Nadine Dorries, Conservative MP, says she is considering running as a joint Conservative-Ukip candidate in the 2015 general election. She claims others might do the same, as a means to avoid a split on the right as the UK Independence Party eats away at the Tories’ right flank.
Dorries claimed having two logos on the ballot paper had been made possible by legislation passed by the coalition government, and seeking a Ukip endorsement was “something that I know MPs are looking forward and considering now”
I had missed any piece of the Conservative-LibDem coalition’s political reform program including this ballot provision. If Dorries is correct in her interpretation, does this imply that the coalition partners were trying to make it more feasible for their candidates to run jointly, back in the coalition’s rose-garden days?
The 100-member Convention strongly favors a mixed-member proportional (MMP) system, with 69% preferring it over other options. A “proportional list system”–not clear whether open or closed was specified–wins 29% support, and a paltry 3% would like FPTP. (And, yes, those numbers sum to more than 100.)
The news story does not offer information on preferences for keeping the current system vs. change, either in general or any specific replacement system. It does note that there will be a further round of deliberations next month on the exact model that the Convention will recommend.
Ireland is, of course, the main model we have of Single Transferable Vote (STV). MMP and STV are usually the two models most preferred by reform activists (at least in current FPTP jurisdictions) and by political science expert in electoral systems. It is very interesting to see an Irish process possibly leading to STV vs. MMP as choices for the country.
All indications are that the NDP will defeat the incumbent Liberals, in power since 2001, by a wide margin, although the race has tightened during the campaign. BC’s First Past the Post electoral system has a history of periodically producing anomalous results, but a near-total wipeout of the losing party no longer seems as likely as it did when the election was called. The last time the NDP won a BC provincial election was in 1996, when it was the beneficiary of a plurality reversal: it lost the vote to the Liberals, 39.4%-41.8%, but won the seats, 39-33. The only other time the NDP won an election was 1991, when their 41%-33% vote lead translated into a whopping 51-17 lead in seats. Today’s result could be similar.
The Greens, who won their first seat in federal politics in a BC riding (district) in 2011, have some shot at picking up their first provincial seat. The Green Party has won as much as 12.4% of the vote in a provincial election; that was 2001, when the Liberals defeated the NDP in a landslide. In 2005 and 2009, the party’s votes declined to 9.2% and then 8.1%.
As the election has tightened, the Greens’ odds of winning a seat may have declined. The BC Greens leader says her party has a chance at 4-5 seats on southern Vancouver Island, and that she will resign if she does not win her own seat. She is running against an NDP incumbent; given the strong NDP winds blowing this year, her odds would seem not so good.
The Liberal Party ran an ad in the Victoria Times-Colonist that has created some controversy. It praises the Greens for their environmental leadership, apparently hoping that a strong Green vote in the region will allow the Liberals to win some three-way races. NDP leader, Adrian Dix, responded to the ad by saying:
They will say anything, they will do anything. What the Liberals are saying is our path to get to power is for you to vote Green. I say the way to change the government, to get a new and better government, is to vote NDP.
The Green candidate in the Oak Bay-Gordon Head riding also had an interesting response to the ad, saying that if his campaign could afford a full-page ad, it would say the same thing about their environmental leadership and the NDP’s “flip-flopping”. Moreover,
What it would acknowledge is Ida [Chong, the Liberal incumbent] is certainly not in the lead … she’s not even second in this riding.
That’s a great example of the expectations game in FPTP elections: if you can convince voters that a given candidate is in third place, you might be able to promote strategic defection your way. The district in question was won by the Liberal with a margin of only a few hundred votes in 2009, without the presence of a strong Green challenge.
The other small party to watch is the Conservatives, who long have been scarcely a factor in the province’s politics. The last time the party placed as high as third was in 1979, with 5.1%. The now defunct Reform Party, which was a Western splinter from the Conservatives that later re-merged with it, was third with 9.2% in 1996.1
The BC Conservatives could have a chance at a seat this time. As the Tri-City News notes about the contest in Coquitlam-Burke Mountain :
If there is one thing Shane Kennedy is hoping voters remember when they head to the polls next week, it’s this: they needn’t cast a ballot for the NDP to get rid of the Liberals.
A bit deeper into the story is this interesting policy note:
He agrees with the Liberal’s stance on bringing the Northern Gateway pipeline to B.C. but said the money it generates for the province should be used to fund green industry.
