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Palestine: Voting system would overrepresent Hamas - again

by Jack Santucci // Published May 10, 2006
Poll data released today in Palestine supplements an analysis FairVote released this February.

We concluded that Fatah spoiled its own candidacies in five electoral districts, delivering seats to its militant opponent Hamas. In two districts, Hamas won with lesser percentages of votes than Fatah had. In three, Fatah was only a few percentage points behind Hamas.

We speculated that third parties and independents were spoiler candidates for Fatah in Hebron and North Gaza. Spoilers occur when like-minded candidates split the support of like-minded voters, resulting in the election of opponents with less overall voter support.

According to the poll:

On the topic of Supporting parties and factions, i.e, if there would be now political, municipal or NGOs elections on the basis of the proportional representation, 38.3% said they would vote for Hamas, 31.9% for Fateh, 11.9% for the left-wing and national organisations, 12.8% did not decide yet, 2.4% for the Islamic Jihad and 2.7% hesitated to answer.

Depending on the extent to which the percentages generalize to individual electoral districts, and on whether relations with Israel were the dominant campaign issue, an election tomorrow would result in more spoilers. Hamas leads as a party with 38.3 percent support. Its potential spoiler, Islamic Jihad, clocks in only at 2.4 percent. On the moderate side, Fatah trails Hamas with 31.9 percent. Its potential spoilers - coded "left-wing and national organisations" in this poll - garner 11.9 percent support.

Factions - anti-Israel and moderate - are about neck-and-neck right now. Depending on how the 12.8 percent undecided would vote, Fatah might win a majority...

...but not under the winner-take-all at-large system used in Palestine's electoral districts, where the 11.9 percent third-party voters would again spoil the election for Fatah.

Palestine could move to a ranked ballot - say, choice voting based on individual candidates, or a ballot on which voters could rank parties. In that case, stronger third parties would win some seats, votes for weaker ones would transfer Fatah, and the Palestine's moderate majority would be more accurately represented in the legislature.