Writing at The Monkey Cage, Juhem Navarro-Rivera offers a detailed report on the elections just held in Puerto Rico. A few things stand out among the sorts of things we tend to emphasize here at F&V:
On Tuesday, November 6 voters in Puerto Rico narrowly voted out incumbent pro-statehood Governor Luis Fortuño of the Partido Nuevo Progresista in his reelection bid in favor of state Senator Alejandro García Padilla of the pro-Commonwealth Partido Popular Democrático. The margin of difference between the two candidates was less than one percent, the second-closest election since these two parties began competing against each other in 1968. At the time of this writing, the PPD is poised to win majorities in both chambers of the state legislature.
Yet, despite the victory for PPD candidates at the polls, Puerto Ricans also voted on a nonbinding plebiscite to solve the political status of Puerto Rico in which a majority rejected the Commonwealth, voting to make Puerto Rico the 51st state of the Union. The plebiscite consisted of two questions, the first one asked voters if they approved or not of the current political status, the second question asked voters to choose between three status options: independence, statehood, and an “enhanced commonwealth” in which the sovereignty of the island will belong to the people of Puerto Rico rather than to the U.S. Congress. As of this writing, the voters did not approve of the current Commowealth status 54% vs. 46%, while those who rejected the current status have voted overwhelmingly in favor of the statehood option (61%) while an “enhanced Commonwealth” received 33% of the vote, and 6% voted for independence.
Sometimes, elections do not provide the clearest of mandates, do they? (At least they got a clear majority in their three-part second question on the referendum!)
And as if the mixed messages were not sufficient already,
Voters in Puerto Rico go to the polls next Sunday, August 19, 2012, to cast ballots in a constitutional amendments referendum, concerning the Legislative Assembly’s number of members and the right to bail.
The constitutional amendment on the Legislative Assembly’s number of members proposes a reduction of the number of senators from 27 to 17, and the number of representatives from 51 to 39, starting in 2016. The number of Senate districts would be increased from eight to eleven, but each Senate district would elect one senator, instead of two. In addition, each Senate district would include three House of Representatives districts (instead of five), for a total of 33 House districts; each House district would continue to elect one representative. Moreover, the number of at-large seats in each House would be reduced from eleven to six. Likewise, the minority party representation cap would be reduced from nine to six seats in the Senate, and from 17 to 13 seats in the House of Representatives.
If we go by the cube-root rule, which suggests assembly size tends to be near the cube root of the population, the current first-chamber size of 51 is already only about one third of expected. If this referendum passes, Puerto Rico will have an extremely undersized assembly.
There is some tendency for islands (especially in the Caribbean) to have undersized assemblies. And the cube root rule might not apply to assemblies of not fully sovereign entities (though its underlying theory makes no such explicit claims). In any case, this would be a really small legislature for a “Commonwealth” of around 3.7 million.
Funes was making a speech while signing over 1,350 property deeds to Salvadorans in San Isidro en Izalco (Sonsonate). Most of the recipients have been working or living on lands tied up in red tape or abandoned for years and without proper titles. Funes said that during the ‘reign of conservatives & ARENA,’ a total of 34,000 property deeds were granted to Salvadorans over the span of 30 years; he compared this to his current FMLN administration, with just 2.5 years in power, which has already given 24,590. They plan to increase that number to 45,000 by year’s end, and by the end of their five years in power, they plan to have signed over 90,000 properties. I liked hearing these positive statistics but given the well-timed ’entrega’ (delivery) of these lands to campesinos – 5 days before elections – hmm… it seemed like a campaign event.
Salvadorans vote in legislative (and municipal) elections on Sunday. I don’t even have to look at polls to make a prediction: the FMLN will lose seats. This is the first election since the FMLN won the presidency in 2009 with the candidacy of Mauricio Funes, and a midterm decline is the typical pattern–in El Salvador and elsewhere.
