Back in December, 2007, I asked if the UK Green Party could win a seat in the next House of Commons election; the question produced an interesting multi-national discussion of Green politics that is well worth reading again.
Now that an actual election campaign is underway in the UK, with the likely polling date 6 May, it looks like the answer to the question just might be YES!
A few days ago The Guardian discussed the prospects of the Green candidate in Brighton Pavilion constituency, Caroline Lucas (currently a Green Member of the European Parliament from the regional PR district that includes Brighton in EP elections).
Given that this UK election campaign is also taking place within the context of a debate over a potential future referendum on electoral reform, it is worth asking whether the Greens’ chances of winning even one seat are better with the current first-past-the-post (FPTP) system than with the proposed alternative vote (AV). A recent poll by ICM Research and touted on Lucas’s website, puts the Brighton Pavilion candidates of the various parties with the following vote percentages:
While the “instant runoff” procedure of AV normally can be expected to make the final count come down to the top-two candidates, a field such as this is precisely the sort of contest in which AV might favor the third-placed candidate. If LibDem voters are more likely to give their second-preference votes to a third-running Labour candidate than to either of the top two, the sequential-elimination and transfer procedure of AV could result in a final round of counting between Green and Labour. Then Conservative preferences come in to play, and we are down to the question of whether they tend more strongly to lean towards “anybody but Labour” or towards “safe establishment over new politics.”
In any case, it has never been clear to me that parties like the Greens should prefer AV (or IRV as it is often called in the USA) over FPTP. Obviously, any form of proportional representation is superior to either single-seat system.
Beneath this morning’s Mexico planting, Ed, and later Manuel, have provided preliminary seat counts. If the results hold, the PRI and Greens together may have a majority.
They ran in a partial pre-electoral coalition: joint candidates in 63 districts, but separate lists (and candidates elsewhere).
The coalition apparently has won in 50 districts, which is impressive.
Also noteworthy is that the Mexican Green Party, at 6.5% of the votes in this election, would suddenly find itself among the largest Green parties in the world. I did not see that coming. (I will leave it to others to decide whether a Green alliance with a party like the PRI is anything to celebrate.)
What I am unsure of is the extent to which the PRI and Greens have been cooperating in congress and whether they have anything like a commitment to cooperate in the upcoming congress. If they do, then I would be inclined to put this election into the relatively rare category of those in (pure) presidential systems that produce divided government.
“I’m going to vote Green or UKIP.” (This was a fascinating discussion: the young woman was hugely Eurosceptic and convinced each country should just be allowed to do what it wanted, even when I brought up Poland and coal-fired power stations; yet her views on every other subject we ranged over entirely matched the Green Party’s, and she was very keen to see women elected. But I still don’t know how she’ll vote.)
Just as I aspire to grow every variety of fruit, I also aspire to vote in every variety of electoral system. And for the proportional variety, there is no purer example than that of Israel, even if no contemporary PR/multipartism advocate would ever hold up that country’s electoral and party system as any sort of model.
But, supposing I were suddenly granted the right to cast a vote tomorrow, for which party would it go? That should be an easy question, with some 30 parties to choose from in a system that will give all those that win at least 2% of the national vote a share of the 120 Knesset seats quite close to their share of the votes. Yet it isn’t easy. Even with extreme party-based (closed list) PR and a parliamentary form of government, strategic and personal-leadership criteria enter in. That is, one is tempted not to think merely of which party one wants to have the maximum feasible legislative weight in the Knesset, but how might one’s chosen party shape post-electoral government formation, and which party leader would one like to see as PM or in another senior cabinet post? It gets complex!
