There are not many countries in Europe in which MP`s have a direct mandate from the people. Finland, Ireland, the UK and France spring to mind. Most other countries on the continent have an electoral system of list election. Voters have no choice over the candidates but only vote for the party of their choice. Parties have their candidates in a prearranged order and starting from the top of the list, the party gets as many candidates elected as MP`s as their share of the vote merits. Of course, under this system party-leaders and his lackeys are always put at the top of the list, dissidents at the bottom.
In fact, rather few of the European party-list systems are closed list. Most are some sort of flexible list, although most of those are not, in fact, all that flexible in practice. Still, the majority of European systems do allow a candidate preference vote, and even if empirically we were to find that not many lists get their order changed by such votes, it is likely that parties anticipate voter preferences in constructing their lists. In fact, they seem to do that even when lists are closed, even though voters lack the ability to give preference votes within such lists. After all, parties are in competition with other parties (and all the more the greater the district magnitude) and if voters want candidates with certain characteristics (other than being the leader’s lackey), they fail to provide them at their peril. (See the previous discussion of Israel’s (lack of) capital-centricity, despite closed lists, and the possible implications of PR in the UK.)
In any event, whether lists are closed or flexible (or open), there is not much evidence that I am aware of that parties are as internally dictatorial as the writer asserts.
Parties that seek to win significant vote and seats shares in order to have significant bargaining weight in government-formation have to balance their slates to be representative of different policy currents, local communities, office-seeking factions, and interest-group constituents. There are few cases of parties that have only “party leaders” and “lackeys” in the electable ranks of a ranked (closed or flexible) list.
It is even likely that the single-seat district systems (UK, France, etc.) have less diverse (by whatever measure) caucuses (and perhaps with greater risk of punishment for dissidence) than closed list PR systems. The evidence regarding gender balance certainly suggests that to be the case.
On Sunday elections were held in Lesotho. The small southern African “kingdom in the sky” was the continent’s first country to use a mixed-member proportional (MMP) system, in 2002. Sunday’s election was Lesotho’s second under MMP, and as I am not aware of any other African countries having opted for MMP (as opposed to MMM/parallel, which is used by several countries*), it must have been only the second African MMP election.
As of today, counting was still continuing. The ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) was well ahead, but facing “an unexpected challenge from a new party,” the All Basotho Convention (ABC), Reuters reported.
JÃ¸rgen Eklit, writing for the ACE project, has an excellent short overview of the 2002 election and the political compromises that went into the electoral system. Eklit notes that there was violence after the 1998 election, at which time Lesotho was still under a pure FPTP system. In 1998 the LCD had won 79 of the then 80 seats on about 60% of the vote. Haggling over important details of a mixed-member system postponed the first post-conflict election. When the MMP system was used in 2002, the LCD again won nearly all (77 of 80) single-seat districts, but the compensatory nature of the list tier meant that the forty new PR-tier seats all went to various opposition parties, which had combined for 45% of the votes. Thus the result, with the LCD holding 65% of the seats, was not particularly proportional, but only because the PR tier would need to have been about as large as the nominal (SSD) tier to offset such a lopsided result in the SSDs. (By contrast, had the system in 2002 been MMM/parallel, the LCD would have had about 101 of the 120 seats, or 84%.**)
I saw a BBC TV report yesterday that obliged the electoral-system fans in its audience with close-ups of the ballots. It was clear that there are physically separate ballot papers for the nominal (SSD) and list (PR) tiers, and separate ballot boxes. One ballot paper was a different color than the other, and the list ballot had party names and symbols, while the nominal ballot had candidate names as well as party names and symbols.
In the current election, the LCD has won at least 30 of the 80 single-seat districts and the ABC at least 15. If the LCD’s ratio of SSD seats won holds as more come in (and, given that many of the still outstanding counts are probably in rural areas, as implied on the BBC report, it is probably more likely to increase), most or all of the PR seats will again go to the opposition. But the better performance of the opposition this time in the SSDs guarantees that the compensatory nature of the MMP system will lead to a more proportional result this time than in 2002.
