Fruits & Votes is the Web-log of Matthew S. Shugart ("MSS"), Professor of Political Science, University of California, Davis.
Perspectives on electoral systems, constitutional design, and policy around the world, based primarily on my research interests.
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06 May 2013
30 April 2013
Planted by MSS
Planted in: India
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.
Propagation: Seeds & scions (4)
04 December 2012
This is not a blog about conflict resolution, and I am certainly no expert on the Middle East conflict. Lack of expertise does not stop many other folks from commenting, so why should it stop me? The following is simply based on my close attention to the media from Israel (in English, both print and broadcast) and international sources, as well as my own observations of many of the much-discussed locales when I was in Jerusalem (in what is technically a “settlement”) for over two months in 2010.
There has been much–too much–attention to the Israeli cabinet’s declaration (not really a “decision” as best I can tell) to move ahead with some 3,000 new homes beyond the Green Line (the 1949 armistice lines), including in an area known as “E-1″.
Report after report says that building homes in E-1 is the death knell of a future Palestinian state. It is alleged to make contiguity of such a state impossible, by cutting off access between the Ramallah area (northwest of Jerusalem) and Bethlehem (to the south of the Jerusalem center).
There is no kinder way of putting it than to say this is BS.
The proposed E-1 homes are northeast of Maale Adumim, which is itself some distance east of Jerusalem.
Ramallah and Bethlehem can’t exactly be easily connected even now, due to the incredibly rugged terrain. Homes northeast of Maale Adumim, a city of about 40,000 east of Jerusalem along Highway 1 towards the Jericho and Dead Sea areas, doesn’t change these geographic realities.
As for the other areas in which new homes would be built, these are not new proposals. They are not even new settlements. They are in places like Ramat Shlomo, which I have commented on before. That is, they are homes within the boundaries of existing built-up areas–at least as I understand what is covered by the cabinet’s declaration of intent to proceed. They are in areas that will not conceivably be either evacuated or turned into islands within a sovereign Palestinian sea whenever there actually might be a negotiated solution.
As for contiguity, it might be noted that Gaza–from which Israel did pull out its settlers—is not contiguous with the other regions that are proposed as part of a Palestinian state. So this is actually something of a red herring. If a Palestinian state is ever created, it will not be contiguous, regardless of Mevasseret Adumim (the name of the housing area within “E-1″) and Ramat Shlomo and Ariel and Kiryat Arba (etc.). It will have to involve various road and other corridors, overpasses and underpasses near developed Israeli areas, and tight security guarantees. It will also involve transferring some current territory–and presumably some Arab population–on the pre-1967 Israeli side of the Green Line to the new state. All of this is precisely what makes a negotiated solution so difficult, and nothing that the cabinet has said in recent days changes this difficult reality.
It must be emphasized that all of these development plans, as well as the ideas of territorial swaps and security guarantees, have been on the table for close to two decades now–a key fact lost in the excited rhetoric of recent days. In fact, there are many influential voices in Israel, including within the cabinet itself, disappointed with the slow pace of approvals of long-planned housing developments. Israel is just now in the midst of an election campaign, and we can hardly expect the incumbent government, particularly given its political complexion, to have greeted the UN resolution “upgrading” the status of “Palestine” with anything milder than it has done so far. One does not have to be a supporter of the Likud and its allies and their strategic visions–I certainly am not–to recognize that the bluster from European governments about withdrawing ambassadors and such is not constructive, and probably only plays into the hands of the harder-line elements of the Israeli electoral majority.
In context, the diplomatic and media excitement of this past week is just so much noise.
Propagation: Seeds & scions (22)
05 August 2012
Nepal has been at a deadlock for months in its constitutional process. When yet another of numerous deadlines for a new comnstiution was missed on 27 May, Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai dissolved the constituent assembly and set new elections for November. However, last week, the Election Commission advised that the elections can not be held, for reasons that include lack of political consensus. The opposition parties had protested the dissolution and announced a boycott of new elections.
Constitution Net published an interview that offers an “insider’s perspective” on the impasse.
