The Social Democratic Party governments of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Berlin will remain in office, though coalition partners may change on account of some significant shifts in votes for the various parties.
The Social Demcratic party (SPD) will remain the head of the government in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania (on the Baltic coast north of Berlin), but its coalition partner could change to the Christian Democrats, thus mirroring the federal Grand Coalition, or remain the Left Party (made up of ex-Communists and SPD defectors).
The major headline-maker in these elections has been the gains by the extreme right-wing National Democratic Party (NPD), which has won 7.3% of the vote and will have 6 of the 71 seats in the next state parliament. The state is the fourth in which the NPD is represented, as the former Communist east continues to lag behind the rest of the country economically.
Meanwhile in the city-state of Berlin, the incumbent government of SPD mayor Klaus Wowereit will remain in office, and is in a strong position to form a coalition with either the Greens (who gained more than four percentage points over the previous election) or his current partner, the Left Party (which dropped from 22.6% to 13.4%). He ruled out having both parties in coalition as “too complicated,” but noted that his party could make common ground with either of the other two.
Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) lost significant votes in the capital. (The DW story linked above says their worst result since 1949, though given the expansion of the borders of democratic Berlin after the fall of the Wall, the claim is a bit misleading.)
If the SPD is able to form governments in these jurisdictions without the Left Party (and if it so chooses), it could signal that the Left will prove to have been a “flash,” generated by internal SPD divisions over economic restructuring, but with little staying power. However, another common thread, given the NPD gain and CDU losses, would appear to be voter discontent in both jurisdictions over that very same restructuring. Given that the Left and the NPD draw some of their support from the same social strata, it might be wise for the SPD to keep the Left in coalition in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania.
Over the weekend, Sweden gave us yet another in a rather incredible series of very close elections in that past year (-plus) of F&V. But this one was almost a landslide compared to recent elections in Norway, the Czech Republic, Germany, New Zealand, Mexico, etc…
The major parties in Sweden are grouped into two blocs, and the right-wing bloc (including the Moderate, Liberal People’s, Centre, and Christian Democratic parties) combined for 50.0% of the vote, while the incumbent left-wing bloc (including the Social Democratic, Green, and Left parties) won 48%. In seats, the right will have 178 to the left’s 171.
The Social Democrats won the most votes (35.2% to the Moderates’ 26.1%), but lack any means to form a government against the combined strength of the right. A scandal earlier this year had been expected to help save the left from defeat. The EU observer describes the scandal:
Previously enjoying a reputation for being squeaky clean, the country’s pending elections hit the headlines in newspapers around Europe when it emerged that members of the liberal party had hacked their way into the ruling social democratic party’s computer network.
The scandal was dubbed “Sweden’s Watergate,” although the label is misleading. The hacking was by the opposition, whereas in the real Watergate, the bugging was by the government, (ab)using government institutions and personnel. That’s quite a difference. But the more important difference is that, given a PR system, voters wanting to punish the offending party did not have to cross over to the other side of the spectrum. And, in the end, the scandal probably redistributed voters among the right, rather than from right to left, costing the Liberals to the benefit of their partners.
You figure that if you score four runs in the top of an extra inning, you’ve won, right? Not so for the Marlins yesterday. The Braves came back with five in the bottom of the tenth. I can’t recall ever having seen such a line score before.
The defeat pretty much dashes the fading hopes for the Fish in the NL Wild Card race. That’s good news for every other contender, given that experience teaches that if the Fish win the Wild Card, they win the World Series.
But the NL West/Wild Card pile up among the Dodgers, Padres and Phillies sure is getting interesting! (Well, if you ignore the actual records in this year’s League of Medicorities; even the “runaway” Mets have faded badly–to the point of losing a three-game series in Pittsburgh while on the verge of clinching. They will get there, but they look less than the juggernaut that started the season.)
This is a wee bit off topic for F&V, though I do have a “peace and war” block, so it’s not totally unprecedented to venture into this thicket.
If you have not read John Mueller’s “Is there still a terror threat?” in the current Foreign Affairs, it is about time you did! (That link probably works only from a university or other subscriber portal; if you do not have such access, the journal itself is very widely available in those old-fashioned structures called bookstores and libraries.)
This is the abstract:
Despite all the ominous warnings of wily terrorists and imminent attacks, there has been neither a successful strike nor a close call in the United States since 9/11. The reasonable — but rarely heard — explanation is that there are no terrorists within the United States, and few have the means or the inclination to strike from abroad.
