Costa Rica runoff, 2018: Alvarado (the better one) wins

In Costa Rica’s runoff, Carlos Alvarado beat Fabricio Alvarado. That is a relief. Fabricio ran his campaign mostly around stifling gay rights, and polling had the race very close. In fact, most polls had FA ahead (see the poll summaries at Wikipedia). However, at 60.6% to 39.3% for CA, it was not close at all.

This runoff followed an extraordinarily fragmented first round, in which four candidates had votes between 15% and 25%. FA led the first round, with 24.99% to CA’s 21.63%. The candidates of the two older parties (PLN and Social Christian Unity) came in third and fourth.

Costa Rica’s rules since the current regime was founded in 1949 have required a runoff among the top two candidates if the leader did not clear 40% of the vote in the first round. Because of the country’s historic two-party system (with some additional trailing parties), a runoff was never required until 2002. The party system has changed dramatically in recent cycles. A runoff was narrowly averted in 2006 (winner with 40.9%), and was next required in 2014 (leader with 30.6%, and runner-up with 29.7%, although the runoff contender, from the PLN, quit the race), and now in 2018.

Carlos Alvarado was nominated by the party of the incumbent president (Luís Guillermo Solís), the Citizens’ Action Party. This party has established itself as a major party in that it has passed the test of electing not one, but now two, different presidential nominees. Moreover, it has finished ahead of both of the old parties in two consecutive first rounds and ahead of at least one of them in four straight elections.

The runner-up candidate’s party, on the other hand, is a newer one. The National Restoration Party was contesting only its second presidential election (though it won congressional seats in 2006), and in 2014 its candidate managed under 1.4% of the vote.

The now more fragmented political scene raises the obvious question of how President-elect Carlos Alvarado will be able to govern. The Costa Rican presidency is one of the weaker ones among pure presidential democracies, and as the congress was elected concurrently with the first round, reflects that round’s fragmentation.

The president-elect’s party, Citizens’ Action, has only the third highest seat total in the Legislative Assembly. It won 16.3% of votes and 10 of the 57 seats (17.5%). The leading party will be the old PLN, which won 19.5% of the votes (compared to 18.6% for its presidential candidate) and 17 seats (29.9%). The National Restoration Party finished second (as it did in the presidential first round) with just over 18% of the votes and 14 of the 57 seats (24.6%).  The Social Christian Unity Party won 14.6% and 9 seats. No other party has more than 4 seats, and the total number of parties represented is seven.

Notably, even if he strikes a deal with the PLN, the president will not have quite enough to control the assembly: such a coalition would be two seats short.

The Libertarian Movement–one of the few relatively well established parties anywhere of this family–slipped well back. It will be without seats for the first time since before 1998. (The party won 9 seats in 2010, when its presidential candidate finished third with 20.8% of the vote.)

The election results will pose a governing challenge, but at least the requirement for a second round has led to the better Alvarado being elected.

Sierra Leone 2018

[See caveat in comments about the electoral rules of the earlier elections. For now, I am not changing the post, even though I should re-do it with averages only from the FPTP elections.]

On Sunday, Sierra Leone held its presidential runoff. Sierra Leone is one of those examples of a relatively rare combination: presidentialism with an assembly elected by plurality in single-seat districts. Some of the other examples of this combo are also found in West Africa, including Ghana and Liberia. In this entry, I will consider the effects of Sierra Leone’s institutions on the party system, applying some of the logical models of Votes from Seats.

The runoff rule used for the presidency is even rarer (unique?). A second round is required if the leading candidate in the first round does not reach 55% of the valid votes (Art. 42.2.e of the constitution of 1991).

Julius Maada Bio of the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) won 43.3% in the first round on 7 March. The runner up was Samura Kamara of the All People’s Congress (APC), with 42.7%. This was the country’s closest contest thus far since the current democratic institutions were inaugurated in 1996.

Sierra Leone has had one president during this time period who was elected with less than 55%. In 2007, Ernest Bai Koroma of the APC won with just 54.62%. However, this was in the runoff. He had 44.3% (to 38.3% for the runner up) in the first round. And herein lies the real oddity: One might wonder why it is OK to elect a president with just half of the votes, plus one, in a two-candidate runoff, but a total falling between 50% (plus one) and (one vote under) 55% would not be sufficient to win in a single round.