Of course, one starting point is to determine one’s position in the multi-dimensional ideological space. For this task, the Israel Electoral Compass was set up during the current campaign. Unlike the other voting “compasses” out there, this one plots your position in three dimensions–probably the very smallest number that can make sense of the tangled Israeli ideological and partisan scene. (And, yes, you can take the test in English as well as Hebrew–or Dutch.)1
Well, it was far from a surprise that I came out as a leftist secular dove. Not that I consider myself especially secular, but I have no use for the “religious” (i.e. Orthodox) establishment that controls so much of Israeli social policy. Nor, as a “dove” do I have much use for those who want Israel to “engage” Hamas directly, but I have even less use for those who talk of eliminating it, or who would countenance continued building of Israeli housing on Palestinian land in the West Bank. So it is with zero surprise that the quiz put Meretz closest to me. It is very much in the vein of a left-libertarian, pro-peace, and fairly ‘green’ party.
The Israel Election Compass produces three graphs, each with two of the three dimensions. Here is my hawk-dove and religious-secular plot as an example.
That’s Meretz practically being speared by the compass point representing my test result.
Yet I think “my” party would be the Green Movement-Meimad. It is even closer to me on the left-right dimensions (i.e. not as far left as Meretz), but it clearly is less ‘secular’ than Meretz–or me. And therein lies much of its appeal, for I believe in a “Jewish state” that is not just Jews being sovereign over the land, but also being good stewards of that land. Thus it is essential that Israel’s religious community be both defined more broadly than the Orthodox would do, and be enlisted in the (lower-case ‘g’) green movement. An excerpt from the party’s statement:
The Meimad Movement was founded in 1988 (5748) by Rabbi Yehuda Amital along with a group of Orthodox and traditional Israelis. The aim was to transform the face of religious Zionism and to serve as an alternative to the approach that has made the Torah of Israel synonymous with religious and political extremism. The Meimad Party, a Hebrew acronym for “Jewish State, Democratic State”, was founded in 1999 (5759) to bring Meimad’s ideology into the political arena and to represent the many people, both religious and non-religious, who believe that the State of Israel should be both Jewish and democratic. [...]
The Green Movement, a more recent political initiative has been gathering momentum for only a year. [...] The Green Movement was established as an authentic “green” political organization, based on the recognition that Israel, like most countries in the West was destined to have a Green Party as party of the permanent political mosaic in the Knesset. Yet, an authentic green movement cannot be merely a “niche” party but must promote a broad political agenda…
The references to authenticity and not being a ‘niche’ party are digs at the other Green Party, which has been around longer, but has never amounted to much.2
Yet here comes the strategic part. The Green Movement-Meimad is unlikely to clear the electoral threshold, if all the polls I have seen are to believed. So a voter in this position might be tempted to vote for Meretz (which might win 5-7 seats) and hope for the slim chance that it could help form a center-left coalition with Kadima and Labor and excluding Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu. Slim chance indeed, and because it is slim, many potential Meretz voters (and perhaps GM-M voters as well) are tempted to vote for Kadima to enhance Tzipi Livni’s chances of being PM (despite other unsavory candidates on the party list, from the point of view of left-secular-dovish voters).
All polls show Likud in the lead, albeit narrowly, and thus Benjamin Netanyahu seems most likely to get the first chance to form the next government. The distribution of seats is also likely to make any government formed by Livni dependent on Avigdor Lieberman and his Yisrael Beiteinu, while it is conceivable that a Likud-led government could be formed without Lieberman, or at least with the latter in a weaker bargaining position. Each of the left-leaning (and non-Arab) parties (Labor and Meretz and/or Green Movement-Meimad, as well as the centrist Kadima) has to perform better than expected for a government with neither Likud nor Yisrael Beiteinu even to be realistic. And there is at least a small chance that GM-M (but not Meretz) could join a Likud-led government under some circumstances–if it clears the threshold. Finally, either of the two large parties leading the government could be a bit more promising for voters like me if Labor beats Yisrael Beiteinu for third place. Finally, there is the fact that polls show a staggeringly high rate of indecision as of the final week of the campaign, so for all we know, some of the scenarios that seem unlikely might materialize.3
So, party voting under ‘pure’ PR is not so easy after all!
