As expected, the Turkish parliament has refused the outgoing president’s veto of its amendment that would adopt, among other things, direct presidential elections. Thanks to BBC Monitoring* and the Lexis-Nexis subscription, I have finally seen an overview of some of the details of the amendments.
First of all, the president would be elected by two-round majority, and would be eligible for two five-year terms. (Currently the president is elected by parliament for a single seven-year term.) The first round of voting in Turkey’s first direct presidential election would be held within 40 days of the promulgation of the amendments.
The term of parliament would be cut from five years to four. Another article of the amendment package would reduce the quorum required for parliament to conduct business to 184 deputies (one third of the membership).
The president can still delay this amendment further by calling a referendum (which would be quite likely to pass). He cannot veto the package again or propose further amendments to it.
If there is a referendum, the package of items referred to above will be voted as a single question, according to the BBC Monitoring article. However, there is yet another twist regarding timing:
If the law reduces the lead time for a referendum from 120 days to 40 days as has been earlier disclosed, then the referendum cannot be held in time before the 22 July elections. The lead time for a referendum must be reduced to less than 40 days in order to hold the referendum before 22 July. If the 120-day period cannot be reduced but the constitutional amendments go into effect in the meantime, a referendum can be held only in October 2007 [sentence as published]. If the lead time amendment cannot be implemented by 22 July, then the constitutional amendments may become void. When a new parliament is elected, bills that could not be put into effect by the previous parliament are considered void. [bracketed text before this was in the original BBC item.]
There was yet another article to amend the constitution that passed in May, separate from the larger package. This article would make the election of independents candidates more difficult. It is complex, so I will quote a passage from BB Monitoring:
In response to the decision by the DTP [Democratic Society Party] to run in the elections using independent candidates, the AKP withdrew its measure to implement in the coming elections the amendment reducing the minimum age for election to parliament to 25 and, with the support of the CHP, enacted a constitutional amendment that will place the names of the independent candidates on the single composite ballot slip. Although the number of votes for this amendment was much higher than the 330-367 interval that would require a referendum, the president can still veto it and require that it go to a referendum.
DEHAP [Democratic People's Party] won 1,933,000 votes in November 2002 but still could not clear the national electoral threshold. As a result, the AKP and CHP were able to capture nearly 40 “extra” seats in the Assembly. The AKP and CHP think that it would be easier for independent candidates to get elected if voters are presented with individual ballot slips that have only their names on them and that this “opens the way to manipulation” in the East and the Southeast. By including the names of the independent candidates in a lengthy ballot slip, the AKP and CHP hope to stop the DTP [from gaining substantial number of seats in the Assembly].
Several of these provisions concern question that either I posted previously or others have raised in the comments. (Click on “Turkey” above to see the previous discussions.)
While parliamentary elections are set for 22 July, it looks unlikely that the first round of presidential elections could be the same date, as the ruling AK party had hoped. The veto by the current “mostly ceremonial” president may make a difference in the outcome of this showdown over the selection of a president and the extent of authority the AKP ultimately will have.
A concluding question for which I do not have the answer: Can the AKP, which won its parliamentary majority on only a third of the votes (thanks to the 10% threshold and opposition fragmentation), win a nationwide majority for its presidential candidate? Apparently they think so.
* BBC Monitoring Europe – Political, 13 May, 2007.
In a province with a history of lopsided majorities, Prince Edward Island’s FPTP electoral system has again produced a grossly exaggerated seat bonus for the leading party. The opposition Liberals have defeated the governing Conservatives, 23 seats to 4. That’s a governing party with more than 85% of the seats and an opposition hardly able to function as such. This just so happens to be an exact reversal of the seat balance from the 2003 election.
The votes breakdown was as follows (with that of 2003 in parentheses):
Liberal 52.9 (42.7)
Cons. 41.3 (54.3)
NDP 2.0 (3.1)
Green 3.0 (0)
This graph from my FPTP analysis files shows the tendency of this electoral system to exaggerate vote pluralities. (The graph ends with 2003.)
The upper reddish line shows the vote difference over time between the two leading parties. Elections have only sporadically been close in votes (this one was expected to be, but again was not). The lower green-colored line shows the deviation from the expected seat share of the second party (based on the seat-vote equation), with zero deviation represented by the grey horizontal line. That the second party tends to be so under-represented–even relative to the normal expectation for parties with these actual votes ratios and with such a small assembly–shows that today’s result is by no means unusual for the province. Nor does it matter which party is the second party: the effect is systemic.
PEI certainly would be a good candidate for reform, but colorful though the Island’s political culture is, reformist it is not. In fact, the voters rejected an independent commission’s proposal for a rather modest form of mixed-member proportional (MMP) system in November, 2005.
