Kadima has reached an agreement with Shas. The latter party will receive four portfolios and a commitment that “there would not be any legislation on a civil marriage clause,” thereby changing a provision of Kadima’s earlier guidelines. Meanwhile the Labor party’s Central Committee narrowly voted to delegate to chairman Amir Peretz the authority to select the party’s seven ministers.
The ‘Double Jewel’ fruiting/flowering peach is about done flowering and well into its fruiting stage. Other branches are loaded with little developing fruits, and just these few branches remain in their full floral splendor.
Meanwhile, down the hedge…
The early-blooming peaches are getting big. Those in the foreground are ‘Midpride,’ one of the finest low-chill peaches. Just behind them are the fruits of the ‘Earlitreat’ peach–the first trunk that is visible. ‘Earlitreat’ lives up to its name. Some years the first peach has been ripe on 30 April, though with our late chill and rains this year, everything is a bit delayed. You can almost watch these peaches expand. They go from bloom to relatively large peaches in an amazingly short time. It is not even one of the first to bloom here, but always the first to ripen. Quality varies. Some years it is quite rich and other years quite bland. I expect bland this year, because it has been unusually cool in March and April. But I won’t complain about fresh peaches bursting with juice in May!
Beyond the ‘Earlitreat’ in the photo is the runt of an ‘August Pride,’ then the ‘Arctic Star’ (a spectacularly sweet and juicy bald peach, i.e. nectarine), and then at the end of the hedge, the ‘Double Jewel’ again (note the blooms).
This hedgerow is on Ladera Frutal’s middle elevations, where the chilling is moderate (400 hours or less). All of these varieties need under 400 and some (like ‘Midpride’) probably under 200.
The ‘Stella’ cherry has set some fruit, and continues blooming. It also fruited last year, and once in its former Carlsbad by the Sea days.
I am skeptical of anectdotal claims I have heard to the effect that ‘Stella’ and possibly other self-fruitful cherries have little or no chilling requirement, but I noticed that this year the Bay Laurel Nursery catalog downgraded this variety’s listed chilling requirement from 700 hours to 400-500. That strikes me as optimistic, but 500-600 seems reasonable, from my own experience.
I also have blooms this year on ‘Craig’s Crimson,’ a winner at multiple Dave Wilson taste tests. It has always grown well for me in the three years I have had it, but never a bloom till now.
Listed chill requirement for ‘Craig’s Crimson’ is 800. The headgerow where these are planted might have reached 650-700, but not 800.
A year ago I planted a ‘White Gold’ cherry, which is a ‘Stella’ cross from the Cornell breeding program. My hope is that its parentage (and self-fruitfulness) might make it low chill. So far this spring, it has not begun to leaf out. So, either it is higher chill, or just a late-bloomer. (It is also still only slightly more than a stick in the ground with only very small side branches.)
As last year, ‘Royal Rainier’ has bloomed very well this spring. It probably really is low chill. Bay Laurel says 400-500 hours. A reader who is also in southern California, and in a coastal lower-chill location, has reported that ‘Royal Rainier’ has done well for him. I had some fruit last year. It was excellent. (So is ‘Stella.’)
Still no sign of any action from ‘Bing,’ however. It is not self-fruitful and has a catalog-listed chilling requirement of 700 hours. It is one of my “you never know” plantings. It always grows well, which many trees that fail to get chill do not. (At least that is true of apricots and peaches that do not get their chill: Not only do they not bloom, but they grow erratically and experience die-back. Not my ‘Bing,’ but for all I know, cherries might not exhibit that kind of behavior.)
particularly objected to a clause calling for “a reduction in the land that will be settled in Judea and Samaria.”
“If Olmert wants us in the coalition, he has to make an effort to show us we are wanted, but so far he has done only the opposite,” Shtern said.
If Israel Beiteinu does not “change its tune,” Kadima will renew contacts with Meretz over the latter’s joining the coalition.
Meanwhile, the coalition guidelines call for:
the pursuit of a solution to help thousands of Israelis who could not be married by the rabbinate. An agreement reached later with Shas specified that Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar would be the halachic authority on solving that problem.