Thus Nepal remains in a serious deadlock. Among the contentious issues is a classic one in the debates over federalism. While all the parties agreed early on to define Nepal as a “federal” republic, they disagree on a fundamental question of federal design for ethnically plural societies: should the sub-units be designed to be themselves multi-ethnic, or should their boundaries follow (as much as possible) the regional concentrations of various groups? The latter option, which seems to be what most experts on federalism advise, obviously requires delicate compromises on where new boundaries should be drawn and how many sub-units to have, which in turn shapes the number of minorities that can be local majorities in at least one unit.
Notwithstanding the breakdown–which may yet prove temporary–the assembly had made considerable progress. It apparently had reached a consensus on a semi-presidential system. In fact, Nepal may be one of the few countries ever to have had a full debate over all three major types of executive-legislative structure: parliamentary, presidential, and semi-presidential. Nepal has been previously parliamentary–largely because it was also a monarchy. In most constitutional-design processes that I know of, the debate is either between presidential and semi-presidential or between parliamentary and semi-presidential (if there is any such debate at all).
According to Jan Sharma (who also covers several other aspects of the process and its deadlock), the parties divided over the executive-legislative type. The old parties, the Nepali Congress and the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist initially wanted a Westminster parliamentary system, while the Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist favored a strong directly elected presidency (presumably a presidential system). Guess who must be confident about having a popular individual leader who could win a presidential election, and who isn’t?
From various subsequent news items I saw back in May (and which I don’t have immediate access to now) suggest that they had compromised on a semi-presidential system, and evidently of the premier-presidential sub-type.
But federalism? That’s another matter.
08 July 2012
Planted by MSS
Planted in: India
The author of the Banyan column in The Economist has things about right.
The whole box of lychees is worth checking out, regarding the upcoming (indirect) Indian presidential election and implications for the country’s coalition government. But the first paragraph warrants quotation here.
18 March 2012
The following entry is by Devesh Tiwari, a Ph.D. candidate in political science at UCSD.
2012 Uttar Pradesh Elections: Sweeping mandate, humiliating defeat or none of the above?
Over a three week period, approximately 60 percent of Uttar Pradesh’s 126 million eligible voters participated in state level elections that took place in seven stages, making this election larger (and logistically more complex) than the national elections of many countries. By way of background, Indian states are parliamentary democracies where the majority of the legislature must support the executive. On March 6th, the results were announced and the Samajwadi Party (SP) easily gained a majority of seats, placing the incumbent Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) out of power . The results were striking. The BSP, which entered the race holding 206 seats (51 percent of the 403 seat assembly) lost nearly 60 percent of its seats, winning only 80 seats (20 percent of seats). The SP nearly doubled the number of seats it held, increasing it from 97 (24 percent of seats) to 224 seats (56 percent of seats). Such a drastic swing could characterize this election as giving the SP a massive mandate, and could be equally characterized as a humiliating repudiation of the BSP.
A closer look at the election results reveals that both characterizations are overblown. Uttar Pradesh uses a “First Past the Post” electoral rule whereby the party with the most votes in a district wins the seat. This system is known to produce disproportional results where a party may win a higher proportion of seats than votes. For example, in the 2005 Parliamentary elections in the United Kingdom, the Labour Party won 55 percent of districts while only obtaining 35 percent of the vote. Thus while disproportionality is not something new, its magnitude in Uttar Pradesh is impressive.
The SP won 56 percent of districts by only winning 29 percent of the state vote. The BSP’s vote share of 26 percent translated to a seat share of only 20 percent. In other words, the 3 percentage point difference in vote shares resulted in a 36 percentage point difference in seat share.
While the BSP was on the short end of the disproportionally stick in 2012, they benefited from it in 2007. In that election, the BSP won 51 percent of seats by only winning 30 percent of the vote. The SP, on the other hand, won 24 percent of the seats while winning 26 percent of votes state wide. Taken together, the SP more than doubled the number of seats between elections by increasing their vote share by a mere 3 percentage points.
