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Spanish Politics and Society

Spanish Politics and Society

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Spanish Politics and Society

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

  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