This election will be the country’s first under a new open-list system. You can see a mock ballot at the El Diario de Hoy website. The system will permit the voter to vote for multiple candidates within a list–putting El Salvador on the same course followed in recent years by Honduras and Ecuador. Independent candidates also may run. These changes were in response to a Supreme Court ruling that invalidated the closed-list system that has been used until now. See Election Resources for more detail on the electoral system.
Final results show the PNP won with 53.3% of the votes, to the JLP’s 46.6%. However, even as the final vote total was much closer than the preliminary result upon which this entry was based, the PNP picked up an additional seat. (Note that this gives it exactly two thirds of the seats.)
Thus the result was far from proportional, after all. In fact, it was even more majoritarian than a “typical” FPTP result would be with the given input parameters. The PNP’s Advantage Ratio is 1.25, whereas the Seat-Vote Equation would predict it to have been 1.14.
I am leaving the rest of this as originally crafted. The analysis of other elections stands, but that of 2011 would be altered by this new information. Thanks to Jon, in a comment, for the tip.
Jamaica held its general election on 29 December. Like the other former British territories in the Caribbean, Jamaica elects its parliament by first past the post (plurality) in single-seat districts. Also like other English-speaking Caribbean islands, Jamaica has a parliament that is significantly undersized, given its population. So this makes Jamaica a perfect opportunity to break out our old favorites, the Cube Root Rule of Assembly Size, and the Seat-Vote Equation.
The election result itself saw an alternation in power from the Jamaican Labour Party (JLP) to the Peoples National Party (PNP). Various news reports before the election had said the election was expected to be close. But it was not. The PNP won 41 seats to the JLP’s 22. Thus the JLP was defeated after a single term, which had been its first time in power since its defeat in 1989. (That was a two-term government, although its second term then was tainted by the PNP’s election boycott in 1983.)
The Jamaican case is of some interest to comparative elections specialists because it has an almost perfect two-party system. The two main parties combined for 99.87% of the vote in this election. The PNP won 61.3%.
Only once since 1959 has the third party in a Jamaican election won more than 1% of the vote (NDM, 5.2%, 1997). That makes Jamaica arguably a more “pure” two-party system than its very large neighbor to the north, and probably the biggest country to have a strict two-party system other than that really big one.
So, how did the system perform, in terms of the proportionality of translating votes into seats? We might expect a party winning over 60% of the vote in a first-past-the-post system to be significantly over-represented. The expectation is all the greater given the small size of the parliament, for the country’s population. With a population of around 2.7 million (just over a million voters), the Cube Root Rule would lead us to expect an assembly of more than double its actual size of 63.1 Smaller assemblies mean less proportionality, other things constant. They tend to produce very high disproportionality under FPTP.
Yet the PNP’s 41 seats represent 65.1% of the total, hardly at all greater than its 61.3% of the vote.
The Seat-Vote Equation suggests that a “normal” case of about one million voters, 63 seats, and the top two parties at 61% and 38% of the votes would result in a leading party winning 84% of the seats. That would have been 53 seats, to 10 for the JLP.
In the 2011 election, then, Jamaica’s electoral system produced an almost completely proportional result.
This is not a systemic tendency, or if it is, it is a very new one. In fact, the Advantage Ratio (percent votes divided by percent seats) for the largest party in Jamaica had never been below 1.10 before this election (when it dropped to 1.06). Something has been going on in Jamaican elections recently: Every election that was contested by both major parties since 1959 had seen an Advantage Ratio of at least 1.16. Every contested election from 1976 through 1997 saw this ratio be at least 1.33, peaking at 1.50 in 1997, when the PNP won a third consecutive term. Then suddenly it dropped to 1.12 in 2002, when the PNP won a fourth term, in a very close election (50.14% to 49.77%).2
From looking at the data on seat allocation, I can’t tell what has changed. But I can certainly tell that something has. For the third time in a row, the result has been unusually proportional for a FPTP system–and, in 2011, quite proportional for any electoral system.