UPDATE: As I suggested above, the LDC lead in seats won indeed expanded as more rural results came in. It appears that the ruling party has won 61 of the 80 single-seat districts. That happens to be precisely a majority of the full parliament. Thus unless the LDC’s percentage of the party-list votes (which are not available yet on the electoral commission website) is more than about 51%, the opposition parties will again win all of the party-list seats. And, even if the LDC’s percentage of the party-list votes is under 50%, the LDC will have a majority of seats. With either a larger list tier (and parliament) or a provision to compensate for “overhangs” (SSDs won in excess of proportional share), the LDC might have fallen short of a majority. In any event, the parliament will be much more closely divided this time. We can also expect some challenges over any district races that were close.
An early consensus. The Citizens Assembly voted on Sunday on their first preferred alternative system. They plan to design two, and then choose one.
Mixed Member Proportional – 78
STV – 8
Parallel – 6
List PR – 3
Alternative Vote (IRV) – 2
Two Round System – 0
Thatâ€™s a lot stronger consensus than most expected.
On Saturday they settled their three key objectives for system design, after breaking out into five group sessions. Chair George Thomson quipped â€œyouâ€™re making my life easyâ€ when all five groups chose the same three:
â€œThe number of seats a party wins should closely reflect its vote share;â€
â€œEach MPP should represent a geographic area of the province;â€ and
â€œVoters should be able to indicate their preferred party and candidateâ€ separately, that is, have two votes, one for the party, one for the local candidate.
Next step: preliminary design of the first alternative (MMP) on the weekend of March 3 and 4. Apparently thatâ€™s two-vote regional MMP.
This was how the ‘Thomson’ mango looked last May, as it was setting its first crop, and a heavy one at that. And were these mangoes ever delicious!
It will not look like this again. Ever. I can now confirm that this tree was killed by the freeze five weeks ago. Also killed was the lucuma that I had planted next to it last August, when the Thomson was laden with nearly ripe fruit. (I have not checked the other two mango trees, which grow on a more-distant ridge.) Here is what the Thomson and the lucuma look like now:
As can be seen to the right of the above photo, the mandarins are fine, and they are loaded with fruit. In fact, all the citrus seems fine, other than a few very young trees. The foliar damage is not trivial on some of the trees in the grapefruit grove down the slope, but the fruit appears to be of fine quality.
The two sapodilla trees (one of which was depicted just over a year ago, the day it blew over and had to be re-staked) are dead. The more distant tree in this photo has a distinct rust color at the base of the trunk–the color of death.
These trees, which produce a luscious fruit I have heard described as “pears with brown sugar,” had just set blossoms and, for the first time, were developing some fruit (from a previous bloom) that might have ripened this summer.
In the photo above, some of the freeze-dried blossoms can be seen. And in the branch in front, you can see where I scored the bark to see if it was green underneath. Nope. All brown, and so is the trunk.
A ‘Nabal’ avocado that was just finally looking healthy and mature enough that it might have borne this year is not dead (believe it or not!), but it is severely damaged.
(On the plus side, a ‘Stewart’ avocado just a short distance from the ‘Nabal’ is more or less unscathed.)
The cherimoyas probably all survived, but they look worse and worse with each passing week. They will take some time to recover. This year they had their first significant crops. Fortunately, about half the fruit had been harvested before the freeze. The remainder, some still hanging on these almost-bear trees, is now inedible.
I am taking a wait-and-see attitude about replanting mangoes, sapodillas, and other subtropicals that we have lost this winter. These trees are not cheap, even from 5-gallon pots, and when planted out that young, it takes three or more years before they reach bearing age–which these had finally done.
By separation of powers, I mean not the formal structures of the government system, but rather any situation in which the legislative majority and the government (prime minister or president and his or her cabinet) have different policy agendas. We normally think of such separation as being possible only in presidential systems, where the government originates separately from the legislature, and survives for its term independently of its support therein.
