Haaretz is reporting that the elections will be held on March 28. In the interim, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon will be able to appoint ministers (including replacements for the Labor ministers who have withdrawn) without Knesset approval. This decision resulted from an act by Israel’s President Moshe Katsav that has raised some constitutional controversies, with many Knesset members (MKs) believing the president acted outside his authority in dissolving the Knesset rather than waiting for the Knesset to dissolve itself, which would have restricted Sharon’s discretion in the interim.
The question over the PM’s discretion is especially important right now, given that Sharon is now the head of a new party that he has just created, rather than of the Likud that originally appointed him.
As Israellycool notes (quoting from a Jerusalem Post story), the degree of discretion the PM has over the caretaker cabinet, as well as the time-frame for the new election, depends on how the Knesset is dissolved–by the President, or by the Knesset itself. (more…)
First, some definitional considerations. Some countries are governed by more-or-less permanent “grand coalitions” that incorporate all the major ethnic or religious groups of a divided society. One example would be Lebanon (with a rigid formula that contributed to the civil war in the 1970s and again to the recent polarization). Other so-called consociational demcoracies have variations (usually far less rigid) on this sort of grand coalition.
And then there are the “emergency” grand coalitions, such as when Israeli parties formed a “unity” government as neighboring countries massed troops along the border before the Six-Day War of 1967, or when the two major parties of Canada, Britain, and other parliamentary democracies governed jointly during the World Wars.
But the examples that are relevant to the question about the new German government, as well as the just-dissolved Israeli government, are those “grand coalitions” or “unity governments” that are formed as a result of parliamentary bargaining situations that are not favorable to either a left or right-wing coalition. If elections fail to deliver a clear majority for a right bloc or left bloc (as in Germany’s most recent elections) or if a larger party decides it would be too costly to accede to the demands of a smaller party (or parties) that it needs to form a majority (as in Israel last January or Germany in 1966), the result may be the major left and right parties governing jointly.
Naturally, grand coalitions of this sort are rare. The only one perviously in Germany lasted just three years (1966-69).
Israel had a unity government of Labor and Likud (and other parties) form after the 1984 election. It re-formed after the 1988 election again did not give either party a viable means to form a government without the other. It then broke down in 1990. The current unity government, of course, lasted less than a year, when an internal leadership election in Labor resulted in the victory of a candidate who vowed to lead the party out of the coalition.
There are not very many other examples at the national level, so it is hard to answer the queston of longevity. But Germany’s first such government lasted until the regularly scheduled 1969 elections, which resulted in large gains for the Social Democrats and their forming a coalition with the liberal FDP. (The grand coalition had been formed part way through a parliamentary term when the Christian Democrats and the FDP disagreed over tax policy.) Israel’s first (non-wartime) example lasted through the next elections and included a rotation of the prime ministership midterm between the Labor and Likud leaders, before breaking down halfway into the next term of parliament. (Some German states have considerable experience with grand coalitions, but I do not know much about them.)
I would expect the current formula in Germany to last for most of the Budestag’s term (4 years), especially since it is not easy to dissolve parliament early in Germany. Outgoing Chancellor SchrÃ¶der managed to do it, but it is not as simple as in some parliamentary systems. The constitutional provisions on dissolution could be changed, though it would require both the left and right to agree, meaning both would have to prefer an early election over retention of the grand coalition.
Grand coalitions tend to be disparaged. They are hardly anyone’s first choice, but as I have argued in several previous posts in the Germany category here, they can be a good solution to short-term situations in which the electorate is conflicted about the direction it wants policy to take.
That is Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin’s response to a proposal from all three opposition parties for Martin to set an election date for February now.
The opposition is attempting to terminate the government without triggering an election around Christmas (normally elections occur about five weeks after a government’s defeat). Martin is not buying the idea.
One of my emerging academic (and real-world) interests is in institutions, and the possibility for institutional engineering, for fledgling ethnically divided democracies. I say “emerging” because, while I have been publishing on electoral systems and constitutional design (and occasionally revolution) for many years, I have not turned my academic attention specifically to ethnically divided states thus far. However, I am doing some sessions devoted to this topic in my Policy-Making Processes course in the next couple of weeks, and I will be teaching a new course specifically on this topic in the spring of 2006.
