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How to break proportional representation

by IdiotSavant Sun Jun 7th, 2009 at 10:54:30 PM EST

From No Right Turn - New Zealand's liberal blog:

I've been crunching some numbers on the UK's European Parliament election results.  And despite the system they use supposedly being "proportional", they show significant disproportionalities.  Here's the results sans Scotland, which won't be out till tomorrow:


The reason for this unfairness is because for these elections the UK chops itself into 12 districts (9 regions plus Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) of between 3 and 10 seats, and applies the D'Hondt method within each one.  This effectively introduces a large threshold (upwards of 10%) within each region, and allocates the "rounding error" to the larger parties 9as D'Hondt favours them).  Which adds up on a national scale to the sorts of disproportionality seen above.

The EU's rules for how member states run elections are pretty simple, and require only three things:


  • The system must be a form of proportional representation, under either the party list or Single Transferable Vote system.

  • The electoral area may be subdivided if this will not generally affect the proportional nature of the voting system.

  • Any election threshold on the national level must not exceed five percent.

The level of disproportionality caused by subdivision in the above results means that the UK fails to meet these basic criteria.  It should reform the electoral system it uses immediately, either to do away with districting, or to introduce a Swedish-style national topup.

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The same problem occurs in other countries that use sub-national districts, including France, Italy, Belgium and Ireland.

The brainless should not be in banking. — Willem Buitler
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Jun 8th, 2009 at 05:45:43 AM EST
Party Name EP Group Vote Share MEPs MEPs Share
UMP EPP 27.87 % 29 40.28 %
PS PES 16.48 % 14 19.44 %
Greens Greens 16.28 % 14 19.44 %
Modem ADLE 8.45 % 6 8.33 %
FN Euronat 6.34 % 3 4.17%
Front de Gauche GUE 6.05 % 5 6.94%
NPA - 4.88 % 0 0%
Libertas Libertas 4.80 % 1 1.39 %

Note the UMP has more MEPs than Greens and PS together, despite having had less votes than the two together...

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by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Mon Jun 8th, 2009 at 09:05:54 AM EST
The British political establishment has not really come to terms with the idea of proportional representation.

I saw a recent television programme where Michael Portillo (ex Conservative minister) described the UK European electoral system as crazy. He was objecting to some of the electoral regions having too many seats, so the BNP could win a seat in North West England with only about 8% of the vote. Portillo obviously preferred first past the post because it prevented smaller parties from having any real chance of winning seats.

It is unfortunate when parties like the BNP win seats, but it only disguises the problem when the electoral system is gerrymandered to prevent a substantial body of electors from being represented.

Experience suggests BNP office holders tend not to be very good representatives. They have a chance to demonstrate their incompetence and be voted out at the next election. If the electoral system works against the extremists, then they can claim victimhood. The BNP leadership seems to be quite good at misrepresenting the situation and defending their prejudices using the language of rights.

by Gary J on Fri Jun 12th, 2009 at 09:21:14 AM EST


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