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.
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?
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?)?
As discussed in a previous thread, the new Israeli government is based on an agreement that includes a commitment to raise the electoral threshold from 2% to 4%. What impact might this have?
In a working paper (of which I will become co-author), Taagepera has developed a logical model that suggests the number of parties (of any size) should be about the inverse square root of the threshold (expressed in fractional terms, not percent). The models fits a range of established countries quite well.
At 4%, that means five parties.
The problem is that Israel already has far “too many” parties for its existing threshold. At 2%, the country “should have” seven parties. In the most recent election, twelve parties (or, rather, lists) won seats. That’s about one and two thirds more than expected. So maybe raising the threshold to 4% would reduce the number of parties in the Knesset to about eight. Coincidentally (or maybe not), that would be a reduction by precisely the number of parties that won more than 2%, but less than 4%, of the vote in the most recent election.
Just as the clock was about to run out on PM-designate Benjamin Netanyahu’s period for forming a government, he struck deals with Yesh Atid (Yair Lapid) and Bayit Yehudi (Naftali Bennet), to go along with one struck weeks earlier with Tnuah (Tzipi Livni).
That this would most likely be the make-up of the ultimate coalition was clear almost as soon as the election results were in–or at least that is what I told our synagogue congregation in a “sermon” (yes, a political-science sermon!) shortly after the election. So I want to thank the Israeli party leaders for making me look good. Nonetheless, as is often the case with such bargaining, it went down to the wire and endured many twists and turns and seeming crises along the way. Of course, one can never be sure how many “crises” and threats are real chances for the process to break down, and how many are posturing for a better deal. I suspect most of them were the latter.
Yesh Atid leader Lapid struck quite a good deal, in insisting on several of his campaign promises or post-election declarations: a smaller cabinet–including legislation to mandate that future cabinets be smaller still–a reduction in the number of deputy ministers, no ministers without portfolio, and–the big one–a commitment for legislation to “equalize the burden” by bringing more Haredi men (ultra-orthodox) into military service. In the last weeks, he made some direct threats to let the process lead to new elections–which some polls suggested would lead to a big increase in seats for his party–if his party did not get the Education ministry for Yesh Atid MK Shay Piron. Likud was insisting that the post stay with its own incumbent, Gideon Saar. Lapid won this showdown, too.
Bayit Yehudi also struck a good deal, with the party claiming some key economic portfolios including the Ministry of Industry and Trade for Bennet and Housing and Construction for Uri Ariel (a leader of the ultra-nationalist National Union, which merged with Bayit Yehudi during the last Knesset term).
As had been previously agreed, Tzipi Livni will be Justice Minister as well as lead negotiator with the Palestinian Authority. Her list’s #3, Amir Peretz, will have the Environmental Protection portfolio. (Livni struck a deal with the Green Movement before the election, and even though Peretz does not represent the Greens, getting the portfolio confirms the support Green voters brought to Livni’s list overall.) The prior agreement for two ministers from Tnuah (6 seats) was another potential source of bargaining breakdown, as when combined with the agreed smaller cabinet, it meant Tnuah would be over-represented. Livni threatened to withdraw her earlier agreement if she were her list’s only minister. Her seats are superfluous for the coalition’s having a majority, but Netanyahu apparently really wanted her (presumably for her international standing), and she got the deal adhered to. The cabinet size was increased from 21 to 22 as part of the agreement to keep Livni’s list at two. (Lapid had campaigned for 18; recent cabinets have had a number of full ministers in the high 20s, with numerous deputies.)1
The biggest deal of all, however, is that the two Haredi parties, Shas and United Torah Judaism, are going to the opposition. Their combined strength of 18 seats made them almost equivalent to Yesh Atid, and Netanyahu tried to play the card of an alternative coalition in the bargaining. There is little doubt that he would have preferred the continuation of a coalition with the Haredi parties over the one he is about to present to the Knesset. However, as long as Yesh Atid continued to be backed by a de-facto post-electoral, but pre-coalition, alliance with Bayit Yehudi, the alternative was not credible.2 The lack of a credible alternative shows up in the significant concessions Netanyahu had to give to his partners.
