Two parties of National Democratic Alliance (NDA), which is India’s current national opposition, scored big in the Bihar legislative elections. Bihar is one of India’s poorest and most populous states.
The NDA is the alliance led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The combine of the BJP and its ally, the Janata Dal (United), won nearly 85% of the seats in the Bihar assembly. That is more than the Congress Party ever won back in the days when it was the dominant party.
The current Chief Minister, Nitish Kumar, will be returned to power. This time, however, the BJP is a larger component of the alliance. The Congress Party, and its allies within the (national ruling) United Progressive Alliance, suffered electoral devastation.
Chief minister Nitish Kumar’s ruling coalition won 206 seats in the 243-member assembly, the best-ever performance by any alliance or party in Bihar. The Janata Dal (United) improved its seat tally from 88 in 2005 to 115 in this election. Its ally, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s tally jumped from 55 in 2005 to 91 this election. [...]
The biggest casualty of this change was Lalu Prasad and his Rashtriya Janata Dal [a UPA component], which returned a score that barely qualified it put up an opposition leader in the new assembly. The RJD and its alliance partner Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) won 25 seats, compared to 64 in last elections. [...]
Despite the large crowds that Rahul Gandhi drew at every rally he addressed, the Congress party managed to win four seats, compared to nine in 2005. Independent candidates and other parties won eight seats, down from 27 in last elections. [HT]
The election result has major implications for the future of the NDA-UPA competition, both nationally, and in other states. The UPA scored a large victory over the NDA in general elections in May, 2009. Now the Bihar victory shows a potential path back to power for the NDA, which governed India with a majority between 1999 and 2004: the BJP can win by putting its regional allies forward and downplaying its own radical Hindu nationalism.
Both [BJP and JD(U)] realised their alliance was symbiotic in nature. The JD(U) needed the BJP for bringing the upper caste votes. The BJP had to ride on Kumar’s image for the pan-Bihari vote. [HT]
The alliance managed to keep the Ayodhya issue quiet, averting a potential split in the electorate that might have threatened the allied parties’ ability to fish in different pools of voters within the state. The result this changes the political context, with its emphasis on development over the usual identity politics (although the just-linked item also sounds some notes of caution against over-interpreting the result in this way).
Already, it is having ripple effects in two other states that will vote in 2011, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh, where Congress or an ally had been expecting big gains. Some have even been moved to suggest Kumar could be a future PM candidate for the NDA.
The results of September’s election for the Afghanistan legislature finally have been released. From the CSM:
Early analyses of the final results show that the Hazara community may have snagged a share of the lower house that represents as much as double their actual proportion of the population.
In Ghazni, the last remaining constituency to be counted, preliminary results indicated that all 11 seats went to Hazara candidates, even though the province has a slim majority of Pashtuns with significant Hazara and Tajik minorities. [...]
Wardak province also saw a surge in Hazara representation. Though the region is predominately home to Pashtuns, three of the five seats went to Hazaras.
The story emphasizes the impact of violence on the lack of ethnic proportionality: if turnout by Pashtuns was lower due to their regions being more violent, then other groups would be over-represented.
While violence may well be the main factor, it is worth remembering that the electoral system is single nontransferable vote (SNTV), which is not a proportional system. If Pashtuns had their votes less efficiently distributed across their candidates than did other ethnic groups, for whatever reason, then the result could be disproportional regardless of turnout differentials.
Frequent commenter Bancki noted the following about the Jordanian election of this past week:
When you think you’ve seen it all, Jordan invented a new hybrid electoral system: SNTV with virtual sub-districts: on the one hand, every voter has only one vote for one candidate in his multi-member-district (SNTV), but on the other hand, the district is divided in as many ‘virtual sub-districts’ as there are seats and every candidate stands in the sub-district of his choice. Not the M highest vote-getters are elected (SNTV), but the winner in every sub-district.
I have no idea why this sub-district complexity was added (who enacted the electoral law change anyway?), but it seems to me it’s more difficult (compared with simple SNTV) for a well-organised minority (say worth a Droop quota) to get a candidate elected: if their opponents know in which sub-district the minority concentrates its votes, the majority can overrun the concentrated minority in that sub-district, while winning on low numbers in other (less contested) sub-districts.
