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Spanish Politics and Society The Institutions of Spanish Democracy: the electoral system. Anthony Gilliland Office 20.123

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Presentation on theme: "Spanish Politics and Society The Institutions of Spanish Democracy: the electoral system. Anthony Gilliland Office 20.123"— Presentation transcript:

1 Spanish Politics and Society The Institutions of Spanish Democracy: the electoral system. Anthony Gilliland Office

2 Introduction  Representative democracy and the importance of electoral system.  The electoral system as an institutional element of the political system.  The electoral system as shaping the political system.

3 Contents  Democracy, elections and the electoral system: What is an electoral system? Why are they important for democracies?  Studying electoral systems: two ways of analysing electoral systems: Types of electoral system (institutional aspects, or what the law says) Political consequences of the electoral system (political aspects or how they actually play out)  The Spanish electoral system: institutional aspects political consequences of the electoral system

4 The electoral system (i):  What are electoral systems? more than just mechanism of translating votes into seats, it is the set of rules that guide electoral competition.  Why are electoral systems important for democracy Lets start thinking about why are elections important for democracies:  They express the representative link between citizens and public office  Choose representatives and shape the political elite  Determine and influence government formation  Shape and affect political party programmes  Allow for citizens to express preferences  Give legitimacy to the system and to parties

5 The electoral system (ii): Given the definition of electoral system, the importance is clear. Electoral system produces:  Representation  Government  Legitimacy

6 Main elements of electoral systems  To analyse electoral systems we focus on different elements of it: Those primarily related to the expression of preferences (electoral register, campaign regulations, ballot paper) Those primarily related to the conversion of votes into political power. (electoral formula, district magnitude and number of districts).

7 As expression of preferences:  Who can vote (or express a preference)?  The electorate In democracy: universal suffrage, free, fair and equal elections.  Conditions on who can vote: Citizenship and Nationality Age Those that are in full possession of their political and civic rights)  electoral register or census and eligibility

8 As expression of preferences:  Electoral process and regulation Administration of elections  Independent authority but linked to public administration Calling elections Presentation and selection of candidates, commonly  Need backing of a political party or a specific number of signatures of voters.  Territorial attachment of some sort with the region in which the candidate wishes to run  A financial deposit that is not returned if the candidacy does not gain a minimum number of votes.  Note: in reality political parties have gained the upper hand in proposing candidates. Independent candidates often cannot compete with the organisation and resources of political parties.

9 As expression of preferences: Electoral campaign : Regulation to ensure competitiveness  Duration of campaign  Access to media Electoral propaganda in public and private networks News coverage of campaigns  Polls  Electoral watchdog  Campaign finance (by State or others)

10 As expression of preferences:  Voting, the count and the proclamation of winners:  Where to vote  The organisation and supervision of the logistics  Ensuring secret ballot  The count Public Validation Official results Transforming votes into seats

11 Examining the electoral system as way to convert preferences into political power and office:  electoral district:  District, population and territory One district vs multiple districts  Drawing boundaries: boundary setting and modification Using existing boundaries vs creating electoral boundaries  District magnitude

12 Examining the electoral system as way to convert preferences into political power and office:  electoral formula  The main formulas: Majoritarian vs proportional formulas Different logics: exclusion or cooperation  Majoritarian formulas  Proportional formulas  The reality is often mixed. Different levels of government use different electoral formulas.

13 Examining the electoral system as way to convert preferences into political power and office:  threshold  Level of application: statewide or by district  Threshold of votes vs threshold of seats  Legal threshold vs “real” threshold (the Spanish example)  ballot paper  Voting for an individual or a group Transferable? Open or closed list?

14 Political consequences of electoral system  Representation: do all votes count the same? Size Number of districts Proportionality Territorial divisions and boundaries Electoral formula  Government formation and durability Fragmentation and number of parties  Electoral magnitude  Electoral formula  Threshold Formation of majorities and durability of government.  Legitimacy

15 Spain and its electoral system: General elections and Congress

16 Spain’s electoral system: Focus on Congress:  Size: 350 seats  Number of districts: 50 provinces (plus Ceuta and Melilla)  District magnitude: varies with a minimum of 2 seats per province. Consequence: means vote does not count the same. A seat in Soria represents around 30 thousand people while its 150 thousand in Madrid. Existence of a fair amount of low magnitude districts (there are 34 districts with a magnitude of less than 7). This exacerbates disproportionality.

17 Spain’s electoral system:  Electoral formula: variety of d’Hondt  Threshold of 3% per district Consequences: The effect of the threshold in reality is only relevant in Madrid and Barcelona (low district magnitude means that in reality the threshold is much higher).  Closed list ballot

18 Some reflections:  Low turnout in general although higher in elections where uncertainty was highest (1977, 1979 and later 1993, 1996 and 2004)  Parties that gain representation are the 2 main ones and regionally concentrated ones.  How has electoral system affected party system? Low magnitude districts help parties with majorities in those districts as proportionality is low but also indirectly as voters feel their choice of useful vote is limited IU is systematically disadvantaged  How can we explain the electoral system in Spain?

19 How can we explain the electoral system in Spain?  Set up in 1977, little change since then.  Transition is therefore key: Set up for first elections, so wanted to reduce number of parties with representation Right wing favouring through low district magnitude and use of provinces as electoral districts Need to endure nationalist party representation Try to kick-start party organisation: closed list ballot

20 Conclusions


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