[The rest of this post is mine; the first paragraph has been revised since the original.]
Sri Lanka currently has a system of intra-list preference votes. I had thought that the system was a flexible list (defined as one in which a party-give rank order prevails except for candidates who obtain some stipulated quota of preference votes allowing them to move up ahead of higher-ranked candidates). However, in the comments below, Wilf says he believes the lists are open (i.e., preference votes alone determine the order in which candidates are elected from a list). The second link that Wilf supplied (above) notes the difficulties the battle for preference votes has caused:
Critics have pointed out that the people’s wishes had not been properly addressed in the proportional representation and it had also led to unhealthy intra-party competition among candidates of the same party.
The system of two-tier (and apparently parallel) PR is quite proportional currently. For instance, in 2004, the United People’s Freedom Alliance won 105 of the 225 seats (46.7%) on 45.6% of the vote, and the runner-up United National Party won 82 seats (36.4%) on 37.8% of the vote. The Lanka Tamil State Party won 22 seats (9.8%) on 6.8% of the votes, showing that the regional multi-seat PR districts can allow a regionally concentrated party to obtain some bonus in the context of overall proportionality (probably not a bad thing given the Sri Lanka context).1
Given the current seats distribution, it is hard to see how “the people’s wishes” might not be “properly addressed.” This is even more puzzling to me than the claim about “unhealthy intra-party competition.”
And, to add further confusion to the People’s Daily report, it says:
Another setback in the present system is that no party is able to gain decisive parliamentary majority in the assembly consisting of 225 legislators.
Normally, one does not expect “proportional” systems to do this. I wonder if what is actually being considered is MMM, which would be “mixed” but would also generate seat majorities (given a largest party in the 40-percent range) more reliably than either the current system or MMP. The first link above is also not clear on the nature of linkage (if any) between the FPTP and PR seats, though one of the parties clearly thinks Germany’s MMP is not “P” enough:
S. Subairdeen, Leader of the Ashraff Congress (AC): “…instead of a prototype of the German system, which is based on 50% PR and 50% FPTP, we want to suggest more percentage of representation under the PR so that the minorities will be benefited . If necessary the number of parliamentary seats should be increased for this purpose.
Of course, the German system could hardly be more proportional than it already is, for parties that clear the threshold. It seems the Sri Lankan party negotiators (and the Chinese People’s Daily reporters covering them) are not very well informed about key intricacies of electoral systems.
Sri Lanka–the scene of a long and especially brutal civil war–has shown an unusual propensity to undertake major institutional overhaul (though without evident success at resolving the polity’s most pressing problem thus far). It was a Westminister FPTP system at independence, but switched to the above-described “PR” system in 1978. Around the same time it adopted a semi-presidential system with a very strong presidency.2 In 2000 the powers of the presidency were sharply reduced, making it closer to a standard “premier-presidential” system.3 Various autonomy and federalizing arrangements have also been discussed as potential means to resolve the separatist conflict based in the Tamil-dominated regions in the northeast of the island.
1. The Tamil-dominated area includes the districts of Batticaloa (magnitude of 5), Jaffna (9), Vanni (6), and Trincomalee (4). The Lanka Tamil State Party won from 64 to over 90% of the votes in these districts and 19 of the 24 seats available in these districts.
2. Of the “president-parliamentary” hybrid type: The president could freely apppoint and dismiss the cabinet, which also could be dismissed by the parliamentary majority, and the president held extensive emergency powers. The most similar design of executive-legislative structure that I have seen to that of Sri Lanka during the 1982-2000 period would be that of the former Weimar Republic of Germany.
3. Many sources referred to the 1982 adoption of direct presidential elections as a move to something resembling the “French” model, but it was not much of a resemblance. However, since 2000, the family resemblance has been strong. The president still has authority to appoint a prime minister, but the PM forms the cabinet, which depends now on the exclusive confidence of the parliamentary majority–as in France. There are still emergency powers, though the inability of the president to maintain a cabinet of her own choosing limits them in practice–just as in France. The president also retains dissolution power, but the threat that new elections may force the president to accept a “cohabitation” cabinet often limits the gains she can expect from dissolving the assembly–again, as in France. Sri Lanka has already experienced cohabitation under the weakened presidency, until the 2004 legislative and 2005 presidential elections restored unified partisan control of the presidency and cabinet.
From councils ‘won’ by the party coming second in votes, to regions completely ignoring parties with significant levels of support, to wasted votes, crazy distorted majorities and wild, volatile swings that bared almost no resemblance to the wishes of the electorate, the problems of First-Past-the-Post, if one cared to look beyond the rancour, were exasperatingly evident.
Paul refers to the widely reported second place finish of the neo-fascist BNP in the borough of Barking and Dagenham. However, hardly reported was the rather remarkable fact that the BNP was outpolled by the Conservative party in that borough. Yet the latter will have only one seat, making the BNP the only significant opposition voice to the majority Labour party on the council.
