There’s nothing like getting 650-700 hours of chill!
All four varieties of mature cherry tree are in bloom this spring. From right to left:
Royal Rainier (low chill, fruited deliciously two years ago; blooms but no fruit in the wet spring of 2006)
Stella (low chill, has fruited more than once, even in its former home at Carlsbad by the Sea; heavy bloom this year)
Craig’s Crimson (by reputation, one of the best cherries; bloomed last year for first time, but no fruit)
Bing (yes, the famous Bing, listed at 700-800 hours and showing a few blooms for the first time now; is fruit possible?)
A fifth variety, much younger and not shown, is White Gold. It has Stella in its parentage, and like all our varieties other than Bing, is self-fruitful (a feature that is claimed by some growers to favor low-chill fruit set). It is starting to wake up only in the last few days and it’s too early to know if it will bloom, too.
Update: On 15 April, three flower buds on ‘White Gold’ opened!
Inevitably, the crisis over President Yushchenko’s decree dissolving parliament is generating political conflict at the regional level. Itar-Tass reports:
The Odessa Regional Council, the first in Ukraine since the beginning of the political crisis, will discuss at its next meeting a vote of no confidence to Governor Ivan Plachkov, who started in the Odessa Region preparations for new parliamentary elections.
All of the oblast governors signed a statement supporting the President’s decree–not surprisingly, as under Ukraine’s centralized political structure, the governors are appointed by the President.* The councils, on the other hand, are elected. Odessa is among the regions where Prime Minister Yanukovych has his base, having won almost two thirds of the vote there in the final round of the election in which Yushchekno was elected president.
* In both area and population, Ukraine is one of the largest countries in the world to be both a unitary state and a democracy. (And yes, Ukraine is a democracy, albeit a troubled one at this juncture.)
I have updated my previous planting on the Benin legislative election. The short story is that alliance supporting President Boni has won 35 of the 83 seats and should be able to control the congress with the help of allied parties.
East Timor’s presidency is not very powerful. The system is quite similar in its formal powers to that of the country whose colony the country once was, Portugal. It is premier-presidential, which is to say that the more powerful executive posts are those of the premier and cabinet who must maintain confidence of the parliamentary majority. Even within this category, the system clearly leans parliamentary. The presidency may be more than a figurehead, but not much.
Since independence, the presidency has been held by one of the country’s most popular leaders of the independence struggle, Xanana Gusmao, who is not running in this election. Gusmao governed as an independent, facing a parliament–and thus premiers–controlled by the country’s only major political party to date, Fretilin, the former guerrilla movement that led the fight against the Indonesian occupation. (Indonesia’s military invaded the territory almost immediately after Portugal withdrew in 1975.)
East Timor is one of those countries that perhaps could benefit from a more powerful presidency. The Fretilin has been so dominant in parliament that there is hardly any effective opposition in that body. Thus the political opposition has been led by the popular president, but he has little power to be effective in resisting the government and parliament. And, with the president being personally popular, most voters presumably do not understand why he is unable to be more effective at representing them.
In this election, it is not clear who might win, with eight candidates, three of them given decent chances (see the BBC link above). One of the leading candidates is the current Prime Minister, Jose Ramos-Horta, a Nobel Prize winner and one of the founders of Fretilin. He is now following in the footsteps of Xanana, running as the anti-Fretilin independent. Meanwhile, Xanana is positioning himself to take up the post of Prime Minister if his supporters can do well in parliamentary elections later this year.
So, this year’s elections could see a game of musical chairs, with the current incumbents exchanging positions. If Xanana can break the dominance of Fretilin, East Timor might even have effective two-party or multiparty politics in parliament, even while it would continue to have an independent politician heading a weak presidency.
Thanks to Alan for the prompt to post this and to Nicole A. (student in my Institutional Engineering course last year), whose paper and presentation are the source of much of what I know about East Timorese institutions. Neither Alan nor Nicole can be held responsible for any misunderstandings the above may demonstrate on my part.
The deadlock in Ukraine continues. President Viktor Yushchenko claims that until the Constitutional Court rules, his decree calling early parliamentary elections (set for 27 May) should remain in effect. That is a remarkable claim, as it means that his decree would be presumed valid until declared otherwise, even though it takes quite an expansive reading of the constitution to find a dissolution power among the president’s unilateral capacities.
Meanwhile, the international press continues to say things like Prime Minister Viktor “Yanukovich staged a remarkable [post-Orange Revolution] comeback in Ukraine’s last parliamentary election.”
Pardon me for continuing to fail to see anything remarkable in Yanukovych’s party going from (an almost certainly inflated) 41.4% in the first round of the presidential election of 2004 (and 45.9% in the runoff) to 32.1% of the total vote, or 41.4% of the above-threshold vote, in the 2006 parliamentary election.
