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AARHUS UNIVERSITY DEPARTMENT OF POLITICAL SCIENCE The Politics of Electoral Reform in Sweden: Problems and Solutions Professor, Dr Jørgen Elklit Aarhus.

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Presentation on theme: "AARHUS UNIVERSITY DEPARTMENT OF POLITICAL SCIENCE The Politics of Electoral Reform in Sweden: Problems and Solutions Professor, Dr Jørgen Elklit Aarhus."— Presentation transcript:

1 AARHUS UNIVERSITY DEPARTMENT OF POLITICAL SCIENCE The Politics of Electoral Reform in Sweden: Problems and Solutions Professor, Dr Jørgen Elklit Aarhus University, Denmark Workshop on Electoral Methods Stockholm, KTH, May 30-31, 2011

2 AARHUS UNIVERSITY DEPARTMENT OF POLITICAL SCIENCE What are the Problems? The post-election assessment report of the Central Electoral Authority after the September 2010 election lists 14 areas of concern. One is the proportionality of the seat allocation system, but 13 other areas are also dealt with in the report. It is interesting that the Electoral Authority – explicitely as well as implicitely – complains about the political level’s apparent unwillingness to address important issues within these 13 other areas of concern. Most of them were also identified in the post-election assessment report from the previous election, i.e. in 2006, but the government is only now considering how to formulate the brief for a commission to look into these important matters. This is something I have also noted in emerging democracies, where I over the last 20+ years have worked as an election or democratization adviser: Politicians are not very interested in reforming seat allocations rules – or other elements in the electoral system – because they have learned to live with the system. And they also see the current system as satisfactory as it has brought themselves into elective office, so they might say: ”What’s the problem, stupid?” 2

3 AARHUS UNIVERSITY DEPARTMENT OF POLITICAL SCIENCE Ballot paper type: Australian-type ballots : Invented in the Australian colonies in the 1850s. Each voter gets one ballot paper with names of all candidates and/or all parties in the constituency. Voters vote by putting a mark next to the name of the preferred candidate/party, fold the ballot paper, and drop it in the ballot box. This kind of ballot paper is applied in, e.g., Denmark. French-type ballots : ”The ballot + envelope solution”, with one ballot paper for each party/candidate. Voters insert the preferred ballot paper in a standard envelope to ensure the secrecy of the vote and then drops the envelope in the ballot box. This kind of ballot is applied in Sweden, where, however, voters usually have three different options, which evidently confuses some voters (and apparently also some poll workers) as they can: (1) use a so-called ”name ballot paper” with candidate names and the option of casting a preferential vote for a particular candidate within the preferred party, or (2) use a ”party ballot paper” without candidate names, or (3) write the name of the preferred party on a blank ballot paper. 3

4 AARHUS UNIVERSITY DEPARTMENT OF POLITICAL SCIENCE Pros and Cons (following Massicotte et al., 2004): Australian typeFrench type + All elegible options are presented to the voter at the same time and in the same way Clearer rules for party registration (i.e. ballot paper access) must be implemented State (EMB) in charge of all printing and distributing Cheaper Relatively fewer invalid and blank ballots - Might become a little unwieldy in constituencies with many parties and/or candidates (but Finland has a good solution to this problem) If parties are involved in printing or distribution, weak/new/poor parties are disadvantaged Considerable more costly and logistically difficult to produce and distribute as more ballots must be available at pollling stations and – in some cases – for pre-election distribution. In 2010, Sweden printed 600 mill. ballot papers, where only 25 mill. were needed Recounts might be more difficult to validate 4

5 AARHUS UNIVERSITY DEPARTMENT OF POLITICAL SCIENCE Party registration is not required for parties participating in a Swedish election! Parties already in Parliament and parties having received at least 1 per cent of the valid vote in either of the two previous parliamentary elections are – if they so request – entitled to free printing of their ballot papers. Other parties have to pay themselves. If a party is entitled to free printing of ballot papers, it is also entitled to free distribution to the polling stations of one (sic!) of the two kinds of ballot paper (the party ballot paper), while they themselwes must get the name ballot paper with candidate names distributed at the polling stations. In order to protect party labels and to avoid confusion of parties, parties can register party labels with the Central Electoral Authority. The request for registration must be accompanied by supporting signatures from 1,500 voters. Currently, 30+ parties have their label registered for all kinds of elections, while a further 180+ parties have their labels registered for regional or local elections. However, party label registration is not mandatory for parties running in elections, so confusion – even intended – is still a possibility. 5