The Turkish left is attempting to unite for the upcoming elections. From Today’s Zaman:
RahÅŸan Ecevit, the widow of former Prime Minister and Democratic Leftist Party (DSP) founder BÃ¼lent Ecevit, hailed the party’s decision to unite forces with the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) for the upcoming elections and set out a list of tough expectations that, if followed, would reverse the reformist policies of the past years. [...]
The CHP and the DSP finally responded to voters’ wishes to unite forces and unveiled on Thursday a decision to form an election pact in hope that this will help unseat the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party).
The CHP currently has 151 seats in parliament. The DSP has none.
Under the deal the DSP will preserve its separate identity, but its candidates will be put on the CHP party list to improve their chances of winning seats.
Concerned that the union could lead to the destruction of the DSP, the partyâ€™s leader Zeki Sezer said he would not run for Parliament in the CHP list and would instead remain DSP leader, in hope of preserving its distinct identity.
Well, good luck with that. In a closed-list environment, it is a challenge for a party to make a pre-election pact, especially with a far stronger partner, yet retain its “distinct identity.”
Fianna Fail, the party of current Prime Minister Berie Ahern, has retained its plurality of seats in Ireland’s general elections, with 78 out of the total of 166. That is a decline of three seats from 2002. Coalition partner, Progressive Democrats, won 2 seats, down from 8 (and its leader was defeated). Thus the incumbent government was not reelected.
The main potential alternative coalition would be Fine Gael (51, +20 from 2002!), Labour (20, no change), and Green (6, no change). Obviously, even though Fine Gael is the big gainer here, their coalition is likewise short of a majority.
The Irish Times notes that the Greens could offer support for Ahern. Greens leader, Trevor Sargent:
We’re open to talk to everybody. But anyone who wants to talk to us, I’d advise them to read our manifesto and policies first.
There are also five independent members, as well as 4 members from Sinn Fein (-1 from 2002). As if there had been any doubt, Ahern explicitly ruled Sinn Fein out as a partner the day before the election. As for the independents one of them is noted in the Irish Times article as preferring Fine Gael, but willing to work with Ahern. They could be pivotal if Ahern can’t or prefers not to work out a deal with the Greens. Unlike the Greens, the independents are less likely to demand significant programmatic concessions. In any event, the independents’ presence could reduce the Green’s bargaining leverage substantially.
Ireland is, of course, the land of STV. Exact seat totals could vary when all counting is complete, but probably not by much. Then again, this is one of those elections when the ultimate shape of the government may be decided by “not much.”
The vote percentages–based on the party label of voters’ first-preference candidates–were:
Fianna Fail, 41.6 (almost the same as 2002)
Fine Gael, 27.3 (+5)
Sinn Fein, 6.9
Note how the workings of preference transfers appear to have played a role in the Greens having more seats than the extremist Sinn Fein, even though the latter had almost three-percentage points more first-preference votes. The Fine Gael seat increase of 12 percentage points when their votes went up by only five points also suggests success in attracting second (and lower) preferences. STV in action!
Sure, this year’s Yankee team is barely keeping itself above the Devil Rays, and, sure, the Angels are the one AL team with a winning record over the past decade (and then some) in Yankee Stadium. Still, getting a sweep there is a lot of fun!
K-Rod made the ninth inning interesting for the Bronx faithful these last two days.
Sean Connery, noted political commentator, hails the great triumph of the Scottish National Party in the op-ed pages of the Washington Post.
This is a historic week for Scotland. The country’s new first minister met Queen Elizabeth — Queen of England and Queen of Scots — at Holyrood Palace on Thursday. This was the first time Her Majesty has met the leader of a Scottish government who is committed to Scotland rejoining the community of nations as an equal and independent partner. [...]
Scots voted for optimism. They voted for change. They voted for progress.
This morning’s LA Times contains a brief note about the snapping of Orlando Cabrera’s 15-game hitting streak. It was the second streak of 15 or more games by an Angels shortstop since 1973, the other having been by David Eckstein. Big deal. What’s striking here is the implication that there was such a streak in 1973. And I am having a really hard time with the idea that Rudy Meoli ever could have had a hitting streak of three games, let along fifteen.
Replanting of an earlier entry, extended due to new developments
According to the Central Election Commission, just five lists submitted complete packages necessary to run lists in the upcoming early legislative elections (set tentatively now for 24 June30 September):
All Ukrainian Party of Peopleâ€™s Confidence,
Peopleâ€™s Movement of Ukraine (Rukh)
â€œGreen Ecologists â€“ Rayduha /Rainbow/â€ electoral bloc of political parties,
Our Ukraine Peopleâ€™s Union (NSNU) political party, and
â€œYulia Tymoshenko Blocâ€ electoral bloc of political parties.
