Vicente Serrano, 21 March 2021
With 74 deputies, more than half, in the Parliament (54.81%) and with the support of just over a quarter of the electoral census (25.77%), national-secessionism intends to lead us back to the precipice of secession.
I do not pretend in this article to discuss who won the regional elections, I already did it on February 15 : it is more my interest in entering to dissect –it is not the first and I suppose it will not be the last- the electoral system of Catalonia.
If in 2017 the participation was the highest of the entire historical series, that of 2021 has been the lowest, if we discount various referendums, legal and illegal, and European. See Table 1.
Never has secessionism / independence movement had less support in regional elections. And, at the same time, it had never had an absolute majority like this. Understanding why, being weaker than ever, he wins the elections is not easy. Obviously, not everything is resolved by blaming the electoral system; Well, if secessionism is in the doldrums, we can say that constitutionalism does not even exist as such.
The result of these elections is the conjugation of a cheating electoral system with pathological social apathy. In other articles we have already analyzed the causes and guilt of this laziness.
Let’s understand again how the Catalan electoral system works. The first thing is that it does not exist: in Catalonia there is no electoral law of its own, despite having competence to do so. Nothing prevents us from having our own electoral law; but it seems that the Spanish are doing well, those who rant against Spain.
That, together with a disproportionate allocation of deputies to the provinces of Lleida, Gerona and Tarragona, has just determined the original sin of Catalan democracy.
The allocation of deputies to the provinces is not proportional to their census, which generates the first and most important democratic distortion. Before voting, there are already differences between the citizens of Barcelona compared to the rest. Imagine: if the average per deputy, at the level of Catalonia, is 41,660 citizens, Lleida would have 8, Gerona 13, Tarragona 14 and Barcelona 101. Simple as that! It is done with a simple division. But the reality is that small provinces are over-represented, and the smaller, the more (see Table 2). The result is negative discrimination against the people of Barcelona: getting a deputy in Barcelona is 2.35 times more expensive than in Lleida (41,358 in Barcelona, compared to 21,020 in Lleida). The problem is that, after voting, that difference increases, although the cost is reduced: 8.
Paradoxically, the provinces where a deputy costs the least are those with the highest percentage of unrepresented voters: Territorially over-represented, and under-represented at the popular level (see light brown columns in Table 2).
Lleida, the province where a deputy has the least value, has the highest percentage of voters without representation (16.45%). In Catalonia as a whole, 6% of the votes validly cast are useless, its Voting Power Index (IPV) is equal to zero. The IPV of an ilerdense is 2.7 times that of a Barcelona.
The IPV measures the power of each voter when voting. And this is different before and after voting, and also different depending on which province you vote in and depending on which party you vote for in that province.
─We understand that the IPV of any Catalan must be 1. There are two ways to calculate the IPV:
- If there are 135 deputies to elect and 5,624,076 voters, dividing deputies / electors will give us a quotient, that is the value of the vote of any citizen of Catalonia. But to be able to compare it with others we have to equal it to 1, for which we have to divide it by itself. If we calculate the rest of the quotients for each province and divide it by the general quotient, it will give us the IPV of each province.
- Another formula is to divide the Average Cost per Deputy (CMD) of the group (Catalonia) by the CMD of each province.
This can be done with pre-voting and post-voting values─
In graph 2 we can see how the IPV of Barcelona compared to any other province is still very low, although it revalues slightly, while the rest of Catalans revalue their IPV considerably, up to 120% in the case of ilerdenses. The IPV of an ilerdense is 2.7 times that of a Barcelona.
Assignment of deputies by candidacies.
We continue to see it in the whole of Catalonia without yet entering the provincial core.
Certainly the seats are distributed provincially, but the citizens see it as a whole and they are supposed to represent us all equally. The truth is that the provincial distortion – we will see it in detail later – generates an important distortion of the whole.
If we calculate the average number of votes per seat for each candidacy, we will obtain graph 3, in which it can be seen that not all deputies are worth the same. The most expensive, those of the PP, 36,484 votes for each of the 3 seats; They are followed by 6 C’s, with 26,434 votes each, followed closely by ECP, with a cost of 24,418 votes for each of its 8 deputies. The CUP maintains costs (21,103) close to the general average (21,060 votes), while PSC, VOX, JxCat and ERC place their costs per seat below the average for Catalonia. They are 109 seats below the general average, 81% of the Parliament . And it will be the 65 cheapest seats (JxCat + ERC) that will form the government of Catalonia.
