Political Diversity Part 2: The European Union
11th September 2016

While collecting the data used to plot the diversity of Dáil Éireann in part 1 a friend of mine suggested I could then compare this to other countries. I settled on looking at the data for each member nation of the European Union and got the results of each country’s most recent election for their legislative parliament or lower house.

Click to open in new window.

Click here for the above plot without the diversity numbers.

The figures used are the results and make up of each parliament at the time the results were declared. Over time individuals leave parties to join others or become independent or by elections are held to replace members. These are not factored into the above plot. The plot will be out of date in less than a day; as I write this article Croatia is electing a new parliament.

High political diversity is generally the result of parliaments that contain a large number of different parties with a number of big parties close together on seat counts, like Belgium with 10 parties where the top 4 have between 20-33 seats or Denmark with 13 parties, top 3 between 34 and 47. Low diversity results from a parliament having very few parties or a single party holding a large majority. Malta has only 2 parties in its parliament on 39 and 30 seats each while Romania has 6. The top party has 273 seats while the remaining 5 have 139 between them.

I haven’t investigated the matter in full but I would be interested to see if highly diverse parliaments have a shorter lifespan than less diverse and if it takes longer to form a government. This year Ireland elected its most diverse parliament which then took 2 months to form a government, the longest in its history. Belgium took 5 months after its 2014 election to form a government and the next 3 most diverse parliaments, Denmark, Finland and the Netherlands, all took between 1-2 months.

The average diversity across all parliaments is 73.72% and the diversity of the European Parliament itself is 82%. Each country elects a different number of MEPs to the European Parliament based on population; Germany elects 12.8% while Malta elects 0.6%. Taking the diversity of each parliament, weighting it by the percentage of MEPs that nation elects to the European Parliament and summing together gives 70.60%. This is a stand alone number and doesn’t show a disconnect between individual parliaments and the European Parliament; MEPs of many different languages and backgrounds have to find common ground to form groupings in the European Parliament and EU elections often see lower turnouts and election of candidates from outside a nations main parties. These elections are often held far into a governments term of office when public opinion is changing.

In future I would be interested in looking back over past elections and seeing if certain nations have a tendency to elect highly or lowly diverse parliaments and how diversity determines government composition and formation length. As shown in part 1 highly diverse Dáils tended to favor Fine Gael while low diversity tended to favor Fianna Fail.

The treatment of independents could have a heavy impact on the above plot. Of the 6 groupings in Romania the independents have 17 seats. But these "independents" are actually members of 17 different political parties! A plot with 6 parties and with 22 parties would give much different results. Any further plots will have to have a definitive rule on how to deal with independents vs parties that only have 1 member or 1 elected member.



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