Five lists would be a massive drop-off from the March, 2006, elections. In that election, there were 45 different lists and more than one fifth of votes cast went to lists that failed to clear the 3% threshold in Ukraine’s single national district election. In that election, only five lists cleared the threshold, including two (Socialists and Communists) that have not registered their own lists this time. (The Socialist leader, Oleksander Moroz, is a significant power-broker and speaker of the parliament, who surprisingly threw his support behind Victor Yanukovych for the premiership, so I would guess he is running on Yanukovych’s list this time.)
A smaller number of entrants in 2007–were it to hold (see discussion below)–could have an impact on the balance of forces in the new parliament, although I am not sure in which direction. My hunch is in favor of Yushchenko or Tymoshenko more than in favor of prime minister Victor Yanukovych. (Note: “hunch” not “prediction.”)
Meanwhile, the Yushchenko-Yanukovych seriously escalated at week’s end, with the president issuing a decree to assume control of the interior security forces from the cabinet. The prime minister vowed to defy the order, which was a response to the Interior Minister’s use of the troops to try to prevent another presidential decree–this one dismissing the state prosecutor–from taking effect.
With today’s (27 May) agreement on an election date, the crisis appears to be over–at least for now. Things got very tense:
The president summoned thousands of troops to Ukraine’s capital Saturday, but forces loyal to the nation’s prime minister stopped them outside Kiev.
Yushchenko wanted the elections earlier than Yanukovych did, so we could conclude that Yanukovych won this latest showdown.
The Guardian story, just quoted, continues to miss the point about the general continuity of the trend away from the Yanukovych bloc in Ukrainian politics–a point I have emphasized many times. The story, referring to the March, 2006, parliamentary elections that followed by just over a year the election of Yushchenko amidst the Orange Revolution, states:
Yanukovych staged a remarkable political comeback. In last year’s parliamentary elections, his party won the largest share of seats, apparently benefiting from wide voter dissatisfaction with the country’s stalled reforms and internecine political sparring.
Of course, there was no such benefit; in fact, Yanukovych suffered quite an electoral defeat in March, 2006, as even a rather casual look at the results of recent elections will show. In the runoff re-vote in 2005, Yanukovych won 45.9% of the national vote. He had won 41.4% in the first round, a figure that was almost certainly inflated by fraud. In March, 2006, his party won 32.1%. Some benefit from “voter dissatisfaction”! Some comeback!
Yanukovych’s actual comeback–that is, his being named prime minister last August after the Yuschchenko-Tymoshenko-Moroz coalition broke up–is entirely attributable to failures of coordination among the Orange parties. And whether they can coordinate during and after the upcoming election campaign will determine their ability to reinstate their coalition. It remains unlikely there will be much vote swing between the camps represented by the president and premier.
A key indicator of the extent of coordination will come soon. With the election being delayed, the list registration process may be reopened (and so may talks on changing the election rules themselves, as alluded to above). If the process is re-opened, will more lists enter? And if so, will the entry of new lists further divide the Orange bloc? Stay tuned.
We currently live in the most difficult of times for guarding against an expanding central government with a steady erosion of our freedoms. We are continually being reminded that 9/11 has changed everything.
Unfortunately, the policy that needed most to be changed, that is, our policy of foreign interventionism, has only been expanded. There is no pretense any longer that a policy of humility in foreign affairs, without being the world’s policemen and engaging in nation building, is worthy of consideration.
We now live in a post-9/11 America where our government is going to make us safe no matter what it takes. We are expected to grin and bear it and adjust to every loss of our liberties in the name of patriotism and security.
I can’t endorse everything Rep. Paul says at that link or elsewhere–far from it. I am a left-libertarian, after all, and he is a right-libertarian. But in his clear articulation of liberty and genuine patriotism over statism and imperialism, Ron is right indeed.
He has no more chance at the Republican nomination than the leading libertarian in the Democratic Party has of getting his party’s nomination. (Another reminder, if one were necessary, of why we need institutions that promote multiparty politics, so these relatively lone voices can be amplified in Congress by the votes of those of us outside their safe districts.) For standing up to the authoritarians of his own party, Mr Paul deserves encouragement.
Update: No surprises. The NDP won easily (36 seats on 47.7% to the Conservatives’ 19 on 38.2%), the Liberals held their two seats and again won just over 12% of the vote;, the Greens managed only 1.3% of the vote (and came in second, but farther behind than in 2003, in Wolesley).