Graph 3 offers us more interesting information: the PdCat, with 77,229 votes, has no representation, and multiplies the average cost per seat in Catalonia by practically 4. This electoral system does not seem very fair; We will talk about Cero Cuttings and MPIC when we study the proposal for an alternative pay-as-you-go system.
Without abandoning graph 3 we can see that the percentage of votes received by the candidates is uneven with the percentage of seats in Parliament . The big winners, as always, ERC and JxCat; It is true that PSC and VOX also benefit but to a lesser extent; the rest of the parties or candidacies are clearly harmed, except the CUP, which obtains a representation, paradoxically, according to the votes obtained.
We have added a third line, in fuchsia color, reporting the IPV of party voters if we consider it in Catalonia as a whole. It is found that, at a lower cost per deputy, there is a higher IPV. The apparent over-representation of PSC and VOX is compensated by an IPV close to 1.
The Sole Circumscription.
If we want a system that is a faithful reflection of the popular will (that is, one in which the percentage of votes and the percentage of seats per candidate are almost equal, without leaving anyone out who has at least enough votes, around the general average), we should bet on a single constituency and eliminate the minimum of 3% that unduly marginalizes forces with sufficient support. In addition, we could rethink the use of the D’Hontd Law to carry out the allocation of seats.
Let’s see in graph 4 the comparison between one system and another.
We have the resulting assignment in the row “Deputies” (in red) ─We will see later how they are assigned─; on the left are the seats allocated by the current system; and, on the right, those that we would assign with the “Hare” method (Unique Circumscription, without minimum and with Hare). The average costs of the current system are repeated (plum column) and below the average costs with the proposed one (pale blue column).
The first thing we can see is that three new candidates are entering the Parliament ; the second is that the average costs are situated in a band very close to the general average cost: 21,060 votes. Graphically, it is very evident. Only 25 deputies would be below the average cost: 8 from C’s, 11 from VOX, 4 from PdCat, 1 from R0 and 1 MPIC. Apparently 25 seats would cost less than the average, but in reality it is only 6, since 129 seats would cost exactly the average and the rest is allocated to the largest remnants (see below, data table 3). It can be argued that 6,000 votes to assign a seat are too few; let’s wait for the provincial analysis.
On the other hand, if we look at graph 4 again we will see some lines that indicate the percentages, the green one shows the percentage of votes for each candidacy with respect to the total of valid votes, the blue the percentage of deputies with respect to the total of the Parliament with the system of current distribution, and the red one the same percentage but making the distribution in a single constituency, without minimums and by the Hare method.
It can be seen that the green line (votes) and the red line (Hare) practically overlap and differ slightly in the last two seats allocated. It is a system that will guarantee a distribution of almost pure proportionality between the citizen’s will and the parliamentary allocation. Regarding the problems that some attribute to a proportional system as a source of instability of executives, indicate that it is something that has to do with how executives are constituted and that it does not fit in this article, but that, in any case, I have developed in other writings.
Handing out seats.
Our current electoral system is based on provincial constituencies, assigning a number of seats to each province, and, as we said before, over-representing those with fewer inhabitants.
The distribution of seats, after the electoral results, is made in each province, first eliminating the candidacies that do not have a minimum of 3% of valid votes ─ this only affects the province of Barcelona in the case of Catalonia, that is, to the large metropolises─, and then the seats are distributed using the so-called “D’hontd law”, a method by which the results of all the candidatures (> 3%) are divided by 1, 2, 3 and so on. The highest ratios are assigned a seat, until they are all covered.
The system I propose is not new: in the Netherlands the Single Circumscription is used with very particular characteristics and Germany has a double ballot box system, in one of which half of the total seats in the Chamber are elected in a single constituency Come down. (The distortion problems on that proportionality created by the election in the other ballot box, and in single-member districts, of the other half of the parliament, were finally resolved by its Constitutional Court with a formula that ensures the will expressed in the first ballot box, although it has some distorting elements that remain, such as requiring a minimum 5% to access the seat and the use of a pay-as-you-go system similar to D’Hondt.)
And how are seats allocated in a single constituency, and what is the Hare method like?
The single constituency indicates that all the seats are distributed in a single bag, regardless of whether ways are devised to bring the deputies closer to the citizens and that we can unblock the lists so that the voters are the ones who order the lists and choose within of your candidacy to those who offer you the most confidence.
