Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Spanish General Election 2008....Is Any Vote A Wasted Vote?


So much attention on the electoral debates tends to hide the fact that there are other parties involved in the Spanish elections. With both major parties separated by a narrow margin in the opinion polls the question of strategic voting, or what is called in Spain the “voto útil”, comes into play. For the most part the potential for vote switching affects those who do not want to see the Partido Popular (PP) return to power. After all, those who do not want the governing PSOE to win tend to be either committed already to the PP, or are voters of one of the regional nationalist parties and are unlikely to consider changing their vote to the PP.

The party whose vote is most under pressure from this phenomenon is Izquierda Unida (IU), the coalition to the left of the PSOE. Voters for the second force on the left are faced with the option of voting with their hearts for a party that will struggle to get above 5-6% of their vote, or to go with the PSOE to try and prevent a PP victory. Already, there are signs that IU’s support in the polls has declined slightly as the PP narrowed the gap with the PSOE.

The electoral system in Spain hits IU or any other minority national party with a double whammy, which brutally reduces their parliamentary representation compared to their proportion of the vote. First of all, in the smaller provinces it is possible to take a significant share of the vote and yet not get any parliamentary members elected. Then, in the main urban centres like Madrid or Barcelona, the number of votes needed to elect a single member of parliament can be three or four times that required to get the same result in a province such as Soria. It is principally the first factor that is used as an argument in favour of the voto útil.

The non-proportional nature of the electoral system means that IU’s few elected members come from the larger areas. In these elections they are already in danger of losing their representative from Valencia because of internal disputes in the selection of candidates. The danger they face is that a squeeze on their vote could leave them with less than five members of parliament, in which case they lose the right to form a separate parliamentary group. Not surprisingly, IU have included reform of the electoral system in their program, and emphasise the issues where they differ from the PSOE. They need to convince their supporters that the most useful vote is one that keeps them where they are.


5 comments:

Colin said...

As an 'immigrant', I don't even get a chance to waste my vote. I wonder, if I emigrated to Argentina or Uruguay and became part of the Galician diaspora and paid my taxes there instead or here, would I be able to vote for politicians back where I used to live. . . .

Colin said...

instead of . . .

Graeme said...

If you have the right passport it doesn't matter where you are living. I have a post in the works on that Galician diaspora...

Tom said...

Colin, have you looked into obtaining Spanish Nationality? As far as I know, it's not that complicated a process (well, no more than any other project involving multiple trips to the Registro Civil!).

If you're a British Citizen, you can get dual-nationality which has a few other fringe benefits like two passports for travelling to certain countries.

By the way, I notice that you used inverted commas around the word 'immigrant'. Do you feel that this word doesn't apply to you?

I had an amusing conversation with my wife's grandmother (from la Mancha) during which she harangued some immigrants on the TV news... when I pointed out that I too am an immigrant, she replied "Pero tienes trabajo!"

Colin said...

Tom,

I hadn't thought of dual nationality, I must admit. But I have always planned to take up Spanish nationality after what I think is the required 10 year residence period. As for the inverted commas - No,I understand that I am an immigrant but this is an allusion to the Spanish habit of using this word only for people with darker skin thane me. Which actually in includes 99.9% of the people in Britain. In other words, to them, I am not really an immigrant. Especially as I am a EU citizen, I guess. Just like Rumanian gypsies. Oh no, they'd see us as different, I guess.