PR - how might it work

Leading on from my earlier post about the advantages of PR, I thought it might be interesting to see if yesterday's election results would differ had the north elected its MPs on a multi seat PR basis. To find out, I divided the north into 4 fictional consituencies using the present boundaries:

North - North Antrim, South Antrim, East Antrim, East Derry - electing 4 MPs

West - Foyle, West Tyrone, Mid Ulster, Fermanagh & SOuth Tyrone, Newry & Armagh - electing 5 MPs

South - South Down, North Down, Upper Bann, Lagan Valley and Strangford - electing 5 MPs

Belfast - I'll let you work out what constituencies this encompasses for yourselves - electing 4 MPs

As I was selecting the constituency borders I tried to avoid thinking about how the differing borders would affect the possible outcome. Looking at the map, I found these to be the most obvious divisions, though I am open to criticism on these point.

In the hypothetical PR election the results would be as follows -


DUP 70654 - 46.74%
UUP 33656 - 22.27%
SF 18135 - 12.0%
SDLP 18063 - 11.95%
All 10428 - 6.9%
Oths 218 - 0.14%

With 4 seats up for grabs the quota works out at 20% +1 - the DUP would clearly have 2 quotas and would have 2 MPs elected. The UUP would also have an MP elected. Whats interesting however is that there is now a Nationalist quota in what would seem the most Unionist of constuencies. The liklehood is that the SDLP would the party to take the seat, given that they would seem better placed to take Unionist and Alliance transfers. I suppose it is possible that Unionist transfers could put alliance in the frame but I think the 4th seat would have to called for the SDLP.

So the North constuency would return 2 DUP, 1 UUP and 1 SDLP rather than the 4 DUP it currently returns.


SF 93316 - 39.88%
SDLP 52990 - 22.64%
DUP 48331 - 20.65%
UUP 24819 - 10.6%
Deeney 11905 - 5.09%
Socialist 1994 - 0.85%
Others 656 - 0.28%

WIth the quota at 16 2/3% + 1, four of the 5 seats are easily worked out. Sinn Féin will take 2 seats, and the SDLP and DUP 1 each. The fifth seat is a nightmare to try to work out. SF have 6.5% as well as their 2 quotas, the SDLP have a quota and 5.98% while the DUP have 3.99% as well as their 1 quota. The UUP have 10.6% and Deeney have 5.09%. The DUP have little chance of a second seat and their 3.99% will transfer mainly to the UUP, however the UUP are still well short of a quota with very few other sources to look for transfers. There seems to a be a "Nationalist" quota between the SDLP and SF surplus as well as Deeny and the Socialist votes (I've lumped the SEA from Foyle and the WP from West Tyrone in together). While neither Deeney nor McCann stand as nationalists, it likely that the bulk of their votes are "nationalist". Personally I'd call the 5th seat for Deeney, as despite the fact that his vote is less than the SDLP or SF surplus, this vote was restricted to West Tyrone, whereas in this hypothetical election he would have had the whole county in which to trawl for votes. This would probably have put him ahead of the hypothetical 3rd SDLP candidate and SDLP and SF transfers would probably have seen him elected ahead of the UUP candidate.

So the West constituency would have returned

2 SF 1 SDLP 1 DUP 1 Ind rather than the current 4 SF and 1 SDLP


DUP 81028 - 39.64%
UUP 49368 - 24.15%
SDLP 33407 - 16.34%
SF 26073 - 12.76%
All 11667 - 5.7%
Con 2284 - 1.11%
Oths 566 - 0.28%

3 of the seats can be called immediately. The DUP have 2 quotas and the UUP have 1. The SDLP's 16.34% is extermely close to a quota (16 2/3%). It seems almost impossible that SF's 12.76% could see two nationalists elected as the DUP and UUP have 6.31% and 7.48% respectively to spare in surplus to their seats already gained. My guess is that the nationalist seat would go to the SDLP while the UUP's slight lead in surplus over the DUP would be added to by Alliance transfers and the elimination of the DUP 3rd candidate would see the UUP 2nd candidate overtake SF, who once more see a substantial vote go to waste, as they are ovetaken for the last seat, which also would have happened them in North.

The South constituency would return 2 DUP, 2 UUP and 1 SDLP rather than the 3 DUP, 1 UUP and 1 SDLP who were elected yesterday.


DUP 41843 - 32.7%
SF 37006 - 28.92%
SDLP 21166 - 16.54%
UUP 19471 - 15.21%
Oths 2262 - 1.77%
All 6196 - 4.84%

Both nationalist parties will take a seat each, the SDLP coming through on SF transfers. There are certainly two Unionist seats, however the question is are they both DUP or can the UUP take 1. Certainly the DUP have more than twice the UUP vote and 2 well balanced DUP candidates (Robinson and Dodds?) would both have more 1st preferences than a UUP candidate, however with a decent Alliance vote to transfer and the odd SDLP vote across the divide, its likely that the UUP might just about squeeze in.

Belfast would elect

1 SF 1 SDLP 1 DUP 1 UUP as opposed to the current 2 DUP 1 SF 1 SDLP

Overall the tally for the north would read

3 SF
1 Ind

This is a vastly different scenario to the current 9 DUP 5 SF 3 SDLP 1 UUP. However its arguable if PR system has actually produced a more proportionate result. Certainly on the Unionist side, a 6/4 differential seems more proportionate than 9/1 in favour of the DUP. However the SDLP have gained most of the nationalist seats despite claiming a clear minority of the nationalist vote. Perhaps the boundaries picked seem to have been unfortunate for SF as they seem to have finished just behind the final seat in 2 consituencies and transferred a large amount in Belfast. A different set of boundaries might produce different results.

Take from this what you may, certainly David Trimble might reflect that if NI ran elections like this, he might still be the leader of the UUP!

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