The Hare method is a well-known system in Spain in union elections; it is also called “proportional and a major remainder”. Actually, Hare and D’Hontd are two proportional distribution systems: both are valid, but they create opposite effects and, paradoxically, in my opinion they are misused in Spain, since the Hare method is ideal for large demos and the D ‘ Hontd for little ones. But, like everything else, that requires more explanatory space.
So let’s see how we distribute the seats. In table 3 we will see all the data and calculations resulting from a simple Excel sheet. In light blue the data of the election results.
The data of the current system are given to us by the Parlament website and we understand that the D’Hontd method has been correctly applied in the provincial divisions: columns in yellow. In addition, I assure you that it is much more cumbersome to explain and understand this method than the one I will now develop.
- Step 1.- We calculate the Average per Deputy of all Catalonia, that is, we find the integer value of the Total Valid Votes divided by the total seats in Parliament (135):
MDCat = Integer (TVV / 135) = 21062
The data is in table 3 highlighted in turquoise.
- Step 2.- We find the integer value of the Total Votes of each Candidacy and divide it by the Average previously calculated and we will obtain the first assignment of Directly Assigned Deputies per Candidacy:
Integer (TVC / MDCat) = DADC
First green column of table 3
The sum of the seats allocated will always be less than the total to be allocated. The assigned total and pending are calculated, see below the first green column.
- Step 3.- This division generates some remains in each candidacy; in the event that the allocation of deputies is zero, the remainder will be the total number of votes received. The remainders are calculated by subtracting, from the total votes of each candidacy, those used in the first assignment. Second green column.
- Step 4.- One deputy is assigned to the candidates with the largest remains, until the pending seats are completed (Third green column). The data of the two assignments are added and we already have the deputies by candidacy, with a Parliament that faithfully reflects the will of those who have participated in the elections. The final assignment can be seen in the fourth green column.
It is lawful to consider establishing a minimum, as long as it does not produce injustices such as the one discussed with the PdCat. And it could be understood that whoever does not obtain at least the Average per Deputy, or a percentage of it, cannot access the seat. But that makes us rethink whether this current system is just when it allows more than half of the Parliament to be obtained by votes below the aforementioned average.
A fair distribution system that can be understood by any citizen with primary education and that can be reflected in a simple Excel sheet. Transparency and fairness.
The provincial distribution of seats with the current system, the real costs and the true Voting Power Index, depending on where you vote and who you vote for.
Putting the magnifying glass on the provincial assignment will make us take some surprise. The overall vision allowed us a “homogeneous” perspective: it is not that the data were homogeneous, which they are not, but that allowed us to compare it with a distribution system in a Single District.
The truth is that the distribution of seats is made in the province and the average costs vary between provinces and between candidates. The number of seats to be distributed is decisive: the fewer seats to be distributed, the less proportional is the distribution. In graph 5 we have the result of the distribution and its consequences. The first thing we detect is that the average cost per deputy is different for each candidacy within a province. When ordering the graph by average costs, from highest to lowest, we find all the Barcelona candidacies grouped in the first group, and their average costs skyrocket compared to the overall distribution of Catalonia that we drew at the beginning, except for the PP, which drop from 36,484 to 28,755. This is because in Lleida, Gerona and Tarragona it does not take any seats, but we counted those votes when the calculation was for the whole of Catalonia. The casuistry can be varied but not random.
All the deputies elected by the province of Barcelona have an average cost higher than the general average cost (21,062). The rest of the deputies, all of them, are below that figure. When we made the calculations for Catalonia as a whole, we said that 109 seats were below; now we can affirm that there are fewer, only 50. Another paradox with cause: that the 16 seats of JxCat and the 19 of ERC fall from 23,800 and 22,800, respectively, to the 17,800 and 18,300 that we see in graph 3. That alone It is possible due to very low costs per seat in the other three provinces, especially Lleida.
In the direct calculation they are only 50 seats below the average, but their values are much lower and the average cost of those 50 seats is 12,350 votes. While the average cost of the 85 seats in Barcelona is 23,896 votes … almost double. In reality, we have at each end the 3 deputies of the PP of Barcelona, for 28,755 each, compared to the 3 deputies of the PSC of Lleida, for 8,038 votes per head.
The candidacies of Lérida, grouped in the columns on the right, in orange, with values between 8,000 and 9,000 votes on average per deputy, except the CUP. The candidatures of Gerona and Tarragona are interspersed in the central positions as they have a similar census.
