Royal’s chances in the runoff against conservative candidate Nicolas Sarkozy depend on her being able to woo a substantial chunk of Bayrou’s votes (while getting those who supported farther left candidates to turn out for her, rather than stay at home). It is a tall order. Hence the debate gambit.
Royal, who just weeks ago dismissed calls for an alliance with Bayrou, repeatedly stressed Saturday the similarities between their visions for France.
Bayrou, however, reminded her of their differences, in particular over her leftist economic program.
Quite apart from programmatic differences, I am skeptical of Royal’s ability to claim many votes from Bayrou. The party of the latter, the UDF, is now rather small, but is a long-time electoral and governing ally of the Gaullist forces backing Sarkozy. With parliamentary elections due in June, it is hard to see what UDF politicians would have to gain by backing Royal. How many districts are there in which UDF candidates might beat Sarkozy allies with the help of the Socialists? I have no idea, but if that number is small, there is little Bayrou can do to get local-level cooperation in the few days remaining until the runoff. Bayrou’s allies at the local level, and their voters, would seem to be better off attempting to reclaim their influence within the right-wing alliance than joining with the left.
It is easy to see why Royal wants to sway Bayrou’s voters, and Bayrou himself–while unwilling to make a formal endorsement–may stand to gain some role in a center-left government if one could be formed after the presidential and parliamentary elections are complete. But it is less clear what the incentives are below the level of these two candidates for the kind of cooperation that would be needed to pull it off.*
Now, if France had a proportional system for its National Assembly, things would be different: Bayrou’s party would stand a chance of winning a block of seats independently of either the left or right alliances. Then a center-left coalition would be a real possibility. Not surprisingly, Bayrou is indeed in favor of a proportional system, among other institutional reforms.**
* I am reminded that some members of the UDF participated in the Michel Rocard government, which was appointed after the reelected President Mitterrand dissolved parliament and called for an “opening to the center.” How relevant that precedent is today is not clear to me.
**Thanks to Bancki, in an earlier thread, for this link.
About two months ago, I posed the question, will Karzai veto the Jihadis’ amnesty bill? It was a reference to a bill to provide a sweeping amnesty to former fighters in Afghanistan’s decades of fighting, passed by a congress largely dominated by former fighters themselves. President Hamid Karzai opposed the amnesty, as did international aid organizations. With his office having the constitutional authority to veto legislation, it seemed unlikely that the legislators’ act would be the final word. (A veto takes two thirds to override, although my reading of the constitution is that the override vote takes place only in the lower house, notwithstanding the bicameral nature of the Afghanistani congress.)
Indeed, congress did not have the final word. But that is not to say that Karzai vetoed the bill. Instead, he recommended amendments to some provisions, and congress passed a new bill that incorporated his suggestions–or some of then; details are sketchy in the several sources I consulted. Deep within an LA Times story, it is noted:
[Karzai's] office managed to add the provision about an individual’s right to file charges, amending what was virtually a blanket amnesty.
Separation of powers at work.
In previous discussions, I have noted how unrepresentative the Afghan congress is, given that it was elected in a purely candidate-based system (single nontransferable vote), with no party labels, and with a very high rate of wasted votes. A recent item in The Economist picks up on the theme of the party-less legislative process, and notes that parties are now forming from within the congress.
IN THE 18 months since it was elected, Afghanistan’s first democratic legislature has been in a peculiar limbo: it is a parliament without parties. Candidates were not allowed to declare party affiliations on the ballot paper. The result has been a chaotic parliament of individuals, often elected on the promise of patronage and by virtue of ethnic affiliation. The parliament has criticised the increasingly isolated president, Hamid Karzai. But its positive achievements have been few.
Now change is stirring. Several alliances with sketchy political platforms are being mooted. The first of these, the National Unity Front, was unveiled in March by a group of parliamentarians and members of the government. It proposes various constitutional reforms, including electing provincial governors directly and creating a new post of prime minister in order to curb the power of the president. The Front denies wanting to be an opposition party, promising to work alongside the government in pursuit of “national unity”. [read full article]
Both of these developments represent advances for the constitutional and legislative processes in that war-torn country.
Much of the news coverage of the French presidential election has noted the high turnout: 85%.