So what accounts for these startling results? Why is disproportionality so high in Uttar Pradesh? The answer is that political competition in Uttar Pradesh is highly fragmented. In 2012, each district had, on average, 13 parties contesting the election; in 2007 the average was about 9. Partisan fragmentation in Uttar Pradesh is further evidenced by the fact that in 2012, the average district vote share of winning candidates was only 35 percent (and was 36 percent in 2007). Thus the combination of party system fragmentation, and the disproportionality caused by the FPTP electoral rule, exacerbates vote share volatility to even higher levels of seat share volatility, producing high levels of political uncertainty.
Such a political environment changes the incentives of both legislators and political parties on two fronts. First, it creates incentives for parties to place a higher premium on fielding candidates that can win elections, even at the expense of party reputation and governance. This may partially explain why parties in Uttar Pradesh (and India as a whole) would be willing to field candidates with ties to criminality; winning seats is more important than long term party reputations and governance. Second, it shortens the time horizon of parties. Since a governing party would have little faith that their tenure in office would last long, they have no incentive to invest in programmatic policies whose political benefits would be realized in the future. Instead, parties would focus on short term political exchanges whereby they trade government benefits for political support.
Uttar Pradesh’s political environment undermines the production of programmatic policies and thus reinforces the political logic of clientelism. These are precisely the incentives that Uttar Pradesh does not need. As one of the poorest, and most corrupt, state in India, Uttar Pradesh would greatly benefit from reforms that reduce corruption, increase bureaucratic quality and increase the investments of public goods and services. Thus while Uttar Pradesh is a democracy in the sense that there is alternation of power, it has not produced a system whereby parties act for the benefit of the people as a whole.
Propagation: Seeds & scions (10)
20 January 2012
21 August 2011
If this change happens, it will mean saying goodbye to yet another SNTV system. On the other hand, as best I can tell from David’s description, SNTV was de-facto already abandoned as of the most recent election. In that election, they used a rather odd system of “ghost districts” that I am not sure that I really understand; it seems as if each wider electoral district was subdivided into M sub-districts (where M is the district magnitude), and that each candidate had to beat out only the other candidates in the “ghost” district to win. In other words, it was mechanically FPTP, as the winners would not necessarily be the top M in votes over the wider electoral region. The twist is that no one actually knew which candidates were competing against which other ones for a given seat–that’s the “ghost” aspect. Weird.
Propagation: Seeds & scions (3)
30 June 2011
Bangladesh will no longer have a constitutional provision under which the incumbent government yields to a caretaker administration of technocrats prior to an election.
The Bangladesh provision has been in place since the mid 1990s. I am not aware of other democracies with such a provision. Predictably, the opposition is claiming that the constitutional change is a move by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to rig the election due in 2013.
Bangladesh is striking for how big its swings are. For instance, in 2008, the incumbent party lost 167 seats (out of 300 total). The scale of the swing in seats is a result of the use of FPTP; in votes the swing was 9.5 percentage points against the incumbent party. Notwithstanding the use of a “majoritarian” electoral system, without many relatively close districts seeing vote shifts in the same direction, the seat swing could not be so massive. Some earlier elections also had seen similarly large swings. I wonder if the caretaker provisions have had anything to do with the unusual scale of Bangladesh’s incumbency disadvantage in the past. If so, the opposition charges against this constitutional change may have merit.
13 May 2011
Nepal’s constituent assembly, elected in 2007, will miss another deadline to produce a constitution.
It was supposed to be done on the 28th of May, but there was no chance they were going to make it. So yesterday’s announcement just acknowledges the inevitable.
The assembly, by two thirds vote, will simply amend the interim constitution to extend its own term–not for the first time. The previous deadline was 28 May 2010.
I wonder how common it is for constituent assemblies to miss their deadlines. It would make sense to require elections for a new constituent assembly if the current one fails to meet deadlines for its primary function, which is (obviously) to draft a constitution. On the other hand, when you are the constituent body, your word is sovereign (exceptions for some cases that are under international supervision, such as Namibia in 1990) and you can do whatever you want, more or less by definition.