On the right, the tan columns slap us in the face, indicating the existence of candidates with more votes than some of the last ones – which obtain several seats by very few votes – and which have been left out by the current electoral system. That the PdCat, with its more than 53,000 votes, does not reach 3% and is left without representation seems a mockery of the public, when a seat in Barcelona costs the average of 23,896 votes and the last one assigned in Lleida 8,038.
The Voting Power Index is inversely proportional to the average cost, as can be seen, and only when leaving Barcelona does it rise above 1, to 2.62 of the PSC of Lérida. From the ilerdense over-representation (2.62) to the zero patatero (0.00) of the PdCat / BCN, PP / TREN, ECP / GRN, R0 / BCN, C’s / GRN and PdCat / TREN… all with more votes than the mean of PSC / LRD.
We can only observe the “over” or “under” representation by candidacy / province.
Graph 6, divided in two to facilitate the vision of the candidates with a percentage of votes below 15%, is ordered from the highest to the lowest percentage of votes and from left to right. The blue line represents the real percentage of votes obtained by candidacy in your province and the fuchsia line represents the representation obtained in the Parliament with respect to the seats in the province. Between both lines, or above or below, the percentage of loss or gain assigned by the system.
At first glance, we can say that those who get the most votes benefit, while those with few get hurt. It is an effect of the D’Hontd Law at the provincial level, but it is not the same in all provinces. We can say that in Barcelona the benefits are lower.
The main beneficiaries: JxCat in Gerona and Lleida and ERC in Lleida, followed by PSC in Lleida and again ERC in Tarragona. The benefits in the province of Barcelona are always lower for everyone. The worst losses are for PdCat from Lleida and PP from Gerona, followed by ECP and C’s from Gerona. All of them far exceed 3% in their respective territories and are excluded because a higher percentage of votes is necessary to obtain a seat ─VOX needs to exceed 5.53% to obtain its seat for Lleida (8,876 votes), 6.15 % for Gerona (16,953 votes), and ECP 4.92 for his from Tarragona (13,687 votes). Meanwhile, in Barcelona, El PdCat, with 53,378 votes, does not exceed that 3% and remains at 2.51% ─ That minimum of 3% that only discriminates against citizens of large cities does not seem very fair.
I have always affirmed that this minimum aims to weaken the progressive positions, more common in large cities; They say that the exception confirms the rule, such that it seems that way since the PdCat, being progressive, has little.
It is evident that, with a single district distribution system like the one I propose, Secessionism would also have obtained an absolute majority with 70 seats (see Graph 7). But this support, with the abstention of practically half of the citizens of Catalonia with the right to vote, delegitimizes that victory – which I understand, as I said in my first article evaluating the elections, a failure and a turning point in the Procés ─.
Abstentionism has multiple causes and the one most interested in it has always been national-secessionism; If in 2017 the so-called “differential abstentionism” seemed to disappear, for which the “non-nationalists” did not vote in the regional elections, in those of 2021 it seems to have returned reinforced, loaded with apathy and fatigue due to the long and exhausting Procés and the disenchantment with the political class in general and, especially, with the so-called “constitutionalist parties”, which seem to have abandoned the Catalans to their fate. If that year 2017 we had had an electoral system like the one I propose, secessionism – misnamed independence – would not have had an absolute majority and today we would not be in them.
I have always thought that this abstentionism has causes that go beyond the misnamed constitutionalism , and that they have to do with the intellectual defeat of the left and its submission to disintegrating projects and the exaltation of difference, forgetting the key claim of the left : equality.
Some of us have been on the road for a long time to build a leftist alternative committed to equality and social justice and that, with the discourse of fraternity and denouncing the unsupportive, right-wing, xenophobic, neo-feudal and totalitarian of nationalism, poses a face to it. to this.
In my article on the unpresentable Hasél I warned of the decline of two projects that were scheduled to replace the PP and the PSOE, and now both are, to put it mildly, in the repair shop. Perhaps it is time to build a project for the left with less egotism. Sometimes, in history, it is necessary to insist until the socio-political conditions are given and that path is opened. You always learn from failure.
AND …… VIVA LA PEPA!
(referring to Cádiz Constitution 1812)
Nou Barris, Barcelona. Friday, March 19, 2021
Member of the Progressive Citizen Alternative .
Author of THE REAL VALUE OF THE VOTE . Editorial El Viejo Topo.