Ever-Creative Electoral System Discussions

By Julian Dierkes

Long-time readers of our blog (really committed readers are looking back on 8 1/2 years of analyses!) will know that I get very interested in elections and that many of my collaborators have also chipped on an understanding of campaigns, results, and implications.

With the recent approval of constitutional reforms (now only awaiting approval by the constitutional court), the electoral system was not constitutionally prescribed, so we’re awaiting amendments to the election law to clarify the system that will be in place for June.

The passage of these amendments also seems to have averted the possibility of early elections, so all expectations are for late June 2020.

Previously on this show…

Over the past several parliamentary elections, the election system has changed, incorporating elements of proportional and first-past-the-post voting. In 2012, it was a mix of 48 single-member districts with an additional 28 seats elected via nationwide party lists. In 2016,  Mongolia returned to straight-up majoritarian voting for all 76 seats.

Earlier this fall…

… a proposal was floated to change to a system of a single, nationwide riding where citizens would elect 76 members. Wow! That would have been interesting, but (fortunately for Mongolian voters, I think) this was dismissed

Current discussions

The current proposal (I haven’t seen the actual draft, discussion here is based on personal explanations from sources and my still-limited understanding) that is under discussion and may be before parliament by mid-December, calls for 50 directly-elected majoritarian ridings with new riding boundaries drawn on population numbers, and an additional 26 seats that would be popularly elected. Candidates would be listed by name with their party affiliation (if any) in parentheses and voters would have a single vote. The 26 candidates with the most votes would be elected under this system.

Under this proposal, there would be a minimum threshold that parties would have to achieve in the majoritarian ridings in order to be eligible for their nominees to be selected for the additional 26 seats. 5% is the threshold that seems to be under discussion which would be a significant hurdle for all parties but the DP and MPP as their candidates might not be seen to have much of a chance in ridings and voters might not choose to lend up to 5% of their votes to these smaller parties to make their candidates eligible for additional seats. Independents would – presumably – only be able to run in majoritarian ridings under this system.

Beyond this threshold there are still a number of elements that are unclear to contacts I’ve spoken to, including the question of whether voters would get one vote to select from the 26 party candidates or 26 votes. Both, however, are serious logistical challenges for the election and for voter education, I imagine.

A more detailed discussion of the election method might have to wait for passage of the law, presumably by Dec 25.

This proposal seems to advantage the two large parties (though the simmering DP implosion might make this THE large party and some splinters), and nationally prominent individuals who fly under the parties’ banner in the additional seat election. For example, PM Khurelsukh might well be expected to win an additional seat given his current popularity (“sleigher of bad air”), rather than running in a specific riding. Others with good chances in this system might be media and pop personalities and wrestlers whose prominent names might lead to their election.

It is quite unclear to me how a party might strategize around allocating campaign funds and campaign attention in such a system. The obvious strategy would be to focus resources on majoritarian ridings and to let candidates for the additional seats fend for themselves, but this would have to be thought out further.

(Dis)Advantages of Different Electoral Systems

From a more theoretical perspective, I fail to see particular merits to this proposal. Broadly speaking, majoritarian electoral systems are meant to make representatives more accountable to their constituents as they are tied to a specific location. By contrast, proportional systems are meant to reflect popular opinions more comprehensively and thus allow citizens greater input on substantive decisions.

The current proposal may have any elements of proportional systems in the calculation of the 26 seats (draft of law suggests single non-transferable vote), but the proposed additional 26 seats also give up on the principle of representatives’ ties to a constituency thus losing one of the main advantages of majoritarian systems. I am not sure what the arguments for this system are, other than electoral strategizing and the maximization of seats to be won by specific parties under different scenarios.

On next week’s episode…

Obviously, the current proposal might be discarded entirely or amended in various ways in parliamentary discussion. If the proposal does not pass, the most likely outcome may be a return to the 2016 system of 76 electoral ridings.

About Julian Dierkes

Julian Dierkes is a sociologist by training (PhD Princeton Univ) and a Mongolist by choice and passion since around 2005. He teaches in the Master of Public Policy and Global Affairs at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. He toots @jdierkes@sciences.social and tweets @jdierkes
This entry was posted in Constitution, Elections, Ikh Khural 2020, JD Democratization, Party Politics, Politics and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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