The conventional view of parliamentary democracy is of a system in which these things donâ€™t happen, because the government is a creature of the parliamentary majority and can be dismissed (via a vote of no confidence) at any time over policy disagreements. However, it may happen at times under a minority government, especially one without â€œconfidence and supplyâ€ agreements with other parties.*
The Canadian government is of the Conservative Party, which has around 42% of the seats in the House of Commons. On Wednesday, the other three parties (Liberal, New Democratic, and Bloc Quebecois) teamed up to pass the bill, without a single governing-party vote, 161-113.
The bill, which was introduced 10 months ago by Liberal backbencher Pablo Rodriguez, gives the government 60 days to table a detailed plan outlining how Canada will reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. [â€¦]
The bill urges the government to create fines and jail terms for businesses and industries that over-pollute.
The governmentâ€™s allies in parliament attempted to have the bill declared invalid under a rather flimsy argument: That it would commit the government to spending against its own will. Apparently, the governing party has forgotten that in a parliamentary system, the only will that matters is that of the parliamentary majority.
On the other hand, the parliamentary majority canâ€™t enforce a law on its own. That is what the executive is for. Normally, in a parliamentary system, the executive is assumed to be the government supported by a majority, so the government enforces its own majorityâ€™s laws.
With a government wanting to do one thing in this policy area and the parliamentary majority another, we have a genuine separation of powers. If this bill also passes the Senate, will the government implement a law it opposes? Or will it ignore it?
If the government ignores the law, the opposition has one sure way out of the situation: It can pass a no confidence motion and remove the recalcitrant government from office. But do the three parties that passed the bill want a new election?** If not, then the separation of powers remains, parliamentary government notwithstanding.
* If a minority government has confidence and supply agreements, one or more parties without cabinet representation commit to vote to retain the government in the event other opposition parties introduce a no-confidence motion against it, and commit also to vote for the governmentâ€™s budget (which is always a mater of confidence). In exchange, the parties to such agreements are granted certain policy concessions and consultations before major government bills are brought to the floor. See the current New Zealand government, for example.
** Technically, a new election would not be required. The Liberals, NDP, and Bloc could agree on a coalition or minority Liberal cabinet. However, that is almost unimaginable.
Ohio was one of the keys to the Democrats’ taking the US House majority in 2006, right? Certainly, but not to the degree it could have been.
A solid majority (53%) of Ohio voters voted for Democratic House candidates in November, 2006, yet the single-seat district plurality electoral system produced a reversal of the outcome: Republicans won 61% (11 of 18) of the seats in the state’s delegation.
Similar reversals also occurred in Michigan and Iowa in 2006; the latter case went against a Republican voting majority in the state. That a reversal of the electorate’s choice happened in Iowa is a reminder that gerrymandering is not a necessary factor in these reversals: Iowa has a nonpartisan redistricting process, allegedly doing things “the right way.” Plurality reversals are an inherent tendency of single-seat district, plurality electoral systems.
In a follow-up to a story I have covered since the tied-result election (just click on “Czech Republic” above to see the previous plantings), the center-right coalition finally was able to win a confidence vote. Two abstaining dissenters from the Social Democratic party made it possible. What deals were they offered? Stay tuned.
I hope someone can finally explain to me how it is that the Czech “Green” party, a pre-election partner with the main conservative parties in this government, is a right-wing party. (Thanks to Antiquated Tory for doing so in a comment; I hope to weigh in at some point.)
Reader Alan G. reminded me that the Australian state of New South Wales (the country’s largest, where Sydney is located) is having its general parliamentary election on 24 March. ABC has a good central site for following the campaign. See especially Antony Green’s Election Guide.
For election watchers and electoral-rules aficionados, there are a few noteworthy facts about this election. First, currently the federal government is controlled by the conservative alliance (which has a majority in both houses, itself a rare occurrence in Australia), while every state is controlled by the Labor party. (Has it ever happened in a federation before that one party controlled all the central levers of power and another all the state/provincial?)
Australia is one of those federal systems in which states have their separate electoral calendars from the federal level. Thus there are almost always some state elections coming up at any given time, and they serve partly as a barometer of support for the federal government–perhaps especially so when the federal governing party faces a total shutout at the state level!