Even though someone who was following the Jordanian election closely sent me a detailed description which I was traveling this past summer (and which I subsequently lost), I do not understand this odd twist, either. Maybe someone can enlighten us. The NDI report is not exactly clear on this point. For example:
The new law preserved the single, non-transferrable vote system, which has been controversial in Jordan as some argue that the system favors tribal voting over the development of political parties. It also increased the number of seats in the lower house from 110 to 120, adding four seats for heavily populated areas in Amman, Irbid, and Zarqa, as well as six new quota seats for women. [...]
Jordan’s government tried to address a long-standing complaint about Jordan’s single non-transferable vote system (often described as “one man, one vote”) with the creation of “virtual” sub-districts. In some polling stations, the candidate lists were broken down by sub-districts while in others only the overall candidate list was displayed. Voters had to make their choice without knowing the full list of competitors in each sub-district. This system should be improved or changed for future elections.
If the candidates are actually only in competition with other candidates in a given sub-district, then how could the system be considered SNTV at all?
Finally, a terminological issue. The reference to “one man, one vote” as SNTV is odd, unless one realizes that the alternative (used in some past Jordanian elections) is MNTV. Of course, the term, “one man, one vote” normally refers to an absence of malapportionment, not to the number of votes per voter. If districts had equal voter populations, it would be “one man, one vote” whether it was MNTV, SNTV, or some other system, because all voters would be represented equally.
There is still malapportionment, albeit less than before:
One of the most significant features of the electoral context in Jordan remains the disproportionality among electoral districts. The underrepresentation of urban, largely Palestinian-origin voters, has long been an issue of political contention.
In the past, we have had discussions here about the type of lists used in Iraqi elections. All are in agreement that the elections of 2005 were by closed list, and that more recent elections were not. However, there has been some uncertainty about just which form of non-closed lists have been used.
In various previous discussions (click “Iraq” in the “planted in” line to see them), some of my valued commenters have linked to items from the Iraqi electoral commission that purport to show that the 2009 provincial elections were by flexible list, and that this year’s national assembly elections were by open lists.* Unfortunately, all those links now simply take one to the main Arabic page of the commission (and clicking there on the English link also does not seem to allow one to find archived articles).
I wonder if anyone saved these original articles, or has any other reliable sources** that clearly indicate the list format in these elections.
* The distinction that I am making is that under flexible lists, “preference” votes cast for candidates on a party’s list affect the order of election only for those candidates who receive some legally stipulated quota of preference votes. Otherwise, a pre-set party list order prevails. Under open lists, on the other hand, preference votes alone determine the order in which candidates are elected from the list, there being no pre-set list order with any affect on candidate ranking.
**In my experience, many writers, even by political scientists, will say “open” even when the lists in question in some country actually are flexible. (For that matter, sometimes that will refer to flexible lists as though they are closed. Flexible lists are kind of an orphan category, notwithstanding that they are used in so many European PR systems!)
The Israeli government is close to passing a bill that is a watered down version of one of the demands made by coalition member Yisrael Beiteinu (led by Avigdor Lieberman, Foreign Minister in the government): to establish an oath of loyalty to Israel as a “Jewish and democratic” state. The oath would apply only to non-Jews seeking citizenship in Israel.
I think the oath is wrong-headed. However, I am also persuaded that there will never be a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian issue if there is no formal recognition by the proto-state of the Palestinian Arabs that Israel is the state of the Jewish people. It is, as Ari Shavit put it in Haaretz, the core of the conflict, and thus the conflict can be resolved only by this formal recognition. But requiring individual would-be citizens to swear loyalty does not put us any closer to solving the conflict. It is exclusionary, and contrary to civil rights of the non-Jewish citizens of the state of Israel.
If one wants to know why recognition–not by prospective citizens, but by the prospective neighboring state–of Israel as the state of the Jewish people is a core issue, one need only look at the following statement about the proposed loyalty oath from the Palestinian Ministry of Information. The oath would be, the statement said:
An open invitation to expel the Palestinians, upon whose bodies, lands, and dreams the occupation state was built in the aftermath of the 1948 Nakba.*
It is generally assumed in the West that when Palestinian spokespersons refer to the “occupation” they mean the territories within the former British Mandate of Palestine that were seized by Israeli forces from Arab armies in the 1967 war: The West Bank and Gaza.
However, the statement could not be more clear: All of Israel is the “occupation state.” By further implication, all of what was Palestine under the British Mandate up to 1948 is still Palestine. Ipso facto, there can be no Jewish state.
The conflict will not be resolved, and the “peace talks” (if they are resumed again) will go nowhere, as long as this is the sort of interpretation put out by the Palestinian Ministry of Information.
