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Report

Review of Iraq’s Modified Sainte-Lague Voting System

Sunday 13 August 2017
Review of Iraq’s Modified Sainte-Lague Voting System

Alwaght- Despite the fact that Iraq so far held several rounds of parliamentary and provincial councils elections, the election law remains a sticking point between a variety of political factions of the country.

Every time the country approaches the date of elections, a new modification of election is drafted and approved into a law by the Council of Representatives, or parliament.

On August 1, the parliament approved some new articles of the 2018 provincial council election, raising the hackles of some factions that argued the new law did not foresee rights for small parties and independent groups in the upcoming election.

A controversial article was related to the Sainte-Lague method according to which the parliament seats or the electoral shares of the provincial councils are distributed between the participating parties after votes are counted and divided into odd numbers, starting from 1 (or 1.7), 3, 5, 7, and so on.

The lawmakers endorsed the voting system 1.9 maximum for allocating seats in party-list proportional representation. The law drew strong objection of a series of sides including the Al-Ahrar bloc, Al-Wataniya bloc, and Al-Haq National Party. The pressures finally changed the voting system to 1.7.

Sainte-Lague method

The parliament and provincial councils seats distribution has always been a point of challenge and protest between the small and big Iraqi parties. The debate led to modifications to meet two sides' demands. The introduced formula tried to address the demands of the minor and independent parties that have always questioned the fairness of the voting systems.

The protests are not limited to the small parties. The big parties too always came against the revised electoral method, arguing that the modifications prevented them from forming coalitions which meant delays in government formation.

The Sainte-Lague method was first adopted in 2013 provincial councils election to address the rights of the small parties and blocs that joined the race.

According to the method, when all of the votes have been tallied, successive quotients are calculated for each party. Whichever party has the highest quotient gets the next seat allocated, and their quotient is recalculated. The process is repeated until all seats have been allocated. The method, however, does not ensure that a party receiving more than half the votes will win at least half the seats. Nor does its modified form. Here is an example:

Denominator

/1

/3

/5

/7

/9

/11

/13

Seats won (*)

True proportion

Party A

53,000*

17,666*

10,600*

7,571

5,888

4,818

4,076

  3

 3.71

Party B

24,000*

8,000*

4,800

3,428

2,666

2,181

1,846

 2

 1.68

Party C

23,000*

7,666*

4,600

3,285

2,555

2,090

1,769

 2

1.61

 

But the critics believe that this method too failed to guarantee the rights of the small parties in the face of the big coalitions. For instance, the 2013 provincial councils election ended in favor of the big blocs. This provoked revision of the Sainte-Lague method in 2014 parliamentary election. The outcome was dubbed “Modified Sainte-Lague Method.”

In the modified method, the total votes are tallied and divided into odd numbers which start from 1.6 not 1. In many countries, the revised method takes 1.4 as a starting point of division.

Under the modified method, in 2014 parliamentary election the small parties managed to win more seats than in the provincial election a year before. For example, in a constituency a small party by winning just one-thirds of votes of the leading party managed to secure a parliament seat. This provided the big parties with a point of objection to this method’s modified version which delayed government formation as the leading parties had to debate with small parties a deal for founding a coalition to form the cabinet.

A focus on the 2014 Babel constituency makes it clear that dividing the total number of votes into 1.6 led to distribution of parliament seats between the small parties, leading to the major parties questioning the formula. Babel population was reported to be 1,864,124, with about 1,068,303 eligible voters. The constituency got 17 seats for which 10 political parties competed. Here is the outcomes according to the revised Sainte-Lague method:

Parties

Votes Won

/1.6

3

5

7

Seats Won

1

161000

100625

53666

32200

23000

3

2

134000

83750

44666

26800

19142

2

3

112000

70000

37333

22400

16000

2

4

107000

66875

35666

21400

15285

2

5

102000

63750

34000

20400

14571

2

6

97000

60625

32333

19400

13857

2

7

92000

57500

30666

18400

13142

1

8

70000

43750

23333

14000

10000

1

9

65000

40625

21666

13000

8285

1

10

60000

37500

20000

12000

8171

1

 

As it appears in the table, the small parties succeeded to win at least a single seat in Babel constituency despite winning the least number of votes, and only the leading party has managed to win the biggest number of 3 seats. In fact, the last party by getting just one-thirds of the votes of the leading party won a seat in the parliament. This was seen as a flaw of the revised formula by many big parties. 

 

Tags :

Iraq Elections Sainte-Lague Votng System Parliament Provincial Councils

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