I thought it would be worth putting this in historical perspective, and also seeing whether turnout tends over time to be higher in the first or second round. We are currently between rounds of the ninth presidential election since the adoption of the Fifth Republic Constitution (1958, amended to have direct presidential elections in 1962).
Percent of electorate that voted in the first and second rounds:
So, first-round turnout in 2007 was indeed higher than for any first round since the very first presidential election in 1965. And it was a lot higher than in 2002, when complacency on the left both depressed turnout and helped Le Pen make it into the runoff. Note the spike in turnout in 2002 in the runoff (+8.1), when revulsion against Le Pen spurred many to vote, even though the result of the runoff was foregone as soon as Le Pen qualified for it. (Chirac won over 82% of the vote in the runoff.)
The mean change in turnout (runoff minus first round) is +0.9. Not much difference, although the mean masks the fact that in five of the seven runoffs to date, turnout indeed increased (average 2.1). The one case of a very large dropoff in the runoff, 1969, was one in which there was little doubt that Pompidou would win; aside from 2002, the 1969 election was the one with the least suspense over the outcome. On the other hand, there had been a close contest for second place in the first round that year.* (De Gaulle in 1965 faced a closer race in both rounds, although there was little doubt about that race’s outcome.)
While the high turnout in last Sunday’s first round was indeed a good story, the real story is more that of a rebound from the depressed turnout of 2002 than it was one of “historic participation.”
What will happen to turnout in the second round? There is genuine uncertainty about the result, so it should stay quite high, but I would not be surprised to see it drop a little bit, given that some of the boost Sunday was due to a desire to ensure Le Pen’s defeat. For some voters, there may be a sense of “mission accomplished.”
The runoff is 6 May.
* In fact, the 1969 contest bears some resemblance to 2002, in that the left was not represented in the runoff. However, it also differs in a very big way: The candidate who beat out the leading leftist was not an extremist. 1969 was the only election in which Francois Mitterrand was not a candidate from 1965 until the 1995 election, when he was completing his second seven-year term. The more popular of two candidates bearing the Socialist label in 1969, Jacques Duclos, won only 21.3% in the first round. The other had 5% (and there were other left candidates as well). This division meant that Alain Poher, running on the ticket of the Democratic Center and Radicals, qualified for the runoff with his 23.3% (just over half Pompidou’s total).
Data from the Mackie and Rose handbook for 1865-1988 and from Adam Carr thereafter.
The thing that Greens care about more fundamentally than anything â€” perhaps for some Greens it matters more than climate â€” is that we fix the voting system.
So said Elizabeth May, the leader of the Canadian Green Party. She was commenting on a “non-compete” agreement that she recently struck with Liberal Leader Stephane Dion, in which the latter has agreed to explore reforms to Canadaâ€™s electoral system.
I can’t argue with the green priority: Addressing the fundamental environmental issues of our time, including climate change, would be advanced significantly by addressing the fundamental democratic deficit of countries still mired in first-past-the-post politics, such as Canada, the U.K., and the USA. Greens have rarely won seats under FPTP in national, state, or provincial-level legislative races.1 However, when they have been in parliament under proportional-representation systems, they have sometimes been able to be in government (as in Germany, 1998-2005, and the Czech Republic currently) or to influence policy even in the absence of executive positions (as in New Zealand currently).
The importance of PR to a party like the Greens is evident from a nationwide Canadian poll from early March. It showed the Green Party polling at 13%, compared to the 4.5% it won in the 2006 election. When asked on CBC whether that support would translate into electing a member of parliament, Greens leader May correctly noted, “We are not a regionally-based party, and as such, the first-past-the-post system does tend to work against us.” Indeed, the Quebec Bloc won only 10.5% of the national vote in 2006, yet won 16.6% of the seats. The FPTP system is biased towards smaller parties with regional support and against those of about the same size with more dispersed support.
As beneficial as stand-down (no-compete) deals and an eventual move to proportional representation would be for the Greens, there is less to this deal than meets the eye. The deal calls for the Liberals to stand down in May’s riding (electoral district), where the Liberal has no chance of winning.2 In exchange, the Greens will not compete in Dion’s riding, which is entirely safe for the Liberal party, anyway. The agreement thus has no promise of actually helping Greens get into parliament, from where they would be able to hold Dion and his party to the promise to begin serious discussion of electoral reform and to action on climate change should the Liberals form a minority government after the next election.