And the article ends with a little perspective:
it is worth remembering that the total number of people killed since 9/11 by al Qaeda or al QaedaÂlike operatives outside of Afghanistan and Iraq is not much higher than the number who drown in bathtubs in the United States in a single year, and that the lifetime chance of an American being killed by international terrorism is about one in 80,000 — about the same chance of being killed by a comet or a meteor. Even if there were a 9/11-scale attack every three months for the next five years, the likelihood that an individual American would number among the dead would be two hundredths of a percent (or one in 5,000).
Too bad there are no votes to be won by promising to protect people from dangerous bathtubs.
The long-awaited convening of the Ontario Citizensâ€™ Assembly on Electoral Reform took place at York University campus on the weekend of September 9-10. One hundred and three citizens, representing every riding in the province, began their work to determine whether Ontario needs a new voting system.
Assembly Chair George Thomson welcomed the 52 women and 51 men who will be meeting on several weekends each month through the fall and winter to learn about voting systems. They will hold public meetings across the province from late November to the end of January, and then make a recommendation in April or May on whether the voting system should be changed. If they do recommend a new system, that recommendation will go to a referendum, all but certain to be held with the October 4, 2007 provincial election.
The agenda for this first weekend session included an introduction to the role of voting systems. To gain first-hand experience on how different voting system can produce very different outcomes, the Assembly used three different voting systems to select their snacks for the three coffee breaks on the second weekend. To wrap up the weekend, Assembly members discussed what they expect elections to accomplish. The next five weekend sessions will go into detailed reviews of all major voting systems.
As always, J.H. Snider has regular updates and links to news accounts, including a rather hysterical warning from Ian Urquhart in the Toronto Star of 9 September about “a leap of faith into electoral darkness.” In the Star article, we get these nuggets:
Two years ago, a similar assembly in British Columbia recommended a loopy new system called the “single transferable vote,” which hardly anyone understood…
Urquhart alleges that in BC,
the research director for the assembly was an individual who was already predisposed toward the single transferable vote…
I know who this is, and while he has done research on STV and probably thinks it has been, on balance, pretty effective over the past 90 or so years in Ireland, to say that this makes him “predisposed” (as in biased in favor of) the system strikes me as unfair and unreasonable for the reporter to say (unless he has some very specific evidence). Essentially, he is calling into question the sholarly integrity of an professional researcher. Anyway, in Ontario, the reseach director will be a:
professor of political science with no published record on the issue of electoral reform.
Wonderful. We certainly would not want someone who actually is an expert on electoral systems working to assist a group of citizens–most of whom have never thought about electoral systems before–tasked with recommending either a new electoral system or the retention of the current one! (I do not wish to imply that the scholar chosen is unqualified or will not do a good, professional job. I simply am questioning the principle of having chosen someone who is not a specialist in the field. Additionally, Wilf notes in a comment that the model of a non-specialist Academic Director supported by a team of elections experts was precisely the model that Fair Vote Ontario recommended.)
Urquhart also fears that “the playing field is already tilted against the status quo.” In a sense, that is probably correct. Given that jurisdictions do not regularly hold such extensive reviews of their electoral systems (though perhaps they should!), the very fact that a process is underway suggests there is doubt about how well the status quo serves the jurisdiction. And well there should be, though my own research on reform away from plurality shows that Ontario is not one of the cases that is most “objectively” in need of reform. The province has not had the record of severe anomalies that British Columbia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, or pre-reform New Zealand have had.
Then, even after criticzing BC-STV, Urquhart implies that proportional representation necessarily is a system of “party lists” notwithstanding that there are no party lists under STV. He also claims that under PR candidates run on such lists “rather than in constituencies” (my emphasis), notwithstanding that one can have both, if one understands “constituencies” to mean single-seat districts and the form of PR adopted is MMP. (Of course, most non-MM PR systems, including STV, indeed have constituencies; jurisdiction-wide party-list systems, a la Israel or Ukraine, are exceedingly rare.)
Urquhart says that “permanent minority government” would be a cure worse than the disease, which he diagnoses as “presidentialization.” The latter term–highly misleading in any parliamentary system, but that’s a topic for another day–refers to the concentration of power in the premier. Apparently it has not ocurred to Mr. Urquhart that the reason the premier is so powerful is that there are no checks and balances on a single minority party (in votes) that is frequently given a majority (in seats) by Ontario’s current electoral system. Your premier will be a whole lot less “presidential” (not that he is now, but, again, that’s a topic for another day) once you have an electoral system that ensures, when there is no party with a majority of votes, that a minority party leads a minority government–or else, of course, a majority coalition.
The idea that one can genuinely empower “ordinary MPPs,” as Urquhart wishes–at least without real presdentialization, that is, electing legislators and the executive separately and eliminating confidence votes–is quite frankly naive. Under a parliamentary form of government, individual members are arguably at their least powerful under plurality voting and the resulting tendency towards single-party governments. PR–of some form–is essential to what Urquhart claims to want to accomplish.
It seems Urquhart and his newspaper could use a primer from an electoral systems specialist. But of course we can’t be trusted to be objective about our areas of research specialization, can we?
Updated to include reference to the party platforms and to another blog (18 Sept.)
Polls in advance of New Brunswick’s provincial legislative election for 18 September show a dead heat between the incumbent Conservatives and their main challenger, the Liberals.
As noted here previously, this election was called early on account of the retirement of a Conservative member. The June, 2003 election likewise was a virtual dead heat (45%-44%), such that the member’s impending retirement would cost the government its 28-26 seat majority.
This election will be held under a new electoral map, in which the boundaries of almost every one of the 55 single-seat ridings have been altered. Canada East reports:
A poll-by-poll breakdown of results from the 2003 election indicates that, had the new ridings been in effect, the Liberals would have won the election with a one-seat majority, switching the results that gave Premier Bernard Lord and his Progressive Conservatives the same slim edge.
When routine alterations of constituency boundaries* potentially can affect who holds power, a jurisdiction is a prime candidate for an entirely new electoral system. And, of course, the incumbent government, upon the recommendation of an independent Commission on Legislative Democracy that it appointed in December, 2003, has set a referendum for next spring on exactly that. However, if the Liberals win on Monday, it is uncertain whether the referendum on MMP (among other reforms) will go ahead.
The governing Conservatives just released their full platform on 13 September, which includes a promise of an 8% personal income tax cut, a 30% cut in the gas tax, and other tax breaks. The leaders of the two large parties and the NDP held a “rancorous” debate yesterday, with insurance rates and a failed deal to secure cheap fuel from Venezuela among the issues they sparred over.
The electoral system and the referendum are not mentioned in news accounts of the campaign (despite multiple attempts on my part to search for stories including these themes). Nor does the major nationwide proportional-representation advocay organization, Fair Vote Canada, have any recent updates about New Brunswick on its web site.
While the Conservative Party’s platform book (available at the party’s website) includes a plank on “Democratic Renewal and Accountability Plan” (p. 20) it does not mention the commission, the electoral reform, or the referendum. The opposition Liberal party has a section of its platform devoted to “An Accountable and Responsible Government” (pp. 31-3). However, none of the points within it contains any reference to PR, the referendum, or any of the other institutional reforms proposed by the Commission on Legislative Democracy.
Theoretically, when major electoral reform is being proposed, one might expect the issue to be raised in an election campaign–especially in a close election, in which even if the percentage of voters who could be swayed by the issue of “reform” is small, it could be decisive. Given that the government responded to the Commission’s recommendations–favorably–only three months ago, the fact that it is not an issue in this campaign can’t be exactly good news for the prospects that the referendum will go forward (especially if the incumbent party loses), or that it will pass if held.
(The NDP, on the other hand, takes the government to task on its decision to call a general election before introducing any of the Commission’s recommendations. Of course, the NDP is the one party that has the most to gain from the direct consequences of the introduction of PR. (See the final page of their platform.))
Is electoral reform in Canada, which looked so promising just over a year ago, now stalled?
* Not to say that all of the redisrticting was minor, as reported by the above-linked Canada East story:
in Fredericton, Liberal candidate T. J. Burke, the first-ever aboriginal member of the New Brunswick legislature, lost the St. Mary’s First Nation from his riding in redistribution.
The riding altered most significantly is in northwestern New Brunswick where voters will have to choose between two incumbents battling it out in one large new constituency.
Some blogospheric discussion: At least I found someone who agrees with me that the high stakes of the NB election are being overlooked by those who don’t notice the PR debate. Alas, Liberal for Life has views on the matter more like Urquhart‘s, if not worse (though, unfortunately, common): The view that small parties in coalitions “rule” the resulting coalition. Such a stubbornly held view, such a wrong view.
I’ve consulted all the people involved in this dispute. It was the same answer everywhere. They don’t feel it is a good agreement but they just don’t have the choice.
So, what concessions did the BQ extract on this or other issues? Or was it simply a case of fearing a new election, given how much the Conservatives cut into former BQ support in the last one, in January?
Well, I almost got to witness a perfect game yesterday. Somehow, I have missed all 15 of those that have been pitched in the majors since 1900. That would be something to see. But with two out in the 8th, Adam Kennedy lined Freddy Garcia’s 100th pitch into center for a clean single.
With the score 9-0 and history in the making, the crowd mostly was on Garcia’s side by the 8th. Count me among those on the pitcher’s side. I was rather astonished by the folks who called in to the postgame show to claim that those could not be real Angels fans if they were rooting for Garcia to complete a perfect game against their team. Hogwash. To his credit, the show’s host treated those callers as not being good baseball fans.
I suppose it should not be so surprising that some people would react that way. Some people are so tribal about their sports interests (or their politics, religion, etc.). At least these people knew what was going on. I could not believe the number of people who left in the middle of the seventh–perhaps a bit less than in a typical game, but still way too many. Hey folks, you are watching history unfold!!! (After the hit, there was a substantial exodus; again, at least those people were aware of the situation.)
The Angels were like putty in Garcia’s hands. I don’t think Freddy threw anything harder than 86 all day. And he did not go to a 3-ball count on anyone till he went 3-1 on Vlad in the 7th (Vlad grounded weakly to short on the next pitch). Kennedy hit a long lazy foul fly down the right field line that was not all that far from the foul pole, then went to 3-2 before getting the hit. There were no tough plays made behind Garcia, as the Angels mostly were just pounding the ball into the ground and hitting a few popups. There was one hard liner right to the first baseman, and that was the only ball hit hard before Kennedy’s in the 8th (which was not, as I heard on ESPN News last night, a “bloop.”)
Garcia left to a standing ovation at the end of 8 with 102 pitches thrown. He seemed to be running out of gas a bit and I’d be skeptical that he could have made it through 9 without walking someone or giving up a hit even if Kennedy had made an out. But I would have liked the chance to find out.
These are the words of the head of an IDF rocket unit in the recent Israeli war in Lebanon. He also describes the use of incendiary phosphorous shells on towns, and the firing from Multiple Launch Rocket System platforms that were known to be highly inaccurate–a margin of error of up to 1,200 meters.
So much for the claims of “proportionate” force and “precision” targeting.
Before getting to the substance (such as it is), first the following blog functionality update:
NO MORE BUGS IN THE ORCHARD!!
Thanks to RAC for finding the necessary pesticide (fully organic, so I can assure you of the healthfulness of all the fruit here). RAC proved to be a better HIGHER TECHNICAL SKILLED PERSON than the one that the hosting company promised would fix the problem. Now, for our, uh, substance…
Sometimes–as I alluded to in the last planting–you just have to waste a little time (though this time was wasted weeks ago, yet the “fruits” of that time were temporalily blocked from planting by the F&V migration problem)…
I saw this over at Signifying Nothing and Cold Spring Shops, and could not resist having my own. Below, not necessarily in any rational order, are the logos of the urban transit systems I have ridden (or at least a reasonable sample of them).
So, here are the sybmols, and no, I do not know why they appear in a single column. But the really, really important fact is that I have ridden many more than Chris or–especially remarkably–Stephen!!!
[Mahatma Gandhi's] concept of Satyagraha or truthful passive resistance, took its birth at the Empire Theatre in Johannesburg on Sep 11, 1906. The meeting was convened to oppose a proposed new legislation on the Indian community in South Africa.
Some months ago I took one of those wonderfully time-wasting Internet “tests” to (allegedly) determine one’s ideological position. It said I was left/libertarian (my label, not theirs, and that’s pretty much where I would have expected to be if the test were at all valid). According to the test authors, that put me in the same quadrant of their two-dimensional space as Mahatma Gandhi. Good company to keep. Especially on 11 September.
As the JPost reports, the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism is expected to lift its ban on the ordination of openly gay rabbis, possibly by the end of this year. The move, if it happens, is sure to be highly divisive within the movement. Alas, steps towards basic human dignitity and equality always are.
Even roughly twenty years after the Conservative movement lifted its ban on female rabbis, congregations are still permitted to refuse to hire women while retaining their affiliation with the movement. No wonder some doubt whether Conservative Judaism still stakes out any meaningful middle ground.
As the Reform movement increasibly embraces more traditional liturgical forms (at least as options) while maintining its commitment to equality, it is clear where the real middle ground once again lies.
It never would have occurred to me, but these names–that of US House Rep. Ray LaHood (R-Ill.) and Lebanese President Emil Lahoud–are variants, and reflect a “distant” family relationship. (I wonder if Joe Lahoud is also related?)
This tidbit of information is contained within a JPost article that begins:
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