10 / 07 / 2019

The scenario of simple proportional representation: the Greek Parliament under different conditions of representation

Using simple proportional representation to explore what the composition of the current and previous Parliament would resemble and taking a hypothetical look at the past, in search of the last autonomous prime minister.



Data Visualization:


Although the autonomous government of New Democracy, the result of the recent national election on July 7, 2019, temporarily “ended” the public debate on proportional representation − it’s more likely that a semicolon has been inserted into the conversation about various scenarios, controversies and “kneading” of the parties regarding their positions on the current electoral law.

Let us recall that SYRIZA carried out its own pre-election pledge and firm position (on behalf of the entire Left) regarding the establishment of using the simple proportional representation system for the representation of the elected parties in Parliament in July 2016 − in other words, during SYRIZA’s second term in office, 10 months after their second election as a major parliamentary force in September 2015.

The electoral law of the government at that time, was “passed” by the parliament of the preceding three years, which abolished the 50-seat “bonus” for the winning party and formed the calculation of parliamentary seats that correspond to each of the parties which gained at least 3% of the valid votes in the corresponding election as follows: the sum total votes gained by each party nationwide, are multiplied by 300 and this number is then divided by the amount of votes in favor of all of the parliamentary parties (Ν. 4406/2016).

This electoral law was approved by a simple majority (179 votes) – and not by two-thirds of the parliament at that time. In practice, this meant that the law would be applied to the election following the next elections, if the next parliament does not withdraw the law.

Today, the Greeks have just elected a new autonomous government, based on an enhanced representation, and a new Parliament − and it remains to be seen how this Parliament will handle the issue of party representation during the next elections, whenever they take place.
Meanwhile, with the use of existing and historical data, we can calculate what the current Parliament would resemble, using the simple proportional representation system.

The Parliament: as it is currently, and what if

Parliament as it is today, after national elections on July 7, 2019
The Parliament as it would have been after the July 7, 2019 elections, if the simple proportional representation was put into effect

New Democracy, as a major parliamentary power, would lose 27 seats in comparison to the seats it holds today: that is, ND would occupy 131 seats, (compared to its current 158), and Kyriakos Mitsotakis would be able to form a bipartisan government only with KINAL – if we assume that just the thought of cooperation with SYRIZA (103 seats, instead of its current 86 seats) would “run aground” for ND and that the much-debated second round of elections on August 15 would have never happened.

The Parliament, as it was, after the national elections on September 20, 2015
The Parliament as it would have been after the elections of September 20, 2015, if SYRIZA’s simple proportional representation was put into effect as a result of its first governmental term

Hypothetically, in September 2015, SYRIZA would have lost 31 seats, it would have won a total of 114 seats, (compared to 145 seats which it actually held on the basis of an enhanced representation), and Alexis Tsipras, if he chose not to “shake hands” with New Democracy − his only solution would have been a three- or even four-party coalition government, with unprecedented compositions.

Enhanced vs simple proportional representation

The number of seats which each winning party gained, compared to the number of seats they would have gained using the current simple proportional representation

The elections of 1989 and 1990 (which took place with the infamous “Koutsogiorgas law” in force, also known as “functional simple proportional representation” − due to the simple proportional representation per region which lies somewhere between enhanced and simple proportional) remind us that the issue of handling party representation is timely but not new. Otherwise, with the current simple proportional representation system, Andreas Papandreou, who won 48.07% in 1981, would be the last autonomous prime minister, and Greece would have needed coalition governments from 1985 onwards.

Tools & Methodology

The collection of data is from source material and is a result of a previous article that was published for Solomon. Analysis and data visualization was facilitated using Python/Pandas and Illustrator. The code is available here. The formula that was used for the calculation of the hypothetical seats using simple proportional representation, was the formula provided by Law 4406/2016, which is currently valid.

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