The election was called early, as one was not due until the fall of 2012. The Prime Minister, Andrew Holness, in September replaced Bruce Golding (yes, another case of inter-electoral change of PM through “intra-party” mechanisms). Apparently, Holness felt he needed to go to the people for a new mandate. Apparently, it did not work out so well.
As an aside, how often do countries (especially in the Western world) hold elections in the final week of December? I imagine it must be very unusual.
As a further aside, in how many other countries is the more right-wing of the major parties called “Labour”? Or does the more left-wing party have “National” in its name?3
Data cited in this entry are from my own research files.
To be fair, they did increase their assembly size. It was only 60 seats from 1976 to 2007! [↩]
And, in case you are wondering, as I was, I checked: there is only a small relationship in FPTP systems between the top two parties’ difference in votes and the largest party’s advantage ratio. The effect is statistically significant, but the coefficient is around only .007. In any case, the falling ratio in close elections in 2002 and 2007 is consistent with the modeled relationship, but the greater fall in 2011 is most certainly not. [↩]
Yes, of course, it also has “People’s”, which is pretty much the only way I can remember which is which. [↩]
At the time of the Honduran coup, there were those who tried to defend it as a legitimate act. And not all of those defenders were in the Honduran military or political elite. Here is what the State Department was saying at the time, under a heading “Arguments of the Coup Defenders“:
¶3. (SBU)Defenders of the June 28 coup have offered some combination of the following, often ambiguous, arguments to assert it’s legality:
– Zelaya had broken the law (alleged but not proven);
– Zelaya resigned (a clear fabrication);
– Zelaya intended to extend his term in office (supposition);
– Had he been allowed to proceed with his June 28 constitutional reform opinion poll, Zelaya would have dissolved Congress the following day and convened a constituent assembly (supposition);
– Zelaya had to be removed from the country to prevent a bloodbath;
– Congress “unanimously” (or in some versions by a 123-5 vote) deposed Zelaya; (after the fact and under the cloak of secrecy); and
– Zelaya “automatically” ceased to be president the moment he suggested modifying the constitutional prohibition on presidential reelection.
¶4. (C) In our view, none of the above arguments has any substantive validity under the Honduran constitution. Some are outright false. Others are mere supposition or ex-post
rationalizations of a patently illegal act. Essentially:
– the military had no authority to remove Zelaya from the country;
– Congress has no constitutional authority to remove a Honduran president;
– Congress and the judiciary removed Zelaya on the basis of a hasty, ad-hoc, extralegal, secret, 48-hour process;
– the purported “resignation” letter was a fabrication and was not even the basis for Congress’s action of June 28; and
– Zelaya’s arrest and forced removal from the country violated multiple constitutional guarantees, including the prohibition on expatriation, presumption of innocence and right to due process.
The cable then goes on to review the Honduran constitution in some detail, concluding that there is no impeachment provision, and that “Forced Removal by Military was Clearly Illegal” and “Congress Had no Authority to Remove Zelaya.” Each of those quoted passages is another subheading in the cable, which is followed by further detailed arguments.
All in all, a fairly impressive bit of reporting and political analysis. Now, what politicians and political appointees in Washington choose to do with such clear and objective information is another matter.
Campaigning is in the final stages in advance of the Trinidad and Tobago general election of Monday, 24 May. The race is expected to be tight. This is a “snap” election called by PM Patrick Manning, leader of the Peoples National Party (PNM). Will he be sorry for having called it early?
In my work on “systemic failure” and reform in FPTP systems,* I concluded by drawing up a “watch list” of jurisdictions where recent results suggested the electoral system was inherently prone to producing anomalies, based on deviations of actual outcomes from what the Seat-Vote Equation would expect. T&T was on my Watch List. In the case of T&T, the inherent tendency towards unexpected outcomes derives from a frequent over-representation of the second-largest party, relative to expectations based on “normal” performance of FPTP systems.