Some other egregiously bad outcomes include Brent, where Labour led the Liberal Democrats in votes, 34.7% to 28%, yet the LibDems will have more seats, 27-21. In Kigston upon Thames, the Conservatives led in votes, 40.8% to the Lib Dems’ 38.5%, yet the latter party will have 25 of 48 seats!
FPTP at least allows voters to “throw out the rascals,” right? Well, in Birmingham, apparently voters rather liked the Labour party’s performance, as the party’s lead in the votes over the Tories increased. Nonetheless, Labour lost four seats and the Conservatives gained five. Oops!
Such outcomes are inherent to FPTP systems–especially (but by no means exclusively) in the context of multiparty electoral competition–because all the electoral system ‘cares’ about is in how many districts (however they may be delimited) does a given party have the most votes, and not a whit about what the parties’ actual support is in the jurisdiction as a whole. Yet the council (or legislature) so elected is empowered to take make policy decsions on behalf of the jurisdiction as a whole. There is something terribly illogical about that.
The Head Heeb has a good rundown of the results of the Fijian election. Fiji has faced severe ethnic conflict and democratic breakdown, and its recent return to democracy included the adoption of the alternative vote (instant runoff), on the assumption that such rules would favor moderates. (It is a very dubious assumption in such a context.)
I left a comment beneath Jonathan’s post that perhaps should have been a post of my own here. At any rate, it begins, “Fiji’s mandatory power-sharing provision in the executive is rather at odds with the vote-transferring provisions of the legislative electoral system”; the rest is over at The Head Heeb.
In my Institutional Engineering and Democracy course, we have been discussing federalism and the problems of agreeing on an instituional design and revenue-allocation formulas that satisfy both a resource-rich unit of a federation and the central government’s desire to redistirbute to more populous units (thereby potentially increasing the power of the center, especially if its redistirbution is discretionary).
Of course, we have been discussing these challenges of federalism mainly in the context of cases like Iraq, Nigeria, and Russia. However, from CBC comes a reminder that these questions loom very large in Canada. (more…)
The Detroit Tigers, with about 28% of their season complete, have the best record in the major leagues. This has to count as a surprise, to say the least. But is the early roar a sign of big things to come?
Their season so far:
Swept 2 at Kansas City, won 3 of 4 at Texas, lost three to ChiSox, split 4 with Indians, won 2 of 3 at Oakland, swept 3 at Seattle, lost 2 of 3 to Angels, swept 3 from Twins, swept 2 in Kansas City, split 2 with Angels, lost 2 of 3 in Minnesota, split 2 in Baltimore (with the third rained out), swept 3 in Cleveland, swept 3 from Twins, won 2 of 3 against Reds, swept 3 at Kansas City.
This would be up there among the blogoshpere’s great honors! From a Slate piece by Darren Everson, the third paragraph below quotes F&V, and the one after that quotes a post previously linked here from Pith and Substance:
Serbian secession: Montenegro narrowly voted to secede from Serbia and become a separate nation, according to the results of a referendum held Sunday. Independence proponents believe that Montenegro, a poor, mountainous country of 650,000, will benefit economically from being on its own. Serbia-Montenegro was the last vestige of the former Yugoslaia, which formed after World War II and collapsed violently in the 1990s.
“There are a lot of issues here,” writes the conservative Publius Pundit. Will the Serbian unionists fight back? Can a state so small defend itself and build a proper economy? What about EU membership?”
Some wonder whether the vote was fair. “Of course, other citizens of the existing federation who will be affected by the outcomeâ€”Serbs in Serbia proper, Hungarians in Serbia’s province of Vojvodina, and, especially Kosovars (who are still technically citizens of Serbia, pending resolution of their ‘autonomous’ province’s final status)â€”have no voice in the decision,” observes the “neo-Madisonian” Fruits and Votes.
For countries like Canada that periodically face secession referenda, the Montenegrin vote is a worthwhile electoral study, suggests the Canadian lawyer at Pith and Substance. He makes note of the fact that the vote required 55 percent support for European Union recognitionâ€”and that this total, based on early returns, was barely achieved (55.4 percent). “The super-majority makes sense in the abstract, since it ought to be difficult to undo a constitutional relationship,” he writes. “On the other hand, there is no doubt that there would be trouble if the final result turns out to be somewhere between 50% and 55%.”
Thanks to Steven Taylor for pointing this out and, as always, for being the blogfather to F&V.
I should note that the neo-Madisonian in me was not questioning whether the vote was fair, but whether the process was.
The Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine has met for the first time since the elections of late March, thereby starting the constitutional clock on formation of a government. The parties within parliament have 30 days to present a prime minister and coalition to the president (who has no formal authority over the process, except that he nominates the foreign and defense ministers).
