Monday, June 12, 2017

May and Macron: A Tale Of Two Electoral Systems


"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times."

Charles Dickens introduction to A Tale of Two Cities could be used to describe Macron's and May's feelings following the UK and French elections this last week.

Macron is set to win up to 440 of the 577 seats in the French National Assembly, an overwhelming majority. By contrast May lost her majority, winning 318 of the 650 seats in the UK parliament.

However, in terms of vote share:

  • Macron won 32.2% of the votes cast in France on Sunday, where 49% of the population voted.
  • May won 42.4% of the votes in the UK election, where 68.7% of the population voted.

When Macron won the second round of the French Presidential election, 43% of those that voted for him stated they were voting to keep out Le Pen. This meant that Macron potentially only had support from 12% of those eligible to vote. At the time I commented that Macron's biggest challenge would be to grow this support.

Sunday's results appear to show that Macron and his allies won votes from just 15.8% of those eligible to vote. Under the French electoral system this will deliver around 75% of seats in the French Parliament. This is in part due to the vote split and the poor performance of other parties, Les R├ępublicains won 21.56% of the vote cast, the Front National won 13.20% and the Socialist party won just 9.5%.

Clearly political parties have to campaign and work to their electoral system. Translating votes into seats varies significantly from system to system. However, the raw vote share results in France show that Macron actually won far less support than either May or Corbyn. This suggests that Macron will need to wield his majority sensitively in the new Assembly.

It is also worth remembering the full quote from Dickens in A Tale Of Two Cities: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness."