For more than a century, American progressives have argued with each other over the utility of third parties running candidates in simple plurality voting systems. The few examples of successful third parties have often relied on fusion voting or at-large seats in legislative bodies.
I recently sent in my absentee ballot for Spain’s elections for the European Parliament and I thought some readers of this blog might be interested in how party-list proportional representation works.
The first thing to know is that parties in Spain are actually membership organizations with more-or-less coherent platforms and disciplinary powers. Jimmy Weinstein use to say that he had no problem voting in the Democratic Party because the Democratic Party does not exist — and I think he had a point. You could argue that parties in the U.S. aren’t really parties at all. Their candidates don’t represent anything in particular other than the preferences of primary voters, many of whom vote in open primaries and none of whom pay dues.
When Spaniards choose their representatives in the European Parliament, they vote for a whole list of candidates from a single party. Candidates on that list will be seated depending on their rank and the proportion of the total vote received. The ballots themselves are long lists of names, with a party name and logo on top. These are bound together in a booklet from which the chosen list is ripped out and put into a sealed envelope.
The ballot booklet offers quite a range of unusual political options. I’ll list just a few:
The Solidarity and Autogestion [worker self management] Internationalist Party. My guess would be it stands for solidarity, autogestion and internationalism.
The Phalange (Falange Española de las J.O.N.S), the old Francoist party. Not gonna link to them.
The Authentic Phalange, a party that considers itself more true to the original vision of la Falange.
There are several regionalist and nationalist parties (all of which I consider stupid), two different versions of the Green Party, a variety of far-left parties including a couple of Trotskyist parties and many more.
The main left-wing alternative to the social democratic Spanish Socialist Workers Party is the United Left, which is a Communist-led coalition.
At any rate, while the two main parties still dominate national politics, the whole process is bit more exciting than the USA’s Red Team versus Blue Team.