The deal is much more about Liberal-NDP and Green-NDP competition than it is about representation for the Greens or a process of electoral reform. The NDP and the Greens, to a significant extent, share overlapping voter bases, while the NDP and the Liberals are also in competition with one another in many ridings across Canada. For example, the NDP won about 17% of the vote in 2006, but in the poll that put the Greens on 13%, the NDP was also at 13%, while the Liberals were at 27% (compared to just over 30% in the 2006 election). The Conservative vote, on the other hand, appears relatively unaffected by the votes of the Green-NDP-Liberal segments of the electorate.3 In the 2006 election and the referenced poll (as well as many other polls in the past year), the Liberal-NDP-Green combo represents a majority of the votes. And, while the parties disagree on many things amongst themselves, a PR system would translate these parties’ recent levels of support into a majority in parliament.
However, under FPTP, these parties are in competition with one another in a way that could benefit the Conservatives, unless the Liberal party can persuade more potential NDP or Green voters to vote for it than for one of the smaller parties. More votes for the Greens will hurt the NDP the most; moreover, a Liberal party seen as out-greening the NDP may be able to retain some environmentally conscious votes that would otherwise go NDP, if not Green. Finally, in several ridings, drawing votes away from the NDP, whether they go to the Greens or the Liberals, could boost Liberals against Conservative competition.
Ms. Mayâ€™s endorsement should help Mr. Dion, but the advantages to Ms. May are not as clear, except that she seems to think itâ€™s the right thing to do. [...]
Ms. May is a bigger threat to the electoral prospects of NDP Leader Jack Layton than to Stephen Harper…
Jack Layton, NDP leader, suggested he sees the threat to his party when he posed the rhetorical question, “If Ms. May thinks Mr. Dion would make the best prime minister, why isn’t she running as a Liberal?” Of course, she is doing this to raise the profile of a party that will always struggle to survive under FPTP. And that takes us full circle, back to the fundamental importance of electoral reform in order to elect blocs of legislators committed to climate-change policy. Thanks to the deal, Canadian papers for several days have given quite a lot of coverage to electoral reform and the Green Party. A short-term success, at least!
1. I know of two FPTP races won by Green candidates, both in mixed-member proportional electoral systems. The NZ Greens co-leader, Jeanette Fitzsimmons, won the single-seat district for Coromandel in 1999. (In that election, it was not clear the party would pass the party-list threshold and if it had not, the party’s presence in parliament would have depended on the district win. The party has not held the seat since, but has remained above the threshold nationally.) Hans Christian Stroebele won the constituency of Kreuzberg in Berlin for the Green Party in the 2005 German federal election. A Green came close to winning a riding in BC’s last provincial election, but there is no value to being “close” under FPTP! (Some Greens have been elected in single-seat districts in France, where a two-round system is used and the party has benefited from cross-district cooperative arrangements with left allies.)
2. The riding is Central Nova, in Nova Scotia. It is currently held by Peter MacKay, a minister in the current Conservative federal cabinet who won 40.7% of the vote in 2006. Then NDP came in second, with 32.9% and the Liberal third, with 24.6%. A different Green candidate in 2006 won 1.6%, or 671 votes. In a wonderful twist, the Liberal candidate who now won’t be running is named Susan Green! (Thanks to Idealistic Pragmatist for that tip.)
3. Other polls around the same time show the Greens with less support. Most of those other polls also show the NDP very marginally higher and the Liberals also somewhat higher. The Conservative vote appears a bit more stable, though it has reached 40% in the occasional poll. The site linked in this note shows a graph of polling trends.
I didn’t really expect any surprises today, and exit polls say there are none, other than Le Pen having a terrible showing (thanks, probably, to Sarkozy “out-LePenning” him). I heard on a live BBC program earlier that it was a nice sunny day across much of France. Not that your orchardist would ever have advised anyone not to vote (anymore than he would advise anyone not to grow and eat fruit), but it looks like un ronflement to me. Apparently, the French thought it a fine day to vote, however, despite the foregone nature of the outcome of this round. The ghost of 2002 hovers.
