Slovakia Election Post-Game: Guest Blogger Richard Swales on Preference Voting in Slovakia
I’m happy to welcome yet another guest blogger: Richard Swales, who describes himself as follows:
Richard Swales is from England, but lives in Kosice where he is married and runs Jazykova skola Start (www.jazykova.sk), a school for Slovaks who want to learn English.
Richard and I have never met in person but he been such a consistent source of astute comments that I have asked him here to elaborate on an email he sent to me about preference voting in the most recent election in Slovakia and he was kind enough to do so.
In Slovak elections, the system used is the party list system. This means that each party submits a list of 150 candidates, and the voters choose the party they prefer. All parties which have at least 5 percent of the votes get seats in parliament in proportion to their vote share. For this purpose a number called the REN– republic electoral number–is calculated; this time it was 14,088 and parties got one seat for every 14,088 votes they got. The question this post looks at is which of the 150 candidates get those seats. In some countries, the order in which the candidates are printed on the list is used, so if a party gets 15 seats, the top 15 candidates are elected (this is called a closed list system). In other countries, the voters also get vote for individual candidates to determine the order (this is called an open list system).
In Slovakia, each voter may choose to vote for the party only, or may choose to circle the names of up to four candidates on the list. Seats are awarded to candidates in order of the number of voters who circled them, but there is a catch. To get a seat in this way, a candidate must be circled by at least 3 percent of his or her party’s voters, otherwise the party-determined ordering of the list takes over. This can be called a semi-open list system.
What I want to look at is to what extent members of parliament for the different parties owe their position in parliament to having a constituency of supporters that circled them, and to what extent do they owe their position to the party placing them high on the list and being favoured internally in their party.
KDH 15 seats: 10 elected through circling, 5 elected based on their list positions.
Of those elected through circling, 1 was not in the top 15 on the original list (and so wouldn’t be in parliament if no circling had taken place) Of those elected based on list positions, none were in the top fifteen on circling (and so all five wouldn’t be in parliament if there were no 3 percent cut-off for circling candidates).
I don’t agree with the standard way of analysing elections of this type, by which the above would be taken to mean that the public were only able to change the KDH list order by one seat. For example Durkovsky (13th on the list, 8th in terms of circing) would not be in parliament if his voters had circled other particular other candidates and got them over the 3 percent mark. An alternative explanation is that only small numbers of voters disagreed with the ordering of the KDH list anyway, which of course featured the best known people at the top. Only seven candidates on the list got more circles than REN so could be said to have pulled their weight by bringing in as many supporters as needed to elect one member, so it’s difficult to say that candidates scoring less than 3 percent (6480 votes, less than half one REN) were unfairly excluded by the 3 percent rule.
Most-Hid, 14 seats
All members were elected by circling, and a further two members had more than 3 percent but were outside parliament, meaning that the list ordering had no effect (uniquely among party leaders, if Bela Bugar had got no circles he would be out of parliament even though he was first on the list). A total of 4 of the members elected were outside the original 14 on the list, including 3 OKS members (Most-Hid gave some spaces on their list to this smaller party, in the hope of pooling votes). The number of circles received by OKS leader Peter Zajac was just over the REN, which suggests that with 4 members of parliament OKS is by far the most over-represented party in parliament, and Most-Hid the most under-represented. Most-Hid voters were the most frequent users of the right to circle candidates (82.88 percent circled at least one candidate). This is consistent with past results for SMK, probably because in parties based on ethnic politics, voters have more need to use the circles to express more traditional right-left or conservative-liberal preferences.
SaS 22 seats: 10 through circling, 12 through list positions.
Of the 10 circled, 4 were not high enough on the list to be elected anyway. These were the Obycajni ludia group who were given the bottom four places on the SaS list. Their leader’s 38000 votes is almost 3 RENs meaning there is a stronger suggestion than in the case of OKS that these were not mainly at the expense of the party hosting them on the list. Of the 12 elected through list positions, 8 had high enough support that they would be elected anyway through circling if the 3 percent rule didn’t exist. SaS voters were the least likely to circle candidates (68.09 percent used this option), possibly reflecting that as a party of newcomers they had fewer famous candidates.
SDKU 28 seats: 10 through circling, 18 through list positions
One circled candidate was not high enough on the original list to be elected without the circles. Of the other 18, 13 candidates were circled by enough people to be in if the three percent rule didn’t exist and only circling was used.
SNS 9 seats: 8 through circling, 1 through list position.
One of the eight circled was outside the top nine on the original list. The one candidate elected through list position would not have had enough circles to be elected if the three percent rule didn’t exist.
Smer 62 seats: 9 through circling, 53 through list position.
The 9 candidates elected through circling were all from the top 62 of the list (in fact all from the top 10). There were 13 people lower down the list who had higher numbers of circles than 13 who got in through list position. It is worth pointing out that without the 3 percent cutoff a candidate would require 1,461 circles, to get into parliament so 0,16 percent of SMER voters or less than a tenth of the REN. I must say that I support the use of the 3 percent rule or a similar rule (possibly based on a fraction of the REN as in the Benelux countries, so it would apply more consistently across parties) as numbers of circles like 1100 or 1300 are just about who has an extra 200 people living in their home village.
61 candidates were elected through circling of whom 11 would not have been high enough on the original list ordering. in addition to those 11, a further ten candidates (the Most ones) are also heavily dependent on circling as the list order didn’t need to be used at any point
89 candidate were elected through list positions, of those 28 would not have had enough circles if the 3 percent rule did not exist.
Conclusion, the circling and the list orders were broadly consistent with each other, but there are a large number of members of parliament who owe their position to the party and its internal politics more than the use of circling.