* Transcription of the English voice-over on Mosaic TV one day during the past week. I am not sure of the original Arabic source of the broadcast, but I think it was Al Jazeera.
Over 3,500 candidates had applied for party ticket for the 403 seats after depositing a particular fee. They were also asked to take life membership of the party magazine “Samajwadi Bulletin”, the sources said.
The Allahabad High Court (HC) took the first step on Thursday towards the resolution of the 60-year-old Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi ownership dispute — by including all the warring parties in the process.
The HC gave its stamp of judicial approval to the Hindu belief that Lord Ram was indeed born there. The court also ruled by a majority verdict that the disputed 120 feet by 90 feet plot land be divided into three equal parts among three petitioners — Sunni Wakf Board, Nirmohi Akhara and the party representing Ram Lalla.
This also means that the court’s three-way split of the plot to the petitioners — even after dismissing their cases — has kept the window open for further talks. [...]
The court said the area under the central dome of the three-domed structure, where Lord Ram’s idol existed [and is presently kept in a makeshift temple at the same place], belonged to Ram Lala Virajman (the Ram deity). [Ed. note: previous brackets were in original]
The case is likely to remain unsettled for years if there is an appeal (as expected) to the Supreme Court. In the meantime, there are already political reverberations in Bihar, one of India’s largest states and one where voting begins in state assembly elections later this month.
The Ayodhya issue–specifically the 1992 destruction by militant Hindu nationalists of a Mosque built in Moghul times on the site Hindus claim as holy–was one that helped propel India’s main opposition party, the BJP, to prominence. One of the BJP’s partners in the National Democratic Alliance (which governed India from the late 1990s until 2004) is the JD(U), a party in Bihar that needs Muslim votes.
In today’s Haaretz, it is reported that former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has said that former US president George W. Bush promised that the US would grant citizenship to 100,000 Palestinians as part of an agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
It has always seemed to me that the US should do something like this to ease an agreement. However, it is much harder to imagine President Obama overcoming domestic opposition to such an agreement than it might have been for Bush.
The Haaretz article also quotes Olmert claiming that the Palestinians did not object to a series of security assurances Israel demanded and the Bush administration accepted during talks.
This Saturday Afghanistan holds its second legislative elections since the US invasion. Like the 2005 elections, these will be held with the electoral system that always appears near the bottom of electoral-system experts’ rankings of “best” system: the single nontransferable vote (SNTV).
Under SNTV, the winners are simply the candidates with the top M vote totals, regardless of their party (if any), where M is the magnitude of the district (the number of seats it has in the legislature). Afghanistan has a wide range of M; I have not seen if the magnitudes have been adjusted since 2005, but in that election, districts had anywhere from 4 to 33 seats each, with an average of around 7.*
In 2005, there were no party names or symbols on the ballots. In fact, there were no officially recognized parties at all. Since then, a political parties law has been passed, but a mere five parties have gained the official right to have their symbols on the ballots. So only a tiny minority of candidates will be identified by their party affiliation; the rest will be effectively independent candidates, regardless of whether they in fact have a party affiliation. See Thomas Ruttig at the FP for detail about the parties and the registration process.
Given that SNTV is a party-less electoral system in terms of the process of seat allocation, one could wonder what additional value party labels on the ballot would offer. To vote in SNTV, for any party that has more than one candidate in the district, the voter must know the candidate that he or she favors. Compared to any proportional representation system that uses party lists, or a first-past-the-post system that uses single-seat districts, knowing the partisan identity of candidates is relatively less important.
Key facts about the political consequences of SNTV are:
1. SNTV puts a premium on personal connections (e.g. being a local notable of any kind) rather than party reputation; and
2. SNTV practically guarantees tiny margins of votes between the last few winners in a district and the first few losers, especially in districts electing more than about 5 or 6 seats.
In other words, whether candidates are identified as party nominees or not, it is personal reputations that count above all else. Those personal reputations could be derived from incumbency if the member has stood above others in delivering services or benefits to the region, or from outside electoral politics, such as from being tied to (or being) a local warlord or chieftan. Or it could be a reputation from business or some other pursuit outside politics. What SNTV does not reward, in general, are candidates who try to provide broad public goods or run on ideological appeals.
* There is a gender quota, which does not fundamentally alter the dynamic of SNTV; it mere stipulates that a minimum number of the winners must be women, even if some men had higher vote totals. In a sense, it is two parallel SNTV contests in each district, with one of them reserved for women.