The most likely coalition remains the ‘Orange’ one, which would reunite the parties that came together to ensure the recognition of President Viktor Yushchenko’s election victory in late 2004 (back when the presidency was still the most important office). However, the parties are still having trouble coming to agreement. Expect their minds to be more focused now. Should they fail to agree, either the pro-Russian Viktor Yanukovych, whom Yushchenko defeated in 2004 and whose party won a plurality in March, could wind up as prime minister in coalition with Yushchenko’s party (though that is still unlikely, in my view) or there would be a new parliamentary election.
For previous posts on the original breakup of the Orange coalition in September, and the elections in March, simply click on “Ukraine” above.
The much-anticipated arrival of Cuban defector Kendry Morales to the majors occurred today, and he has not disappointed. He has singled and homered in his first two at bats. Morales is the 10th player the groping Angels have summoned from their minor-league system already this year. Unlike Mike Napoli, Morales did not homer in his first at bat (as he did last year in A-ball in his first professional at bat). He waited until his second. [Update: Another hit in this third at bat! In his fourth, he grounded out weakly. His batting average plummeted to .750.]
Conflicts between the national party and district organizations in the UK Conservative party show at once how different–i.e. centralized–party nomination procedures are in the UK compared to the US, but also one clear similarity that is typical of FPTP: It is often difficult for parties in many constituencies to nominate candidates who do not fit the profile of the “traditional man” with “good values.” In other words, women and gays need not apply.
The Guardian reports that an “A-list” of candidates that the party would like to see obtain nominations in winnable seats has caused some discomfort in various quarters. Tory chairman Francis Maude claimed:
The idea that what we’re actually trying to do is insert mincing metrosexuals into gritty northern marginal seats is complete rubbish.
Various candidates have certain problems with the “grit” set:
…names on the list, chosen ahead of many experienced Tories, include the “chick lit” novelist Louise Bagshawe, Margot James, the openly gay vice-chairman of the party, and Maria Hutchings, a mother from Essex who confronted Tony Blair on live television at the last election over the closure of special needs schools.
On matters of nomination procedure and efforts to diversify the caucus ahead of the next election:
Mr Maude said that while constituency parties for around 140 winnable seats will be expected to choose from the priority list, “outstanding” local candidates could also be considered by constituencies but only in consultation with party headquarters.
In a comment that will alarm grassroots members already unhappy with the A-list, Mr Maude revealed that the party might have to consider imposing all-women shortlists if more constituencies didn’t choose female candidates.
Finally, on the conflict between the need to field candidates who individually appeal to their constiuencies and the need of the party to brand itself nationally–always a delicate act in FPTP systems where the national party reputation is as important as it is in a Westminster system like the UK:
The Tory chairman denied that the list was all about images claiming it was “very substantive” and that if the party didn’t change the way it looked and sounded it didn’t deserve to win a general election. [Emphasis mine; see the full story]
With the second round of the presidential election looming, the Peruvian parliament has been threatening a vote of no confidence in the cabinet of Prime Minister Pedro-Pablo Kuczynski.
Bloomberg notes that Fernando Rospigliosi, a political analyst at the Institute of Peruvian Studies, has linked the threat to the presidential campaign, as the APRA party of one of the runoff contenders, AlÃ¡n GarcÃa, is attempting to position itself as clearly opposed to incument President Alejandro Toledo.
The Apra needs to appear critical of the government to silence claims that Toledo backs Garcia’s candidacy.
Peru is the only Spanish (or Portuguese) speaking country in the Americas where it is constitutionally possible for the legislative majority to oust a full cabinet and its head in a no-confidence vote. (In other words, Peru does not have a presidential system, in the usually understood sense.)
GarcÃa leads most polls. As for the substance of the proposed no-confidence vote, as has been the case in various political conflicts in the region recently, it involves a gas distribution contract. (Peru is South America’s fifth largest gas producer.) [Full story]
A question I often have regarding proportional electoral systems in which parties present ranked lists is whether or not anyone really cares about the candidates that receive very low ranks. In systems in which lists are party-ranked–i.e. any list-PR system that is not fully open–for all but a locally dominant party, the large majority of candidates nominated are certain not to win a seat, regardless of how well the party performs.
Given that so many candidates will not be elected anyway, would parties take care in the composition of their lists below the slots from which they may elect candidates, and would voters even be aware of who is on the list?
From the Czech Republic comes a story that suggests “yes.”
The Green party has asked the election commissioner to delete two candidates from one of its lists for the upcoming (2-3 June) general election. One of these candidates was ranked last on the list in the district, and the other fifth. The district in question is Moravsko-Slezsky (in which the main city is Ostrava), and its district magnitude is 23. However, the Green party is very small in the Czech Republic, having won no seats at the last, 2002, election. Thus, even in such a large district, a Green nominated at the fifth position is surely not a “serious” candidate.