I hope readers will take the test themselves and also discuss how they would vote (or will/did vote, if Israeli) themselves.
1. The ‘test’ was designed with the assistance of the Israel Democracy Institute, and I first heard about it in an interview on Israel Radio (via WRN) with Professor Asher Arian.
2. In the graph, The Green Movement-Meimad is “due north” of my compass pointer, while Labor, the (other) Green Party, and then Kadima are just “northeast.”
3. Though I fear the biggest surprise might involve Lieberman doing even better than his polling suggests.
It would be interesting if there were such informal cooperation. The only announced case of cooperation, as noted in the quoted post, is the non-compete agreement the leaders’ districts (neither of which is likely to be competitive, anyway). Moreover, it was with allegations of a common front that the Conservatives tried to keep the Green leader out of the debates.
In a reversal of an earlier decision, the Green Party leader will be allowed into the debates in advance of Canada’s 14 October election.
This is a good decision for democracy. The party is polling in the 8â€“10% range and while it may not win any seats beyond the one it currently holds (thanks to a switch by a member not elected under its label), under plurality rules even far smaller parties can have an impact. Besides, it is a national party, without question.
If only this could serve as an example for the debates to the south…
Josh Putnam, a political science Ph.D. candidate at the University of Georgia, who maintains a terrific blog on the US presidential election process called Frontloading HQ, has had a series of recent posts about the possible impact of the minor party and independent candidates.
The most recent is about the potential impact of Cynthia McKinney, the Green Party nominee who has only recently appeared in some pollsters’ questions. The post about McKinney was in response to a request from me, as I asked whether McKinney was fishing in the same pool as former Green candidate Ralph Nader (who is running as an independent this time, as he did in 2004). So, thanks Josh.
I will not try to summarize this interesting series of posts by Josh. You may read the recent post on McKinney yourself, and then, near the top of his August archives, you can see the previous posts that discussed the candidacies of Bob Barr (Libertarian) and Ralph Nader (nonpartisan).
I suppose this is a record for Georgia: the state claims two former members of Congress running for president on partisan tickets in the same year, with McKinney joining Bob Barr (former Republican member).
At pollster.com, Mark Blumenthal discusses the challenges to measuring the support of third-party and independent candidates, and notes that the pollster.com team has recently added a graphic tracking the presidential race with Bob Barr and Ralph Nader (a non-partisan candidate). Pollsters, and pollster.com should now add Cynthia McKinney to their analysis for the 2008 US presidential campaign.
On purely objective criteria–name recognition and prior experience–has there ever been a better field of third-party/independent presidential candidates? In spite of the objective quality of the candidates, I suspect that Nader and McKinney will have a hard time combining for even 2% of the national popular vote, and that Barr would have an outside chance of cracking 5% only if Republican John McCain appears to be headed for a loss of blowout proportions.
Sean Hanley has a brief but interesting post up about the Green parties of Estonia and the Czech Republic (and elsewhere) and why the Western sociological frame of ‘post-materialism’ may be inaccurate for understanding the Green parties farther east. It may even be inaccurate, he hints, for understanding those of the west. Perhaps they are better understood as the coming together of “environmental and/or agrarian interest with the demand for â€˜new politicsâ€™ of the centre.” He suggests that the brand has become a trusted one for these rather diverse groups choosing to ally under the ‘green’ label–”a kind of franchise taken up by a rather diverse group of political business partners. Not necessarily totally meaningless, but not really indicative of a close â€˜party familyâ€™ relationship.”
I suspect Sean is very much on to something here.
He also notes some internal problems–predictably–caused by the Green’s coalition with the right in the Czech Republic.
Israel’s Green Party was founded more than a decade ago, but has never won a Knesset seat despite the very low electoral threshold.1 The party’s chairman is the current deputy mayor of Tel Aviv, and polls are currently showing that the party could win as many as 4 seats in the next election.2
The party’s prospects could be helped by recruiting a “charismatic leader to head the list,” reports the Jerusalem Post:
Labor MK Ophir Paz-Pines has confirmed that he was asked to head the list, but has denied that he seriously considered the offer. MK Michael Melchior (Labor-Meimad) has reportedly been approached by both environmentalist parties.