Thus I am most grateful to The Head Heeb (Jonathan Edelstein) for calling my attention to the electoral system used in Somaliland for its recent legislative elections. Edelstein describes this system in a way that makes clear that it is open-list proportional representation, and indeed it might be a better solution for a country like Liberia than the single- and dual- member districts used this year, about which I wrote previously. It is also almost certainly an improvement over closed-list PR, which Edelstein plausibly (though incorrectly) assumed is what I was advocating in my earlier post on Liberia.
In my post yesterday on Liberia’s fragmented congress, in which most legislators were elected with minimal voter support and parties will be represented with almost no connection to their electoral support in society, I noted that this outcome creates the following problem for executive-legislative relations, and thus policy-making, in the coming term of President-elect Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf:
Johnson-Sirleafâ€™s party caucus will be highly concentrated regionally, much more so than is its actual voter support. This will force her to buy support with patronage in order to form legislative coalitions to a far greater degree than if the system were proportional.
As far as what other institutional options there might have been, I left the matter hanging, other than to suggest proportionality would be beneficial. Even though I suggested that proportionality would be sensible, I concur with Edelstein that in situations of weak parties, PR has its disadvantages. As I always tell my students, any institutional choice has tradeoffs. There is no such thing as an institutional solution to all of a society’s governance problems. There are only solutions to some sets of problems that minimize the creation of other problems, for any given context.
On the idea of proportionality causing problems in contexts like that of Liberia, Edelstein notes, in the comments to my previous post:
Liberia, like many countries in similar situations, has a weak party system – there are lots of parties, but there isnâ€™t much ideological distinction between them and most of them are personality-based. If most of the parties are vehicles for regional bosses, then party-based PR will elect the regional bosses, and will reinforce existing ethnic and feudal power structures. [my emphasis]
And he developed a very similar point at his blog later on (to which I linked above).
He is right, of course. Weak political parties are a problem, and the adoption of “party-based proportional representation” (as I called it) does not guarantee that strong parties will emerge. In fact, what it does is ensure that the various lists of candidates, however constructed, will be represented in proportion to their votes obtained over whatever territorial units the allocation is carried out. Such units must have multiple seats, but may be smaller than the entire country. In Liberia, presumably the districts would be the 15 counties, with varying magnitudes (seats per district) in the lower house, but retaining the current equality of representation for each county in the senate.
The point about which I was not clear is that one does not need to have closed lists, whereby the voter only selects the list, but has no choice over candidates. It is not one or the other (candidates or parties), as is too often assumed. And, as Edelstein notes, Somaliland uses a system that fully qualifies as proportional representation, but in which the candidates on the lists are ranked by votes received as individuals, and not by whoever draws up the list. This is an open list. (As an aside, it is fascinating that Somaliland reverted back to the type of electoral system that was used briefly in the 1960s when Somalia had a previous experience with democracy, and that the open-list concept came to Somalia from Italy, the former colonial power for the larger nation of Somalia, though not for Somaliland, which was a British colony.)
In a closed list, voters essentially delegate to some entity the decision as to which legislators will represent them. The entity might be an organized programmatically defined political party, or it might be a regional (or national) notable who has enough name recognition to draw up his own list and sweep into the legislature several cronies thereby fully dependent on him for their election.
In an open list, the specific candidates to be elected–among those nominated by the list-drafting entity–are determined by a rank based on their individual popularity.
Both forms of PR (and there are intermediate hybrids, too) ensure that the lists as a whole are represented in a way that is proportionate to their votes (in any given multi-seat district, and up to the limits imposed by the magnitude of the district). The difference is in the choices provided to voters (just a list, or a candidate within a list), and thus in how the candidates relate to the voters.
Either type of PR would address the problem of the regionalization of a party’s caucus being exaggerated relative to its distribution of popular support–i.e., one of the problems I was referring to in my original post. Either type of PR would address the severe wasted-vote problem (in the average Liberian county, a majority of the votes did not help elect anyone), by rewarding parties (of whatever form and strength) according to their actual votes, and not according to how they happen to be concentrated within unequally populated districts or how well they coordinated amongst their own candidates (in the 2-seat districts of the Senate) or with other parties (in both houses). Proportional-representation systems are not the only systems that would address these problems. SNTV (as used in Afghanistan, for example), for all its other flaws, would do so as well, and without the potential new problem that open lists would create. (PR, possibly including the open-list variety, was also seriously considered in Afghanistan, but rejected.)
