Thursday, March 13, 2008

How Much Is A Kilo Of Votes Worth?

Depends who’s buying. I’ve written before about the side effects of the Spanish electoral system for some of the smaller parties, but the results of this year’s election leave things very clear. I came across the diagrams below from El País via a post on El Siglo de las Luces. The first one shows how many parliamentary seats each party would have if the assignation of seats was done on a national scale rather than by province. The number of seats they should have got is the first figure, the second is the number actually obtained. CiU's figure is already out of date, they lost a seat to the PP yesterday because of the overseas vote.

So under a more proportional system both the PSOE and the PP would lose several seats, the Basque nationalists of the PNV would also lose a couple and Nafarroa Bai would disappear from the parliament. On the other hand, Izquierda Unida would have 14 representatives instead of just 2, and the new party UPD would go up from 1 to 4. Conclusion, the principal beneficiaries of the system are the big national parties, and the main losers are the smaller national parties. This dispels the myth that parties like IU are underrepresented because the regional nationalist parties do well out of the electoral system. The second diagram shows how many votes were needed per seat won for each party:

So at the moment Izquierda Unida needs almost half a million votes to get a single representative in the Spanish parliament, whilst at the other end of the scale the PNV needs just 50,000. In this election, the PSOE needed slightly fewer votes than the PP for each seat gained, but once you allow for the extra seat the PP got yesterday then the difference is very small.


moscow said...


moscow said...

I don't know if you are trying to suggest anything. Perhaps, not. But in case you are trying to suggest Spain should change it's electoral system in order to allow for smaller parties to get more representation, I am certain that that would be the last thing Spain needs. Germany is going through huge problems because power is shared among 5, soon to be 6 parties. The result is endless horse trading, and no decisions being taken. Moreover, Germany is not the worst scenario, it could be Italy. As for the PP, I actually don't believe Rajoy will be the candidate next time. Something is going to (must) happen. I think you are right, Aguirre is now watching in horror as clock ticks on. There will be blood.

Graeme said...

Well I am suggesting that Moscow. For all the problems that countries might have with multiple parties, such systems are more representative of popular will and more adaptable to change. I'm sure many countires would love to have Germany's problems, which are - incidentally - very much a reflection of disenchantment with the two biggest parties. If you hide that disenchantment you don't make the system any better.

Spain already has small parties that are more or less properly represented, but it also has smaller parties at national level that are not. Correcting that problem sn't going to make the political system any worse. Why should 1 million IU voters be obliged to vote for the PSOE if that party doesn't represent them?

On the PP we'll see what happens, but nobody is suggesting that Rajoy is just there as an interim candidate and if he were to stand down nearer the election the bloodletting could be even worse. It looks like the ABA (anyone but Aguirre) faction is winning at the moment.

StarHound said...

I'm really not sure that there is a valid argument here - I think you could only extrapolate figures accurately and fairly if you had all parties contesting all constituencies but this is of course not going to happen. It might seem unfair on IU - but I think that's just the way cookie crumbles.

I'd like to hear more on this. The alternative would surely be to have much bigger constituencies or Spain as one constituency but this would then be just as unfair on Nationalist parties and might not go down all that well. Rosa Diez, would love it though, which just can't be a good thing.

Graeme said...

Well the single constituency wouldn't go down well with the nationalist parties, but not because they would suffer from it. On the evidence of these figures the PNV would suffer slightly and Nafarroa Bai would disappear from parliament but the rest of the nationalists might even stand to gain. The average number of votes cast per seat won is around 69,000. Their objection would be to centralising the voting, not because they would lose representation. The halfway house is to make the comunidad autonoma the constituency instead of the province. That would partially solve the problem.

StarHound said...

I think you are right that communidad autonoma is the most likely level.

But is there a will for change - is this even an issue outside IU?
As the PSOE does so well out of this system why should they want to change it?

Much like the Labour party in Britain - does the desire for reform wane when it could it could put them out of office or force them into inconvenient coalitions?

Is that too many questions?

Graeme said...

"is this even an issue outside IU?"

It is a bit, but probably only at elections where the unfairness of the system is so evident.

"As the PSOE does so well out of this system why should they want to change it?"

They don't.

"does the desire for reform wane when it could it could put them out of office or force them into inconvenient coalitions?"

It doesn't so much wane as not even begin to exist.

"Is that too many questions?"


moscow said...