6 AARHUS UNIVERSITY DEPARTMENT OF POLITICAL SCIENCE Candidate registration is also not required in a Swedish election! Most political parties find it advantageous to register their candidates for the various elections and do so with the Central Electoral Authority. That also entitles them to free printing of ”name ballot papers” (if, of course, they are among the parties entitled to free printing). Candidates on the list must have accepted (in writing) being on the list. Voters voting for those parties then have the option of casting a preferential vote for one of the candidates, but only 20+ per cent do so. The consequence is that most candidates are still elected in the list order created by the party. Voters voting for other parties (with or without a registered party label) are free to enter the name of any eligible voter, who thereby becomes a candidate for election for the party in question (sic!). Consequence: There is no clear, unequivocal pre-election picture of who the parties are in the election and who the candidates might be. This might distort behavioral-related decision-making by voters and parties/candidates. 6

7 AARHUS UNIVERSITY DEPARTMENT OF POLITICAL SCIENCE Ballot paper provision and dissimination: The Swedish version of the French type ballot paper creates confusion at polling stations, as there often will be at least 50 different ballot papers to chose from for the three different elections. The consequences of using one and not the other ballot paper for a particular election are not clear to all voters. Not all registered parties are able to have their ”name ballot paper” distributed to all polling stations, so some voters might be wanting a particular ballot paper. The official answer is that voters can then use either the party’s other ballot paper or the blank ballot paper, but will they be able to remember candidate names correctly – or even the official party label? If not, their intended vote may not be counted according to the voter intentions. Party activists are allowed to hand out their ballot papers outside the polling station, but sometimes also in adjecent space within the building, thus violating the election law (Chap. 8, § 3), as this is done to influence voting, sometimes by creating social pressure. This can, of course, be circumvented by diligent behaviour by the voter, but this is also something irreconcilable with a fair election. 7

8 AARHUS UNIVERSITY DEPARTMENT OF POLITICAL SCIENCE The concept of electoral fairness (following Elklit and Svensson, 1997): ›Is the electoral playing field level? ›Are some political parties given privileges, which are not available to all bona fide political parties? ›Is there equal access to publicly controlled media? ›Is election material available to all voters without discriminating against the potential supporters of some of the parties? ›Is the ballot secret? And voting not subject to social pressure? ›Are ballot papers so designed that all voters easily have their voting intentions counted properly? 8

9 AARHUS UNIVERSITY DEPARTMENT OF POLITICAL SCIENCE The issue of electoral reform: ›General claim: Politicians normally don’t want to consider reforming electoral laws, which got themselves elected (for obvious reasons). This is particularly so if the party system is stable and has only rarely had to accept newcomers (party cartelisation) ›The Central Electoral Authority’s 2006 and 2010 election post mortem reports pointed to a row of pearls of election related problems and challenges, but so far next to nothing has happened. This is not surprising, but the need to rerun a provincial as well as a municipal election two weeks ago shows that everything is not as it should be – and the problems in the proportional seat allocation system testify to other challenges ›There is obviously an urgent need for a thorough examination of the Swedish electoral legislation and the related Rules and Regulations. A white paper on all the problematic issues in the electoral field (a so-called ”statslig utredning”) is certainly needed, but a formal brief has not yet been formulated, even though a government decision to this effect was taken almost two years ago. 9

10 AARHUS UNIVERSITY DEPARTMENT OF POLITICAL SCIENCE References: ›Elklit, Jørgen & Nicoline Nyholm Miller (2011). The Parliamentary Electoral System in Denmark, Copenhagen: Ministry of the Interior and Health. Can be downloaded from: http://valg.im.dk/English/~/media/Filer-valg-uk/Parliament-elections/Parliamentary-System- DK.ashx http://valg.im.dk/English/~/media/Filer-valg-uk/Parliament-elections/Parliamentary-System- DK.ashx ›Elklit, Jørgen & Palle Svensson (1997). “What Makes Elections Free and Fair? ” Journal of Democracy, Vol. 8, No. 3, pp. 32-46. Reprinted twice in collections of papers. ›Massicotte, Louis, André Blais & Antoine Yoshinaka (2004). Establishing the Rules of the Game. Election Laws in Democracies, Toronto: University of Toronto Press. ›Vallagen (SFS 2005:837). With changes up to SFS 2010:1434. ›Valmyndigheten (2007). Erfarenheter från valen den 17 september 2006, Rapport 2007:1, Solna: Valmyndigheten. ›Valmyndigheten (2010). Val i Sverige. Så går det til! Solna: Valmyndigheten ›Valmyndigheten (2011). Erfarenheter från valen den 19 september 2010, Rapport 2011:1, Solna: Valmyndigheten. 10


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