Of particular interest in New South Wales is the electoral system for the state’s upper house, which is single transferable vote in a very large statewide constituency. With twenty-one seats elected at each election (the chamber has 42 members), it is (to my knowledge) the world’s largest STV district. (This fact is made somewhat more trivial by the “above-the-line vote” option, which apparently well over 95% voters employ1; this makes the system much more closed-list in nature than STV.2)
The lower house is also elected by STV, but in single-seat districts. Therefore, the lower house uses what is known as the alternative vote (or ‘IRV’). In the lower house, the Labor party won its majority in 2003 on 42.7% of the first-preference votes, against only 24.7% for the runner up Liberal party and 9.6% for the Liberals’ partner, the Nationals. In a plurality (FPTP) system, 42.7% of the vote and such a strong margin could have resulted in a very large seat majority despite the party’s being so far short of a voting majority.
However, the ranked-preference, sequential-elimination electoral rule allows us to know, from the votes transfers, that the “two-party preferred” vote for Labour was 56.2%. For Liberal/National it was 43.8%. The seat allocation thus mirrors this two-party preferred vote quite a bit better than would be the case under a plurality system: 55 (59.1%) for Labor, 20 for Liberal, 12 for National (for a combined 34.4%), plus six independents.3
Comparing the two houses, the first-preference votes for Labor were very slightly higher in the Legislative Council than in the lower house, at 43.5% (see Adam Carr’s table). Nonetheless, given the high proportionality afforded by STV and a district magnitude of 21, Labor came up one seat short of a majority of the seats at stake in the election. The Liberal-National alliance won exactly one third of the seats contested in 2003 on almost exactly one third of the vote.
New South Wales offers us a very interesting laboratory on ranked-preference voting, district magnitude, and federalism!
1. See Green’s background paper at the link given by Alan in the third comment.
2. It is like a closed list if (as is likely) the party directs that its preferences stay within the party before transferring to candidates of other parties. The additional ‘twist’ on the closed list is that, unlike in a strictly list system, the party may (depending on the specific rules) direct that its votes transfer to other parties’ candidates in the event it lacks sufficient votes to elect a candidate even after intra-party transfers. As Alan notes, the transfer of votes out the party is not controlled by the party in NSW, but rather the voter who chooses the ticket (above-the-line) vote option may designate a second ticket to which the vote should transfer.
3. The page linked at the start of this paragraph offers interesting detail on the 1999 and 2003 elections, including the fact that the attempt of the government elected in 1995 to advantage itself in 1999 by reducing the number of seats (from 99) backfired and nearly cost it the majority.
I have been meaning this week to say something about the long-awaited UK House of Lords reform proposal. One of the great assets of the blogging community is that sometimes readers do a lazy blogger’s work for him. The following was posted by Bancki in the comments to an earlier discussion. I might as well just “transplant” it here.
If the proposals make it, the upper house will have 540 members. Part of them will be directly elected, part of them appointed. MPs will choose in a ‘free vote’ the type of upper chamber they like best: they will be able to rank (a preferential ballot!) seven possible ratios of elected – appointed members (100-0%, 80-20%, 60-40%, 50-50%, 40-60%, 20-80%, 0-100%) Straws favors the 50-50% option, and I’ll use these numbers.
The 270 elected members would be elected by partially open-list PR (voters can vote for the whole list or for a specific candidate) in the existing European Parliament constituencies (Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and 9 regions in England) Every five years, coincidental with the EP elections, one third (90) would be renewed.
There would be 2 types of appointed members: 162 partisan and 108 non-partisan appointments. An independent Satutory Appointments Commission would appoint the non-partisan members and oversee the partisan appointments. Partisan appointees will be apportioned to the parties on the basis of the last general elections result (votes, not seats)
The appointed members also sit for 15 year terms, with one third (54 partisan and 36 non-partisan) renewed every five years.
No-one can sit more than one term: no re-election or re-appointment possible but also no switch from elected to appointed or vice-versa. And no-one can be elected MP save after some years in the cold.