Kennedy is also quoted as advocating more bus service for the area, so we have both local and provincewide–and not necessarily obviously “conservative”–positions being advocated in attempt to secure the seat.
Nonetheless, as with the Greens, the overall tightening of the race probably works against any BC Conservative candidate.
The Irish Times states that “Ireland is now one of the few parliamentary democracies in which members of parliament are not allowed free votes on issues of conscience.” It cites many cases of free votes (also known as “conscience votes”) on issues such as homosexuality law reform, gambling, abortion, and numerous other matters in Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
Leaving aside the technicality that Ireland can be classified as semi-presidential–the presidency really is weak enough that we can call it parliamentary–is it possible that the use of the Single Transferable Vote (STV) to elect the Dail (parliament’s first chamber) is a factor?
The editorial correctly notes that such votes occur “where views differ strongly within parliamentary parties”. What might STV have to do with this? It would be a whole lot more dangerous for party leadership to open up its divisions to be recorded on the floor in a system where the members could then compete for votes on precisely these internal divisions.
Whatever the underlying cause in variation in the use of free/conscience votes, one thing is certain: such votes are called when the government wants them. This could be when it prefers not to be held collectively accountable for some issue (let it pass but don’t call it your program), or when the government favors the passage of some measure that enjoys majority support in parliament but divides its own caucus (be sure it passes, but let your MPs claim credit for having tried to stop it). In other words, when there is conflict between the individual interests of MPs and their parties’ collective interests. If the electoral system reinforces such conflicts–as STV surely does, but FPTP, MMP, and closed-list PR do not–then we might expect parties, when in government, to do what they can to keep such conflicts from spilling into the open.
In any case, the usual agenda control of parliamentary cabinets means that we can understand these votes only by understanding governing parties’ decision calculus. What are the conditions under which free votes are seen as desirable or risky by those who decide to apply, or not, the government whip on a vote?
Tasmania has a legislative council election today. There is no general election for all 15 MLCs. 2 or 3 MLCs are elected from uninominal districts for 6 year terms each year. A large majority are independents.
This Friday, 5 May, is the general election for the state legislature of Karnataka, a major state in the south of India (capital Bangalore). The state is ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP); in fact it is one of the rare states outside of the north where the party has ruled recently. With general elections due for the federal government within in a year–and potentially coming earlier–this is a key state contest to watch.
The BJP is facing a major challenge in projecting a national leader and PM candidate. It is widely expected to endorse Narendra Modi, the Chief Minister (state PM) of Gujarat. Modi campaigned today in Karnataka. However, Modi’s past associations with communal violence means that his nomination would cause severe tensions with coalition partners in the National Democratic Alliance, the BJP-ruled opposition alliance.1 Thus Karnataka is a test not only for the BJP and NDA as units, but for Modi personally.
The federal ruling party, the Indian National Congress (which rules through the United Progressive Alliance), has dispatched its national leader, Sonia Gandhi, to campaign in Karnataka as well.
The BJP has experienced internal splits in the state, including the launching of a new party, the Karnataka Janata Paksha (KJP), by former Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa. The BJP is unlikely to retain a majority of seats. Yeddyurappa has stated that, “There is no question of going back to the BJP”. If Congress likewise does not win a majority, a Congress-KJP post-poll alliance is likely.
Tensions are especially high the Janata Dal (United), which currently rules the northern state of Bihar in coalition with the BJP. The Chief Minister of Bihar, Nitish Kumar, has hinted at quitting the NDA is Modi is its PM candidate. [↩]
Malaysia goes to the polls on 5 May. The lower houses of the federation and 12 of the 13 states are up for grabs. There is no real question about whether Anwar Ibrahim, the opposition leader, will win, but there is a large question about whether that will show in the allocation of seats.
Malaysia has an electoral gerrymander that would have drawn a blush to the cheeks of Joh Bjelke-Petersen, who ruled Queensland long after his party had ceased attracting anything like a majority of votes. At the 2008 national election, Anwar’s Pakatan Rakyat coalition won more than 50 per cent of the popular vote but took just 82 seats in the 222-seat parliament. The government held the rural seat of Putrajaya with just 6008 votes while the opposition needed 112,000 votes to take the urban seat of Kapar, in Selangor state.
Analysis by Bersih, the Malaysian corruption and election watchdog, has found that the gerry-mander means it is feasible for the ruling coalition to achieve a simple majority in parliament with as little as 18.9 per cent of the popular vote.