So far Sierra Leone has not had an election in which the first-round leader was in that 50-55% grey zone. Dating to 1996, first-round leaders’ vote percentages have been 35.8, 70.1, 44.3, 58.7, and 43.3

Sunday’s runoff (results for which will not be known for about a week) is to replace outgoing President Koroma, who was elected in 2007 and reelected in 2012.

In the assembly elections, concurrent with the first round of the presidential election, only 90 of the 132 constituencies have been declared so far. (There are also 12 seats reserved for tribal chiefs.) The SLPP has won 47 seats to the APS’s 32. The Coalition for Change has eight, despite its presidential candidate having placed fourth with only 3.5% of the vote. Obviously the Coalition for Change has a regional base, and parties with regional strength can win under FPTP despite having a low nationwide vote total. (National vote totals for assembly are not yet available.) The party of the third-place presidential candidate, who won 6.9%, is called the National Grand Coalition, but evidently it is not. On the other hand, it also is apparently not regional, having won no assembly seats (at least among those declared).

The assembly has been increased in size from the last election, when there were 112 elected seats. This remains slightly undersized for a country with a population around seven million. The Cube Root Law would imply an assembly of around 192.

As for the assembly party system, the current assembly size, S=132 (ignoring the indirectly elected chiefs), and the use of FPTP (M=1) implies an effective number of seat-winning parties, NS=(MS)1/6=2.26. On currently declared seats, we have NS=2.45 (counting each of three independents elected thus far as a “party”). That is only a very minor deviation from expectation.

The combination of FPTP for assembly and a two-round presidential election might be expected to inflate NS due to the expected (and observed) proliferation of presidential candidates seeking votes in the first round. At least it would be so expected if one believes in coattail effects. There were sixteen presidential candidates contesting the first round, and seventeen parties with assembly candidates in at least some districts.

While the effect of the first-round threshold of 55% is not clear, we might expect it to enhance fragmenting effects, relative to a standard majority runoff. Candidates who are unlikely to win might enter anyway, hoping to deny even a strong leading candidate an outright win. Given that an outright win is more difficult in Sierra Leone than in other two-round systems, the effect might be to enhance first-round fragmentation. Under a “coattails” expectation, that fragmentation would carry over into the assembly elections, even with the use of FPTP for those elections, held concurrent with the first round of the presidential contest.

In Votes from Seats, Taagepera and I express some skepticism about coattail effects, at least in terms of their impact on the effective number of parties. In fact, we go so far as to claim that one can deduce the effective number of presidential candidates (NP) from the assembly electoral system. A more direct logical expectation, developed in the book, goes from the assembly voting party system to NP; to the extent that the voting fragmentation (measured by the effective number of vote-earning parties, NV) is over-fragmented, relative to the electoral system expectation, then NP will be inflated as well.

Sierra Leone is thus a good test case for the logical models of Votes from Seats. First of all, it has changed its assembly size twice now, while retaining FPTP. Second, as noted already, it combines the FPTP assembly electoral system with a two-round presidential formula that might tend to increase fragmentation of the presidential contest. If it does so, it may also tend to increase NS and NV, if coattails explain assembly party-system fragmentation. In a table below are the results, showing all three actually observed effective numbers (NSNVNP), where available, and the expected values. The expectations are derived from the seat product (MS) in the case of NS, but for NV, we should use the derivation from observed NS, because if the latter is over expectation, for sure NV will be, too. For NP, the table reports the expectation from NV, which is the more direct route. Again, if NV, is higher than expected (perhaps because so is NS), then NP will be, as well. However, we can also compare the institutionally grounded expectation, derived from MS only.

What we see is that NV was far “too high” in the initial election under the current constitution, given the quite low assembly size. So was NP, and thus it looks like a “win” for the coattails expectation, perhaps because as an initial election before the civil war (starting 1991) was fully settled, many candidates may have entered unsure of who would be viable. The 2002 election, following the settlement of the war, also looks like a case of coattails, as the winner easily dominated the field, leading to very low values of all three effective numbers.

Nonetheless, on average, the institutionally derived expectations perform well. Even with the first election being well off the expectation (and the second, too, albeit less so and in the opposite direction), overall, the ratio of observed NS to actual has been only a little above 1.00; the ratio of expected to observed is 1.153, shown in the bottom line. (If we ignore the anomalously fragmented 1996 election, the mean NS is 2.175, or slightly below the expectation from the assembly sizes used in 2002-2018.)

