On November 15, commenting on a poll that had PRD candidate LÃ³pez Obrador (“AMLO”) at 39%, the PRI’s dinosaur Madrazo at 29%, and newly nominated PAN candidate CalderÃ³n at 25%, I said:
The real race right now is for second place [...] If CalderÃ³n can pull ahead of Madrazo, I could see it developing into a two-way race between the PAN and PRD, pushing the PRI into into 25-percent territory.
Well, I never imagined it could happen so fast. (more…)
The stage is set. The Conservative leader, Stephen Harper, has introduced a no-confidence motion. It was seconded by Jack Layton, leader of the New Democratic Party, whose support for the Liberal minority government prevented its fall last spring. Now it will fall for certain, and the election will be early in the new year. Parliament’s vote is expected on Monday.
It is quite a remarkable turn of events. Kenya is dubiously democratic, and yet the president’s unpopularity resulted in a defeat for an ambitious political agenda. It also had split his own hand-picked cabinet, which was fired as soon as the results were known. Today the president prorogued parliament (i.e., prevented it from resuming its sessions, to thwart its becoming “an arena to fight the post-referendum war”).
Under the current constitution, the president is popularly elected, but the government structure is almost parliamentary. The President must be a member of the National Assembly, and he appoints (and may dismiss) a vice president from among the members of the National Assembly. The VP is defined as “the principal assistant of the President in the discharge of his functions.”
The president, the vice president, and all ministers (who also must be assembly members) are “collectively responsible” before the assembly, although the term seems undefined, which I take to imply that there is not a requirement for the executive to maintain assembly confidence. The president may, at any time, prorogue parliament, or dissolve it; if he dissolves, he must stand for reelection at the same time as parliament.
The proposed new constitution would have created a post of prime minister and separated the presidency from the assembly. As best I can tell, all sides agree on this principle, but disagree substantially over the relative powers of the president and prime minister. See, for example, the report of the BBC on 18 November:
Those who favour the new draft – which include much of the present Narc [National Rainbow Coalition] government – want a strong president.
Those opposed want a system of power-sharing between the president and a prime minister – a model familiar in France and much of eastern Europe.
It has sparked furious debate and violence on the streets. So far nine people, including several children, have been killed in the clashes.
All sides agree that the present constitution needs updating. The draft before the people is the product of a tangled and complex series of negotiations.
A version of the constitution calling for a dual system of power-sharing between president and elected prime minister was approved last year.
But it was overturned by President Mwai Kibaki’s supporters in parliament and re-written. The draft that is now being put to a referendum preserves the all-powerful president.
There is a draft of a proposed constitution at the site of the Constitution of Kenya Review Commission, but it is not clear if this is the version prior to, or after, the assembly’s amendedments.
As The Head Heeb notes, “Kibaki’s overreaching seems, at least for the time being, to have killed off some very necessary reforms.”
This past week, the leaders of the three major ethnic groups in Bosnia-Herzegovina agreed, in principle, to undertake significant reforms to the country’s constitution, reports the Guardian. Supposedly, the reforms are to reduce ethnic divisions in the country’s politics and smooth eventual entry into the EU. I’m skeptical.
The current constitution has a three-person presidential council, and one of the stated plans for reform is to replace the council with a single-person presidency.
The collegial presidency may be unworkable, and the specific way it is elected–with each of the three communities electing its own representative separately–is not a model I would ever have recommened, but the idea of establishing a single presidency in a divided society in which one group is close to a majority is worrisome.
In fact, a look at the results of the 2002 presidential and legislative elections (courtesy of Adam Carr) shows that the Bosniaks and Serbs (but not the Croats) are very internally divided: each had a winner with only around 35% of the vote within its ethnic group. Yet there were no significant parties that won substantial votes in more than one community. This suggests that having a unified presidential election for one president of all of Bosnia-Herzegovina runs the risk of giving Bosniaks and Serbs each the incentive to coalesce behind a single candidate, but little chance that there would be cross-community candidates with a chance of winning.
As reported at Edward Still’s Votelaw, Senator Biden (D-Del.) says that the part of Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito’s record that jeopardizes his confirmation more than his views on abortion is the part in which he expressed disagreement with the Warren Court’s Baker v. Carr decision on reapportionment.