___ Update: The link in the first paragraph is showing actual partial returns. At 22:30, French time, about 65% had been counted and Sarkozy’s lead has been expanding. Now more than five percentage points, or about 30â€“25. If that holds up, Royal is about where her late polling said she would be, but Sarkozy is doing a bit better than expected. What that might mean for the runoff, if anything, is not clear to me.
Polls in Nigeria’s presidential and congressional elections were to open within hours, but BBC is reporting:
Authorities in Nigeria have begun sending out ballot papers to 120,000 polling stations, hours before voting in presidential polls is due to begin.
The electoral commission head said the 60m ballot papers had been kept in South Africa to prevent tampering.
Correspondents say it is hard to see how papers can be delivered across the vast country in time for the start of polling – already delayed by two hours.
With current Vice-President Atiku Abubakar just cleared this week to run as an opposition candidate to the governing party, some reports had suggested that Abubakar’s name would be on stickers affixed to ballots already being printed with the other candidates’ names. But apparently ballots have actually been printed only this week.
The Independent National Election Commission (Inec) chairman said the 60m ballot papers had to be printed abroad because it was not possible to do this in Nigeria in just three days. [...] the names of the presidential candidates are not on the papers – just the symbol of their political party.*
Abubakar had threatened to boycott. He now says he is running only to challenge the electoral result in court.
This has all the makings of an electoral disaster. In a country where the terrain, infrastructure, and violence make any election a challenge to pull off under the best of circumstances, the risk of major incidents is only increased by delays in distributing ballots and the guarantee of post-election disputes.
Will Nigeria still have a civilian government when this election is over?
Highly recommended further reading: Jonathan Edelstein’s posts on: (1) Why Nigerians got an unexpected holiday last week and its implications for the state elections and Supreme Court ruling; and (2) On the violence, intimidation, and fraud in the state elections.
Jonathan notes a rather surprising outcome of the state elections: Despite the fraud, the ruling party will pick up at best only one governorship over the total it had following the 2003 elections, and in some states its governors will face opposition-controlled legislatures.
* I assume this means that the Presidential, House, and Senate ballot papers are distinct. Elections for congress are by plurality in single-seat districts, and presumably have candidate names on them. They must have been printed in advance. I wonder if candidates allied with Abubakar are on those ballots. I hope someone knows and can comment on that.
The first round is 22 April, with Sarkozy and Royal each at just over a quarter of the vote in that round. The third candidate, FranÃ§ois “Condorcet” Bayrou, has now fallen well behind Sarkozy and Royal, making a runoff match between those two now almost certain. Jean Marie Le Pen is at 16%, and could even surpass Bayrou for third place, though a runoff place for him, as occurred in 2002, continues to look very unlikely. As I noted earlier in the week, Le Pen’s second place finish that year had much more to do with fragmentation on the left than with the increase in Le Pen’s support (just under 17% in 2002, compared to around 15% in the previous election).
There may not seem to be much that Americans can learn from Nigeria about how to conduct elections and democracy, but even troubled democracies can offer valuable lessons. In fact, the more troubled democracies are precisely the ones where the political engineer’s craft is most likely to be applied, and from their efforts we may be able to draw more general propositions and political-reform ideas. Such is the case with Nigeria’s method of reconciling federalism and presidentialism.
Those in the USA who like the regional/federalist implications of the electoral college but who recognize the inferiority of the state-by-state winner-take-all method used here currently should take note of the “distribution requirement” used in Nigeria.
In addition to a nationwide plurality, to be elected president of Nigeria a candidate must have obtained a minimum of 25% of the votes in at least two thirds of the subnational units of the federation (there are 36 states and a capital territory).
Variants of distribution requirements can also be found in Indonesia and Kenya.
One aspect of Nigeria’s rule that should not be emulated is the requirement that the runoff be repeated if neither candidate has met the distribution in the second round.* If the distribution cannot be met in either of two rounds, it is unlikely to be met in a third, and thus the rule sensibly should allow the result to be definitive in two rounds. Indonesia and Kenya do not have this feature, meaning that they encourage distribution by requiring it in order for a candidate to be elected in the first round, but their runoffs are by simple majority.
A potentially useful innovation on this rule might be to permit a candidate ranked lower than second in overall national first-round votes to be the vote-leader’s runoff opponent if he or she had a better distribution (however defined) than the runner up.