Given actual NS, the observed NV has been almost exactly as expected, on average, with a ratio of 1.025. And while the slight over-fragmentation of the average assembly election result in Sierra Leone gets magnified when we look at expected NP from MS (i.e., from the assembly electoral system only, for which the ratio is 1.225), the expected NP from observed NV is not too far off, with a ratio of 1.16. Note that the ratio for NP from observed NV is almost the same as the ratio for NS from the assembly seat product.

Thus, even with a presidential electoral formula (super-majority runoff) that theoretically promotes more fragmentation than the assembly electoral system (FPTP), there is scant evidence–beyond 1996–that we are unable to predict the assembly party system from the assembly electoral system. There is also scant evidence that we can’t predict voting fragmentation for both assembly and presidency from the assembly party system. The small over-fragmentation of the assembly party system, on average, gets carried through to the other measures. This over-fragmentation might be due to the fragmenting incentives of the presidential electoral formula, but only in 1996 is the evidence for such an explanation, based on candidate entry and their coattails, compelling. Otherwise, it seems the assembly seat product allows us to get a pretty good handle on the output indices of Sierra Leone’s elections.

The seat product model, based on the assembly electoral system, performs well, even in a new post-war democracy like Sierra Leone, and even given the country’s somewhat unusual combination of institutions.

Emerging signs of clarity in Colombian presidential contest?

Colombia Report notes that the leading center-right candidate for the presidency, Ivan Duque, has surged dramatically, according to a recent poll. The main candidate of the left, Gustavo Petro, also has surged, albeit less dramatically.

The article indicates that:

The poll was the first since legislative elections that were held on March 11.

As I noted before those elections, that is what counter-honeymoon congressional elections do: clarify the field. It’s also why they tend to be so highly fragmented, with parties associated with many potential presidential candidates running to show their strength in advance of the actual presidential contest.

The surges by Duque and Petro come on the heels of their victories in presidential nominating primaries held at the same time as the congressional elections.

The Colombian presidential election is held in two rounds if (as is expected to be the case) no one wins over half the votes in the first round. If this poll is capturing a trend, rather than an outlier, there may not be much drama in who the top two will be, but the runoff campaign would be critical to consolidating support from the many also-rans. The poll in question has Duque at 40%, and runner-up Petro at only 24%. The third candidate, Sergio Fajardo, is way back, under 10%.

It is possible that the surges of Duque and Petro are temporary boosts from the primaries, and that the one or two of the other candidates–who did not run in primaries–will recover. On the other hand, it is just as possible that running in (and winning!) a primary is a smashingly good way to advertise your presidential campaign.

Costa Rica first round and Cyprus runoff

Today Costa Rica has held the first round of its presidential election, along with concurrent elections for congress. Cyprus has held the runoff of its presidential election.

Costa Rica has used a variant of “qualified plurality” to elect its presidents since the current democratic regime was established in 1949. The first round is decisive if the leading candidate has over 40% of the vote. Otherwise there is a runoff between the top two. No runoff was ever required until 2002 (when the leading candidate had 38.6%). In 2006, a runoff was narrowly averted when the leader got 40.9% (with a runner-up right behind, at 39.8%). A runoff was required in the most recent election before today’s, in 2014 (although the second candidate threw in the towel before the runoff).

Opinion polls collected at a Wikipedia article show that this year’s first-round contest is too close to call, with at least three candidates closely separated.

In a live blog at Tico Times, the following observation is made (7:30 p.m. entry):

Will this unusual election, when, as our columnist Alvaro Murillo has pointed out, a candidate’s party identity has become all but irrelevant, mark the end not only of the 20th century’s bipartisan system but also of remaining loyalty to the traditional National Liberation Party? Have national divisions been redrawn along the lines of social issues such as abortion and gay marriage?Will the chaotic campaign have driven voter turnout even further down…

The decline of partisanship is perhaps indeed something recent for Costa Rica, but the “two-party” system seems to have ended a while ago. Hence the frequent need for runoffs after decades of never having one. Already in 2014, I commented on the country’s “record fragmentation”. Moreover, it was the National Liberation Party candidate who decided in 2006 that his runoff chances were too weak to remain in the race.

In Cyprus, incumbent president Nicos Anastasiades of the Democratic Rally (DISY) has been reelected. The first round featured three candidates within a range of 25% to just over 35%. This may have been a case in which the runoff pairing affected the ultimate result, although I certainly do not know enough about Cypriot politics to say if that is plausible or not. (Cyprus uses the more common majority-runoff formula.)

Unlike Costa Rica, Cyprus has non-concurrent elections. The latest assembly elections were in 2016, and DISY won 18 of the 56 seats. (Next election is not till 2021.)