And therein lies a key factor that could harm the party’s prospects: there is a second green party being formed.
The new party will be co-headed by Ben-Gurion University of the Negev professor Alon Tal and Eran Ben Yemini of the Green Course student environmental organization. …
Several hundred people are involved in putting together the party’s platform, which will encompass positions on all the major issues of the day and not just the environment. A source in the party said its positions and organization would be democratic and transparent.
Most of the green parties around the world that have secured parliamentary representation (and sometimes government participation) have presented a platform that spanned many issues other than the environment. And many have made a point of stressing internal democracy, which the older Israeli Green party apparently has not always been known for upholding.
The threshold is currently 2% of the national vote. In 2006, the Greens won 1.5%, which was the highest percentage among the parties that failed to cross the threshold. [↩]
It could “replace the Pensioners Party in the next Knesset as the dark horse that will win the support of young and disgruntled voters,” notes the JPost, in the article linked here. I previously noted the manner in which the Pensioners benefited from late-campaign strategic voting. Meanwhile, the Pensioners Party has recently split over some of its MKs support for a bill to raise–you guessed it–pensions beyond what the government (in which it participates) was willing to do. [↩]
Gonzalez is just the sort of political figure I would like to see the Green Party build on: Someone with actual prior electoral experience. That he had that experience while an affiliated Green is even more a plus. However, given that Nader is running as an independent and not as a Green, I wonder if this could be a bridge-burning move for Gonzalez with the Green Party. I hope not.1
Regarding Green candidates for prominent office with a record of electoral experience, the first Green I can recall voting for was Dan Hamburg for California Governor, in 1998. Hamburg previously had been a Democratic member of Congress from a closely divided district on the state’s north coast. His journey seems subsequently to have taken him rather far from politics, Green or otherwise.
Former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney is an announced Green presidential pre-candidate. For various reasons I have doubts about her being any more serious about party-building–or any more likely to be effective at it–than Nader is at this point,2 but that is a topic for another day.
One can debate whether the Green Party should run a presidential candidate,3 but despite his being on the ballot as a pre-candidate in the 5 February Green primary in California,4 Nader is not actually part of that debate as far as I can tell. I could certainly see a basis for a Greens for Obama push, though I do not think it should be unconditional.5
In other third-party/independent news, Michael Bloomberg says he’s not running.
Well, I just realized that Tuesday was the last day to register to vote or to change one’s party affiliation in advance of California’s presidential primary. So, it’s Democrat–my current registration, more or less by default1–for me. I had considered re-registering Green, and may still do so, but it won’t be in time for the presidential primary. I had also considered re-registering Decline to State, but that would only have broadened my options to include the American Independent (in addition to Democrat), and there is noting at all “broad” about the American Independent party.2
I rather like the idea of being a dues paying member of one party3 while being legally able to participate in the nominating primary of another–I suppose that is a very American form of political party participation!
Besides, I have only a weak preference among the Green pre-candidates, and have mixed feelings about whether the party–yes, my party–should even run a presidential candidate.4 But if I vote for President in November, that vote will almost certainly be for the Green Party nominee,5 whoever it is–a party, not a personal vote. So, why bother to vote in a primary when you are almost indifferent as to whom it nominates (or even if it nominates anyone)?
So, I still have about two weeks to pick a pre-candidate from our–I mean, their–wonderful field.7
Epilogue: The list of parties not qualified for ballot status in the state, but seeking it, is rather interesting. Entertaining, even: I am particularly intrigued by the We Like Women and Science Party.