And what with the historical oddities?
* The existing 615 life peers will not be forced to leave, and will sit besides the new members, with the first 180 elected/appointed in 2014.
* The existing 92 hereditary peers would go, but the question remains if they are allowed to ‘die out’ or if they will be replaced by new ‘last time’ life peers.
* Some Anglican bishops (now 26) can stay as part of the non-partisan appointed members.
* The upper chamber will no longer be styled ‘House of Lords’, but at present there is no new name proposed.
* Sitting or retired members will no longer by styled ‘peers’.
My comment: Why appointed partisan members? If the new ‘Lords’ will include members elected by the public from lists nominated by the parties, why also let those same parties appoint further members based on the votes in Commons elections?
From the afternoon forecast discussion, looking ahead a few days:
PRECIPITATION APPEARS MORE LIKELY FROM SATURDAY NIGHT ON AS LONG WAVE TROUGH AXIS WILL BE CLOSER TO 120 W LONGITUDE AND ARRIVING STORM CENTERS SHOULD BE ABLE TO DELIVER A FULL LOAD TO SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA.
If ever there was a time for these words, this is it: BRING IT ON!
Update: The two “storms” combined for about a quarter of an inch. Not quite what I had in mind as a “full load.”
In past discussions here at F&V on the National Popular Vote plan for US presidential elections, some opponents have suggested that it is a bad idea to have democratic elections for the nation’s highest office, on grounds that it would result in low-population states being ignored. The view is apparently not universally shared. Consider this item on Montana, where the NPV bill just cleared a key committee in the upper house:
Republican Sen. Rick Laible and other supporters said the change would make Montana and other sparsely populated states more of a factor in presidential races and could increase voter turnout. [my emphasis]
The NPV organization has a page devoted to tracking the progress of an idea whose time has come.
Greg commented that it was unclear how a less populous state like Montana would gain from NPV. This is a good point, and I had the same thought. I initially answered at the seedbed, but I might as well put it here.
The basic response would be that we–myself included, apparently–are so stuck in the state-interest paradigm that we hardly think of presidential elections, or presidential-election mechanisms, in any other way. But interests that transcend state boundaries are inherently under-represented by the electoral college, relative to a popular vote.
Under current arrangements, if an election were very close in both the Electoral College and Montana, the state could be targeted by campaigns. Otherwise, it is likely to be taken for granted, given only 3 electoral votes (and normal Republican leanings in presidential elections, though not necessarily safely so).
My priors would be that NPV is something of a wash for a state like Montana–thinking in terms of state interests, that is. I canâ€™t get inside Sen. Laibleâ€™s mind, but following is one example of what he could be thinking of in the remarks quoted above.
If issues of concern to voters in the Intermountain West become more important in future elections, candidates would pay attention to them even if such issues were unlikely to swing Montanaâ€™s own vote plurality (or those of any other single state in the region).
That is, NPV would allow various broad regional interests that transcend state boundaries to be more electorally relevant than they are now.
There is something strangely satisfying about having refreshed the blog’s page just at the moment that the 58,000th visitor passed through this virtual orchard. F&V is just days short of completing 18 months of planting and propagating. Thanks, no. 58k, whoever you were,* and thanks to the 57,999 before, too! Keep coming back.
* someone from the Dominican Republic interested in the Serie del Caribe, apparently. Sorry to disappoint: While I covered it last year, I have not been up on the 2007 Serie.
It was hot during the day (5 Feb.): 87. Even in the morning it was very mild: low of 45 at the corralito and 54 up here at LF HQ. What a far cry from exactly three weeks ago, when the lows were 23 and 27.
Moments before I took the photo above, I snapped this one, looking off to the southeast.
I like the way the fruit (and, alas, the freeze-burned trees down the slope) pick up the red tint from the sunset, along with the reflections and lights on the distant slopes.
As with most photos posted here at Fruits.LaderaFrutal.com, click the image and the photo page will open in a new window, and from there it is possible to go to a full-screen view.
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