Does knowing the names of candidates on the lists jeopardize the very concept of party-list representation? In an argument I have seen nowhere else, Alioden Dalaig, director of the law department of the Philippine Commission on Elections (Comelec) says so. Further, he says:
The Philippines Party-List Law is certainly unusual. Some sources call the Philippines lower-house electoral system “parallel,” but it is not–at least in the usually understood sense of two tiers, one elected by plurality voting and the other employing the principle of proportional representation (with no linkage between the two tiers). A feature of Cory Aquino’s rather hastily assembled 1987 constitution, the electoral law for the lower house of Congress remains mostly plurality in single-seat districts. The party-list component that was added–shall I say grafted?–on to the existing FPTP system is, for reasons noted below, not PR, even for the small number of seats elected from party lists (twenty percent of all the seats in the lower house).
The Law is claimed to be a means of allowing “marginalized and underrepresented sectors, organizations and parties, and who lack well-defined political constituencies” to gain seats if they clear 2% of the national vote. However, it sets a cap of a mere three seats that any of these parties may win (regardless of vote percentage).
Not exactly a mechanism for encouraging party-building or even approximating proportional representation. Rather, it would best be described as segmented representation–on both dimensions. On the interparty dimension, major parties (whether national or regionally concentrated) win seats in the nominal/plurality tier, while very small “parties” win (limited) representation in the party-list tier. On the intraparty dimension, given the weak organization of most Philippine parties, candidates are all important in the single-seat districts. But candidates in the party list tier are to be kept hidden from public view!
The title of this planting is identical to one at PoliBlog, and the context of what follows will be more clear if you head over there and read Steven’s very thoughtful post, criticizing some (including one of his readers) who prefer a more “authoritarian” (or I might say “Latin American“) variant of elected presidency.
In fact, what is below is simply a comment I posted at PB, but which seemed appropriate here (and happens to be the topic of a talk I am giving today):
Donâ€™t forget that Madison was not only a congressional supremacist, but a House supremacist. Federalist 10, written before the Convention, is all about making a single chamber dominant over an â€œextended republicâ€ because only by having one deliberative body that balances the â€œpassions and interestsâ€ of a large community can the danger of â€œfactionâ€ (majority or minority) be checked.
When he put this into practice through his proposed constitution (known as the Virginia Plan), the executive would have been selected by Congress. Both houses of congress would have had membership based on state population, and Senators were to be elected by the House, out of nominations sent by the respective state legislatures. There was no veto as we know it, though the President could have convened a Council of Revision (judges) to consider whether a bill was constitutional. Even if it said it was not, a majority (not two thirds, but 50%+1) could override the Council’s veto attempt.
Federalist 51 came only afterwards, once Madisonâ€™s effort to implement the Virginia Plan was thwarted by small states, which preferred to demolish the whole concept of the Union rather than surrender their equality of representation in at least one house of congress. Only when thwarted did Madison turn to institutional checks and balances, as a way to invigorate the executive (though not as much as authoritarians like Honzaâ€“or Alito, for that matter) would like, against a congress that no longer looked like the one Madison wanted in Federalist 10.
Thus one can be a House supremacist and a Madisonian. Just as Madison himself was.
The above leans heavily on an excellent chapter on Madison’s political theory by my colleague, Sam Kernell.
Ukraine’s political crisis, which has been building for months, has taken a dramatic turn with President Viktor Yushchenko’s decision to dissolve parliament and call new elections for 27 May.
Yushchenko’s main rival and current Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych has called the move a coup.
Yushchenko and Yanukovych have been in an uneasy “cohabitation” forced upon the President when one of his erstwhile “Orange Revolution” allies, the Socialist Party, joined with Yanukovych after the parliamentary elections in March, 2006.
The crisis shows the continuing disagreement about the scope of the powers of the president and the parliament. After the Orange Revolution, the rival Viktors agreed to a series of constitutional amendments that stripped the presidency of initiative in the appointment or dismissal of the Prime Minister and cabinet, placing that power in whatever majority forms within parliament. However, the presidency retained its veto (requiring two thirds to override), and appointment power over some ministries and other officials. (With his veto, the President was able to block the 2007 budget that the Prime Minister’s coalition had passed.) This arrangement, with a cabinet dependent primarily on parliament but the latter facing a veto-wielding presidency, was sure to be unstable, especially in the absence of well established political parties.
The uncertainties over the precise balance of presidential and prime-ministerial powers and the weakness of political parties have both played into the generation of this moment of crisis. Parliament last year passed a Law on the Cabinet over the head of Yushchenko’s veto. While in some ways the law merely institutionalized the agreements made in the wake of the Orange Revolution regarding the shift of most control over the cabinet to the parliamentary majority, the President objected that it went farther in depriving him of authority than what the amended constitution called for. (Please see the discussion of the cabinet law that I participated in over at the Orange Ukraine blog.)
