mardi 11 octobre 2011

The proportional voting system in Tunisia, how does it work?

The voting system that was chosen for Tunisia's election of their first Constituent Assembly is the mixed proportional balloting system, which greatly favors small parties.

As I had mentioned in a previous article the country is split up into 27 ridings (with six more abroad) in which each party can have one list. Voters will also get to choose from independent candidates as well as a number of small parties.

The two most important rules regarding the vote are: the equality of gender by alternating men and women in the lists and also, no candidate must have served the Ben Ali government.

The ridings were divided as equally as possible; they have about the same number of citizens and are represented by the same number of seats, eight to be exact. To win a seat, a party or candidate must obtain a portion of the votes that is equal or more to the total of votes divided by how many seats there are. For example, if a riding has 160 000 eligible voters, the party will need to have 20 000 ballots to win. Not attributed seats are then distributed among the strongest amount of remaining votes.

Lost? Me too, so here’s an example :

Let’s take an imaginary riding of 4 800 voters. Since there are eight seats per riding, a party would need 600 people to vote for them to win one of those seats (4 800/8). However, not everyone will cast their ballot, so it changes things. Say 2 400 show up elections day, that would lead to a revised calculation and as such a party would now only need 300 votes instead of 600 to win a seat. Let's say there are 12 parties and these are the results : 

PartiesVotesNumber of seatsRestsHigher rests

As you can see, party A gets two seats with 667 votes while party G, which has 112, roughly six times less, gets one. Party B, with 405, gets the same number of seats as Party G even though it has quadruple its votes.

In many proportional systems (ex: Germany, Norway, Austria, etc.), they impose that a party must obtain a certain minimum percentage of the decision to get a seat. Usually, it's 5%. This is not the case here in Tunisia as no such percentage is required. If it was the case in the example, Party F and G would have no seats (since 5% of 2 400 is 120).

That is why I said that this system favors small parties over the bigger ones.

Many Tunisians see this as an opportunity to hinder the big Islamic parties advances. This to me is a fair opinion. If for example Ennahda gets 25% of ballots, which equals about 54 seats as the last polls predicted, they would have to get along with 55 other candidates, quite the task. The result would be the same for any party that gets a higher number of seats and wishes to form a majority coalition government.

One thing is for sure, there will be no shortage of behind the scenes talks after the elections.

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