“The priests are chanting.” Antonis Samaras, the leader of New Democracy, has now been sworn in as Prime Minister of Greece, three days after his party won the plurality of votes and seats in Greece’s second election of 2012.
The Athens News live blog for June 20 (follow link in first line) offered regular updates about the apparently highly contentions bargaining. And I do not mean between ND and partners. I mean within Pasok and Democratic Left, the two parties that will join ND in offering Samaras and his cabinet a vote of confidence. According to updates during the day, the Pasok caucus meeting went longer than planned and included various excitements such as yelling and the throwing of an iPad.
As I understand it, the government will be a single-party minority cabinet. No Pasok or Democratic Left MPs will sit in cabinet, but they are agreeing to support it.
Evangelos Venizeols, Pasok leader, “confirmed that Pasok will be taking part in the coalition with no parliamentary members and insisted that the most important part of this entire effort was not the government itself but the formulation of a national negotiation team.” (2:05 pm update)
Fotis Kouvelis, Democratic Left leader, stated that his “parliamentary group has decided to give a vote of confidence to the this government. Our support of course, depends on correct government policy being set in place. The process of policy formulation is still in progress, with our party pressuring for the negation of any measures that have already damaged our society and its people. Our country needs a government, this is important, but the policy it follows is even more important.” (1:07)
In the 2:20 update there is some background on the new Finance Minister, Vasilas Rapanos.
According to the election results posted by the Ministry of Interior, the government and its two support partners combine for 179 seats, which is 59.7%. ND has 129 of the seats, thanks to earning the 50-seat bonus for being the largest party, which it was by just less than three percentage points over Syriza (Radical Left), which will lead the opposition.
The government’s electoral basis–the sum of votes obtained by the three parties offering confidence–is 48.2%. Thus, while not actually endorsed by a majority of voters, the parties that empower this government are very close to a majority. And it is a majority of those votes that were cast for above-threshold parties; 5.98% of the vote was wasted on parties that did not clear the 3% threshold. (This is less than half what it was in the super-fragmented election in May.) The largest of the below-threshold parties had only 1.59%, so we can hardly say that these voters expected their votes to count for empowering a government, or a parliamentary opposition. (In May, two parties, the Greens and the Orthodox Rally, were at 2.9%.)
The big re-sorting of voters in this election, compared to May, seems to come from the lower wasted-vote percentage. (Turnout was actually down, but not by much: 62.5% vs. 65.1%.) Both ND and Syriza grew their support by similar amounts, and the margin of ND over Syriza was very similar in both elections. Pasok did, however, suffer a further, but small, decline. Independent Greeks also did about 3 percentage-points worse, with their voters perhaps going back to ND, from which IG is a splinter. In this election, no party cleared 30% of the vote, but that’s quite a change from May, when none cleared 20%.1
Golden Dawn, the (not-so-neo) nazi party, did about as well, winning 6.9% in June, compared to 7.0% in May.
The outcome, for now, seems about as “good” as could have been expected. Yes, the Greek electoral system–which is not proportional–risks significant distortion when even a party that has won the vote 29.7%-26.9% gets 50 bonus seats and 43% of total seats, while the runner up gets only 23.4% of seats. Yes, there is something unseemly about the old and discredited, formerly alternating in power, Pasok and ND teaming up despite Pasok’s spectacular fall in voter support in recent elections (including, as noted above, a small fall in the past six weeks). Nonetheless, the government is backed by nearly three fifths of parliament and about half the voters, and includes one of the parties opposed to the current bailout terms–more pragmatically so than Syriza, which can carp and organize protests, but will have no say in the country’s policy for now. Whether this government can come up with policy solutions, and whether it can even hold together, are questions for another day.
Singular Logic representatives said during a briefing Thursday at the Interior Ministry, that the uniqueness of Sunday’s elections – in which citizens will vote for a party and not for specific candidates, since the party tickets comprise lists of candidates in order of preference – is that the candidates that are elected will be known as soon as the collective results are in.
This is from Athens News, referring to an IT company that will transmit the early results of Sunday’s Greek elections from around the country.
