dividing the 34 party list seats

There are 34 party list seats available.  How many should each side expect to get?  It turns out that this is not a very simple question.  My best guess is that the blue side will get about 52% of the party list votes, while the green side will get 48%.  That would work out to an 18-16 split.  However, without changing that 52-48 vote, it is quite easy to imagine the result varying from 19-15 all the way to 16-18.

Each seat should cost about 3% (100%/34=2.94%).  However, there is a 5% threshold.  If your party gets even one vote less than 5%, you get zero seats.  If you cross the threshold, you get at least two seats.

The key factor is that right now all three small parties are somewhere near the 5% threshold.  A tiny difference in votes could make an enormous difference in seats.  Imagine two nearly identical votes:

Scenario 1 Actual vote After 5% threshold seats
KMT 42.02 46.68 16
PFP 4.99    
NP 4.99    
DPP 43.00 47.77 16
TSU 5.00 5.55 2
Scenario 2      
KMT 42.00 44.21 15
PFP 5.00 5.26 2
NP 5.00 5.26 2
DPP 43.01 45.27 15
TSU 4.99    

That’s a three seat swing between the two camps with almost no difference in the popular vote.  Three seats might not sound like a lot, but there are only 113 total seats.  Heck, in 1995 when there were a whopping 165 seats, the KMT won a three seat majority and nearly lost control of the legislature.  Three seats matters a lot.

Of course, this is an extreme example, but any time a party goes over the threshold, it is essentially taking one seat from the other side.  (That is, it gets two seats.  Compared to the distribution if it didn’t pass the threshold, one of those seats comes from the big party in its own camp and the other comes from the big party on the other side.)

Right now, I seem to be in the minority in thinking that continued blue camp control of the legislature is not a sure thing.  However, if I am right, the big parties might want to consider quietly encouraging a few supporters to vote for their allies to make sure they pass the threshold.

(I remember a story about this happening in Germany a few years ago.  The Christian Democrats wanted to make sure that the Free Democrats passed the threshold so that they could form a coalition government.  Of course, under Germany’s fully proportional MMP system, the stakes were higher.  Whereas the TSU would gain only 1.8% (2 of 113) of the seats, the Free Democrats would have gained a full 5%.)

The downside of this strategic threshold voting would be that it would help the small parties survive. One of the main attractions of the new MMM system to the KMT and DPP was that they could starve out the small parties and monopolize their side of the political spectrum.

By the way, my guess right now is that the PFP will easily pass the threshold, but the TSU and New Party will fall short.  I’m going with KMT 15, PFP 3, and DPP 16.


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