Certainly not by any meaningful standard of “party identification.” [↩]
If you are unaffiliated and were hoping to vote for a Republican candidate on 5 February, too late! But you can still vote for Obama, or any other Democrat–or an AI candidate. [↩]
I joined the Green Party some months ago. Money where mouth is, and all that. [↩]
But therein lies an inherent problem with presidentialism for minor parties: In such an institutional structure, you are pretty much nowhere as a party if you forgo a candidacy for the most visible office. Yet running a presidential candidate has serious risks for a party with no serious chance to win the office, and I am not talking about the “spoiler” charge; I am talking about the danger of personalizing a party that, by its very size and nature, strives to be a programmatic alternative. See, it is true: It isn’t easy being Green! [↩]
Safe state under the absurd Electoral College system, and all that. [↩]
In fact, of the seven pre-candidates listed, I believe only four are actually currently active: Johnson, McKinney, Mesplay, and Swift. [↩]
Green Party candidates tend not to win races in national or state/provincial legislative races conducted by plurality. The type of constituency Green parties cultivate is systematically under-represented by an electoral system that privileges regional concentration as the only way a smaller party (measured by jurisdiction-wide votes) can win representation. Nonetheless, even Greens are bound to have some local concentration, as a few near misses in recent Canadian elections discussed here previously have suggested. It seems it would be only a matter of time before some Green candidates begin to break through in FPTP jurisdictions, given the greater salience recently of the party’s signature issues.
In the UK, a recent local council by-election suggests growth within the range that would be needed to win a seat in the next general election. The seat in question is in Brighton, and bears watching.
The UK Greens will decide in an internal referendum later this year whether to move to a more traditional single-leader model. Mark Lynas has an interesting take in the New Statesman on the debate, which pits the fundis (who fear “domestication” of their movement) and the realos (who would like to see the party position itself to make an impact on the British mainstream).
This is, of course, an echo of similar problems confronted by other “outsider” movements, apart from those that are founded by charismatic leaders, which are more typical of the non-mainstream right than of left-libertarian and “eco” movements like the Greens. (The outsiders of the right have the opposite problem: how to institutionalize and get out of the shadow of the leader and carry on after the leader’s departure).
Very interesting. Thanks to Natalie at Philobiblon for the tip.
Ireland will be getting Greener, as that nation’s Green Party has agreed for the first time to join a coalition government. Fianna FÃ¡il, the party of current premier, Bertie Ahern, has agreed to introduce a carbon tax during the lifetime of the next parliament in exchange for the Greens’ entry into the coalition, while the Greens agreed not to use their government role to block Fianna FÃ¡il’s road-building plans or to stop Iraq-bound US military flights from using Shannon airport.
As Wilf Day pointed out in the earlier planting, under Ireland’s single transferable vote (STV) system, we know the patterns of vote transfers between candidates of various parties. It just so happens that Green votes were highly unlikely to transfer to Fianna FÃ¡il and more likely to go to the leading opposition party, Fine Gael. So, in terms of the connection between votes and executive-formation, assuming the coalition goes ahead, do we have here a systemic failure, or at least a mandate violation? The coalition agreement needs to be ratified by a two-thirds vote of the Green’s national conference today (which about 500 party members are expected to attend).
It is not yet known which or how many portfolios the Greens will get, but they are seeking Transport (which would put them in charge of implementing road projects that they campaigned against!) and Environment. The Greens would like to reorganize the ministries, combining parts of Energy and Environment to address global climate-change issues.
Ahern is also working on support deals with two independent members of parliament.
Update: The coalition is approved, with 86% of Green delegates to the conference approving, although the Greens party leader is stepping down to honor a previous pledge not to enter a coalition with Fianna FÃ¡il. Greens will have two portfolios (probably environment and energy, rather than transportation) and the PDs one. The Irish Times has more detail on the agreement, including its policy guidelines and the information that the Greens will also have two junior ministers. Thus four of its six legislators will have government posts. Meanwhile, the article also notes that Ahern continues to offer budgetary commitments so far up to “hundreds of millions of euros” with three non-party members (with a fourth possibly also to be signed up).
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