If a distribution requirement were to be considered for future direct elections of the US President, what should the requirement be? The vote threshold in the minimum number of states would need to be much higher than the 25% (of whatever number of states) to have any effect. The idea would be to discourage candidates from campaigning primarily in a few big states that would be sufficient to secure a national plurality (the fear of opponents of reform**) while simultaneously eliminating the incentive to campaign primarily in a few “swing” states (one of the main flaws of the current system).
Despite the potential strategic and practical benefits of a reform proposal along these lines, I have never seen a distribution requirement even mentioned in debates on reforming/abolishing the US electoral college. Let the debate begin right here in this orchard!
* Thanks to Jonathan for correcting an earlier error here (and also for noting that the other African country with a distribution requirement is Kenya, as the revision here now states). The value of peer review!
** I do not believe it is a justified fear, only that it is expressed by proponents of the status quo. (As earlier plantings in the electoral college and national popular vote block have made clear, there is evidence that even in some smallish states, the legislatures are not buying that argument. Does that mean distribution is unnecessary, even strategically? Let’s see how many other small/medium states agree to pass NPV before answering that.)
Final remark on Nigeria: As I note in a separate planting earlier today, the distribution requirement is not likely to matter in this year’s election. In fact, the election could turn out to be a debacle, with the opposition divided and having faced alleged fraud in the recent state elections. The problems of this current electoral cycle in Nigeria are in no way connected to the distribution requirement, which was an innovation of those who engineered the country’s first presidential constitution (in the 1970s) and were looking for ways to alleviate the regional conflicts that had led to the collapse of the post-independence parliamentary system amid secession and civil war.
Nigeria is currently in the phase between state elections (last Saturday) and national presidential and legislative elections (Saturday, 21 April). The two main opposition candidates–one of whom was cleared by the Supreme Court to run only this week–have both announced that they will not boycott, despite irregularities in the state elections.
The Nigerian presidency is elected by an interesting rule: Nationwide plurality with distribution. In addition to a nationwide plurality, to be elected president of Nigeria a candidate must have obtained a minimum of 25% of the votes in at least two thirds of the subnational units of the federation (there are 36 states and a capital territory).
With a divided opposition, the distribution requirement will not come in to play in this election. At the bottom of today’s article on the decision by the opposition candidates to remain in the race, BBC has a map of the state results. The ruling party has won pluralities in more than three quarters of the states.
I will admit that I stole (no, borrowed) this title from Josep Colomer. I have been meaning to post for some time on the French presidential election campaign. The first round of this two-round majority contest is on 22 April.
In 2002, France experienced something of a debacle with its majority-runoff system and the failure of the left to consolidate sufficiently as to place its leading candidate, Lionel Jospin, into the runoff. With the left badly split, Le Pen passed Jospin for second place, setting up a runoff between right and more right–and a national embarrassment in the process.
In 2007, there is little risk that Le Pen will play in the second round, but there is a different dilemma on the left. Polls suggest that Royal will not defeat Sarkozy, but Bayrou would. However, he may not make it to the runoff, as he is running a close third behind Sarkozy (who has been fairly consistent in the 27-31% range recently) and Royal (slipping recently to below 25%). Bayrou is essentially tied with Royal in the low-to-mid twenties.
For instance, this poll seems fairly typical of recent samplings that have asked about the possible runoff pairings:
In each pairing, 17-18% say that they would not vote in the runoff.
(Le Pen is polling around 12% for the first round and 46% of his supporters favor Sarkozy in the runoff.)
So, Bayrou looks like a clear Condorcet winner (the candidate who would beat any other in a head-to-head race). But if he can’t place first or second in the initial round of voting, he will never get to prove it. And Sarkozy, apparently, will be France’s next president.
Should leftist voters vote strategically for Bayrou, in order to stop Sarkozy? Or vote for their candidate and hope for the best? This will be one to keep an eye on.
As I have noted in the past, I am not of the view that a presidential-selection method necessarily must ensure the election of a Condorcet winner (when one exists). However, that view stems from the recognition that the potential Condorcet winner is often one with limited first-preference support. As long as a method prevents the election of a Condorcet loser (as two-round majority does), I prefer a method that ensures that the winner has significant first preferences over one that ensures a Condorcet winner.
