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European Parliament Elections in Spain: on the Proportionality... and Representation of Nationalist and Regionalist Parties

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European Parliament Elections in Spain: on the Proportionality... and Representation of Nationalist and Regionalist Parties
  187 Chapter 10 European Parliament Elections in Spain: on the Proportionality ... and Representation of Nationalistand Regionalist Parties G UILLERMO  C ORDERO * AND  J OSÉ  R AMÓN  M ONTERO ** Ever since the Þ rst elections for the European Parliament (EP) held in Spain in 1987, the debate about the electoral system has been inexorably linked to criticisms from nationalist and regionalist parties. 1  Since the whole country forms a large single-district, their arguments lie on the unfairness of the electoral system for allegedly over-representing major parties and penal-izing much smaller parties, particularly those whose electorates are limited to only a speci Þ c region of the Spanish territory. According to their claims, the current system forces nationalist parties to join occasional and often unnatural electoral coalitions with parties belonging to very disparate families. For this reason, nationalist parties have been demanding the substitution of the cur-rent single-district model by several regional districts whose borders should match those of the Spanish regions (or comunidades autónomas !autonomous communities). 2  In this chapter, we will examine the extent to which the design of the na-tionwide electoral constituency is biased against the chances of nationalist  parties. By computing some basic simulations, we will therefore analyse the impact of the Spanish electoral system for the EP elections. We aim to discuss the consequences of the eventual modi Þ cation of the current magnitude by *  Department of Political and Social Sciences, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona, Spain, **  Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Spain, 1 In this paper, and for the sake of brevity, we will use the terms nationalist parties  for refer-ring either to regional, nationalist, and/or regionalist parties. 2 See for instance the proposal submitted by the nationalist coalition Convergència i Unió (CiU) at the Congress of Deputies for changing the 1985 electoral law;  Boletín O   Þ cial de las Cortes Generales, Congreso de los Diputados , # 25-1, B, 11 April 2008.  188 Guillermo Cordero, José Ramón Montero alternative smaller regional districts. These simulations will help us to verify the validity of the arguments defended by nationalist parties and will shed some light on the debate about the representation of region-based parties in supranational political institutions. 10.1 The electoral system for the European Parliament in Spain In Spain, the elections to the EP are similar to most other European countries regarding its condition as !second-order elections" (Reif and Schmitt 1980; Sch-mitt 2006). As explained in other chapters of this book, this  second-orderness  generally determines that turnout is much lower than in national elections, that incumbent parties suffer decreasing levels of electoral support, and that both op- position and smaller and/or more extremist parties enjoy substantive increases in their vote. The Spanish case also shares with many other European countries a set of features differentiating the electoral system for the EP and the system  being applied to national elections. In fact, the number of differences between those two electoral systems outweighs that of similarities (Montero and Cordero 2009; Montero, Llera, and Torcal   1999). These differences and similarities are shown in Table 1, and discussed in more detail in this section (Hix 2004): Table 1. Electoral systems for the Congress of Deputies (2011) and the European Parliament (2009) in Spain ElementsCongress of DeputiesEuropean ParliamentSize of Chamber350736Seats available35050Districts521Other sub-national constituencies NoNoApportionment2 seats per province/district, 1 more according to the quota of 248: population in the provinceEstablished by the treatiesRatio seats/electorate102.227709.851Electoral formulaD#HondtD#HondtThreshold3% at district levelNoneListsClosedClosedEffectsMajoritarian and conservativeProportionalDisproportionality index a 7.3  b 2.4 ca  Based   on Gallagher (1991) index  DI   =   [½   (  s i - v i )  2 ], where v i is the percent-age of votes for every party, and  s i  is the percentage of seats.  b In the November 2011general   elections. c  In the June 2009 European Parliament elections.  189 European Parliament Elections in Spain: on the Proportionality... (i) In contrast to the 52 provincial constituencies and 350 seats in the Congress of Deputies, the whole country forms a single-district in the EP elec-tions. This was the model followed by 21 out of the 27 countries belonging to the European Union (EU) in 2009. The number of seats to be distributed in Spain has varied from a maximum of 64 in 1994 and 1999 to 50 in the 2009 elections. In these latter elections, Spain was the Þ fth country by number of seats (Poland also distributed 50), only below that of Germany (99 seats), France (72), Italy (72), and the United Kingdom (69). (ii) One of the most relevant characteristics of the electoral system for the Spanish Parliament lies both in its majority and conservative biases (Lago and Montero 2005). Those deviations result from the combination of an acute malap- portionment and a majority of small-magnitude districts, precisely in the most conservative provinces. However, the design of the EP electoral system points to opposite effects. The existence of a single-district avoids the over-represen-tation of least populated areas and obviously produces a fair and proportional relationship between votes and seats (Montero and Cordero 2009). (iii) In national elections, the electoral threshold of 3 per cent of valid votes at the district level has been applied very rarely since the 1977 founding elec-tions. Despite the much bigger magnitude of the EP single-district, Spanish leg-islators decided not to establish any electoral barrier to prevent the access of mi-nor parties. This has been the strategy followed by most EU countries. In 2009, only 13 of them included thresholds that varied between 3 and 5 per cent. 3   (iv) The two common elements between the electoral systems for the Spanish Parliament and the Spanish representation to the EP reside in the for- mula and the lists. Both use the D!Hondt formula for the assignment of seats and also closed lists. D´Hondt is the favourite electoral formula for the EP,  being applied in 15 countries, and closed lists are in use in only nine countries, whereas in 14 countries voters can change the order of the candidates and in the other three, lists are open and allow the  panachage  system. In short, the Spanish electoral system for the EP is proportional, has a sin-gle nationwide constituency, does not include any threshold, and excludes any variant of preferential voting. Thus, the high magnitude of the electoral district should produce fairly high levels of proportionality (Lijphart 1994; Taagapera 2007; Carey and Hix 2011). This is clear from Table 2, which reproduces the results of the last election for the EP, held in June 2009. The two major par-ties were able to receive almost 81 per cent of the valid votes and 86 per cent of seats. The impact of the electoral system is roughly measured in the last 3 Those countries were Austria, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Lithuania, Po-land, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Sweden.  190 Guillermo Cordero, José Ramón Montero column of Table 2, where differences (in percentage points) between seats and votes are included. Again, the two main parties are over-represented. In contrast, all other parties suffer a certain infra-representation. Nonetheless, the advantage and disadvantage ratios of the electoral system for the EP are much lower than those for the Congress. In the 2011 general elections, for instance, the level of over-representation achieved by the conservative Partido Popular (PP) as the winning party was +8.5 percentage points, whereas the left-wing coalition Izquierda Unida (IU) was punished with an infra-representation of -3.8; the results of nationalist parties in this regard were equiproportional. Table 3 contains the basic indicators of disproportionality, fragmentation, and competitiveness for the series of elections to the EP since the very Þ rst one held in 1987. The sustained decline in the disproportionality indices through-out the period is remarkable. This result has also been underlined in the case of the Spanish Parliament as the consequence of the learning process of both voters and parties in combination with the increasing competition among par-ties at different election levels (Riera and Montero 2010). Table 2. Elections for the European Parliament in Spain, 2009 Parties/coalitionsVotesSeatsDifferences % seats-% votes i In thousands%  N  %PP  a 6.67042.12346+3.9PSOE  b 6.14238.82142+3.2CEU  c 8085.124-1.1IU-ICV-EUiA-BA  d 5883.724-0.3UPyD  e 4522.812-0.8Edp-V  f 3952.512-0.5Others  g 7815.00--Total  h 15.83610050100 a  Partido Popular.  b Partido Socialista Obrero Español c Coalición por Europa (Convergència i Unió, Partido Nacionalista Vasco, Bloc  Nacionalista Valencià, Unió Mallorquina, Unió Menorquina, Coalición Canaria y Partido Andalucista). d Izquierda Unida, Iniciativa per Catalunya, Esquerra Unida i Alternativa y Bloque  por Asturias: la Izquierda. e Unión Progreso y Democracia. f Europa de los Pueblos-Verdes (Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya, Bloque Na-cionalista Galego, Aralar, Eusko Alkartasuna, Chunta Aragonesista, Entesa per Mallorca, Partido de El Bierzo y Confederación de Los Verdes). g Distributed among 29 other electoral lists, mostly nationalists or regionalists. h Turnout was 44.9% of valid votes; white and blank votes were 2.01%. i In percentage points; positive signs denote over-representation; negative signs, infra-representation.  191 European Parliament Elections in Spain: on the Proportionality... Table 3. Indices of proportionality, effective number of parties, and competitiveness in European elections in Spain, 1987-2009 IndicesEuropean Elections198719891994199920042009Disproportionality a number of parties  b Electoral4. c 14.418. d 18.320. a  Based on Gallagher (1991) index DI =   [½   (si - vi) 2], where vi is the percenta-ge of votes for every party, and si is the percentage of seats.  b   Based on Laakso y Taagepera (1979) index, following the formula  N =  _______    ,  being  p  the share of votes, or the share of seats, of the party i . c   Difference in the share of votes of the two main parties; the lower the index, the higher the electoral competition. d Difference in the share of seats of the two main parties; the lower the index, the higher the  parliamentary competition. The formation of coalitions in the case of nationalist parties is another consequence of this process (Tavits and Annus 2006; Taagapera 2007). The single constituency has provided nationalist parties with incentives to imple-ment different strategies of electoral coalition-making in order to maximize their chances of representation at the EP (Molins 1989). Although the mag-nitude of the district and the absence of any kind of threshold should favour the electoral prospects for those smaller parties, their chances to receive seats are also challenged by their low share of votes at national level and the vote concentration achieved by the two main parties. As stated in Figure 1, while national parties have avoided coalescing in almost every election, nationalist  parties have made different coalitions depending on ideological rather than territorial proximity as they have also been learning the effects of the electoral system. On the other hand, these coalitions and the subsequent reduction in the psychological effects of the electoral system have also lowered the party supply, as measured by the indices of effective number of electoral and par-liamentary parties included in Table 3 (Laakso and Taagepera 1979). In the 1984 European elections, the relatively high party-fragmentation denotes both the permissiveness of the electoral system and the nature of the second-order elections. In the 2009 European elections however, the growing competition  between PSOE and PP and the increasing coordination among small nation-alist parties through the formation of electoral coalitions reduced these rates (Torcal and Font 2012). Lastly, the indicators of electoral and parliamentary 1    n i=1  p i 2
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