The list type has been open, and I can’t see how it could have been changed in this interim since the 6 May election, but the quotation certainly suggests a closed list.
Also of interest:
A total of 21 parties and coalitions and 58 independent candidates will be vying for seats in the 300-member parliament with 4,873 candidates, compared with 31 parties and coalitions and 52 independent candidates with a total of 6,500 candidates that ran in the inconclusive general elections on May 6.
The wasted votes in the previous election–those cast for parties below 3% of the nationwide vote–were unusually high.
Today voters in Serbia voted in a runoff election for the country’s presidency; legislative elections were held concurrent with the first round on 6 May. Meanwhile, France is in the interim period between presidential and legislative elections. What difference does this make?
France has long been seen as the model of semi-presidential government (notwithstanding that there actually are older examples). Specifically, it is of the premier-presidential subtype, which is to say that the president actually has very limited powers over government formation and policy-making, unless he leads a party or alliance of parties with a majority in the parliament. Under the premier-presidential subtype, the premier and cabinet are responsible to the parliamentary majority, but not to the president. Nonetheless, when the president is the acknowledged head of the legislative majority, he can be as unchecked in practice as any executive leader in any democracy.
The Serbian constitution, is unambiguously premier-presidential. Perhaps the presidency is very slightly less powerful, but the basic configuration of powers is similar to that of France.
So let’s compare the two countries, at this very moment, in terms of the process of government formation. In a premier-presidential system, “government formation” typically means the president initiates the appointment of a premier, but only upon taking account of the balance of forces in the parliament, which must approve his selection (and, solely, has the constitutional power to remove it subsequently).
In Serbia, the first round of the presidential election produced a close result, which was not decisive. Boris Tadic of the Democratic Party won the plurality, but only around a quarter of the valid votes. Close behind him was Tomislav Nikolic of the nationalist Serbian Progressive Party. In third place, but with only around 14%, was Ivica Dacic, of the Socialist Party of Serbia. (No other candidate had even 7.5%.)
This outcome made Dacic, the strongest of the candidates not qualifying for the runoff, potentially influential. To say “kingmaker” would be an overstatement, given that even if he could deliver his support as a bloc, neither candidate would reach 40%. Still, that did not stop some stories following the first round from suggesting Dacic would be the kingmaker.
Dacic tried, by announcing an alliance with Tadic, amid speculation that Dacic would become premier. Legislative elections were held at the same time as the first round, and they gave the alliance led by Tadic, called Choice for a Better Life, 67 seats. Nikolic’s alliance, Let’s Get Serbia Moving, won 73 seats. Dacic’s Socialists won 44 seats. With an assembly size of 250, a coalition led by Tadic and Dacic could combine for 111 seats–not enough for a majority, but with 44.4% of the seats, a strong base from which to build a government. Only one small detail: this coalition had to succeed in electing Tadic to the presidency first.
The voters did not cooperate, however, as Nikolic has won today’s runoff. Now Nikolic will need to begin negotiations to put together a cabinet that can command a majority in parliament.
This strikes me as more or less how premier-presidentialism is supposed to work. Parliamentary elections determine the parameters of coalition possibilities, given that–as in a parliamentary democracy–the cabinet must have the confidence of the parliamentary majority. Yet when there is no electorally based majority, it falls not to a third party in parliament, but to the voters, acting through their agent in the presidency, to serve as the real kingmaker.
Now contrast this process just sketched with that in France now. The presidential election is concluded, but parliamentary elections are looming in June. However, the newly inaugurated President, Francois Hollande, has already appointed his cabinet. Meanwhile, Hollande’s Socialists and the allies of the presidential candidate who finished fourth, Jean-Luc Melenchon of the Left Front, are divvying up the districts in which they will present joint candidacies, in order to maximize the seats of the broad left. In effect, Hollande (and Melenchon) are asking voters to ratify decisions they have taken since Hollande was voted into the presidency.
Events in France seem less in the spirit of premier-presidentialism, because they lend a far more “presidentialized” air to the whole process by permitting the appointment of the next government before the election of the parliament to which it is (formally) accountable.