The really interesting things to watch will be the extent that Anwar’s predicted majority will be allowed to show in the results, and the extent to which the security forces will allow him to take office.
I think we already have plenty of ways of distinguishing between stronger and weaker presidents – the Shugart and Carey scores and the Siaroff presidential power scores being foremost among them. For example, we could agree to call presidents who score below a certain threshold heads of state. However, what we really need is a more dynamic set of such scores. Alan’s1 index is really useful here because it tries to capture ‘actual’ and not just constitutional powers. So, what we need is not just a score for France since 1963, but France’s presidential power score from 1981-86, 1986-88, etc. Is Hollande as powerful as Sarkozy using this measure? In other words, we need scores to capture such changes and to be updated regularly. Let’s argue over whether France is a 5 or a 6 under Sarkozy on Alan’s measure rather than whether France is premier-presidential or something else. If we had reliable time series scores that captured changes in actual presidential power, then we could test more systematically to see whether presidential power really made a difference to particular outcomes.
My only comment (for now) is that I largely gave up trying to measure presidential powers some years ago. The Shugart and Carey (1992) index has some methodological issues2 but at least it was an attempt to base powers on constitutional provisions. It is even more challenging to measure powers dynamically, across presidents or even within terms of individual presidents. My last foray into that was in Mainwaring and Shugart (1997), in which we made the distinction between “constitutional” and “partisan” powers.
Why I still prefer the typology of presidential, president-parliamentary, and premier-presidential is that it creates categories that are definable without observation of behavior,3 as well as mutually exclusive. Then it is a matter of exploring contextual variables that affect how these types operate in practice.
Clearly, however, it is on an open research agenda.
Napolitano was elected on April 20 with the votes of the Democratic Party (PD), Silvio Berlusconi’s People of Freedom Party and Mario Monti’s Civic Choice. Despite having earlier ruled out the possibility of a second term, Napolitano changed his mind after Franco Marini and Romano Prodi failed to get elected due to a dramatic split in the PD that prompted its head, Pier Luigi Bersani, and the party’s entire leadership to resign.
One of the faculties that makes the Italian presidency potentially more than ceremonial is the authority to dissolve parliament when a government can’t be formed. (This power does not exist in the final phase of a president’s term, but becomes active again once Napolitano starts his second term today.)
Does this mean a grand coalition (i.e. a Berlusconi-backed government)? Or will there be a new elections (leading to who knows what?)?
Would we expect the executive format (presidential, parliamentary, etc.) to affect the age at which an executive leader assumes office?
I might expect either no effect (too many other variables might swamp the format) or a positive effect of PMs. We know that prime ministers tend to have more “insider” experience (e.g. as cabinet minister, legislator, etc.) than presidents have. It takes time to get experience, so prime ministers might tend to be older.
However, exploring the data a little bit, what we actually see is the reverse. PMs tend to be younger. The effect is stronger in “third wave” democracies than in a set of both older and newer democracies.1 The effects are statistically significant, though somewhat less so when the older democracies are included.
That prime ministers tend to be younger in parliamentary systems of the third wave than in older democracies might mean that political careers overall start younger when the democracy is younger. We already found (Samuels and Shugart, 2013; see prior link) that there is no observable difference in length of prior legislative experience of third-wave parliamentary PMs compared to those in older parliamentary democracies. But there is a difference in average age of PMs across eras.2
So, to summarize, it seems that parties in parliamentary democracies in the third wave are promoting politicians to the top job who are younger than their counterparts in older democracies (but not less experienced as legislators). In presidential systems, on the other hand, in both new and old democracies there is a tendency for successful presidential candidates to be somewhat, and significant statistically, older.
There is, by the way, no time trend. That is, neither type of executive tends to start office older (or younger) as the democratic regime itself becomes older.
Data summaries (average age at start of tenure); all tests exclude executives who started their tenure before the date the regime became democratic (though the effects work even if these few politicians are included).
Apparently, Hugo Chavez’s personal vote is not as strong in death as many of us assumed it would be. His designated successor, Nicolas Maduro, has been elected, but by a very tight margin, according to official results. The opposition candidate, Henrique Capriles, is contesting Maduro’s victory claim.
Just last October, an ailing Chavez defeated Capriles by a margin of about eleven percentage points.
If by my laws you walk, and my commands you keep, and observe them,
then I will give-forth your rains in their set-time,
so that the earth gives-forth its yield
and the trees of the field give-forth their fruit.
--Vayikra 26: 3-4