Applying the ‘German electoral system’ or MMP to Thailand
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Applying the ‘German electoral system’ or MMP to Thailand

NOTE: BP is still on hiatus. This post is an exception. No political analysis will be offered, but this post will simply explain the German electoral system or MMP as explanations that BP has seen offered so far are inadequate. This post does not endorse any electoral system or represent the views of anyone else.

There has been a lot of talk recently that Thailand would adopt the German electoral system. For example, The Nation:

IN A SUGGESTION seen as an attempt to prevent “parliamentary dictatorship”, a German-style parliamentary and electoral system proposed by a charter drafter has been welcomed as an “interesting” proposal.

Nevertheless, it is difficult for those proposing the idea to deny that such a proposal was not aimed at limiting the power of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) member Nakarin Mektrairat this week proposed the implementation of a new parliamentary and electoral system similar to that of Germany, saying it would help solve Thailand’s political problems.

Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam reacted yesterday that it was an interesting proposal – and such a system might be tested in certain areas before a final decision could be made on it.

“The good thing [about the German system] is that all votes would be taken into account,” he said. However, he cautioned that such a system may create groups of small political parties – something that is not desirable.

So what is it that makes the German system an attractive option?

BP: Then the below graphic appears in the article:

BP: Unfortunately, the 242, 175, 20, and 14 figures are slightly misleading as they appear to have come to those numbers by dividing by 500 (the total number of seats). The graphic and the article do not properly explain the German system or Mixed-Member Proportional representation (MMP) electoral system. One component of MMP particularly in Germany is that there is a threshold. Wikipedia:

As in numerous proportional systems, in order to be eligible for list seats in many MMP models, a party must earn at least a certain percentage of the total party vote, or no candidates will be elected from the party list. Candidates having won a constituency will still have won their seat. In New Zealand the threshold is 5%, in Bolivia 3%, in Germany 5% for elections for federal parliament and most state parliaments. A party can also be eligible for list seats if it wins at least three constituency seats in Germany, or at least one in New Zealand. Having a member with a ‘safe’ constituency seat is therefore a tremendous asset to a minor party in New Zealand.

BP: Hence, you cannot simply divide 48.4% by 500 to calculate the number of seats. You also have to think about the threshold. For an illustration of this, see the German election result in 2013:


Source: Wikipedia

BP: Actually, if you click on the Wikipedia link you will find many parties missed out as they did not meet the threshold of 5% (or alternatively win 3 seats) so even though the SPD won only 25.7% on the party list vote, they won 30.5% of all seats because you need to remove all parties who don’t meet the threshold before allocating the seats. Hence, simply dividing the % of party list vote a party won by the total number of seats in parliament will often prove inaccurate. BP blogged on MMP in August as one likely option to be considered. Excerpt below:

2. There is the mixed-member proportional (MMP) option. This is the electoral system used in Germany and New Zealand and some other countries. There are some slight differences on the exact form of MMP, but basically under an MMP system there is a constituency vote and a party vote just like under the previous electoral system in Thailand.  However, the party vote is more important than the constituency vote as it is the percentage of party votes which determines the share of all seats a party wins. Therefore, in countries with MMP, electoral campaigns are predicated on parties trying to maximise their party vote. For example, if there are 100 MPs with 50 constituency MPs and 50 party list MPs and then Party A win 10 out of the 50 constituency MPs, but 40% of the the party vote. Party A will get 30 party list MPs to give it 40 MPs in total (by virtue of getting 40% of the party vote Party A is entitled to this top-up of 30 party list MPs to ensure its total percentage of MPs match its percentage of the party vote).  There are some ways to game MMP – see the “collusion” part on the Wikipedia page for some examples.

One other point to note is that there is often a threshold under MMP. The threshold varies between 3%-5% or winning a constituency seat(s). This means if the threshold is 5% and a small party wins 4% they will get no seats.

Now, given that the pro-Thaksin party has done better on the constituency vote than the party vote (by better on constituency vote, BP is not referring to %, but by the total number of seats won). For example, in the 2011 election, Puea Thai won 44.94% of the vote for the constituency vote, but won 204 out of 375 seats. Nevertheless, because Puea Thai still did quite well in the 2011 election on the party vote (they won 48.42%). At first glance, this may not appear to translate into a majority, but because there would be a threshold and some of the smaller parties wouldn’t meet this threshold, Puea Thai still would have won around 50-53% of all seats which would not have change the result.

BP: At the time, BP didn’t calculate based on the 2011 election results, but below are some charts from Excel using the Sainte-Laguë method of calculation showing how many seats the parties would win under MMP based on their votes in the 2011 election system:

1. The below assumes either 1% threshold or 1 constituency seat won (actually it also applies for 3% threshold as well):


NOTE: Haven’t calculated the overhang seats, but roughly it would mean that Palangchon would win 4 or 5 more seats and parliament would be 504 or 505 seats.

BP: A number of smaller parties who won a single seat in the 2011 election namely Rak Santi, New Democrat, and Mahachon would miss out as they didn’t meet the 1% threshold.

2. The below assumes either 5% threshold or 1 constituency seat won (as used in New Zealand):


NOTE: Haven’t calculated the overhang seats, but roughly it would mean that Palangchon would win more seats and parliament would have more than 500 seats.

BP: Chuwit’s Rak Prathet Thai would also miss out.

3. The below assumes either 5% threshold or 3 constituency seats won (as used in Germany):


NOTE: Haven’t calculated the overhang seats, but roughly it would mean that Palangchon would win more seats and parliament would have more than 500 seats.

BP: Mathabhum would also miss out.

There are many possible permutations of what the threshold will be. Perhaps, they won’t even have a threshold although that would probably meant a number of very small 1 or 2 MP parties, but Peau Thai would have dropped below 250 (haven’t included above as well it is just more difficult to calculate as it requires entering the numbers for more than 30 other smaller parties). On what the threshold should be, this up for debate, but you can’t talk about MMP or try to calculate the number of seats without thinking about the threshold. Now, if the German threshold is used then you can see from the above, Peua Thai would still have a majority……