This plan received a nice reception from one of Shas’s competitors for the religious-authoritarian vote:
In a strongly worded press release, National Union MK Zvi Hendel accused Shas of “betraying its voters” and said Shas would join Kadima voters in hell.
As The Head Heeb notes, the Kadima-Pensioners agreement includes not only two portfolios and key policy concessions for the Pensioners but also the two parties sitting together as one caucus and operating under unified discipline.
The king of Thailand said it better than I could have, even with my extensive vocabulary of technical political-science terminology: The political situation in his country is “a mess.”
The latest installment is a ruling by an administrative court stopping by-elections scheduled for tomorrow. The by-elections were necesssary because parliament can’t convene till all its seats are filled and many were left unfilled in the recent general election on acocunt of the opposition’s boycott and a law that mandates a minimum turnout for a district’s election to be valid. With the boycott continuing, the by-elections would not have resolved anything. It is even possible that the country’s Supreme Court could invalidate the entire electoral process thus far.
The second referendum to consider moving to the single transferable vote (STV) form of proportional representation for British Columbia provinicial legislative elections has been delayed until 2009. The first referendum, on the proposal of the BC Citizens Assembly, was held in May, 2004, at the last general election. It “passed” with 57% of the vote but was “defeated” for failing to make the mandated 60%. Embarrassed by this ambiguous outcome, and perhaps also by its own return to full power under FPTP despite only around 45% of the vote, the reelected Liberal government promised a second referendum concurrent with the November, 2008, municipal elections. The government promised that, unlike in 2005, it would prepare an actual map of STV constituencies so that voters would know what they were voting for, and that if it passed, the new electoral system would be in place for the May, 2009, provincial legislative election.
Now, the Chief Electoral Officer has said that–even with the districting arrangement decided before the referendum–there would not be time to implement STV before the general election.
So, at the earliest, BC will have its first STV election at the following general election, in 2013.
This post steps outside the specialties of this blog a little bit. One of my academic sidelines is revolution, though I have not published in this area in a while. Recent events in Nepal have looked more like an incipient revolution* than party or electoral politics, with a king having assumed absolute rule a year ago (and having dissolved parliament in 2002) and a Maoist insurgency supposedly controlling much of the countryside.
Shortly before a big opposition demonstration was expected, the king announced he would reinstate parliament. At least for now, this has split the alliance between the parliamentary parties and the Maoists. Those who had been demonstrating are apparently hailing this decision as a victory, while the Maoists are (predictably) calling it a ploy. But I can’t help but feel that the Maoists’ position on this announcement by the king might be the one closer to reality. The parties that accepted a measure well short of what the alliance had been calling for–i.e. an end to the “autocratic monarchy” and elections for a constituent assembly to decide the role of the monarchy and how to deal with the Maoists–need to be careful here. If this is a first step to the constituent assembly, it could be a positive step. But I wonder if the assurances are really there, given this king’s track record.
Then there is the question of how representative these parties that just accepted this offer really are. One can see from a look at the results of the 1991, 1994, and 1999 elections that the party system is fragmented. Nepal uses FPTP, yet many small parties have one or a few seats each. In other words, many of these parties represent small regional constituencies. The largest party in 1999 was the Nepalese Congress Party. It won a manufactured majority of seats on only about 37% of the vote.
One can only infer so much from electoral statistics–though I have been known to infer a lot!–but this is not the look of a party system in which the parties are broadly representative. If all of them are on board with the king’s plan, then, more or less by definition, it implies broad acceptance by the people’s representatives. On the other hand, these party leaders have not been the people’s de-facto representatives for some time–parliament has been dissolved and in the meantime, its constitutional term would have expired–and they have not been tested in an election in an even longer time. In the mean time, “people power” has emerged. The parties have to tread carefully here, or they could find themselves losing ground to the Maoists if the latter’s assessment of the king’s offer as a ploy comes to be seen by masses of Nepalis as accurate.
* The link is to a post at The Head Heeb, in the comments to which, Jonathan and I have discussed the relevance of existing typologies of revolution to Nepal. Jonathan has posted an update.
Wilfred Day planted the following seed regarding electoral reform in Quebec at my previous thread on Canada’s dysfunctional FPTP system (at the federal level). Quebec electoral reform deserves to a planting of its own, so here it is. I am also copying below a comment that Vasi planted in response to Wilf.
The first shoe has dropped (what kind of fruit is a shoe?), but it has no legal weight. The eight citizens sat at the same table as the nine MNAs and had the same right to ask questions, but have no vote on the Report of the Special Committee (the nine MNAs.) The thud, if any, will come from their report.
It also calls for fixed election dates. Uniquely for a citizen panel, it calls for rules to maintain stable government: for example, that a government cannot be defeated in the House except by the formation of a new coalition government holding a majority of seats. (They did not attempt to define exceptional circumstances permitting an early election.)
Will the government pay any attention to the Citizens’ recommendations? The Minister says he too had some reservations about the draft bill, and will take the committee’s recommendations as a starting point for presenting a new version of the reform in coming months. We’ll see.
As a PR wonk, what interested me is the Citizens’ formula for assigning the 50 compensatory seats to the 17 regions. All they said is “start by giving Party A a seat in the region where it is most under-represented” — presumably by highest average, as the draft bill uses — “and continue compensating parties under-represented in regions so long as the region has seats available” until the party’s seats are all assigned. Unlike Germany, the regions have a fixed number of seats, making the assignment process far trickier than in Germany.
Suppose a fourth party won 7 seats. Would parties go turn-about? Then all seven of their seats would be among the first 28 assigned by this process, leaving the large parties to take the left-overs. Or would they go in order of which party has the highest average (is most under-represented) in any region? If so, the fourth party’s 7 seats will mostly be assigned at the end of the process, and some will go to regions which have a seat left over but where the fourth party had little support.
Here the citizens’ talents hit a wall. They ask the Special Committee staff to do simulations of how this would work and attach them to the Citizens’ Report (not attached). Once again, as in BC, we find citizens needing experts to help them write their MMP model, and no experts assigned to that task.
Here are Vasi’s additional remarks on this subect:
In order that list MNAs not become immune to being thrown out, they recommend a limit of two consecutive terms as a list MNA. They do want to permit double-candidacy (list and district), however.
Apparently Quebec law already provides parties with election financing dependent on the number of votes received last electionâ€“with a bonus if a certain percentage of candidates are women. The proposal wishes to increase the bonus, increase the required percentage, and make it apply to elected members rather than candidates. There should also be a separate bonus which applies to minorities. Moreover, if this measure does not result in significantly increased representation of women within two elections, then parties should instead be required to alternate between men and women on the lists. (Note that apparently English-speakers and those of minority religions are not considered â€œminoritiesâ€â€“not that Iâ€™m bitter or anything.)
Thanks, Wilf and Vasi, for keeping the orchard planted with the latest hybrid varieties of fruit! (And I am still pondering that question about what kind of fruit is a shoe.)
Today Hungarians voted in the second round in the 114 (out of 176 total) single-seat districts in which no candidate obtained a majority in the first round on 9 April. Nearly all the 114 contests today were straight one-on-one runoffs between a candidate of the Socialist party of incumbent Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany and a candidate of the main opposition party, the Alliance of Young Democrats (Fidesz) of former Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
On 9 April, in addition to the first round of voting in single-seat districts, voters also cast party-list votes. The Socialists narrowly won a plurality of these votes: 43.2% to 42% for Fidesz.
The Socialists are currently governing in coalition with the Alliance of Free Democrats, and the two parties are cooperating in these runoffs. The Free Democrats won 6.5% of the list votes, giving the incumbent parties 49.7% of the vote. The Socialists and Free Democrats need to win most of the single-seat districts at play today to remain in government. If they do, it will be the first time in five post-communist elections that the incumbent government was returned to power. (If all you care about is the result, scroll to the bottom of the post.)