As I have alluded to before, it is bad enough that our archaic, unrepresentative federal electoral systems (for President and Senate, as well as House) combine with the way we select Supreme Court justices to allow one party (even if it were a majority in the electorate, as the current seat-holding majority is not) to use court appointments in an effort to facilitate a partisan agenda. It is an order of magnitude worse if part of that agenda might include reversing one of the far-too-few advances this country has made in many decades towards more representative elections: the abolition of malapportionment in state legislatures.
The fact that Alito has specifically singled out Baker v. Carr as one of the Supreme Court rulings that drove him to pursue a legal career means he is unfit to serve on the highest court. If Democratic senators cannot filibuster a man with such profoundly reactionary views about democratic institutions, they might as well resign en masse.
“You will find that Aruba is a very safe, stable and friendly Dutch island within the kingdom of the Netherlands.”
It has a beautiful natural bridge.
And prettily painted churches.
No, this is not a paid advertisement. It is just my anti-boycott, to counter the silliness. As Steven notes this morning, his state’s governor has written to the governors of all the other 49 states urging them to join his call for a boycott. Ealier in the week, a poll showed that 70% Alabama residents would refuse a free trip to Aruba if offered (though Steven, to his credit, would be happy to relieve any of these residents of their burden, should they get such an offer).
Back on October 15, the day of the Iraqi constitutional referendum, I suggested that I might compare province-level turnout in the January and October elections. Well, I finally did. (Never say F&V does not deliver on promises!)
In the October 15 post, I had quibbled with the triumphalist assessment in some quarters that the referendum and Arab Sunni turnout therein represented a “victory over terror.” I noted that we would expect Sunni turnout to have been higher in the referendum than in the assembly election:
If Sunnis tend to oppose the constitution then the only way to express that opposition is to turn out in pursuit of the 2/3 no in three provinces.
[...] In January, the only way to express opposition to a process that was guaranteed to under-represent them was to stay away. In other words, now the incentives are reversed.
The clause, “guaranteed to under-represent.” referred to the single nationwide district for proportional allocation, which meant that differential turnout across regions would be critical in shaping the balance of power in the assembly. Predominantly Arab Sunni areas, I argued, would be likely to have low turnout even if there was no organized boycott, simply because they are the most violent areas of the country. The referendum, on the other hand, was not a strictly nationwide election, because opponents of the constitution did not need 50% nationwide to defeat it. All they needed was 2/3 no votes in at least three provinces.
So, I surmised that a test of the extent to which the vote/no vote decision was motivated by electoral incentives (a desire to see the constitution defeated) vs. violence (or sympathy with the rejectionist posture of those perparating attacks) would be a comparison of turnout by province in the two elections. Electoral incentives predict an increase in turnout in the provinces that have the highest Arab Sunni population, such that their turnout more closely resembles that of the country as a whole. Violence predicts a turnout level that remains well below the national average.
I will measure turnout over the denominator of registered voters in January. This means that October turnout could excede 100% if there were more registered voters in October, but it assures a consistent baseline. So, the measure is (October votes cast over January registered voters) minus (January votes cast over January registered voters).
The total raw turnout increase nationwide was around 1.5 million votes, or around 10.5% of the total registered in January. The avergae unweighted province-level change was +10.2%.
Turnout declined across the Shiite regions, especially on Najaf and Wasit (both with -10% or greater decrease). In most of the country the October turnout was with 6 percentage points, plus or minus, of the January turnout.
Erbil, one of the predominatly Kurdish areas had a large increase (20.7), but all the other areas with big increases were indeed Sunni Arab majority provinces, or mixed provinces such as Kirkuk and Diyala.
Here are the biggest increases, followed by the no percentage in the referendum (a good indicator of Arab Sunni presence among a province’s electorate):
(These were the only provinces in which the yes did not exceed two thirds of the votes.)
This leaves us with a very mixed picture. The Anbar turnout in January was a mere two percent of registered voters, so even with the large turnout increase in October (which included many new registrants, too), the turnout in that province still reached only a paltry 37.4%–and that’s based on the smaller January denominator. On the other hand, in the other province that is dominated by a Sunni Arab population, Saladdin, turnout in October exceded the number of voters who had registered in January. (There was also a small increase in turnout in Baghdad, the only other province where the Sunni population is large enough to have produced more than 20% no votes against the constitution.)
