candidates.**

None of this helps resolve the current dreadful crisis, but it does resolve that Peter Beinart, while attempting to counter “myths” with “facts” is perpetrating a myth of his own–as is Bill Clinton–that running too many candidates was what doomed Fatah. That is simply incorrect.

________________
* There was initially a split slate, but party registration was actually re-opened to allow Fatah to present a unified slate for the actual election.

** In most cases, both Hamas and Fatah had higher list than nominal votes. Although there were several small parties running lists that did not have candidates (at least not labelled), there were many independent candidates. Only 4 of them won, and most others were not close to winning. (Their mean ratio of votes to the district’s last winner was .127, and only one had a ratio greater than .66.) They did, however, combine for 20.7% of all nominal votes cast. I can’t rule out that some of them drained votes from Fatah candidates, although that is not Clinton’s and Beinart’s claim. They claim there were too many Fatah candidates.

Data source: Central Elections Commission – Palestine. I used Adam Carr for the district-level nominal votes, because his page was formatted in a way that was more easily transferred to spreadsheet format. I verified that it matched the Commission’s data, and corrected a few examples where it did not. I typed in the list votes per district. I generated various summary statistics and analyses in a Stata file.

Three recent publications: Party Capacity in New Democracies; Patterns of Intraparty Competition; Localism and Coordination in the Japanese House of Councillors

The following items have been published in the past several weeks. Please note that the links are to publisher’s websites, and are not open-access.

Abstracts are viewable at the links without a subscription, but I will also put them in (long) footnotes here.

David J. Samuels and Matthew S. Shugart, “Party ‘capacity’ in new democracies: How executive format affects the recruitment of presidents and prime ministers“, Democratization (2013). ((Abstract: Scholars and practitioners express concern that parties in “third wave” democracies are poorly developed, compared to parties in older democracies. We suggest that parties vary in their organizational “capacity”, focusing on parties’ ability to select trustworthy executive agents. Capacity is higher where parties can vet potential executive talent by observing future leaders over time in the legislature – an increasingly available option as democracy matures. The key distinction in parties’ use of this option lies in the delegation structure between a party and the executive. Parliamentary systems offer a clear line of delegation, which parties control. In presidential systems, parties must recruit executive candidates who can win a popular election, requiring characteristics that may not be well correlated with those that make them good party agents. As parliamentary democracy matures, we find a steady increase in prime ministers’ average length of prior legislative service. For presidents, there is significantly weaker growth in prior legislative service. We also theorize about and investigate patterns in semi-presidential democracies. Our findings suggest that the institutional format of the executive is more important for party capacity in new democracies than the era in which a democracy was born.))

Matthew E. Bergman, Matthew S. Shugart, and Kevin A. Watt, “<a href="Matthew E. Bergman, Matthew S. Shugart, and Kevin A. Watt, "Patterns of Intraparty Competition in Open-List and SNTV Systems," Electoral Studies (2013). ((Two electoral systems that use “nontransferable preference votes” are commonly used: single nontransferable vote (SNTV) and open-list proportional representation (OLPR). Both systems promote intraparty competition by vote-seeking candidates, but differ on the extent to which the incentives of individual candidates and collective seat-maximizing parties are aligned, or not. We develop “logical models” of expected vote shares of parties’ first and last winners, and test (and confirm) these models using “symmetric regression” on an original data set drawn from over 2000 party-district observations in nine countries. The analysis helps bring us closer to an understanding of the relatively neglected “intraparty dimension” of representation, and allows us to offer some modest suggestions for improving systems of nontransferable preference votes.))

Kuniaki Nemoto and Matthew S. Shugart, “Localism and Coordination under Three Different Electoral Systems: The National District of the Japanese House of Councillors,” Electoral Studies (2013). ((Democratic representation involves tradeoffs between collective actors – political parties seeking to maximize seats – and individual actors – candidates seeking to use their personal vote-earning attributes (PVEAs) to maximize their own chance of election and reelection. We analyze these tradeoffs across three different electoral systems used at different times for the large-magnitude nationwide tier of Japan’s House of Councillors. These electoral systems – closed and open-list proportional systems and the single non-transferable vote – differ in the extent to which they entail candidates seeking individual preference votes and in whether collective vote shares affect overall party performance. We use local resources as a proxy for PVEA and seek to determine the extent to which parties nominate “locals” and how much the presence of such locals affects party performance at the level of Japan’s prefectures.))

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.

Oops!

Electoral reform in Jordan

It looks as though Jordan is going to adopt some form of list PR. David Jandura, writing at Awha Talk and The Monkey Cage, has the details.

If this change happens, it will mean saying goodbye to yet another SNTV system. On the other hand, as best I can tell from David’s description, SNTV was de-facto already abandoned as of the most recent election. In that election, they used a rather odd system of “ghost districts” that I am not sure that I really understand; it seems as if each wider electoral district was subdivided into M sub-districts (where M is the district magnitude), and that each candidate had to beat out only the other candidates in the “ghost” district to win. In other words, it was mechanically FPTP, as the winners would not necessarily be the top M in votes over the wider electoral region. The twist is that no one actually knew which candidates were competing against which other ones for a given seat–that’s the “ghost” aspect. Weird.