The Hungarian electoral system is mixed-member, and it is sometimes erroneously placed in the mixed-member proportional (MMP) category. In fact, it is more parallel and majoritarian than it is MMP. However, it is not strictly a parallel system, either. In a parallel system–such as Japan’s–seats are allocated to parties in the nominal tier of single-seat districts (SSDs) and the tier of PR seats independently.* A party adds its proportional share of the list-tier seats to however many SSDs it has won. Under MMP–as in Germany and New Zealand–a party’s aggregate total of seats is based on its party-list votes, and it wins however many list-tier seats it needs to augment its SSDs won in order to equal its total aggregate proportional share. (This aggregate PR share can be determined regionally or nationally, depending on the system.)
If we look at the 2002 Hungarian election, it is easy to see where the assumption that it is MMP comes from: The outcome was close to proportional. The Socialists won 42.0% of the party-list votes, which amounted to 47.4% of the above-threshold list vote. Their seat total was 48.1%. The runner up Fidesz had 41.1% of the party-list votes and 46.3% of the above-threshold vote, and won 47.2% of the seats. This is a nearly proportional result. So, why is it not MMP?
Consider the 1990 election.** Same rules, other than a change in the level of the threshold required to win any list seats (4% then, 5% now). In that election, the leading party was the Hungarian Democratic Forum (MDF), with 24.7% of the party-list vote. Fully 16% of the vote was cast for parties that failed to clear the threshold, so the MDF actually had 29.4% of the effective PR vote. Yet it won 42.5% of the total 386 parliamentary seats. Not very proportional!
In the more fragmented party environment of Hungary’s first post-communist election, the MDF was grossly over-represented in the nominal tier, winning 114, or 64.8%, of the 176 single-seat districts (despite only 23.9% of the votes cast in that tier in the first round). It just so happens that the 114 seats it won is roughly equivalent to its party-list share of the vote (after discarding the below-threshold votes). So, if Hungary had MMP, how many list seats would the MDF have won in 1990? Zero. It already had its full aggregate proportional share on account of doing so well in the nominal tier.
So, we see Hungary’s system is not MMP. So it must be parallel, right? No. Were it parallel, the MDF would have won around 29.4% of the list PR seats and added these to its 114 nominal-tier seats. 29.4% of the 210 available list seats would be 62 (rounding). The MDF would have won 176 seats, or more than 45% of the total. In the actual allocation, it won only fifty list seats (23.8%). In other words, the Hungarian allocation process is neither fully compensatory, like an MMP system, nor completely parallel. It is partially compensatory.
The Hungarian electoral system is mechanically quite complex. However, in its actual workings, it is fairly straightforward. The nominal and list tier seats are allocated in parallel in the sense that the number of seats won in the nominal tier has no bearing on the number of list seats it will win. However, a party’s success in the nominal tier affects the total number of votes that will actually enter into the proportional allocation. The way this works is that any first-round votes that are cast for parties in the first round of nominal-tier district races in which the party is not the ultimate victor (in one round or two) are added to the party’s list total.
In this way, parties that are less successful in the nominal tier will actually win a share of list seats that is greater than their share of list votes. Yet they are not necessarily fully compensated–as they would be under MMP–because the number of seats already won at the nominal tier is not deducted from the aggregate PR total to determine a party’s number of list seats.
By 2002, the party system had mostly aggregated into two large blocs, one centered around the Socialists and the other around the Fidesz. Although parties other than top two are permitted to keep their candidates in the second round (as long as they reach 15% in the district), they usually withdraw in favor of their prospective coalition partner. The end result is that most of the unused votes for one major party are counterbalanced by the unused votes for the other, and thus the overall seat outcome is quite proportional. However, given the mechanics of the electoral system, proportionality is not at all guaranteed. And precisely because proportionality is not guaranteed, the electoral system encouraged the rather fragmented party system at the time of the collapse of communism to aggregate into two blocs–just as any properly functioning majoritarian electoral system will do. (And as the more typical “majoritarian” system–the British and Canadian-style plurality system–often fails to do.)
While it is a very complex system, it has produced its own version of “the best of both worlds”: representation (even quite proportional) for multiple political parties, but two clear blocs permitting stable government between elections and regular alternation in government at elections if the opposition gains sufficient votes at the expense of the incumbents.