The party wants the candidates removed because one publicly reported a brawl between the other candidate and the husband of another party official, brining a whole new dimension to the idea of intra-party conflict. [Read full story]
I should note that in the Czech Republic, voters can cast intraparty preference votes. So it is not a closed list. However, the quota of preference votes required to change the party-provided rank order is quite high, and very rarely do candidates vault over other candidates ranked higher by the party. Thus it is not an open list, either, as that term should be reserved for systems in which preference votes are the sole determinant of the final list order. The Czech system is in the category of the “flexible” list, though in practice it is not very flexible in any meaningful sense.
Does the mere existence of preference votes even in the Czech (in)flexble list make parties more sensitive than would be the case in a fully closed list to the personal reputations of candidates (such as those who get into brawls)? I wish I knew the answer.
[UPDATED, 23 May, with final result and comment at bottom]
The final nail in the coffin of Yugoslavia could be pounded in today, as citizens of Montenegro vote in a referendum on whether to secede from the Serbia-Montenegro federation.
This is another of those referenda that has a double requirement: To pass, the secession proposal must obtain at least 55% of the vote and the turnout must surpass 50% of eligible voters.
The BBC notes the danger of ambiguity in the outcome:
One of the key questions is what happens if a majority do vote for independence but the 55% threshold is not reached…
It is one thing to have such an ambiguous outcome on a vote to change an electoral system. It would be quite another to have it for a vote on whether or not a territorial jurisdiction should secede from a larger state.
The question is:
Do you want Montenegro to be an independent state with full international and legal legitimacy?
UPDATE: A report on BBC says that, with a turnout of over 85%, the secession proposal appears (unofficially) to have 55.3%. It looks like a squeaker! And the risk of the majority approving, but missing the 55% threshold is real.
Ethnic Montenegrins are over 90% of the population of the Republic of Montenegro, while the largest minority group (Albanians) comprise just over 5%.* The BBC story, linked above, suggests that voting is expected to be mainly along ethnic lines, but it also states that there are anti-independence Montenegrins. I assume this means that citizens not of the Montenegrin ethnicity will vote overwhelmingly no and thus the outcome will hinge on how extensive support is among the dominant community.
Of course, other citizens of the existing federation who will be affected by the outcome–Serbs in Serbia proper, Hungarians in Serbia’s province of Vojvodina, and, especially Kosovars (who are still technically citizens of Serbia, pending resolution of their “autonomous” province’s final status)–have no voice in the decision. Voters in the Montenegrin “diaspora,” however, are eligible to vote, and their votes could tip the balance in favor of separation.
BBC World Service reported this morning that the final vote for independence was 55.5%, with the margin being only about 1,600 votes over the required threshold of 55%. One wonders whether, when this threshold was set, it was expected that just about 55%, but not a more typical super-majority of 60% (or 2/3) would choose “yes.” Fifty-five percent is a very unusual threshold. In fact, the only other case I know of with a 55% requirement is California, where a popular statewide initiative recently lowered from two thirds the vote needed to approve local school bonds (because, across the state, most bond-issue proposals were getting clear majorities, but well short of two thirds).
The President of the Republic of Serbia has stated that he accepts the result. In the meantime, Serbia and Montenegro continue to have their fates tied together in one crucial endeavor: The World Cup.
The Pithlord comments on the relevance for Canada, where “clarity” of the question and result remains a perennial issue in light of the possibility of another Quebec secession vote in the future.
The airport commission that has been evaluating sites for a modern international airport for San Diego has identified the obvious: The best sites are either Miramar or Pendleton, with North Island as a less viable alternative, but still preferable to retaining all operations at cramped Lindbergh or building a new airport on the other side of the mountains. The first two preferred sites are Marine bases, and the third is Navy.
So, just to ensure the military’s right to say no, Congressman Duncan Hunter (Republican, and chair of the House Armed Service Committee), joined by two other Representatives from the County (including the one of the two current Democrats, Susan Davis), has introduced language into a bill about to clear the House that would prevent any further consideration of the bases for a civilian or joint-use airport.
Contrary to appearances, not all of us San Diegans are affiliated with the military or defense contractors, but Duncan–and his colleagues–are more concerned to represent powerful special interests than to represent the broad interests of the citizens of this county, who need a modern airport for continued growth of the tourism industry (the no. 1 revenue source) and the economy more generally.
The North County Times describes the language that Hunter has slipped into this bill, apparently without even a full debate:
[it] would keep Miramar, Pendleton and North Island free from civilian intrusion.
Last I checked, we had a civilian government and the military served it. However, I will admit that I have not checked in a while.
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