For instance, in 1995 and 2001, the top two parties tied in seats due to the second party performing considerably better in seats that would be normally expected. In 1995 the PNM was the largest party but it won a lower percentage of seats (47.2%) than of votes (48.8%); in 2001 the United National Congress (UNC) was first in votes by a respectable margin (49.9% to 46.5%) yet each party won half the seats. Either of these elections could have resulted in a spurious majority (or “wrong winner”).
This will be the country’s fifth election since 2000. The 2001 election had been called very early: in 2000 the UNC had won a very narrow majority of both votes and seats (51.7% and 52.7%, respectively). It fell to 49.9% of votes and half the seats in 2001, and then another election was called in 2002. This one produced alternation to the PNM, with majorities of both seats and votes (55.6% 50.9%, respectively). The party was reelected in 2007, and despite a fall in its votes (to 45.9%) its seats increased (to 63.4%). A third party, the Congress of the People (COP), won over 22% of the vote but no seats.
The underlying problem in T&T stems from two common sources of poor FPTP performance: small assembly size and regionalism. The assembly size was stuck on 36 for many elections (at least as far back as 1966). That is very small for a country with now over 650,000 votes cast in the last two elections (and around a million eligible). By the Cube Root Rule, a country this size should have an assembly of 100-125 members. This problem was “addressed” in 2007 when the assembly was finally increased–all the way to 41.
The nature of regionalism can be seen by looking at the maps from recent elections at Psephos. As is common under FPTP, each party has strongholds and only a few seats change hands at any given election. The UNC dominates most of the center and southeast of Trinidad, whereas the PNM wins nearly every seat in Port of Spain and on Tobago. The partisan division mirrors the division between citizens of Indian or African descent, with the governing PNM relying on the latter group.
In this election, the UNC and COP have joined forces as the core components of a five-party pre-election coalition known as the People’s Partnership. It might seem that such a coalescence of the opposition would make a dramatic difference in the votes-seats conversion to the opposition’s advantage, but it may not. A quick and not-very-systematic perusal of the district-by-district results in 2007 shows only a few districts where the PNM won with less than 50% and where the combined UNC-COP vote would have meant PNM defeat. Most PNM districts were in fact won with majorities, whereas it was the UNC that often won with less than 50%. Still, if the race really is close, even a relative few seats could tip the result. A few seats could result in an over-representation of the Peoples Partnership even if it second in votes–and could even contribute to a spurious majority.
About the campaign, the Jamaica Observer (second link above) notes:
Music in the nation famed for calypso has played a key role in campaigning.
One PNM video shows red-clad crowds dancing at rallies in front of a smiling Manning, with slogans such as “free education” sliding across the screen to a catchy tune.
On the other side, a People’s Partnership campaign song contains the lyrics: “Allegations here, allegations there,” and shows pictures of flashy high-rise buildings alongside hospitals without beds.
“I can’t vote for that!” rings out the chorus.
Trinidad and Tobago would be better served by some form of proportional representation and has earned its place on the Watch List.
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?
While various claims have been made about “high” turnout in Honduras, we should approach such claims with skepticism, at least for now. The TSE still has not posted anything other than “preliminary” results on its website. These show, at last check, that the combined votes for the presidential candidates are 1,527,969.
Could more than 470,000 votes (equivalent to more than 20% of the 2005 total valid vote) remain to be counted two days after the election? Or could more than 470,000 voters have cast blank or spoiled ballots? (In 2005, there were 133,351 “nulos” and 55,139 “blancos.”)
I refer readers again to boz’s pre-election post where he looked at the numbers in past elections and discussed the parameters for post-election spin.
Latin America is the scene of two elections today. First there is Honduras, where the president, congress, and municipal councils and mayors are all being elected. There is some considerable international attention on these polls, given the coup in June. I recommend Greg Weeks for perspective. (See also at The Monkey Cage.)
I tend to side with those who say this election is inherently illegitimate, given that it is being held by a de-facto government. On the other hand, it is true that it is being held according to the constitutional schedule that has been in place since long before the coup that ousted the still-legitimate President, Manuel Zelaya. (See Steven Taylor for more on these points.)