Propagation: Seeds & scions (5)
The world’s longest-ruling democratically elected Communist parties have been voted out of office as results of four key Indian state legislative elections were released today.
As has been widely anticipated since at least the dust-up in the central government over the Left Front’s resistance to the Indo-US nuclear agreement, the West Bengal result shows a crushing defeat in the Left’s most important stronghold. In the 2009 national Lok Sabha (parliament) elections, an alliance headed by the Trinamool Congress (TMC) dominated the state. In 2009, as well as in these state elections, the TMC was in a pre-electoral alliance with the federal ruling party, the Indian National Congress (INC). TMC’s leader, Mamata Banerjee, is the federal Railways Minister in the coalition cabinet of the INC-led United Progressive Alliance.
The TMC-INC alliance has won 226 seats out of 294. The TMC itself won 184. The various parties of the Left Front, which has ruled the state for 34 years, will have only 60.
In Kerala, another long-time Left stronghold in the southwest, the result was close between the United Democratic Front (UDF), led by the INC, and the Left Democratic Front. Projections of seats kept swinging between the two fronts, but in the end the UDF emerged with 72 seats out of 140. Of these 72, the INC will have 38 and the Kerala Muslim League 20. (Several smaller pre-poll allies split the rest.) The Communist Party of India (Marxist)1 will have the most seats in the Kerala assembly of any single party, 45, but it does not matter, given that the pre-poll UDF won a majority.
Another southern state, Tamil Nadu, saw a setback for Congress, as one of the main Dravidian parties displaced the other. The AIADMK and its pre-poll allies (which include left parties as junior partners) defeated the Congress-allied DMK. The outgoing government was a DMK minority cabinet, backed by the INC.
In Assam, in the northeast, Congress scored a big reelection victory. It will have 76 of the assembly’s 126 seats. The opposition regional party, Asam Gana Parishad (AGP), and the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) were unable to conclude a pre-poll alliance to challenge the INC.
The run-up to the elections saw some interesting brinksmanship between the INC and its allies. The AIADMK and, especially the TMC, held out for many more districts than the INC was initially willing to concede. Because these are pre-electoral alliances to contest single-seat districts (decided by FPTP), the key to how many seats each alliance partner wins lies in how many winnable districts it gets to contest. The TMC forced the INC to back down, leaving the latter with far fewer seats than it originally demanded as a bottom line, and thereby underscoring how dependent the INC is on its state-based partners. In the dealing, however, the TMC had to trade off an attempt to expand its base of operation further into neighboring Assam.2
The Congress Party seems to be steadily rebuilding its strength in recent years, but it remains reliant on regional parties to do so in some key states. Its main rival for power nationally, the BJP, was scarcely a factor in these states (other than contributing to vote-splitting in Assam).
All eyes have already shifted to the next huge prize, Uttar Pradesh, which has state elections next year. Neither Congress nor the BJP currently has much a foothold there, and the main competition is between two state parties that have declined to join national alliances. The intrigue is already getting intense, with protests and counter-protests over state government land acquisition for development projects,3 and Rahul Gandhi’s midnight ride.
Propagation: Seeds & scions (7)
11 February 2011
According to The Jordan Times, the “centrist” National Constitutional Party (NCP) says it would be premature to adopt a party-list system–evidently meaning a fully list-based system, for the news item leads with:
This appears to be an endorsement of some form of mixed-member system.
Jordan’s current electoral system is single non-transferable vote (SNTV), although it is known rather awkwardly as the “one man, one vote” system. (That term, although a literal description of SNTV, among many other systems, elsewhere refers to an absence of malapportionment, which is something Jordan actually has a good deal of.)
13 January 2011
(Substantially extended from the original, with some personal observations from having lived in and walked around this general area.)
Confused by the Shepherd Hotel controversy that has burst (back) into the news this week? You should be. It is a confusing situation. Certainly not as simple as most of the voices in the media (of whatever position) make it seem.
If you want to cut through the confusion, read Yaacov Lozowick’s “virtual tour” of the area.