Like Costa Rica, Cyprus is a pure presidential system. I wish I knew more about how presidents govern in Cyprus with that level of partisan fragmentation. For that matter, I wish I knew more about what governance has been like in Costa Rica with the high fragmentation of the past four years. It is likely that whichever candidate is eventually elected president of Costa Rica this year also will face a highly fragmented congress.

Colombia’s upcoming counter-honeymoon election and coalition presidential primaries

Colombia will have its congressional elections in March, followed by the first round of the presidential election in May. A story in El Tiempo (in Spanish) correctly notes that the congressional election will be critical for helping simplify the currently large field of candidates for the presidency:

Las elecciones para Congreso, del 11 de marzo, pueden ser claves en lo que tiene que ver con la campaña a la presidencia.

Loosely translated, the 11 March elections for Congress can be key to the presidential campaign.

I define a counter-honeymoon election as one late in the president’s term. The time within a term is a continuous variable, which can be scored as 0 when it is concurrent (same time as the president) and approaching 1.0 the closer it is to the next presidential election. This is how Taagepera and I define “term time” in Votes from Seats (2017). There’s no hard cutoff at which the election enters the category, counter-honeymoon, but 0.75 is a good approximation.

Colombia’s congressional elections come at at term time greater than 0.9, and thus are among the best examples of the phenomenon. And the term lengths for president and congress are the same (4 years) so, with rare exceptions, Colombia has only counter-honeymoon elections, unlike some countries that have a mix of different elapsed times at which elections can occur, due to different term lengths or provisions allowing dissolution.

In addition to the congressional elections, Colombia holds presidential primaries (consultas) also on the same date in March. Primaries are not required, but several parties use them. This time there are also pre-election coalitions of parties that are using primaries to decide on a joint candidacy for the first round. So, obviously these will affect the congressional elections–but also vice versa. Some of the parties entering such coalitions are stronger in some regions than in others, and will use their party organizations not only for the legislative elections but also to try to push their preferred candidate in the primary.

Chile has had coalitional presidential primaries (for the Concertación) and Colombia has had party presidential primaries concurrent with assembly elections. But I think this upcoming election season in Colombia might be the first time anywhere that coalitional primaries and assembly elections have been concurrent.

(Thanks to Steven Taylor, off-blog, for calling my attention to the article, and for thoughts on the coalitional presidential primaries.)


Presidential runoffs

With the upcoming French presidential election first-round contest looking more and more like a four-way race, now is a good time to visualize performance of candidates across the two rounds of majority-runoff presidential elections.

The data plot here graphs the top two candidates’ shares of the vote in the first round (y-axis) against their runoff share (x-axis). The candidate who had the most votes in the first round is shown with a circle, and the second candidate with a triangle. This is from the Shugart-Taagepera dataset, which contains 117 presidential elections in countries with politically significant presidents. There are 34 elections depicted in the graph–all those in which the rule was that a candidate needed over 50% to win in the first round, but no candidate achieved that threshold.

The solid line at 0.5 marks the runoff victory threshold, thus allowing us to see at a glance how close the runoff was.

Two noteworthy facts:

  1. A leading candidate under 25% is unusual. In this dataset, there are only two prior such cases–both in France (1997 and 2002).
  2. When no one can crack about 35% the votes, it becomes quite likely that the runoff will be won by the second-place candidate. (That is, after all, why there is a runoff; the first-round leader might not be a consensus pick.) The graph shows nine cases in which the first-placed candidate initially had under 35%, and in six of those the trailing candidate came back to win the runoff. Three of these winners started out under 30%.

Many polls suggest that France could wind up in both these categories in 2017.

A final curious observation: The dashed diagonal line marks equality of second and first round shares. One might think that no candidates would be to the “northwest” of this line, as in a two-candidate runoff, both candidates might be expected to increase their vote share following a first round that had three or more competitors. Yet two runoff contenders managed to lose vote share between rounds. The dubious distinction goes to John Atta Mills in Ghana in 2000 (44.5% in the first round, 43.1% in the runoff) and Geraldo Alckmin in Brazil in 2006 (41.6%, then 39.2%). In both cases, turnout may have been a factor; the number of votes cast was lower in both runoffs than it had been at the first round. Jean-Marie Le Pen was close to this line in the French 2002 election, but he did manage a small increase in his vote share, even with a large increase in turnout in the runoff following the shock of the National Front showing in the first round.