In terms of the actual legitimacy of the election, that is something only the most important stakeholders–Honduran voters–can determine. Our best indicator will be the turnout, and on this point I refer you to boz’s discussion of expectations and the spin we can anticipate from both sides.
Each of the country’s 298 mayoral posts will be filled today. It is noteworthy that 60 incumbents have declared themselves “in resistance” to the de-facto government. The linked item notes that mayors, unlike the president, can be reelected.* However, it is not clear to me how many of these 60 are running or how many have boycotted or not sought reelection for any reason. It will be interesting to see how many are actually reelected, and if there is any pattern among mayors-elect in regards to public statements they have made about the coup. (I sure hope someone is keeping track of such things.)
The congress, which has been complicit in the coup and which elected the de-facto president, is fully up for election. Members of congress are permitted to seek consecutive terms, and the electoral system is fully personalized, as it is open-list PR. (This will be the second open-list election.) Voters may cast up to as many preference votes as there are seats in their district–which in 2005 ranged from 2 to 23 (mean about 9). I believe these votes may be cast on different lists. (That is, there is panachage, and so voters are not confined to supporting candidates within one party.) So again, to the extent that incumbents and new candidates have staked out any positions about the current situation, voters would be free to reward or punish them at the elections. (Again, I sure hope someone is keeping track!)
The presidential election is actually the least important. Both candidates are safely within the oligarchic duopoly that has ruled Honduras for just about all its history–when it was not the military ruling (directly or indirectly). The National Party candidate, Porfirio “Pepe” Lobo, is thought to be well ahead. (The legitimate, but deposed, President Zelaya, is a Liberal.) Zelaya himself had defeated Lobo in a tight race in 2005 (49.9% to 46.2%) in 2005.
As for Uruguay, today we almost certainly will see another Pepe elected. And perhaps the most remarkable thing is how unremarkable it has become that a leftist former guerrilla can become President of Uruguay.
The parallels between the two countries are greater than what might be immediately evident–even beyond electing presidents named Pepe today. Both are relatively small countries that returned to democracy around the same time (mid 1980s) following a period of direct military rule, and both were long among the countries with the oldest and most oligarchic two-party systems. However, in Uruguay, that duopoly began breaking down decades ago, with the rise of a leftist alliance that today should be elected to its second consecutive term (under a different standard-bearer, per the constitution). It seems that just about everyone has gotten over the “leftist tide” in Uruguay, and it is just normal democratic politics. Meanwhile, in Honduras, a President who rose from within the duopoly was alleged by his opponents to be a dangerous leftist and was deposed. Today’s election, unless turnout is very low, evidently will vindicate the oligarchy and military for its actions to close off democratic space in the country.
* And, no, there is no evidence that Zelaya was preparing to change this ban on presidential reelection. No matter how often it is claimed that he was, it simply is not supported by the plain facts. (This has been discussed here previously, just click on “Central America” near the top of this planting and go back to late June and July.)
The [President Leonel] Fernandez administration [in the Dominican Republic] views the midterm elections as particularly crucial given that legislators elected next year will hold a six year term in order to allow for concurrent legislative and presidential elections starting in 2016.
This change will deprive us of an interesting case: since 1996 the DR has been the only country (ever, that I know of) to have exclusively midterm elections: every president has faced an election for the entire (bicameral) legislature at the term’s halfway point (and, of course, vice versa).*
The change will also mean an unusually long term of office. There are few cases of a first or sole chamber being elected for more than five-year terms. In fact, the only other one I can think of is Nicaragua under the constitution enacted during the Sandinista era (and later amended for shorter terms).
When the current electoral cycle was first put in place, the interim arrangement was for a two-year presidential term. The move was in response to the disputed election of 1994, in which the parties agreed to truncate the “reelected” president’s term, while letting the just-elected congress serve its full term.