A key problem with open lists is that the “party” may be no more than a collection of greater and lesser notables who share only a weak connection to one another, based only upon the convenience of maximizing one another’s legislative representation by pooling votes on a list. In fact, open lists create incentives for list-drafters to bid for candidates who are popular enough to bring votes to the list. If the list is being drafted by a party concerned with its ideological reputation, then its drafters are not going to put just any candidate with a block of voters on the list. But when there are weak parties to start with, open-list PR most certainly is not going to make them stronger, even though it does generate incentives for notables to work together to a degree that plurality voting (as in Liberia) does not do.
As Edelstein argues at his Head Heeb post on Somaliland, parties there have some degree of ideological distinctiveness–probably greater than is the case in Liberia. If so, then open lists may be less suitable in Liberia than they are for Somaliland.
Yet another possible family of systems–which are true hybrids of candidate and party-based representation–would be some form of mixed-member system. It would have the advantage of retaining single-member districts and plurality voting, but would “top up” a party’s total representation with seats allocated based on a party vote. I would advise MMP (as in Germany and New Zealand or the similar “AMS” systems of Scotland and Wales), not the more disporportional MMM (used in Japan and Thailand, among other countries), because MMM (or ‘parallel‘) systems can be quite erratic in their votes-to-seats conversion. However, once again, if one is concerned about an electoral system that priveleges allocation to lists in a context where the parties that would draft those lists are weak, them MMP might not be the solution. Alas, there is no best system, and the choice needs to be shaped to the context. The system used in Liberia, however, comes pretty close to being the worst, for the way it exaggerates the regionalism problem and wastes so many votes.
So, the bottom line is that I agree with the difficulties that PR (closed, open, or mixed-member) would entail in a situation of weakly organized, regionally concentrated and personality-based parties like in Liberia. I just don’t see how these problems would be worse than the actual result of the plurality system used.
I am most grateful to Jonathan for pushing me on this, and also for ensuring that Somaliland will be a case I will look at more closely now, and probably include as an example in my spring class.
Epilogue: Jeremy (a former student of mine, I might add) reports that the “Elections here have really been some of the most transparant and well organized that I have seen.” And he is an experienced observer of elections.
Liberia only sporadically gets noticed in the United States, despite the deep historical ties between the US and that west African country, founded by freed US slaves (supposedly) in 1847. There is much good news in this past week’s completion of a round of quite free elections. Most of the news and the relatively limited blog focus (e.g. Gateway Pundit, Mensa-Barbie, The Head Heeb, and others) is on the presidential race, but most of my post here today will be about looking ahead to relations between the new president and the congress that was elected last month. The outcome of the congressional elections offers lots of reasons for being cautious about progress towards democracy in that country.
But first, the presidential race. Results are still not complete from Tuesday’s presidential runoff, but that has not stopped former Finance Minister Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf from claiming victory. She will be the first female president in African history. She defeated former international football star George Weah. The divide between the candidates appears to be about 59â€“41.
Weah had led after the first round on October 11, though with only 28.3% of the vote. Johnson-Sirleaf had 19.8% on the first round, and other candidates trailed with vote percentages of 13.9, 9.2, 7.8, and the rest scattered amongst many others.
Weah seems to have forgotten that often the team that leads the first half does not win the game. He is alleging fraud (though international observers disagree), and today there were clashes between his supporters and UN peacekeeping forces.
As I noted in my previous post on the first round of the Liberian elections, the new president will face a deeply fragmented bicameral congress. Liberia’s system of government is pure presidential, meaning President Johnson-Sirleaf will have the freedom to appoint a cabinet of her choosing, but also meaning that negotiations with such a fracuted legislature will be difficult.
The results of the legislative election–held at the same time as the first round of the presidential contest–show how highly regionalized and personalized electoral politics is. Without any party component to the allocation of seats, “local notables” prevailed in the candidate races for House and Senate seats. Many of these elected notables are closely tied to ousted former dictator Charles Taylor, and some are even his family members. Both candidates in the presidential runoff were courting the pro-Taylor vote. In other words, this election hardly presages Liberia’s turning a corner from the corruption and violence of the Taylor years. Maybe rounding a gentle curve, but not turning a corner.
A closer look at the results reinforces just how fragmented and non-party-based electoral competition in Liberia is.