According to the report, these 34 items are “the major points of consensus among Afghan civil society organizations, international observer missions, assistance organizations, and independent election experts.” Notable actors included various UN bodies, ANFEL, the local AREU, various EU groups, IFES, NDI, the OSCE, and so forth. If you want to see all 437 recommendations that those groups made, visit DI’s Afghanistan website.
Recommendation number one:
The use of the SNTV system should be reconsidered: There is broad agreement that the Single Non-Transferable Vote (SNTV) system impedes the development of political parties and prevents fair and accurate representation of Afghanistan’s diverse population. A public consultative process should take place to solicit the opinions of relevant Afghan actors and international election experts to determine the best alternative system for Afghanistan. One alternative which has been consistently presented is a mixed SNTV-proportional system.
Afghanistan clearly does not host a model party system. Yet I wonder whether the ‘strong’ parties that might result from more party-centric electoral rules would be all that great. If, for example, closed-list PR turns divided societies’ elections into “national identity referenda,” would programmatic coherence and party discipline be such great ideas?
It’s nice to see consensus emerging on some form of system that retains a role for the personal vote, whether through an SNTV tier as alluded to above, or maybe through OLPR, as belatedly used in Iraq. This is because I believe that most voters prefer moderates to extremists. Therefore, when a country’s best organized political leaders are extremists, institutions should be used to diminish their control over ballot access and rank.
The verdict on this theory, of course, is still out, but I’m working on it.
Even though we thought we had settled the question, maybe not.
An acquaintance who voted out-of-country in the election of Baghdad’s Council of Representatives delegation (M=68, he said) told me tonight that he had cast his vote for a list. He did not use his option to cast any preference vote. He also said that, in order to cast a preference vote, one first had to vote for a list. Then one could express a candidate preference using information from a directory of candidates-by-party. (I do not know any more about how that worked because I do not read Arabic, but Pauline at FairVote offers a specimen ballot.) All this suggests a flexible-list system like the one we assumed had applied to the governorate (i.e. provincial) elections in January 2009. The question then becomes (once again) what quota of preference votes a candidate needs for his/her position on his/her party’s list to change.
If only it were that simple. My acquaintance moreover told me that one had the option to rank up to all of the candidates on a party’s list. Having been an amateur STV junkie for many years, I can imagine ways in which ranking would factor into a flexible-list system. But what’s the use in speculating when the basic rules are so difficult to nail down? And here I thought I had painstakingly tracked down the important details.
What can be said of all this uncertainty? Assuming my acquaintance spoke truth…
First, I am conditionally skeptical of cross-national work treating institutional details like these as variables. I had put a lot of time into once-and-for-all answering the open/flexible question, drawing on resources unavailable even to most academics, and here came a real-life Iraqi voter with reasons for doubt. If my acquaintance spoke truth, I can only wonder about the extent to which measurement error (i.e. incorrectly coding a polity’s electoral rules) makes suspect what we think we have learned about institutions’ causes and effects.
Second, I am conditionally convinced of the unreliability of ostensibly reliable sources. The one I edit may not be exempt from this charge, despite my obsessive propensity – as my beleaguered assistant can attest – for filling in every missing value. The same goes for information put online (yet no longer available in some cases) by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq and the Independent High Electoral Commission… assuming, of course, that my acquaintance spoke truth.
Third, my belief in the investigative efficiency of talking to people is reinforced. Where Google searches yield quantity, a few personal conversations yield quality. Conversations allow one to ask for clarification and to pose follow-up questions. Assuming my acquaintance spoke truth, I learned more about the present, national Iraqi electoral system in five minutes than I did in days of scouring the Internet.
On a more technical note, my acquaintance said he was disappointed that the system had not provided for panachage.
In Ukraine’s runoff, it appears that Viktor Yanukovych has now won (probably legitimately, despite the protests of the runner-up/incumbent premier) the presidency that he was initially (but fraudulently) said to have won in 2004. It was a relatively narrow win, so by now he has earned the name Landslide Viktor.
In Nigeria, power has finally been transferred to an Acting President while the elected one remains hospitalized in Saudi Arabia (for two months now, and counting). His name offers something his country’s politics surely require: Goodluck.
Recently re-elected Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa has, as expected, dissolved parliament. (Elections will be only about two months ahead of when they needed to be held in any case.) Meanwhile, the candidate Rajapaksa defeated, former army commander Sarath Fonseka, is apparently under arrest. What was it that Juan Linz said about “zero sum” presidentialism?
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