So, we could say that the guerrillas, who reject the entire process, scored a pretty good victory in Anbar, but were indeed defeated elsewhere where large numbers of Sunnis live. What we cannnot say from these data is the extent to which greater levels of war-related insecurity might have prevented a greater turnout in Ninevah, which could have boosted its 55% no up to two thirds, thereby ensuring the defeat of the constitution.
[Data are from Adam Carr for the January election to the transitional assembly that drafted the constitution and from the Iraqi electoral commission itself for the October referendum on that constution. Carr also has a useful map.]
The coming Israeli election will be even better than the recent one in Germany for those who like to make anti-PR arguments, as is noted at one of the better pro-PR blogs out there, make my vote count. The Israeli system is extreme on two dimensions–the absence of any districting (the entire country is one district) and the absence of any voter choice among candidates within party lists. Most PR systems have either districting or some element of within-list choice, or both. Being so extreme, the Iraeli case is hardly relevant to debates about forms of PR in the UK (or the US, for that matter). The post also notes the failed experiment with direct PM election in Israel and the ongoing use of primary elections, which can have perverse effects in a closed-list system. (They can have perverse effects under plurality, too, but that is another story!)
(I have already commented on some specific uses of the German case as arguments against PR, which are usually based on common misconceptions.)
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.
(The Joint Electoral Management Body has a terrific photo gallery.)
The legislative elections in Afghanistan were held on September 18, but the results were not released until a few days ago. With the help of a map offered by the Joint Electoral Management Body, and the slightly easier to read format of the results posted by Adam Carr, the following is a selective analysis of the results. (For background on the electoral system–SNTV–and other aspects of the campaign, please see my Afghanistan subdomain.)
Analyzing the results and their possible national policy-making significance is difficult due to the absence of any real party system. What I want to highlight is the votes breakdown by candidate, given that this is an SNTV system, to see the extent to which my expectation about how this system would perform in the Afghan context proved correct. In a previous post on the elections I noted:
Was that the case? I will take a few provinces, semi-randomly (but including districts of different sizes and from different parts of the country), and take a closer look. My intention is not to perform a scientific analysis, but rather just to get an overview of the results. In this sense, what I will do here is similar to what I did on Liberia in two posts on November 11 and 12.
First, a note about the rules. It is SNTV (first M past the post, where M is the district magnitude), but with a proviso. 25% of the elected legislators were required by law to be women, so one or more male candidates who ranked among the top M vote-getters might be skipped to ensure that the requisite number of female candidates would be elected.
In each of the provinces that I survey, I will give some votes percentages in the following order: Top winner, last elected without gender quota, any women elected only due to gender quota [in brackets], and first two losers.
So, the expectation was largely confirmed. The margins between the last winner and first two losers tend to be small. The overall results are very fragmented, with a fairly typical result being that one candidate is well ahead of the rest of the field. Yet even the leading candidate has a small vote share in most cases. The largest vote share I saw was just over 35% and only a few had over 20% of their respective province. Such candidates, of course, are clearly local notables or even ‘warlords.’ Still, an advantage of SNTV over FPTP (as in Liberia’s lower house) is that other candidates aside from the strongest locally can be elected, and an advantage over PR is that these warlords’ own personal votes elect only themselves rather than a list of candidates. (Of course, if they have sufficient organization, they might be able to coordinate their supporters to divide their votes among several affiliated candidates; from just looking at results by candidate, with no party labels available, it is not possible to tell the extent to which this might have happened.)
It is well worth noting that the smaller-magnitude districts had some tendency to have both a leading candidate with a non-neglible vote share and trailing candidates who were farther behind the last winner than is the case in the larger districts. Take, for example, Kunar, where there is a clear fall-off between the last winner and first loser (ignoring the gender quota). The first loser in Bamyan just missed, but the next one is much farther back. (Yes, to call 2 percentage points “much farther back” is odd, but in this context, it is also accurate.)
The smaller magnitude districts, thus, appear to have had somewhat better coordination than the large ones, just as we would expect under SNTV. Larger magnitudes compound the low-information problem of a first election and a party-less campaign. Kabul shows the lack of information about which trailing candidates were in the running, with the last winner (before gender quota) at only two hundredths ahead of the second loser.
And look at Herat (also a large-magnitude district): the first winner had only 3.6% of the vote!
The two best news reports on the final results that I have seen were by IRN and Pak Tribune.
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