Now, the Dominican Republic will return to concurrent four-year terms–but not till 2016.
* Others have had exclusively (or usually) non-concurrent elections, as a result of different presidential and legislative term lengths (e.g. El Salvador). But I know of no other case of elections for each branch at the midpoint between elections for the other.
Good question. My response is that my very specific understanding of a junta is that it is a governing council of active-duty military officers, who assume the role of the executive and usually also the legislative branch.
Sometimes there is a civilian-military junta, as after the Salvadoran coup of 1979. But that means still that there is an executive council that consists at least in part of military officers.
So, while I have argued all along that this event in Honduras was a military coup, I do not think the current de-facto governing situation qualifies as a military junta. There is a single executive official who is actually the constitutional civilian successor to the president–what makes it illegal is that the military, rather than the constitutional process–overthrew, by force, the rightful president. And, of course, the legislature still functions, at least formally.
So Honduras has had a military coup, but does not have a military junta. At least for now.
Or is my definition too narrow?
And I suppose another relevant question is how do you pronounce “junta” in English?
The planned plebiscite in Honduras, which was the precipitating event for the military coup that overthrew the elected president, Manuel Zelaya, was as follows:
¿Está de acuerdo que en las elecciones generales de 2009 se instale una cuarta urna en la cual el pueblo decida la convocatoria a una asamblea nacional constituyente? = Sí…….ó………..No.
I am going to pick up now on Steven Taylor’s translation and comments:
Do you agree with the installation of a fourth ballot box during the 2009 general elections so that the people can decide on the calling of a national constituent assembly? Yes or no.
In other words: do you want there to be a ballot and a ballot box (Latin American elections often have one ballot per office and one ballot box per ballot) for the purpose of a referendum in November (alongside the presidential and congressional elections) to decide whether or not to call a constituent assembly to reform the constitution.
[...] This is important for a variety of reasons.
1. This language was not about re-election.
2. Even if the plebiscite was allowed to go forward, the answer was “yes,” and the results were allowed to stand, Zelaya would not have been in a position to be re-elected in November.
Steven has more on the theme, including a photo of the ballot,* at PoliBlog.
Perhaps Zelaya was going to find a way to extend his term, unconstitutionally, but I never understood how. Unless he had totally suspended the constitution, which it is doubtful he expected to be able to do, he was not going to get the right to run for immediate reelection in November, when his successor was due to be elected. The constitution has language that makes it impossible to amend for reelection, which would explain the need for a constituent assembly. (A constituent assembly could declare itself the “sovereign voice of the people” and therefore not bound by restrictions in the existing constitution.) However, if the assembly could not be elected, convened, and complete its work before the November election, it would be too late for Zelaya to extend his term.
If the planned vote this past Sunday had been one to call a constituent assembly for this summer, there might have been more urgency to the situation. I would still not see even the slightest justification for the coup, but the urgency to deal with an unconstitutional act by the president would have been, well, urgent. But there was plenty of time for constitutional processes to play out.
And, yes, this was a military coup. It does not matter that there is no military junta, or that the arrest of the president was allegedly approved by other state institutions (Supreme Court and congress). I heard a news item today that the US government has not officially branded the act a military coup, because to do so would force the cutoff of aid. If that is true, shame on the Obama administration. If it is actually governed by a democratic administration, the US must cut off military aid and diplomatic relations until the coup is reversed and the proper constitutional order is restored in Honduras. This must not be allowed to stand, and mere words of condemnation are not enough. The military needs to feel some economic pain for its actions.
Update: See Two Weeks Notice on the question of aid and military coups. Which is, of course, what this coup was, except in the Obama administration’s hairsplitting terminology. How very Clintonian of the US government.
* I had seen the ballot on TV Once (Mexico) last night, but even freezing the frame on my brand new, and unbelievably clear, plasma TV, I could not quite read the entire thing. So I thank Steven for posting it–and also thank Miguel Madeira (who pointed Steven to the source).
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