Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Themes That Can Change An Election....The Voting System

According to an article in El Mundo this morning there is a clear majority in Spain in favour of changing the electoral system. The problem as they describe it is that the current electoral law favours regional nationalist parties at the expense of others, most notably Izquierda Unida (IU). This belief that the nationalists are overrepresented in the Spanish parliament is quite common, especially in right-wing circles; the argument goes that the law needs reforming in order to reduce this overrepresentation. As with so much of El Mundo’s journalism these days, the argument takes a factual situation (the imbalance in the electoral system) and manipulates it to give it the political angle they are looking for. So the article pretends that the reason IU loses out is because the nationalist parties get more members elected with fewer votes.

The reality of how the voting system works here in Spain was actually explained in some detail not long ago in an article from El Público. This paper also explained how IU is hurt by the way in which the current system works; the coalition should have 17 members of parliament but instead they obtained only 5 in the last elections. However, the disparity is not caused by any overrepresentation of nationalist parties, it emerges that the main beneficiaries of the way the current system works are the governing PSOE and ahead in first place the Partido Popular. This assessment is based on the number of votes needed to elect each representative in parliament. 42% of the current members of parliament are from the PP, yet this party won only 37% of the vote at the last election. The only nationalist party gaining a minimal overrepresentation is the Basque nationalist PNV, whilst IU needs almost 4 times as many votes as the PP or PSOE for each member elected. So reform is needed, but the parties most affected by it should be the largest. No genius is required to see that the chances of a genuinely proportional system being introduced are not very high.

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