Lesotho (MMP) & Malta (STV) hold early elections on the same day

Lesotho and Malta will hold early elections this Saturday, June 3rd. Both have parliamentary systems and each one uses a different (and interesting!) type of proportional representation – each having a certain following among readers of this blog.

Lesotho uses a one-vote variant of MMP, with 80 single-seat districts in the nominal tier and 40 in the list tier. There is no threshold, and no seats are added in case of overhang, so a party can win a majority by taking more than 60 districts.

Malta uses STV, with a twist: if I understand correctly, in case one party receives an absolute majority of first-preference votes, seats are added to ensure that party has a majority, and that the majority is in proportion to its majority of the vote.

The elections were also called in different ways. Lesotho’s parliament (election not required before February 2020) was dissolved after the government lost a confidence vote in March – the prime minister could have handed over power to the coalition that ousted him, but chose instead to ask the king for an early election. Malta’s early election (originally not due until March 2018) was called by the prime minister.

New Zealand split-vote results released

The New Zealand Electoral Commission has released the split-voting statistics from the 2014 general election.

This is a great service provided by the Electoral Commission, showing in each electorate (district) what percentage of voters for each party list cast their vote for that party’s candidate or any other candidate in the electorate. To make it even better for those who like analyzing voting statistics, they offer CSV files.

The NZ Herald offers a summary of key electorates.

Piggyback MPs, part 2

With apologies to New Zealanders’ somewhat complicated memory of Robert Muldoon, I am sticking to my “piggyback MPs” as a preferred term for members elected under MMP via an alternative threshold to the one based on party-list votes.

Here I want to address briefly the question of whether allowing an alternative threshold, by which a party qualifies for list seats through the winning of one (or more) district seats, is itself a problem in electoral-system design. I have been wanting to address this issue for some time, and some of my thoughts are anticipated by a comment left by Rob at the previous thread.

Up front, let me state that I see no problem with the principle of an alternative threshold. If mixed-member proportional systems are to have a chance of delivering on the “best of both worlds” promise, then one really should allow both worlds to coexist simultaneously. One of those worlds is one in which local concentrations of support for particular parties or candidates are able to attain representation. The other world is one in which only nationwide levels of support for particular parties are worthy of representation. Any one of us might prefer one conception of representation over the other, but MMP is explicitly designed to promote both.

Now, one might respond that one need not have the alternative threshold in oder to obtain both of these worlds. Parties could still exist to target one or a few district seats, and earn their representation that way, without being entitled to any list seats.* I concede that this is a perfectly valid argument, and it seems to be the position taken by the New Zealand Electoral Commission in its MMP Review. That is fine; they have thought much more about these issues, and the needs of New Zealand society, than I ever can do.

However, I think it is a perfectly valid “best of both worlds” provision to say that we want to give incentives to smaller parties to attract support outside their district-based strongholds, while still being able to win representation based on their regional concentration. A very small party may have supporters around the country, but be concentrated in one area. Voters outside the areas of strength have little reason to vote for the list of such a party if it won’t win seats; by the same token, voters in a single district where the party has local strength may have little reason to vote for the party if it lacks any chance to win further seats via list votes obtained elsewhere. (If one seat is expected to affect the balance of power, the second consideration vanishes, of course.)

It seems to me that the decision whether to abolish the alternative threshold should be made not on the basis of disliking particular parties that take advantage of it. (Search on “Key cup of tea” if you are unfamiliar with the debate.) Rather, it should be taken after considering what minimal size of party is considered optimal in a given country’s proportional system. (One can never squeeze out all one-seat parties, as they are at least a latent possibility in any system that has single-seat districts, including mixed-member PR, but one can eliminated the opportunity for such parties to exist to seek additional seats via the list.)

What is the optimal minimum size for parties that win more than just a given district (or two or more), but also win list seats? Continue reading

MMP and dual candidacy in Wales

The question of dual candidacy in the Welsh Assembly mixed-member proportional (MMP)* system is being debated again. “Dual candidacy” refers to a provision permitting candidates to run simultaneously in a nominal (district) race and on their party’s list for the proportional component of the system.

Roger Scully offers an overview of the history and debate.

Wales permitted dual candidacy in 1999 and 2003 and banned it for elections of 2007 and 2011. Now a bill is in the House of Commons (yes, this decision is taken in London) to ban dual candidacy again.

Scully mentions various other reforms that have been debated, including an increase in the size of the assembly, from 60 to 80 or 100. As he notes, such an increase would have an impact on the proportionality of the system (independent of dual candidacy).

For instance: the easiest way to change from 60 to 80 AMs would be to raise the number of list AMs in each region (from 4 to 8). But with list AMs now comprising half of the Assembly’s membership, rather than one-third, the proportionality of the electoral system would be changed substantially. An 80-seat Assembly where 40 members came each from the constituency and list ballots would be more-or-less a fully proportional system, rather than the semi-proportional system we have at present.

This is an important point. Because the compensation in the Welsh MMP is carried out in regions instead of Wales-wide, and because the number of seats per region is relatively low, the proportionality is indeed modest. Michael Gallagher‘s Election Indices shows values on the Least Squares (Gallagher) index of disproportionality in the four elections of 8.61, 10.39, 11.36, and 10.47. By contrast, New Zealand, with nationwide proportionality in its MMP system and a 5% threshold, has had index values ranging from 1.13 to 3.84. The UK, with only single-seat districts, has averaged 16.53 on the index over the elections of the same period.

Alternatively, the number of constituencies for the nominal tier could be increased. To keep the same ratio between tiers as is current practice would require 53 constituencies, which “would require the drawing of new constituency boundaries, and losing ‘co-terminosity’ between Westminster and Assembly constituencies.”**

Scully’s preference is for STV, which would resolve the dual candidacy question by reverting to a single tier, while keeping the level of proportionality about the same (potentially). A commission proposed STV a decade ago. Scully notes that there have been two main proposals: grouping the current 40 constituencies into 20 pairs that each elect 4 assembly members or using local authority boundaries as districts (which, I assume, would mean district magnitude varying by municipality population).

As for the dual-candidacy issue, many readers of this blog will know my position. Dual candidacy is an essential feature of mixed-member systems, especially MMP systems, without which many of the main benefits of the system are unrealized. Sure, it does not affect proportionality, but the system also delivers benefits on the intra-party dimension, by encouraging more constituency focus of members elected from party lists than would be the case under pure PR.*** This benefit is likely lost if parties refrain from nominating their best personnel in districts where they are unsure of victory and instead nominate them only on the list. Thus the “legitimacy” problem of list members that underlies the charge against dual candidacy (“entering through the back door,” “zombies”, etc.) is actually made worse by eliminating dual candidacy and thus severing the constituency link of list candidates. The MMP Review in New Zealand extensively commented on this issue and came clearly down in favor of retaining the right to dual candidacy. Wales should do the same–if it retains MMP.

* In Wales it is called the Additional Member System (AMS). I very much dislike this name, as it treats the list-elected members as mere add-ons, rather than an integral (in fact, the decisive) component of the system. In fact, the name would fit better for the other main category, MMM (mixed-member majoritarian).

** I think “co-terminosity” is a new word for me. I like it.

*** And also without the direct intra-party competition of STV or OLPR, or the partisan incentive for “vote management” and “friends and family” voting/clientelism concerns that STV is especially prone to.