Based on the likely composition of the government, we can calculate the degree of over/under-representation of each party. Under “Gamson’s Law” we expect the shares of ministers for each party in the agreement to be proportional to the shares each party contributes to the coalition’s parliamentary basis (i.e. its number of seats).
Click to open a larger image in a new window
The table shows the shares calculated both with Likud and Yisrael Beiteinu as separate parties, and with them treated as one. The latter is done because they ran on a joint list. It is clear that the various concessions Netanyahu was forced to concede on policy and specific portfolios to his two main partners were traded for a significant over-representation to the joint list he led in the election. Likud-Beiteinu will have an absolute majority of the cabinet, despite representing less than half the Knesset seats of the coalition (and exactly half if the technically superfluous Tnuah is removed from the calculation).
We can also see that Yisrael Beiteinu was rewarded for being in pre-election coalition with Likud, as it is over-represented if considered as a separate party, especially relative to Bayit Yehudi, which is actually a slightly larger party.
The deal to preserve the second seat for Livni’s Tnuah results in this list being the one that is represented almost perfectly proportional to its seats. Not bad for a superfluous party!
Ultimately, this coalition reflects quite closely the way Israelis voted: an overall right and pro-settler tilt, but decisively away from Haredi dominance of key posts and policies.
Pardon the lack of links. If time permits, I may add some more at a later time. This is based on numerous Haaretz articles, as well as others in Ynet and Times of Israel, and almost daily news reports heard/see on Kol Yisrael radio and IBA-TV.
During the bargaining, there had been statements that Kadima (2 seats) also had joined the Bayit Yehudi-Yesh Atid alliance and that its leader Shaul Mofaz would get one of Yesh Atid’s ministerial posts. But this did not happen. [↩]
Interestingly, Bennet campaigned as if his list had a formal agreement with Likud and then bargained as if he had a formal agreement with Yesh Atid! [↩]
As most readers of this blog likely know by now, there was a by-election in the UK last week. In the constituency of Eastleigh, the two governing partners, Conservative and Liberal Democrat went head to head. Except they didn’t. The UK Independence Party candidate finished in between them, in a close second. The LibDems held the seat, despite more than a 14-point swing against them.
The Labour candidate finished a distant fourth.
I see a couple of comments already have appeared at an earlier UK thread.
I will have more to say (I think) later on, but for now, here is an official discussion opportunity…
Lots of talk today about either a grand coalition or, more commonly, a new election within months.
I am not so sure. With the caveat that I really do not pretend to know what the various actors want, I want to put out the following propositions:
1. The vote was a rejection of Berlusconi if it was anything. Sure, he was not the incumbent, but his alliance had won the last election with a large plurality and wound up below 30% in this one. That’s staggering.
2. It was certainly not an endorsement of Bersani, who apparently just squeaked by to get the plurality–and hence a majority of seats in the Chamber of Deputies–but whose alliance likewise is below 30%.
3. The Senate is divided, with Bersani’s alliance apparently second to Berlusconi’s, but close having a narrow plurality (see Bancki’s comment, below).
4. Notwithstanding the first point, Berlusconi came from far behind in the polls and just missed pulling off a massive upset (in more ways than one).
Given all of this, why not a Bersani-led government that would be a minority government in the Senate?
It seems as if the center-left would be reluctant to go to a new election, for fear that the very small shift of votes needed to lose its Chamber majority just might happen in a new election. The wild card in this scenario is, of course, Grillo and his 5-Star Movement. (Mario Monti’s list does not hold the balance in the Senate.) On the one hand, Grillo sees himself as the single star (pun intended) of this election, and might think he could do better in a new one. On the other hand, presumably the risk of being responsible for a Berlusconi comeback would make him hesitate to jump back into a new election campaign. Maybe he could be enticed to support a Bersani-led government on confidence and supply?
I just watched an interview on IBA-TV (from Sunday) with new legislator Rabbi Dov Lipman of Yesh Atid. He said that he intends to hold weekly open office hours where any “constituent” can come with a problem.
The interviewer pointed out that he has no district like a US congress member, so he has seven million constituents. How will he handle it? Lipman said his staff has figured out procedures (e.g. prior email or phone contact) to cope with the logistics, and then he said that this office hours idea is something that has never been done before in the Knesset.