Both houses of the legislature are elected by plurality. In the case of the Senate, each of the 15 counties elects two senators, with voters having two votes each. In the House, each county is divided into several single-seat districts, elected by first-past-the-post. The population disparities of counties (senate districts) are very large, and while the House districts are roughly apportioned by population, the key word is roughly. Some districts have under 9,000 voters, while others have over 20,000. In short, both houses are significantly malapportioned.
Although the vote by party is somewhat regionally concentrated, most candidates have won their seats with far less than a majority of the vote. The result is no real relationship between party vote strength nationally and the distirbution of seats in either house. For instance, Johnson-Sirleaf’s Unity Party (UP), with 19.8% of the first-round presidential vote, will have about 12.5% of the House seats and only 10% of the senate seats. Runner up Weah’s Congress for Democratic Change (CDC), which won 28.3% of the first-round presidential vote, will have just under a quarter of the House seats and also only 10% of the Senate seats.
In Senate races, in most cases each of the larger parties ran two candidates, but elected only one of them. In fact, in only four counties were both seats won by candidates of the same party. In three of those four, the two candidates won very similar vote shares (UP in Maryland, CDC in Montserrado, APD in Sinoe), indicating that those parties in those counties have party-loyal voters. In the fourth county in which both seats went to the same party (COTOL in River Gee), the first winner won 26.9% and the second only 10.7%. That implies a strong personal vote to the first winner, and little party loyalty in the elecorate beyond this senate candidate. In fact, a candidate for Johnson-Sirleaf’s UP came in a close third in River Gee with 10.3% of the vote and the party had another candidate with 5.1%. Had the UP been able to coordinate on one candidate, it could have won a seat.
There are numerous cases where such coordination could have made a difference in the outcome. There were few cases in which a party ran only one candidate in attempt to avoid splitting its vote. Of course, given how disparate the votes are in most cases for each of a party’s two candidates, it is unlikely that one candidate could have succeeded in claiming all the votes that were cast for the actual two candidates. The personal vote, rather than the party vote, is key here.
(And a cursory look at vote totals in counties across the two houses suggests a fairly significant number of voters did not even use both senate votes–yet another indicator of candidate- rather than party-based voting.)
The result of poor coordination is that the average county-level wasted vote (any vote cast for a candidate who did not win) is over 51%.
The House, with single-seat constituencies, does not show much better coordination, even though each party, of course, nominated only one candidate. Many of the winners have only around a quarter to 30% of the vote, and some had well under 20% of their district’s vote.
The result of malapportionment, regional districting, plurality voting, and poor party coordination is a congress that can hardly be said to be representative of the political divisions of the country, given the absence of any proportional representation. Those who defend the idea of candidate-based plurality representation in divided societies often claim that parties would only reinforce those divisions, and of course they have a point. But at least a party-based proportional system ensures that the various divisions in society obtain a policy-making bargaining power commensurate to their level of support. And the CDC and UP, in particular, do have voter support in most counties (even if it is highly variable by county), but this support will not be reflected in congress. Johnson-Sirleaf’s party caucus will be highly concentrated regionally, much more so than is its actual voter support. This will force her to buy support with patronage in order to form legislative coalitions to a far greater degree than if the system were proportional.
Moreover, the supposed advantage of the plurality system in settings of regional and ethnic divisions is that at least each legislator represents his or her region. But can that be said to be the case when each legislator typically has a personal constituency that is only around a quarter of the votes cast in his or her own district?
I wish Liberians well in building a democracy. But it is hard to be optimistic given not only the legacies of civil war and Taylor’s dictatorship, but also the political fragmentation and the institutions chosen to channel it into the policy-making process.
EPILOGUE: Regarding Liberia’s alleged founding by freed slaves, it seems the story is a bit more complicated than that; however, there is a good reason for why Liberia has a county named Maryland (h/t Jones Blog).
As anticipated a few days ago, Prime Minister Tony Blair lost a vote in the House of Commons on his ‘anti-terror’ bill when 49 members of his own Labour party defected. Losing a vote on a major policy bill is very rare in a Westminster system. This is Blair’s first loss since becoming PM in May, 1997.
Among the controversial provisions of the bill was a plan to allow police to detain terror suspects for up to 90 days without charges.
Following the defeat MPs backed by 323 to 290 votes a Labour backbench MP’s proposal to extend the detention time limit to 28 days, from the current 14 days.