Sure, Germany's economic resiliance - it's industrial base is actually expanding as we write -must be mistifying for economic liberals - a specimen abundant in english speaking countries - as the Germans have been reluctant followers of the liberal doctrine. But disenchantment with the major parties stems from the constant wrangling around minor issues. There was wide admiration in the CDU for Aznar, as there is now for Zapatero, amongst SPD members. What - according to you - is such a good situation could be made much better if the government had a proper majority to carry out policies. I wouldn't be surprised if the Germans change their electoral system, but in a different direction from the one favoured by you. IU should stop seeking excuses for it's failure. They are simply out of sync with the times. Few people are interested in what they have to say, and I doubt that having a more proportional system (Spain's is already proportional enough) would do anything but prolongue the agony. Perhaps, you would be less keen on a proportional system if instead of a left-wing party there was an extreme right-wing party trying to get into parliament. And last but not least, I fear that a proportional system would push Spain further on to an Italian-type chaos. In a sense you are right, German style muddle is perhaps not such a bad option considering the alternatives.

Graeme said...

Well what goes for IU also goes for UPD, which is not a party I have any sympathy with. We won't know how anyone would react to the emergence of a far right party until the PP leaves that space free ;).

I'm not sure that Italy's problems come just from having multiple parties either, we also have to take in a tendency to elect corrupt clowns to power.

In the end it's not the point whether IU is out of sync with the times or not, it could be a party on the rise that gets a million votes and only 2 representatives in parliament. As I said before, multi party politics is already a reality in Spain, so a system which makes it almost impossible for a third national party to develop isn't protecting the country from the problems you describe in others.

Colin said...

"on a national scale rather than by province."

Do you mean National [= state] or national/sub-National [= region], as the latter comes between State and Province.

It doesn't do to brook ambiguity in these things . . . .

Colin said...


I guess earlier comments and your responses [which I hadn't read, obviously] have answered this.

But . . . "elect corrupt clowns to power." . . . . If you move power/representation from the centre to the regions/provinces, there'll surely be even more of this than there is now. In Spain, not Italy.

Maybe you have to decide on the least-bad option. As we all have to do, every day and in every way.

What I really want to know is where you and Moscow feature on the Political Compass or, more interestingly, how you compare. . . .

Colin said...

Plus I'd like to know what you both look like. Be fair.

Graeme said...

"If you move power/representation from the centre to the regions/provinces, there'll surely be even more of this than there is now"

I'm not proposing that Colin - the regional parties are already getting their representation. The parties that suffer from the current system are the smaller, national ones.

"What I really want to know is where you and Moscow feature on the Political Compass"

Libertarian left in my case, a long way from Stalin and a decent bit to the left of Gandhi.

"Plus I'd like to know what you both look like"

Anything else you'd like? - passport numbers, bank account details......

Colin said...

Profile. Well, you'll be surprised/worried/terrified to hear that so am I. Perhaps it's all crap.

Thanks for the offer of the details but I just paid 100 euros to get them all. But confirmation - you know the address- would be good. You can trust me;I'm an ex-lawyer.

Colin said...

"the regional parties are already getting their representation. The parties that suffer from the current system are the smaller, national ones."

Yes, but I saw that the BNG would have a 50% increase in seats, from 2 to 3. And they are hardly National. Some would argue that - having eschewed secession - they aren't even national. My view is that they are distinctly provincial. There's nothing wrong in this, of course, just ironic that your 'better' system would give them a greater chance to make a National nuisance of themselves.

Why not a system which gives them less power at the centre and more in the region/province? Complex matters. Scope for absolutely everyone to be unhappy. You CAN displease all the people all the time.

I must walk the dog.

Graeme said...

Well the BNG would go up from 2 to 3 seats which is hardly likely to change things very much - but then why should their voters be punished for their choice? What does your dog think about this, and where does it stand on the Political Compass? Maybe you have a secret BNG supporter at home?

moscow said...

I am 1,88/-6,15.

StarHound said...

Even if you widened out to the constituencies it would still be entirely possible for IU or any other party of similar size to get a reasonable enough share of the votes and no seats.

It might just be one of those things - unless you had a parallel national list alongside more localised voting. But maybe this is getting too psephological.

An overlooked good point from the elections was the utter pasting that Ciutadans got across the board, even in Catalunya.

Graeme said...

True, in the smaller comunidades it wouldn't make much difference, which is why the only truly proportional constituency would be a national one. I did see a proposal for a three tier system in El Pais the other day with national and local components, but my interest in the issue started to fade at that point! Given that nothing is likely to be done anyway. I did see today that IU have taken to the issue to the courts on the grounds that its unconstitutional. I don't think it will get them anywhere but it will be intersting to see what the court does to get rid of the case.

Colin said...

Thanks, Moscow. As I lost all my favourites, I'll have to re-do mine and advise. It'll be interesting to see whether I've shifted in a week or so.

Graeme, Politics is the one thing Ryan and I don't talk about. He is incorrigibly Leftist and I can tell he dreams of Aguirre from the gnashing of his teeth. Not to mention the farting. As for his Political Compass profile, I've banned him from the computer because he took up most of the hard disc with pix of nude bitches. I suggested he take up politics in New York.