As for the parties, Yanukovych has succeeded in wooing (buying?) individual MPs from even Yushchenko’s own party. The President has claimed that the party defections are unconstitutional. It seems (from my perspective) a stretch to make such an argument.* Nonetheless, clearly the spirit behind the shift to a single national district, closed-list PR, system for the 2006 elections was for parties to take precedence over individuals, who (by design) now have no personal accountability to voters or geographic subunits. The defections are reminders that while one can make candidates and legislators dependent for their election and reelection on party leaders, it is hard to legislate strong parties, and there is never a guarantee that MPs won’t find tempting the offers of leaders in parties other than the one on whose list they were elected.
As much as I dislike saying so, I think Yanukovych almost certainly has the constitutional argument on his side. I see no provision for early elections, other than as a result of failures of the parliamentary parties themselves to create a governing majority. Clearly, there is no such issue here. This indeed does look like a coup attempt by the President.
What I find particularly puzzling is why Yushchenko would want new elections. Given the absence of any trend in favor of the Orange forces over recent elections–even through the Orange Revolution itself–his prospects for significantly improving his position in a new parliamentary election would seem bleak. The table below shows the 2002, 2004, and 2006 results. It was originally part of a post-election analysis I did in this space, and at the previous planting there is some discussion of the patterns.
Click the image to open a larger format in a new window.
Note: I have covered Ukraine, a country have a strong personal passion for, off an on since the earliest days of this blog. Just click on the country name at the top of this entry and scroll for topics of possible interest.
It really is spring. Sure, we had a (light) frost as recently as last Wednesday, 28 March–the latest I have ever seen one around these parts. But I have apple trees and even cherry trees (I mean, even Bing cherry) blooming. The full moon of Aviv (OK, Nisan) is about to rise. And baseball season has begun!!
It is appropriate that the start of baseball and Pesach should coincide, as baseball is the most Jewish of sports.
By way of Independent On-Line (South Africa), preliminary returns from Benin’s legislative elections show President Thomas Boni Yayi’s coalition will control the National Assembly.
Control of parliament, previously dominated by the political elite which Yayi swept aside after winning last year’s presidential election, is key to reforms in the cotton-producing country, including a crackdown on graft.
With results from Saturday’s poll still due from some areas, Yayi’s Cowrie Forces for an Emerging Benin (FCBE) coalition had won 35 of the 83 seats in parliament, and could take control with its minor allies and without the rival Alliance for a Dynamic Democracy (ADD).
(Emerging Benin and Dynamic Democracy! Party naming just isn’t what it used to be.)
When the full results are available by district, I will break them down. I suspect that the low magnitude results in a fairly personalized politics, even though the system is closed-list PR in which most party lists are actually electing only one or two members. If so, then the actual effects and incentives of the electoral system would be rather more like SNTV than PR.
attempted to evade the constitutional two-term limit in 2006 by claiming that there wasn’t enough money to finance a general election. After that dodge was thwarted by a coalition of businessmen who offered to finance the vote themselves, Kerekou bowed out gracefully.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees says 30 per cent of the 1.8 million Iraqis who have fled to Jordan, Syria and elsewhere come from the minorities. The Christians, who have lived in Iraq for 2,000 years, survived the Muslim invasion in the 7th century and the Mongol onslaught in the 13th but are now being eradicated as their churches are bombed and members of their faith hunted down and killed along with other minority faiths. [...]
…half of the minority communities in Iraq, once 10 per cent of the total population, have fled. They include Mandaeans, whose main prophet is John the Baptist and Yazidis whose religion is an offshoot of Zoroastrianism and may be 4,000 years old. [...]
The so-called Faili, or Shia Kurds, who were stripped of their belongings under the old regime and expelled to Iran are now being forced to run again – forced out of Shia areas such as Sadr City because they are Kurds and Sunni cities such as Baquba, because they are Shia.
The small Jewish community, whose members arrived in chains as slaves, has been all but destroyed by persecution and the pervasive suspicion that Jews have collaborated with the US-led invaders. [...]
Christians are frequent targets of kidnappers because they are thought to be rich and to have no militia or tribe to protect them. Mandaeans are traditionally jewellers and goldsmiths and this again makes them attractive targets for abduction. [...]
One of the worst affected minorities is the small, 35,000-strong Palestinian community, many of whom had been in Iraq since 1948. Seen as being under the special protection of Saddam Hussein, they have suffered severely since his fall.
How will those responsible for this humanitarian disaster that has followed the destruction of the Iraqi state atone for what they have done?
The above excerpts are from an item that originally appeared in The Independent on 26 February; my source was The Jews of Lebanon.
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