Saturday, January 19, 2008

The day's other big election

While on Saturday, January 19, many people were paying attention to the caucuses in Nevada and the GOP primary in South Carolina, there was of course another earth-shattering election taking place. I refer, of course, to the general election in the Danish dependency of the Faroe Islands.

Interestingly, (and of more interest than this year's outcome), the Faroe Islands appear to have reached an equilibrium between four parties in their proportional-representation system, despite their minuscule size. Note that the Faroes have not just traditional left-right divisions, but also cleavages between pro-independence forces and pro-union (with Denmark) forces. The same four parties have been the largest in parliament since 1950 in this small island group of under 50,000 people (see Wikipedia for background).

No party, since that same year of 1950, has taken more than 27.5 percent of the vote; no party has ever held an absolute majority in parliament; and no party has even held more than 10 seats in parliament (26 to 33 seats total) since the 1946-47 period. From 1958 through 1980, the Social Democrats were marginally larger than the other parties (enjoying a 1- or 2-seat advantage after each election compared to their largest competitor), but this advantage no longer exists.

For this year's election, the electoral system was changed slightly, to eliminate regional constituencies which had resulted in slight disproportionalities. The system used this year allocates seats based on open lists for the entire territory.

Perhaps the biggest story in this year's uneventful election was the gain of almost 6 percent of the vote, and 2 seats, combined for the other two small parties in parliament. Other than that, the Social Democrats lost one seat, and all other parties remained even in terms of seats: Republic 8; Union Party 7; People's Party 7; Social Democrats 6; smaller parties 5. Summary in English is available at Parties and Elections.

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