The critical difference here is in the electoral cycle, with Serbia having its parliamentary elections concurrent with the first round of the presidential contest, whereas France, since 2002, has been employing a “honeymoon” cycle with parliamentary elections following close on the heels of the presidential runoff. When combined with the two-round majority-plurality system by which France elects its National Assembly, the honeymoon elections will tend to create a very large president-supporting majority, rather than a legislature that serves as a check on the president through coalition politics.
While both France and Serbia are clearly premier-presidential systems, the Serbian electoral cycle is much more in the spirit of the hybrid process of government formation that this subtype of constitutional form is supposed to generate.
The process since last Sunday’s election in Greece is playing out exactly as detailed in the constitution. In other words, for all the hand-wringing about a possible second election, the constitution precisely contemplates such a contingency. From Article 37:
1. The President of the Republic shall appoint the Prime Minister and on his recommendation shall appoint and dismiss the other members of the Cabinet and the Undersecretaries.
* 2. The leader of the party having the absolute majority of seats in Parliament shall be appointed Prime Minister. If no party has the absolute majority, the President of the Republic shall give the leader of the party with a relative majority an exploratory mandate in order to ascertain the possibility of forming a Government enjoying the confidence of the Parliament.
* 3. If this possibility cannot be ascertained, the President of the Republic shall give the exploratory mandate to the leader of the second largest party in Parliament, and if this proves to be unsuccessful, to the leader of the third largest party in Parliament. Each exploratory mandate shall be in force for three days. If all exploratory mandates prove to be unsuccessful, the President of the Republic summons all party leaders, and if the impossibility to form a Cabinet enjoying the confidence of the Parliament is confirmed, he shall attempt to form a Cabinet composed of all parties in Parliament for the purpose of holding parliamentary elections. If this fails, he shall entrust the President of the Supreme Administrative Court or of the Supreme Civil and Criminal Court or of the Court of Auditors to form a Cabinet as widely accepted as possible to carry out elections and dissolves Parliament.
* 4. In cases that a mandate to form a Cabinet or an exploratory mandate is given in accordance with the aforementioned paragraphs, if the party has no leader or party spokesman, or if the leader or party spokesman has not been elected to Parliament, the President of the Republic shall give the mandate to a person proposed by the party’s parliamentary group. The proposal for the assignment of a mandate must occur within three days of the Speaker’s or his Deputy’s communication to the President of the Republic about the number of seats possessed by each party in Parliament; the aforesaid communication must take place before any mandate is given.
*Interpretative clause: As far as exploratory mandates are concerned, when parties have an equal number of seats in Parliament, the one having acquired more votes at the elections, precedes the other. A recently formed party with a parliamentary group, as provided by the Standing Orders of Parliament, follows an older one with an equal number of seats. In both these instances, exploratory mandates cannot be given to more than four parties.
(The president is selected by parliament for a fixed term of five years, according to Articles 30-32.)
Constitutionally, it seems there is no other solution but to have another election, now that the leaders of each of the three largest parties have proven (as expected) unable to form a majority-backed (or majority-tolerated) government.
Democratically, it also seems that there is no other solution. One senses hand-wringing in all the media coverage of this past week’s playing out of the Greek constitutional process, with phrases such as the “failure to bridge the gap” repeated over and over. Actually, the failure is with the troika so far to convince a majority of the Greek electorate that it has a solution to the country’s current troubles.
As discussed at length in a previous thread, an electoral system rigged to ensure the largest party a substantial above-proportional share of the vote very nearly turned a a combined vote share for the two old (and formerly opposed) establishment parties that was under one third into a parliamentary majority. The election results show that the old center-right New Democracy won 18.9% of the vote and 108 of the 300 seats, with 50 of those coming from the plurality-boosting provision. PASOK, the old socialist party, won 41 seats on 13.2%. But the key word there was “nearly”; ND and PASOK combined for 149 seats, where a majority is 151. All of the other parties that won seats are, to varying degrees, opposed to the troika agreement, their disagreements on tactics and other issues notwithstanding.
Moreover, the close second place finish of Syriza (the Coalition of the Radical Left), with 16.8% of the vote–but only 52 seats–may imply a failure of anti-troika Greek voters to realize that a plurality for this formerly marginal party was even possible.