Unsurprisingly, the opposition leaders are calling on Blair to resign. Charles Kennedy, of the Liberal Democrats, Britain’s third-largest party (and the biggest gainer in last May’s election, when Labour fell to 35% of the vote yet retained its seat majority) said that if Mr Blair doesn’t stop behaving in a “quasi-dictatorial way”
then increasingly his premiership is becoming a John Major premiership, at the mercy of events, at the mercy of opposition, not just from other political parties but from within his own.
Of course, in reality, the LibDems would love to see Blair become at their mercy, but Kennedy is right that the real key is the extent of opposition in Mr Blair’s own party to his staying on. Although Balir had earlier said he did not intend to serve out a full Commons term of five years if reelected, lately he has been changing his tune. This bill’s defeat–even after some concessions had been made–is a rather rude awakening for the Prime Minister.
BBC analyst Nick Robinson addresses the reasons for how Blair could have set himself up for defeat:
The answer is simple. He ignored those party managers, government business managers, law officers, Home Office ministers who had been telling him for weeks that he could never persuade Parliament to back 90 days detention without trial.
Then Robinson discusses why Blair was unwilling to seek before the vote a compromise at, say, a 40-to-60 day detention period, rather than sticking by the plan for 90 and having parliament go for only 28. Blair feels he is right and his MPs are wrong:
The reason Tony Blair refuses to look contrite is because he isn’t contrite. He believes what he did was right for the country and right for his party – positioning Labour as “tough on terror” and the Tories as weak.
He also takes strength from opinion polls which show the public’s on his side.
So, why all the questions about his authority? Because the test of his remaining time in office is not his ability to woo the public or to win elections but to govern [my emphasis].
Indeed, this is not a presidential system, where the chief executive’s support in opinion polls is often the dominant factor in obtaining legislative support on policy. This is a parliamentary system, where the chief executive has to be sure he has his party behind him because the party is his own and sole source of authority.
Some would argue Koizumi in Japan is an exception to this rule, but he really is not. Koizumi suffered a major defeat in parliament, but then called an election the outcome of which reinforced his support within his party. Blair, on the other hand, is coming off a reelection in May to a third term, but with a much reduced majority. Had the election been after the terrorist strikes in London in July, things might be different. And, of course, it is clear that Blair will not be the head of the party at the next election. He is a lame duck. The same situation applies to Koizumi, by the way, and may affect his ability to command his LDP for the remainder of his own tenure.
The bottom line is that if Blair does not start working more with his party, rather than seeking to divide it and force it to come to his side, then he is likely not to survive much longer as its head, and thus as PM.
San Diego will (we think) complete its eighteen-month oddessy in filling the mayor’s chair for the term extending to 2008. I coauthored an essay in the San Diego Union-Tribune almost a year ago on the debacle that resulted from last November’s general-election runoff for the office–a debacle the resulted in then-incumbent Mayor Dick Murphy being “reelected” with around a third of the vote (less than he had won in the primary in June, 2004) despite a city charter that requires the mayor to have a majority, and despite the fact that write-in candidate and Council Member Donna Frye obtained more intended (but not counted) votes.
Today’s raceâ€”occurring becaue Murphy resigned in the spring, saying a city in crisis needed a mayor elected by a majorityâ€”pits Frye against former police chief Jerry Sanders. (more…)
Wow, this is a shock. Rod Donald, 48, co-leader of the Green Party of New Zealand, has died suddenly. As No Right Turn notes, one of Mr Donald’s biggest accomplishments was “bringing [New Zealanders] a fairer electoral system.” Mr Donald was one of the major campaigners for MMP in the 1993 referendum, and has served in parliament since the first MMP election of 1996.
I am not a New Zealander, but I have followed New Zealand politics, often with envy, since the country adopted a proportional system. I teach a case every year on New Zealand politics, as a demonstration of how the electoral system crucially shapes the policy-making process. The Green party has been a key player in MMP New Zealand, even though it has never been formally in government. In many ways, it is the most authentic representative of how proportionality can bring about better governance by injecting fresh ideas into the political debate. Regardless of what one thinks of the Green policies (I happen to be a fan), this is the new MMP-era party that organized itself from the grassroots, whereas the other new parties have mostly been formed by defectors from Labour or National, and often depend on their ability to elect one of those defectors in a single-seat district in order to remain in parliament.
