Saturday, August 23, 2008

Another Look at the Election

I recently read an article on the disproportion of the number of votes cast for the ruling party and the number of seats they will get. Let’s look at the rough numbers. About 58% voted for the CPP and 42% voted for the opposition parties. The CPP will get an estimated 90 seats or 73% of the assembly seats, only 33 or 27% of all seats will go to four other parties. There seems to be a glaring imbalance as the author of that piece I read seemed to imply (if I remember correctly).

But that opinion would leave out any consideration of the electoral system in place. Cambodia uses the proportionate system for allocating assembly seats by party lists. In that system the number of seats won may not correspond to the share of the overall vote. Here is why: each voting district is allocated a certain number of seats, a few even with only one seat although that district has only a small population, say a hundred. In this case the party with the majority of votes gets the seat. Fortunately, there are only a handful of those districts.

In very populous districts such as Kompong Cham the parties will be allocated seats in line with their share of the popular vote. In many cases there will be a small number of seats left over (‘overhangs’) that will be allocated by the system of the highest average a party received.

Let's take Kompong Cham:

CPP : 409 766 / 51,28%
SRP : 211 934 / 26,52%
HRP : 72 725 / 9,10

There are 18 seats for the district, 9 of which will go to the CPP, 4 will go to the SRP, and 1 will go to the HRP, which is a total of 14 with 4 seats to be assigned according the principle of the highest average (d’Hondt system).

CPP quotient = 40,977
SRP quotient = 42,387
HRP quotient = 36,362

So the next seat will go to the SRP. The following quotients will look like this:

CPP = 40.977
SRP = 35,322
HRP = 36,362

Accordingly, the following seat will go to the CPP.

CPP = 37, 251
SRP = 35,322
HRP = 36,362

The next seat will go to the CPP.

CPP = 34, 148
SRP = 35,322
HRP = 36,322

So this last seat will go to the HRP, which brings the total seats won by each party in Kompong Cham to:

CPP = 11 seats = 61.1% of the seats
SRP = 5 seats = 27.8% of the seats
HRP = 2 seats = 11.1% of the seats

The more votes a party gets the greater will be the highest average, in other words, this system favors the bigger parties.

This is an electoral system used in many democracies in one form or another, either as a stand-alone system or in combination with another system.

The U. S. has a two-party system with a clear winner-takes-it-all formula, so it is straight-forward but can also lead to results which do not reflect the popular vote, especially with their Electoral College in the presidential elections. People vote for candidates, not for parties.

The British have the same system (without the Electoral College) but basically a three-party system. The winning candidate might actually have only won a minority of the votes. People also vote only for candidates and not parties

The French have, in my view, the best system, albeit very expensive. There a candidate must reach a clear absolute majority, that is 50%+1, to win. France boasts of a multitude of parties, all of them fielding candidates. If no candidate reaches the 50%+1, there are run-off elections between the first and second candidates.

Germany has a very complicated mix of systems where people vote for both a direct candidate by majority vote and a party list, which is then allocated seats according to the d’Hondt system. So people actually have two votes.

So if you want to go to the trouble of figuring out how the CPP won more seats than their share of the votes you can do this by following the formula:

Seats by share of vote + overhanging seats assigned by formula below

Total votes for the party / ( number of original seats assigned according to share of votes + 1 ) = quotient.

But you can rest assured there is nothing wrong with the distribution of the seats per party according to the published election results.

That does not, however, in any way say anything about the claim of the opposition that the election as such was fraudulent. The fact that the NEC did not publish its reasons for their clear and very quick dismissal of the SRP’s complaints is very troublesome and might lead neutral observers to believe that there actually weren’t any real legal arguments but that the whole affair will be resolved behind closed doors. That, of course, leaves a very bitter taste and reflects very badly on the CPP.

No comments: