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  Mon, Sep 28, 2015
The impact of the electoral system in the 2015 Catalan Parliament election
(Esta entrada está disponible también en español.)

In yesterday's Catalan Parliament election, two pro-independence tickets attained a majority of seats - 72 of 135 - over four "constitutional" groups opposed to the autonomous community's secession from Spain. However, the combined vote total for the latter - 1,972,057, or 48.1% of valid votes - was slightly larger than the total amount polled by the former (1,957,348, or 47.7% of the vote).

As it shall be shown below, this peculiar behavior of the electoral system stems from a combination of two factors, namely disparities between population figures and allocation of seats among the provinces; and the application of the D'Hondt rule to apportion seats in each province among party tickets.

The allocation of parliamentary seats among the four Catalan provinces - unchanged since 1979 - clearly favors the three least-populated provinces at the expense of Barcelona, the region's most populated province. In fact, the distribution of seats among the provinces according to 2011 Census figures would be as follows:

   Province       Seats   
   Barcelona       99   
   Girona (Gerona)       14   
   Lleida (Lérida)       8   
   Tarragona       14   
   Total       135   



As such, Barcelona would receive fourteen additional seats, while Girona would lose three, Lleida seven, and Tarragona four.

However, the reapportionment of seats among the provinces would have had little impact in the distribution of mandates among party tickets, which would have stood as follows:

   Ticket       Seats   
   JxSí       60   
   C's       26   
   PSC-PSOE       17   
   CatSíqueesPot       11   
   PP       11   
   CUP       10   
   Total       135   



Compared to the actual outcome, JxSí would have lost just two seats, while C's and PSC-PSOE would have picked a seat apiece. Meanwhile, the separatist groups (JxSí and CUP) would still have a five seat (70-65) majority.

Now, if in addition the allocation of mandates were to be carried out in each province using the Sainte-Lagüe method (which operates in a manner similar to the D'Hondt rule but uses instead the series of divisors 1, 3, 5, and so on), the result would be as follows:

   Ticket       Seats   
   JxSí       55   
   C's       26   
   PSC-PSOE       18   
   CatSíqueesPot       12   
   PP       12   
   CUP       12   
   Total       135   



In this case, JxSí would lose seven seats, while C's, CatSíqueesPot and PP would gain one each, and PSC-PSOE and CUP would gain two apiece. Moreover, JxSí and CUP would be one seat short of an overall majority.

The reason why pro-independence groups attained a majority of seats on the basis of a minority of votes was due to the fact that in the three smaller provinces JxSí obtained sixty percent of the seats (30 out of 50) with fifty percent of the vote. In turn, this was due to the fact that the D'Hondt rule favors the larger parties and especially the winner, particularly as the constituency size becomes smaller. As such, the reapportionment of seats among provinces would have had little effect by itself in the allocation of seats among party tickets. On the other hand, the additional introduction of the Sainte-Lagüe method would have resulted in a much more equitable distribution of seats in the three smaller provinces, which would have been far less favorable to JxSí.

The irony of all this is that despite their disdain for Spain, pro-independence groups owe their majority in the Catalan Parliament to a Spanish law, as Catalonia has no electoral law of its own.


posted by Manuel Álvarez-Rivera : 09/28/2015 17:35 | permanent link