This French race is different: The Condorcet winner, Bayrou, has support not much less than the other two (assuming he does, in fact, come in third place). This is a race in which it is possible that a different method of determining the majority could produce the more broadly supported candidate from the three leaders. A one-round ranked-choice ballot with sequential elimination (IRV or Alternative Vote) might allow Bayrou to pick up support from other defeated contenders and survive in the counts long enough to emerge as the winner. There is, of course, no guarantee that this would happen: the transferred votes of the more extreme parties might simply boost both Royal and Sarkozy in the later counts, and leave Sarkozy as the winner, with Bayrou falling further behind. The outcome would depend on the fuller preference profiles of voters, which I doubt any polling sample has recorded.
If the French left suffers from the vagaries of majority runoff twice in as many elections, I wonder if we will see an IRV movement in France. (I wonder if one exists now. Anyone?)
Ecuadorians vote today in a referendum on whether to convene a constituent assembly, fulfilling one of the campaign promises of recently elected President Rafael Correa.
Ecuador already has had several constitutional reforms or replacements since the transition to democracy in 1978-79 (one of the first of the “third wave” in Latin America), and it has had a record of truly remarkable instability in the office of chief executive (eight presidents in ten years), notwithstanding the “fixed term” of the presidential system.
Here is a question, for which I do not know the answer: Has any executive ever summoned the people to the polls to vote on a proposal to replace the constitution and been denied? In fact, has any executive ever done so and not won approval by an officially reported 90% plus? I may not know the answer, but I have a suspicion.
â€œWe have a consensus.â€ By a secret ballot vote of 86 to 16, the Ontario Citizensâ€™ Assembly prefers MMP to FPTP.
And on the overhang front, there will be no overhang hangovers in the referendum campiagn. They decided on staff advice that, even allowing for a five percent shift towards split ballots, only in the most exceptional cases would more than three overhangs arise in Ontario. Not worth arguing about. Gone.
Why five percent? Well, Massicotteâ€™s survey of Germany, New Zealand, Scotland and Wales found â€œconflicting allegiances, even if held by many voters, tend to cancel each other out. So the net spread between the two standings of one party is usually not very great. Seldom does it exceed 4 percentage points.â€
A week ago, on the Sunday after the first full moon of the vernal equinox, signs of the waning days of spring were apparent.
The ‘Meiwa’ kumquat is laden with ripening fruit, above a field of wildflowers now nearly gone to seed. Beyond is the ‘Double Jewel’ fruiting/flowering peach, just past its full bloom, and to the right of it, some persimmon trees just leafing out. In the canyon below, still some green, but clearly fading as the (minimal, this year) rains are a more distant memory. The frogs that serenade us nightly don’t have much water left in the ponds below. And on the distant slopes, a mix of healthy and damaged avocado trees, and groves already cleared of freeze-damaged trees. Italian cypresses stand sentinel.
This is the view now looking west from Ladera Frutal HQ.
An avocado grove has been stumped and the trunks whitewashed. This is now a common sight in these parts, as trees that had their tops severely killed back in the freeze in January are being prepared for re-grafting on to the still-alive tissues of the trunks.* The whitewashing protects the trunks from sunburn; like many broadleafed evergreens, avocados have thin bark. Deciduous trees tend to have tough bark, because they spend a significant part of their lives without foliar canopy. Obviously, for an evergreen, a lack of canopy is an anomaly.
In the photo, at elevations just below the whitewashed trunks, one can see citrus trees (grapefruit, mostly) which have no damage from the freeze. (The entire canyon is now scented with their blooms!) And on the distant hilltops, the dark green represents avocado trees flourishing where they were planted high above the freeze line.
The following view is to the southeast, also from LF HQ, looking across the canyon. It shows quite starkly how freeze damage is a threshold phenomenon. There is no gradation in the visible damage as one goes up the slope. Rather, there is a line–the precise elevation of which differs with the contours of the hills and their sun exposure and air drainage. Below the line, devastation. Above it, healthy trees.
The damaged parts of this grove likewise have now been stumped and whitewashed.
* Or, probably, simply letting them re-sprout, given that they probably have live tissues above the original Hass graft.
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