I know this area, although by no means intimately. But the maps and satellite views Yaacov posts include the area where I lived for about three months last year. One of the things that most struck me about this area, which is over the Green Line, is just how intermixed it is. The neighborhood in question, Sheikh Jarah, as well as where I stayed, French Hill, were both in the Jordanian-occupied zone from 1948-67 and are typically, if misleadingly, referred to in the media as “East Jerusalem.” In French Hill, the population is mostly Jewish (including a substantial community of post-1967 immigrants from English-speaking countries, as well as academics and staff at Hebrew University), but there is a large minority of Arabs. Both the Jerusalem municipality bus lines and the Arab East Jerusalem bus lines course through the area. (Yes, there are separate bus lines; one sees Arab passengers on the Jerusalem buses, but evidently not Jews on the Arab buses, and the company running the latter does not appear to have a website in either English or Hebrew, only Arabic.) A short walk southwestward from the Student Village in French Hill, where my University-provided accommodation was, one passes by Arab-run falafel shops and Arab houses, with some consular residences mixed in. Other apartment complexes in the area are mostly Jewish, including some Haredi (ultra-Orthodox). A walk towards the east takes one past Hadassah Hospital, at the entrance to which there is an Arab-run kiosk (cigarettes, ice cream, etc.) and a series of mostly Arab-populated apartment complexes on one side of the street and more HU student housing on the other side. The University student population is itself quite mixed. Sheikh Jarrah and French Hill blend in to one another, although Sheikh Jarah is clearly mostly Arab-populated. Right between these neighborhoods are the National Police HQ and several other government buildings, as well as some international hotels (where the staff seems mostly Arab) and consular facilities.
It is far from an ideal “integrated” set of neighborhoods, and tensions in Sheikh Jarrah have been high for some time. But my point (and Yaacov’s) is that it is misleading to see a sharp division between the “Jewish” and “Arab” cities of Jerusalem, as most media accounts suggest.
The idea of drawing a border through this region as part of a “peace agreement” mystifies me. I can’t see how it could be done, honestly.
The comment form is open–I think, and for how long, who knows.
02 December 2010
The following excerpt from one of the State Department cables in the Iraqi election of 2010 is interesting for its discussion of list type.
Via Wikileaks. Emphasis added.
28 November 2010
In a post I had missed till now, Reidar Visser makes clear that the Iraqi electoral system used for the general elections earlier this year was indeed open list. The key point is in bold (my emphasis):
So, just after stressing that the list type is a “hybrid” he goes on to stress that it is in fact an open list. Not hybrid at all.
The point he makes here about implications for “democratic theory” of an open list system in which a vote cast only for the list, without a candidate preference vote, is entirely valid. I have made the same point myself in published work. It is ambiguous, and perhaps unclear to many voters, what the meaning of a list vote without a preference vote is, when applied to the intra-party dimension of representation. Did the voter who abstained from participation in the ranking of candidates really mean to delegate the ranking decision to other voters, who did cast preference votes? Or did such a voter intend to accept the party leadership’s preferred ranking?
Notwithstanding this theoretical ambiguity, there is nothing unusual about this in practice. Open-list systems, in which the preference vote is optional, and in which a list-only vote has no bearing on the order of candidates are found in Brazil, Peru, Switzerland, and formerly in Italy.
Of course, a real hybrid of open and closed lists would be one in which a list vote counted for a pre-established party order, while a preference vote potentially counted for changing that order. These are usually termed “flexible” list systems (or sometimes “semi-open” or “semi-closed”), and are found in Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and some other countries.
Other variants also exist: open lists in which the voter must cast a preference vote (Chile, Finland, Poland). There are even flexible lists where the voter must cast a preference vote notwithstanding that a pre-ordered party ranking usually prevails (e.g.Netherlands).
The rest of Visser’s post offers some detail about the extent to which intra-party groups, such as the Sadrists,were successful in elevating their candidates via preference voting. In an earlier post, Visser had detailed “the Sadrist watershed.”
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