I do not know whether that is true, but if it is, it makes for a nice finding for a single-district national closed-list electoral system!
In another interview (on Arutz Sheva radio), Lipman said he would be always available for any English speakers in the country who need assistance. (See “A self-proclaimed congresmen for English-speaking immigrants” in Haaretz.) He is American-born, having made aliyah only eight years ago (and only renounced his US citizenship upon his election, as required under both country’s laws). He is the first American-born Member of the Knesset since Rabbi Meir Kahane about thirty years ago; their country of birth and rabbinic title would seem to be about all these two MKs have in common.
In the radio interview, he also spoke of wanting to serve as a representative of Beit Shemesh, the city where he lives, and which he said has had no effective representation. He also considers himself Haredi, though he looks and sounds more “Modern Orthodox”. He is one of Yesh Atid’s intended bridges to the ultra-orthodox in its pursuit of drafting more Haredim into the Israeli military. He further wants to take up the cause of obstacles imposed on Ethiopians and Russians by the rabbinic establishment: “I feel I need to take up [the1] cause and be a voice for those who were persecuted in Russia for being Jewish and are now persecuted here for being non-Jews” (from the Haaretz profile).
Lipman was elected at number 17 on the list of Yesh Atid, which won 19 seats.
He refers specifically here to Rav Chaim Amsalem who broke away from the Haredi Sephardic party Shas, but whose Am Shalem list failed to clear the threshold. [↩]
Before and after electoral reforms: the political system in search of stability and governability. Part 1
The following is a guest post by Gianluca Passarelli, Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Rome, La Sapienza
“Everything must change in order to change anything.” The very famous sentence pronounced by one of the protagonists in the novel Il Gattopardo was addressed to his interlocutor, scared by the potential changes brought by the process of Italy unification in 19th century. It seems that that phrase well represents political and institutional Italian damnation. In fact, many politicians, parties and institutional actors have all acted as Tancredi–who said the famous phrase above mentioned–in order to contain, reject, modify or just ignore the push toward a much more accountable and renewed political system.
After five elections and two electoral reforms, Italy and its so-called Second Republic, symbolically born in 1993/1994, are going to the polls without any guarantee of a politically well defined government after the vote. The 2013 Italian general election presents the same problems that in the past induced both (some) political parties and the citizens to promote a reform.
The dichotomy between (in)stability of governments v. representativeness of social cleavages and political parties still remain unsolved, as well as the lack of a defined and clear overlap between political and electoral borders. Electoral competition is not based on a set of alternative coalitions or parties, but rather the electoral offerings frequently vary. As a consequence the process of accountability between the politicians and MPs to the voters is not yet accomplished. (more…)
A very good overview of the outcome of the Israeli election is provided by The Times of Israel.
I agree completely with two big take-home points here:
(1) All the hand wringing (my term, not the author’s) about divisions on the center-left was misplaced. The separate parties hoovered up more votes than a unified effort at creating an alternative bloc could have;
(2) The more costly divisions were on the right, due to two parties that fell below the threshold: Otzma L’Yisrael and Am Shalem.
I would add that, thanks to proportional representation and parliamentary government, Israelis will get what they appear to have collectively chosen: a continuation of Netanyahu, but balanced by a larger and more assertive centrist wing of the government.
It is also noteworthy how badly the Labor Party failed to reestablish itself under Shelly Yachimovich’s leadership. She and the party tried to position themselves as some sort of blend of centrist on security and social democratic on economics. The party was supposedly set to become a viable governing alternative–if not in this election, than after a rebuilding phase as the main opposition. The party will indeed be the main opposition, assuming Yesh Atid’s likely entry into the cabinet, but 15 seats is a very weak position.
Meretz doubled its seat total, probably as a result of otherwise Labor voters disgusted that the “new” Labor seemed to want to pretend the settlements and two-state issues would just go away. At one point, Yachimovich said something like “everyone knows my position” on these issues. That’s not likely good enough for someone calling herself a candidate for PM. I can’t imagine it will be long before there is another leadership change in Labor.
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