How people elect parliaments
After a quiet few months, a round of national parliamentary elections starting in coming days will highlight a number of the world’s electoral systems.
The election of the Storting of Norway comes first next Tuesday 11 September. All seats are filled by party-proportional representation in each of the nation’s counties, but 1 seat per county is reserved to try to make the seat numbers for each significant party match the national aggregate vote share. Norway uses the open list approach, meaning voters at least get to mark preferences for which individual candidates within each party list they wish to prevail in being allotted seats.
The chamber of the Norwegian Storting
Just a fortnight later comes the double-header for the mixed-member proportional (MMP) voting system, with elections in New Zealand on Saturday 23 September and then in Germany on Sunday 24 September.
New Zealand‘s 70 single-member division MPs will be joined by another 50 party-seat members to balance the 120-member House of Representatives membership to be vote-share proportional for all parties that win at least 5% of the national vote. At present the Labour Party, the National Party, the New Zealand First party and the Green party are polling above the threshold.
The battle for control of the New Zealand House of Representatives has suddenly become a close race between the incumbent National Party and a resurgent Labour Party (image: Wikipedia)
In Germany 299 district MPs will be joined by roughly the same number of party-seat members, again to balance the Bundestag to match the national vote shares of all parties winning at least 5% of the vote.
Germany seems likely to see six political parties pass the threshold, with the governing CDU and SPD parties and the established Free Democrat, Greens and de Linke (the Left) parties joined by the new right-wing Alternative for Deustchland party. On current polling, CDU Chancellor Angela Merkel looks set to lead the largest party and have multiple options for coalition partners to remain in office.
On Tuesday 10 October Liberia goes to the polls to elect its House of Representatives, using first-past-the-post voting.
On Sunday 15 October the unusual three-tier voting system will be used to fill the places in the Austrian parliament, the Nationalrat. Numbers of votes will be counted first at a local electoral division level, after which both unsuccessful or over-quota votes will be combined at a regional level, and finally still-unused votes will be combined at a national level, with seats allocated by quotas to political parties at each of the three counting tiers. Austria uses the closed list version of the party seat system, so voters will have no direct say in who becomes each party’s individual members of the parliament.
Over two days on Friday 20 – Saturday 21 October the Poslanecká Sněmovna (Chamber of Deputies) of the Czech Republic will be filled using the open list system of party-proportional representation, like Norway. But here there will only be separate allocations of seats in each region, without any balancing seats allocated to bring party seat totals into alignment with national vote totals.
Sunday 22 October is the date for the parliamentary elections in Argentina, which use a province-based system of party-proportional representation to fill their Cámara de Diputados. Argentina also uses the closed list version of the party seat system.
Then just over a fortnight later on Thursday 9 November the Falkland Islands (or as the Argentines would prefer, Islas Malvinas) will elect their tiny 8-member assembly by one of the few remaining cases of the antiquated block vote method, with one electoral division electing 5 members with voters having 5 votes, and three members similarly elected in a second division. Fortunately the island’s political culture avoids having actual political parties, which would seriously distort the result sunder this voting system.
Meanwhile on Tuesday 7 November elections for legislatures and governors in two US states – Virginia and New Jersey – will be held. Contests in both states should be closely contested, and will give a steer on how US politics is trending with the Republican Party dominating in Washington.
Thursday November 16 is the date for elections in Tonga, where first-past-the-post voting will be used to elect 17 ‘commoners’ to be members of the Fale Alea, while the nation’s clan chiefs will select another 9 ‘nobles’ to join the commoner MPs in the parliament.
Then on Sunday 19 November the Cámara de Diputados of Chile will be elected using a unique binomial party-based electoral system, in which two members are elected in every electoral division.
And on Sunday 26 November elections will finally take place in Nepal. After decades of political strife the Himalayan nation is at last settling down to choose its first modern elected Sansad, after the transitional constitutional assembly was declared to be the initial parliament in 2015. The Nepalese will select 240 members elected by single-member division plurality voting, and these will be joined by another 335 members elected by closed list party-proportional voting.
On the same day – Sunday 26 November – voters in Honduras will let political parties fill the seats in the Congreso Nacional by the closed list party seat-allocation system.
Cover image: the Storting (parliament building), Oslo, Norway (image: Wikipedia)