Steven Hill about the Palestinian election of Hamas (repost)
> ----- 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
> overlooked point that Hamas actually did not win a majority of votes in
> recent Palestinian elections -- yet they won nearly a super-majority of
> seats. What happened is that the U.S.-style winner-take-all electoral
> used in the elections broke down, installing into power a party that did
> 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
> 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
> 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
> The Prague Post
> February 15, 2006
> Much hand-wringing has resulted since Hamas, a group on the Bush
> administration's terrorist list, won a sizable majority of legislative
> in the recent Palestinian elections. But the planners of the elections
> learn a thing or two from the recent Iraqi elections.
> The problem is that the electoral system used for the Palestinian
> 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
> out very differently.
> The Palestinian elections used a combination of a U.S.-style
> 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
> vote). Unfortunately, the winner-take-all part broke down, and Hamas won
> 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
> 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
> 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
> 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
> 275 members of parliament using a proportional voting method. Each
> 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
> 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
> that preserves the fragile consensus in Iraq.
> It is really a shame that for all the billions of dollars in aid poured
> 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
> Various political analysts are saying Hamas' victory is a disaster built
> 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
> jump-start democracy, the devil is in the details.
> Steven Hill is director of New America Foundation's political reform
> (www.NewAmerica.net/politicalreform) and author of "Fixing Elections: The
> Failure of America's Winner Take All Politics."