Election Resources on the Internet:
Elections to the Faroese Løgting
by Manuel Álvarez-Rivera
   

The Faroe Islands, a self-governing country within the Kingdom of Denmark, held an election for their devolved unicameral legislature, the Løgting, on Saturday, October 29, 2011. An overview of the Faroese proportional representation electoral system is presented here.

In addition, countrywide and (for 2002 and 2004) district-level results are available here for the following Løgting elections:

      October 29, 2011      
      January 19, 2008      
      January 20, 2004      
      April 30, 2002      
      April 30, 1998      

The election statistics presented in this space come from results published by the Faroese Løgting, Statistics Faroe Islands and Kringvarp.fo, which has detailed 2011 election results in Faroese here. Additional details about the Faroese Løgting electoral law were kindly furnished by Jógvan Bærentsen of Statistics Faroe Islands.

Elections to the Danish Folketing has Danish legislative election results for the Faroe Islands, which also took part in the September 15, 2011 parliamentary election in Denmark.


General Aspects of the Electoral System

The Parliament of the Faroe Islands consists of a single chamber, the Løgting, composed of 33 members directly elected by universal adult suffrage for a maximum term of four years.

Prior to the electoral reform of 2007, members of the Løgting were elected by a two-tier proportional representation (PR) system. A total of 27 seats were distributed in seven multi-member electoral districts or constituencies according to the d'Hondt or largest average method of PR. Løgting seats were then apportioned on a countrywide basis by the largest remainder method of PR. Political parties were required to obtain at least one twenty-seventh (3.7%) of all valid votes cast to take part in the allocation of parliamentary mandates. In order to attain a greater degree of proportionality in the overall distribution of seats among party lists, the Løgting could be expanded with up to five supplementary or compensatory mandates (for a total of 32 seats); the party with the lowest ratio of votes to constituency seats was excluded from the apportionment of these additional seats. Additional mandates won by a party were then allocated by the largest remainder method among its multi-member district lists, according to their number of unused or surplus votes after the distribution of constituency seats.

However, supplementary seats did not completely compensate for the cumulative effect of the application of the d'Hondt rule over mostly small-sized constituencies, which favored the larger parties. Moreover, the electoral system tended to over-represent the smaller districts, and the number of votes required to win a constituency seat varied significantly from district to district. As a result, the overall distribution of Løgting mandates was not fully proportional to the parties' voting strength. For example, in the 2004 parliamentary election the party that won the largest number of Løgting seats actually finished third in the popular vote. Consequently, in November 2007 the Løgting electoral law was amended to replace the existing seven multi-member districts with a single, countrywide electoral constituency, in which parliamentary seats are distributed by the d'Hondt method.

The Political Parties

Although the Faroe Islands have only 48,345 inhabitants (as of October 2007) in a territorial area of just 540 square miles (1,399 square kilometers), the country has developed a multi-party system similar to those of other Nordic nations. There are four major parties - the Unionist Party and the People's (or Conservative) Party on the right, and the Social Democratic Party and the Republican Party on the left - along with two smaller, middle-of-the-road parties: the social-liberal Independence (or Home Rule) Party and the Center Party. Nonetheless, the country's political relationship with Denmark is a major issue in Faroese politics, which cuts across the traditional left-to-right ideological divide: the Unionists and the Social Democrats support continued status of the Faroe Islands as an autonomous region of Denmark, while the Conservatives and the Republicans (as well as the two smaller parties) favor complete independence. Since the introduction of Home Rule or devolved government in 1948 (following an inconclusive 1946 referendum in which a narrow majority voted for independence), no single party has ever won an absolute majority of Løgting seats under the country's proportional representation electoral system, and the Faroe Islands have been ruled by a succession of coalition governments.

The Faroese economy is centered around the fishing industry, and a slump in fisheries in the early 1990s, coupled with a sharp decline in fish prices in 1992, triggered a severe economic crisis that brought about a drastic fall in the standard of living, soaring unemployment and significant emigration to metropolitan Denmark. Moreover, the country's largest bank failed, and Denmark had to step in with emergency loans. An increase in fish catches as well as fish prices subsequently allowed the economy to recover, and the country's population began to increase once again, but there was lingering resentment over the terms of the financial bailout, which favored Danish investors. Consequently, the pro-independence Republicans and Conservatives emerged as the two largest parties in the 1998 Løgting election and formed a coalition government with the Home Rule Party, with Conservative leader Anfinn Kallsberg as prime minister. The new government sought to hold a referendum on independence from Denmark, but negotiations with Copenhagen deadlocked over the large Danish annual subsidies, which accounted for one-third of the country's budget: the Faroese proposed a gradual, fifteen-year phaseout, while Denmark insisted on cutting off the subsidies after four years. As a result, the planned referendum was postponed indefinitely in 2001.

In the 2002 parliamentary election, the ruling parties won exactly half the seats in the Løgting, but the Center Party joined the coalition government and Prime Minister Kallsberg remained in office. However, following an early Løgting election in January 2004, the Unionists, the Social Democrats and the Conservatives formed a coalition government with Social Democratic leader Jóannes Eidesgaard as prime minister. Although these three parties retained a reduced majority in the January 2008 Løgting election, the Social Democrats subsequently formed a coalition government with the Republicans and the Center Party. Prime Minister Eidesgaard remained as head of government until September 2008, when the ruling alliance collapsed and a coalition cabinet of the Unionists, the Conservatives and the Social Democrats took office, headed by Kaj Leo Johannsen of the Unionist Party.

Following an early general election held in October 2011, in which the Unionists and the Conservatives scored gains, while the Republicans, the Social Democrats, the Center Party and the Independence Party all lost ground, Prime Minister Johannsen formed a new coalition government composed of his Unionist Party, the People's Party, the Center Party and the Independence Party.

Online Resources


Copyright © 2007-2012 Manuel Álvarez-Rivera. All Rights Reserved.
Last update: January 10, 2012.