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Steven Hill about the Palestinian election of Hamas (repost)

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  • warren_d_smith31
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 1, 2006
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      > ----- Original Message -----
      > From: "Steven Hill" <hill@...>
      > To: "'Steven Hill'" <hill@...>
      > Sent: Tuesday, February 28, 2006 12:36 AM
      > Subject: FYI: "Vote System Gave Hamas Huge Victory"
      > From: Steven Hill, New America Foundation
      > Dear friends and colleagues,
      > I thought you might be interested in my recent op-ed published in the
      > Hartford Courant, Prague Post (Czech Republic) and elsewhere that makes
      > the
      > overlooked point that Hamas actually did not win a majority of votes in
      > the
      > recent Palestinian elections -- yet they won nearly a super-majority of
      > seats. What happened is that the U.S.-style winner-take-all electoral
      > system
      > used in the elections broke down, installing into power a party that did
      > not
      > have majority support. If the Palestinians had used a proportional
      > representation electoral system like that used by most of the established
      > democracies in the world, they would have ended up with no party winning a
      > legislative majority, and a coalition government forming (probably a grand
      > coalition between Hamas and Fatah) that would have been more stable for
      > the
      > peace process there.
      > It's important to understand these dynamics, because at the very least it
      > shows that there is not overwhelming support (though there is strong
      > support) among Palestinians for Hamas' point of view. But that
      > perspective
      > is being lost right now in the post-election analysis as the world wrings
      > its hands over election results that have derailed a fragile peace process
      > and that could have been avoided by a better electoral system. Also, it
      > illustrates the importance of electoral systems -- unfortunately, when you
      > are trying to jumpstart democracy, the devil is in the details.
      > Please feel free to re-publish this piece in your own newsletters and to
      > forward to your own email lists, if you are so inclined. My apologies in
      > advance if you receive this more than once.
      > All best,
      > Steven Hill
      > Vote System Gave Hamas Huge Victory
      > By Steven Hill
      > Hartford Courant
      > February 8, 2006
      > http://www.courant.com/news/opinion/op_ed/hc-hill0208.artfeb08,0,719951.stor
      > y?coll=hc-headlines-oped
      > The Prague Post
      > February 15, 2006
      > http://www.praguepost.com/P03/2006/Art/0216/opin1.php
      > Much hand-wringing has resulted since Hamas, a group on the Bush
      > administration's terrorist list, won a sizable majority of legislative
      > seats
      > in the recent Palestinian elections. But the planners of the elections
      > could
      > learn a thing or two from the recent Iraqi elections.
      > The problem is that the electoral system used for the Palestinian
      > elections
      > gave grossly unrepresentative results in which Hamas won nearly a
      > super-majority of seats even though they did not win even a majority of
      > votes. If the Palestinians had employed the electoral methods used in Iraq
      > and in many other democracies around the world, the story would have
      > turned
      > out very differently.
      > The Palestinian elections used a combination of a U.S.-style
      > winner-take-all
      > electoral system and a more European-style proportional voting system.
      > Palestinian voters had a vote for their favorite political party (the
      > proportional vote) and votes for individual candidates (the
      > winner-take-all
      > vote). Unfortunately, the winner-take-all part broke down, and Hamas won
      > way
      > more seats than their votes should have given them.
      > Look at the actual results. In the proportional vote, which is a national
      > vote and therefore the best measure of the overall support for each
      > political party, Hamas won about 45 percent of the popular vote and about
      > the same percentage of seats - 30 of 66, no majority there. The incumbent
      > party, Fatah, won 41 percent of the popular vote and 27 of 66 seats, only
      > three behind Hamas.
      > So the election was actually quite close, and if those were the only
      > election results, Hamas would not have won a majority of seats and would
      > have needed to form a coalition with other political parties. A likely
      > possibility is Hamas would have formed a grand coalition with Fatah, which
      > would have provided a stable transition.
      > Instead, the winner-take-all seats, which are allocated by local
      > districts,
      > completely threw the election to Hamas. Though Hamas and Fatah had nearly
      > equal support nationwide, Hamas won 46 of 66 seats, 70 percent in the
      > winner-take-all districts and Fatah won only 16 district seats.
      > Overall, Hamas won a stunning 58 percent of legislative seats even though
      > their national support was only around 45 percent. It was a tragic
      > breakdown
      > of the electoral system. Instead of talking about negotiating a coalition
      > government for the Palestinians, the talk now is about picking through the
      > shards, figuring how to salvage the road map to peace.
      > It didn't have to be this way. The designers of democracy in Palestine had
      > only to look to neighboring Iraq to figure out how to design a better
      > method
      > that would have produced more representative results and provided more
      > stability for the peace process.
      > On Dec. 15, Iraq held its second election, with Iraq's 18 provinces
      > electing
      > 275 members of parliament using a proportional voting method. Each
      > political
      > party was awarded legislative seats in direct proportion to their vote in
      > each province. Because of Iraq's proportional method, when the dominant
      > Shiite party failed to win a majority of the popular vote, they also
      > failed
      > to win a majority of legislative seats. Surely if they had used a
      > winner-take-all method like that used in the Palestinian elections, the
      > Shiite bloc would have won a strong legislative majority even though they
      > lacked a popular majority.
      > Instead, now the Shiites in Iraq are forced to negotiate with their
      > legislative partners, including the Sunnis and Kurds, producing a
      > government
      > that preserves the fragile consensus in Iraq.
      > It is really a shame that for all the billions of dollars in aid poured
      > into
      > Palestine, no one had the sense to make sure the elections were conducted
      > using a method like that used in Iraq that would guarantee representative
      > results.
      > Various political analysts are saying Hamas' victory is a disaster built
      > on
      > short-sighted policies by the Palestinians, Israel and the United States.
      > The truth is a bit more mundane. Hamas' overwhelming victory is the result
      > of a poorly designed electoral system. Unfortunately, when you are trying
      > to
      > jump-start democracy, the devil is in the details.
      > Steven Hill is director of New America Foundation's political reform
      > program
      > (www.NewAmerica.net/politicalreform) and author of "Fixing Elections: The
      > Failure of America's Winner Take All Politics."
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