Second round of Elections législatives in France; as I did for the first round of the presidential elections two months ago, I went last Sunday morning to my bureau de vote to see how the process, the ballots, etc., were this time.
The striking difference with the elections to the congress in Spain is that in France each seat is circumscribed to a specific area, i.e., Haute-Garonne, the department where Toulouse is located has 10 circumscriptions, each one of them sends one and only one representative to the National Assembly in Paris. For each of those seats there is an election, with first and second round, for which absolute majority is required.
Let’s go back to Spain: e.g. the province of Madrid has 36 seats in the parliament, in the last November elections citizens from Madrid voted to the list of a party which proposed 36 names and, depending on the number of votes that each party obtained, those 36 seats were distributed according to the D’Hondt method (see a discussion on the method here – in Spanish). You will now see the effect.
In Madrid last November, the Popular Party obtained 50.84% of the vote (absolute majority), Socialist PSOE obtained 26.03% followed by UPyD (10.29%) and IU-LV (8.04%). The seats 36 were awarded as follows: 19 for PP, 10 PSOE, 4 UPyD and 3 IU-LV.
In the first round of the Elections législatives in Haute-Garonne:
- In the 1st circumscription: the Socialist Party obtained 43.63% of the votes, followed by UMP (23.34%), Front National (9.96%) and Front de Gauche (9.01%)…
- In the 2nd circumscription: the Socialist Party obtained 46.38% of the votes, followed by UMP (21.63%), Front National (12.46%) and Front de Gauche (7.86%)…
- In the 3rd: UMP (35.14%), Europe Écologie Les Verts (22.24%), Divers gauche (21.36)…
If in the first round no candidate obtained an absolute majority in her circumscription (this only happened in the 8th circumscription, where the Socialist Party won the seat in the first round) a second round was needed. Only those parties with more than 20% of the vote in the first round competed in the second round; sometimes there were 2 candidates and in few cases 3.
In the week from the first to the second round, those parties not qualifying could elect to support one of the candidates in the second round and that was in the end reflected in the ballot papers, where you can see that the Socialist candidate of my circumscription was backed by 3 parties apart from PS and that one of the UMP by another 4 parties.
In the second round, the socialist party candidates who in the first round had obtained around 45% of the vote were collecting around 65% of the vote, beating one by one the other candidates except for the 3rd circumscription where the UMP won (and the 8th where there wasn’t a 2nd round).
This in the end gave the PS 9 out of 10 seats (90% of the seats) while in the case of Madrid, the PP obtained with about 50% of the vote 19 out of 36 seats (53% of the seats). This is the striking effect and main difference that the second round system provokes.
I also found interesting the freedom at the time of arranging the information provided in the ballot paper, it seems that only size and white background are required.
The Socialist ballot doesn’t mention for which circumscription the candidate is competing (they may consider it redundant information, as the voter knows in which circumscription she lives) while they introduce the subtle message “Députée sortante” to let the voter know who won last time or who represented and worked for them during the last term. On the other hand, the UMP not being able to use the last-winner message opts for the inclusive “Candidat de la droite et du centre”. Note as well the difference in the colour, red vs black / grey, I guess that the latter was compromise among the different parties.