Additionally, over 18% of Greek voters selected parties that fell below the 3% threshold. That is a lot of wasted votes.
And turnout was only 65%.
Given all this context, a second election, in addition to being constitutionally mandated given the impasse, is the only democratically acceptable outcome.
In the event, it may be that the establishment-boosting provision in the electoral law comes back to bite the establishment on the posterior. Polling now suggests that Syriza could win over 25% of the vote in a new election. This would allow the radical left to win the 50 bonus seats on top of its proportional share of the remaining 250. That could mean 110-115 seats, putting it in a strong bargaining position to form an anti-austerity coalition.
The election likely would take place on 17 June. Of course, this could be a very, very long month for Greek politics, and maybe ND, PASOK, and other like-minded parties will yet win the argument.
I take no position here on what is the correct policy for Greece to get out of its current economic and social debacle–that is an area in which I am not qualified. However, giving Greek voters a second chance to coordinate on either a pro-troika or anti-troika set of parties makes more likely that the resulting government will have an actual mandate.
I wonder if anyone knows what the party law is like in Greece. That is, what does it take to register a new party? Are joint lists of two or more parties permitted?
The question arises because in Sunday’s election, there was a clear coordination failure. Anti-austerity parties had a clear plurality of the votes, yet the two establishment parties combined to be one short of a majority of seats–on less than a third of votes.
With the huge bonus in seats–50 out of 300 total–there for the taking by whichever list is largest, the electoral law should provide a strong incentive to coordinate. One possibility is that the regulations on party and list formation work in the other direction.
Already, the largest party following the Greek election, New Democracy, has given up leading a government. The mandate now shifts to Syriza, the Coalition of the Radical Left.
I don’t see a plausible government out of these results. A second election looks likely. The conventional wisdom seems to be that would mean chaos. I don’t buy it. Two important things could change.
1. The roughly 18% (!) who voted for parties earning less than the 3% threshold would have a chance to update their preferences and choose from among viable parties. If even a small chunk of this shifted the result could differ appreciably.
2. With a swing of barely over 2percentage points, Syriza instead of New Democracy could be the party with >100 seats, taking advantage of the massive seat bonus guaranteed the largest party. Then a leftist anti-austerity government would be viable.
Greece has parliamentary elections Sunday. All indications are that the two parties that have taken turns in power in recent decades–New Democracy and PASOK–may struggle to reach a combined 40% this time.
A motley collection of far-left and ultra-nationalist parties look to be among those winning seats. Among these are the Golden Dawn, which uses a symbol that looks way too much like a swastika for my comfort. Oh, and their leaders also have a fondness for the Hitlerian salute. What is that old saying about if it quacks like a duck…
But what is the electoral system? It has been changed many times, and the Wikipedia page says:
the new electoral law, which will be used for the first time in the election on 6th May 2012, reserves 50 parliamentary seats for the “first past the post” party or coalition of parties, and apportions the remaining 250 seats proportionally according to each party’s total valid vote percentage.
The previous system, used in 2007 and 2009, had 40 seats guaranteed for the leading party/coalition. The total assembly size is 300.
The interesting thing will be whether the largest party actually gets more seats via the “bonus” clause than it is entitled to via the proportional component for the rest of the seats! That likely won’t happen, but it could be a close call, if the remaining seats are allocated something like proportionally to national vote percentages, as the above quote implies.
But how are the rest of the seats allocated? Various sources, including the one linked, say that there are 56 districts, which would make for an average district magnitude of only 4.5. The link between these districts and nationwide proportionality is not clear to me. Does anyone know?
There is also apparently a 3% threshold required to win any seats.
Nearly 40 percent of the votes Sunday were cast for ruling center-right presidential candidate Rosen Plevneliev against about 30 percent for socialist contender Ivailo Kalfin, according to results from an exit poll conducted by the Alpha Research agency. [WashPost]
There will be a runoff on 30 October.
Bulgaria has a premier-presidential system, with a fairly weak presidency.