Mr Donald was one of the key figures in broadening the representation of New Zealanders, and for this, he deserves respect and admiration. His passing is a great loss for New Zealand and for Greens around the world.
The newly elected parliament convenes on Tuesday, minus one of its brightest lights.
The advantage is that the grand coalition will effectively neutralize the veto of the Bundesrat (upper house, representing the state governments). This government will be able to tackle reforms to the centerâ€“state distirbution of policy-making powers that a government containing only one of the big parties and lacking a majority in the Bundesrat could not do. (more…)
Does it make sense that Wyoming, rated as “low risk” for terrorist attack, should get almost twice the funding for preparadness programs, on a per capita basis, as New York? The independent commission that investigated the 9/11 attacks recommended more than a year ago that all homeland-security money be allocated based on objective criteria–the risk of attack.
This issue is being debated in Congress now–in a House-Senate conference committee, and it is an excellent example of the different interests of the two chambers of the US Congress.
This is a fascinating case, because both chambers are controlled by the same party. Yet the legislative preferences on this matter break down in a completely predictable way, based on the constituencies of the chambers.
The Senate passed a bill that would share about 75% of all homeland security funds equally between the 50 states, with the other 25% allocated according to a state’s actual assessed risk of terrorism.
The House, on the other hand, passed in July an amendment to the Patriot Act that would do almost the exact opposite. Under the House plan, 25% would be allocated equally between the states, and even to get that share, a state would have to prove why the money was needed. Most of the funds would be based on assessment of risk.
(The assessment of risk would be based on calculating potential insured losses.)
Representative Nita Lowrey (Democrat, New York), the author of the amendment to the bill that the House passed, says:
The current formula is distributed as pork barrel, the same amount to everybody, no matter what, and it doesn’t make sense. New Yorkers are not very pleased about being No. 1, but if we are No. 1 in the risk/threat/vulnerability category, we clearly should get the resources so that we can be prepared.
Senator Craig Thomas (Republican, Wyoming) counters that his state has a lot of energy production “that involves a substantial Homeland Security risk.”
Lowrey notes that is a valid argument, and points out that the amended House bill would allow Wyoming to make that case and receive the funds if they are indeed merited.
The government has also agreed that central government funding which is available for the specific Wellington regional roading programme will be able to be used to fund a highway through Transmission Gully if that is deemed to be the preferred option at the end of the current evaluation programe.
When you see a reference to a specific project that just happens to be in an area represented by the leader of one of the junior parties in a coalition, it is easy to say “pork.” However, on closer inspection, all the above-quoted passage commits the government to doing is to continue its “current evaluation programme.” That evaluation is being undertaken by the Transit New Zealand (click for a map of the project). If that bureaucratic agency’s evaluation process deems the Transmission Gully project worthy, funds may be released. And so far, Transmission Gully is not the favored route.
Not very porcine, in that Dunne (United Future leader) has secured no specific commitment to pull the project evaluation from the agency and have his favored project built, independent of whether the experts hired to assess projects’ worthiness agree the project is, indeed, worthy. That would be pork.
As I say in my PMP class, pork vs. programmatic policy is largely about where and what the burden of proof is. If the burden of proof that must be met to provide a benefit to some region or group is that the specific beneficiaries are important political constituents, it’s probably pork . If the burden of proof that must be met is based on technical criteria, it is probably programmatic.
“Programmatic policy” does not mean the policy has to benefit “everyone” (few policies do!). It may even permit politically favored groups to extract rents at the expense of other groups; the difference is that the beneficaries must prove their specific case: that their request for the policy benefit satisfies objective criteria, rather than expect the benefit based on merely political criteria.
It looks like David Farrar (Kiwi blog) agrees that the government deal provides no commitment to paying off Dunne’s support with central government funds for Transmission Gully.
I may look more closely at the deal to reclassify a bridge in Winston Peter’s (now former) district of Tauranga at a later time.
When Helen Clark said her aim was to construct a “stable and durable” government, she meant it. [...] And if serious problems arise, she has something that wasn’t there in the 1996 coalition with which this one is sometimes compared – a back-up party she can count on in a crisis. Comparisons with the National/New Zealand First coalition, which fell apart in spectacular fashion, are flawed in several respects. (more…)
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