PRELIMINARY RESULT: At EuroTrib, DoDo is following the counting of the second-round results, and it looks like the Socialists and their neo-liberal partner, the Free Democrats, have won 65 of the 110 districts in which there were runoffs. Added to 34 won by the Socialists in the first round, that would be 56% of the nominal-tier. They should wind up with right around 200 seats*** once the “unused” vote adjustment referred to above is undertaken on the list vote and the national list seats are allocated. They will retain their narrow majority overall, and the result will once again be quite proportional, as after the below-threshold party-list votes are discarded, the two parties had 52.15% of the party-list vote. But once again, the result will be proportional only because the main parties work in two big blocs, and the main parties work in two big blocs only because the system is majoritarian.
*The party-list PR system in Hungary is itself two-tiered, but I will ignore that complication here. After parties’ list votes are adjusted via the procedure explained here, proportional allocation is carried out in that PR “tier” as if the country were a single national district with a magnitude of 210. This portion of the electoral system is a very typical European PR system. It is the relationship between the nominal tier and PR allocation that is atypical even for mixed-member systems–in fact, sui generis.
** As reported in Richard Rose, Neil Munro, and Tom Mackie, Elections in Central and Eastern Europe since 1990. Glasgow: University of Strathclyde Studies in Public Policy, 1998.
That would be around 54%, on 52.2% of the above-threshold vote for the two parties–a slight majoritarian bonus, but not much. A bit more than in 2002, perhaps because the center-right bloc was less coordinated this time. In fact, the MDF leader was claiming she would join a coalition only if she were the PM (fat chance, given 5% of the party vote!). Such a stance may have resulted in less willingness of their voters to turn out in favor of Fidesz candidates in the runoff. That would be consistent with reports (see the EuroTrib link above) that turnout was down in the runoffs this time (unlike in 2002).
Israel will have its largest government in history with 27 ministers by the end of the week, according to an agreement reached on Thursday night between Interim Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Labor chairman Amir Peretz, sources close to both men said Saturday. Continue reading the JPost story.
Some of the highlights of the Olmert-Peretz accord are:
Israel Beiteinu is in. Avigdor Lieberman will be Minister for Internal Security and the party will also get the Immigrant Absorption and Science/Technology portfolios.
The new Pensioners party is in and Rafael Eitan will hold a newly created portfolio for Senior Citizens Affairs. The party will also have the Health portfolio.
Labor leader Amir Peretz will be Defense Minister.
Shas and UTJ are in.
Meretz is out.
Lieberman, of course, is not happy that the coalition guidelines call for the evacuation of WB/J&S settlements. He is, however, expected to value being in government more than making a fuss over a policy argument he will lose anyway.
This government would have a parliamentary basis of 84 seats, or 70% of the total Knesset size. The significance of such a large government is that no single party, aside from Kadima–not even Labor–could bring the government down were it to leave.
Republican Brian Bilbray, who will face off against Democrat Francine Busby (and two minor candidates) in June to fill the remainder of Duke Cunningham’s 50th US House term, may not have a clear path to his party’s nomination for the full term to be decided in November. On the same day as the special-election runoff, there will be a primary for November. Eric Roach, narrowly defeated by Bilbray for the Republican runoff slot, may enter the June primary, and Howard Kaloogian–who came in third among Republicans–may endorse Roach.
Given that Bilbray could be seen as a weak candidate,* and given that he won only 28.5% of the total number of votes received by Republicans in the first round, it would be surprising if no one were tempted to challenge him for the nomination. In June, unlike in the April vote, only registered Republicans and independents who specifically request a Republican ballot, and not Democrats, will be able to participate in any contest among Republicans for the right to bear the label in November.
*Former and not very distinguished congressman from a (mostly) different district, with a moderate voting record on many key Republican issues, and now a lobbyist.
Click here for the full set of posts on the 50th race and other aspects of the 2006 congressional elections.
Matt Jay is calling it quits. His Democracy Rising has been a leader among blogs covering democracy movements worldwide. His contributions will be missed. I hope he keeps his content up on the Web, as it is a fine resource.
Matt used a banner quote that is one of my favorite all-time political quotes (and, in fact, is on one of my own academic website pages):
Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable
–President John F. Kennedy
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