Thaci’s Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) has won 33.5%, while its former coalition partner Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), whose withdrawal precipitated this election, has won 23.6%. In 2007, these parties won 34.3% and 22.6%, respectively. So not much change.
On DW-TV, seen via Link TV, the following billboard caught my interest. I apologize for the poor quality; it is shot from a paused image on the DVR.
This is clearly (well, maybe “clearly” is not the right word) a billboard for the LDK. I assume it is showing all the candidates on the party’s list.
As far as I know, the electoral system continues to have a 100-seat district, with voters free to cast preference votes for up to 5 (earlier reports had said 10) candidates. It is unclear, from an earlier discussion at F&V, whether this is a fully open or a flexible list. In any case, the billboard shows 110 candidates, counting the party leader.
There are also another 20 seats, elected separately, for minorities. Ten of these are set aside for the Serb minority. However, voting was apparently sparse in Serb regions. (Maybe the billboard above shows 110 because it includes the 10 non-Serb minority candidates. Just speculating. Or it could simply be that parties may nominate more candidates than seats for the principal district.)
While I do not read Serbian, I know enough Cyrillic to know these signs call on Serbs to boycott the election. (Cognates help, too!)
This last photo is for the PDK and reminds us that, for the ethnic Albanian majority, the country is Kosova, not Kosovo.
The DW-TV report mentioned a new party that had come in third, with around 15%. From Balkan Insight, which has a regional (but not national) breakdown of the vote, it would seem that the third party is something called the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo(a?).
As an aside, I am always bemused at how many media outlets will declare that a party has “won” an election when it merely has the most seats–and nowhere near a majority. Of the first five hits in my Google News search, Voice of America, Xhinhua, eTaiwan News, and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty all had variations on Thaci or his party “winning.” Only Aljazeera (the one I linked to at the top) got it right: “Party of Hashim Thaci holds on most seats in parliament but fails to take majority amid allegations of ballot stuffing.”
Voters in Kosovo are to go to the polls in snap elections on Dec. 12, after Prime Minister Hashim Thaci’s weakened government supported a no-confidence vote in the country’s parliament. [...]
The no-confidence motion on Tuesday was supported by 64 of the 120 legislators. It was submitted two weeks after Thaci’s coalition fell apart when former President Fatmir Sejidu pulled his party out of the governing coalition. Sejidu also stepped down as president in mid-October, after the country’s constitutional court ruled that he could not be the leader of a political party and the country’s president at the same time.
This will be the country’s first election since its declaration of independence.
The president of Kosovo is a mostly ceremonial head of state, elected by the National Assembly; the country has a parliamentary system of government.
The electoral system is proportional in a nationwide constituency. The assembly consists of 120 seats, with 20 set aside for the Serb minority. Apparently the system was changed from closed lists to open-list PR prior to the 2007 election. The linked item, from Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, says that voters could vote for up to ten candidates on a list. (That’s a lot!)
Reversing the (well within margin of error) exit polls, the official results show that Romanian President Traian Basescu has been reelected. The Social Democratic Party says it will contest the outcome before the Constitutional Court, alleging rigging.
The Central Electoral Bureau reports the result as 50.33% Bsescu to 49.66% Mircea Geoana. That’s close!
At A Fistful of Euros, Alex Harrowell notes that, after finishing second in the first round of the presidential election, Mircea Geoana obtained “promises of support from several other parties, notably the Liberals and the Hungarian minority.”
as part of the agreement with these groups, he’s promised to appoint the independent mayor of Sibiu – Hermannstadt in German – as prime minister. That’ll be one Klaus Johannis. Yes; he’s a Transylvanian German, the first time that a member of this minority will head the government. [...]
I can’t help but be amazed at the idea of a Romanian government that includes the Hungarians and is headed by a German…
Interesting indeed. In reading this I realized that I do not know the answer to this question, despite all the research I have done on semi-presidential systems: How often does a presidential candidate promise in advance to select a specific premier if elected? I would think not very often.
Incumbent Romanian president Traian Basescu is narrowly behind in today’s two-candidate presidential runoff. One exit poll has Mircea Geoana winning 51.6%. Others show the result even closer, so we may not know for sure for a bit.
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