If you are keeping score, that’s a â€“1.5% vote swing away from the NDP, yet a one-seat gain.
Voters have been going to the polls today in Manitoba’s provincial legislative election, although apparently not in great numbers early in the day. As is often the case under first-past-the-post systems, only a few districts (or ridings) are in play. The CBC has a list of them, noting that:
A few thousand votes in a dozen key ridings decide which party forms government in Manitoba â€” and all eyes are pinned to them on election night.
The two main parties are the incumbent New Democratic Party (the third party Canada-wide, but obviously a major party in Manitoba), which is seeking a third consecutive term, and the Progressive Conservatives. Each has roughly twenty safe districts.
If a recent Angus Reid poll is accurate, it is not much of a race provincewide:
(616 respondents, 17-19 May, MoE 3.9%)
That would represent little change from the last provincial election, in 2003, when the NDP beat the Conservatives in votes, 49.2-36.9 and in seats, 35-20. In 2003, the Liberals won 12.8% of the votes and two seats (leaving 1.1% for various others); evidently some of Manitoba’s potential Liberal electorate is considering sending a message by voting Green.
The Greens have candidates in 15 ridings, including four that are on the CBC list of most competitive ridings. CBC even gives the Green candidate a chance of winning one of those (Wolseley, in central Winnipeg, where the party won 20% in 2003).
The Manitoba electoral system is a fairly unremarkable FPTP system. This is not one of the provinces where an electoral-reform movement is likely to spread like a prairie fire, at least unless something very unusual happens when results are in later tonight.
The graph below is a Manitoba variant of a format that appears in a paper of mine on reform in FPTP systems (but Manitoba is not shown in the paper, due to its being so unremarkable).
The upper broken reddish line shows the vote difference over time between the two leading parties–not since the 1980s has Manitoba had a run of close elections, during a period when the Liberals were challenging for major-party status. The lower green-colored line shows the deviation from the expected seat share of the second party (based on the seat-vote equation), with zero deviation represented by the grey horizontal line.
When the Conservatives were in power, the NDP was quite over-represented relative to the FPTP “norm” for a second party of its size. Presumably this resulted from the NDP’s relative concentration around Winnipeg, so that it continued to win those 20 or so strongholds mentioned above, even as its provincewide votes lagged.
Now that the Conservatives are the second party, they have received close to the expected share in 1999 and 2003, albeit with some uptick in the more recent election. Barring a surprise in the result, the main thing I will be watching is whether the Conservatives improve their seat payoff or fall back to where they were in 1999–and, of course, whether the Green wins Wolseley.
A president, impeached by 75% of members of parliament present and voting, then winning a renewed “mandate” from 75% of the voters (despite a very low turnout). This is the stuff that Linzian nightmare scenarios are made of: clashes over “dual democratic legitimacy.”
[President Traian] Basescu has said his opponents initiated the impeachment process to stop his pro-reform and anticorruption drive.
He said today that the result of the referendum shows Romania needs a new constitution which would eliminate ambiguities.
Basescu also said that the vote showed the public’s support for his agenda, including a lustration law against those who served the former communist regime at high level.
“The time has come to have a constitution for Romanians, not for politicians,” he said. “I would say that this vote also proves that Romanians want a lustration law. Seventy-five percent of those who voted were in favor of those [ideas] promoted by me, and only 25 percent were in favor of those 322 [legislators who voted for the suspension].”
Basescu has been locked in a long-running, bitter power struggle with liberal Prime Minister Calin Popescu Tariceanu, a former ally.
Basescu has accused Tariceanu of shielding corrupt politicians, and the new business elites that enriched themselves during transition from communism to a market economy.
Tariceanu, in turn, has said Basescu has an autocratic style and insatiable “thirst for power.”
Mircea Geoana, leader of the Social Democratic Party, adds:
The low turnout does not give Traian Basescu the right to claim that he enjoys the people’s support… From this point of view, Traian Basescu’s victory is a victory without glory
As Turkey prepares for a parliamentary election, triggered by the deadlock over the attempted election of a president by the current parliament, the parties turn their attention to the mobilization of voters. I have noted before that the current AKP majority is based on barely over a third of the votes. It counts as one of the largest manufactured majorities anywhere in recent decades. Not only does the ruling party enjoy a majority on far less than half the votes, it also is barely short of two thirds of the seats. Many electoral systems distort the votes-to-seats conversion process in favor of the plurality. However, most of those that do so are FPTP systems. For instance, the British Labour Party currently enjoys a comfortable majority of seats on only around 35% of the votes.
Whatever one’s position on the question of the desirability of close approximation of partisan vote and seat shares (and even the most casual glance at F&V makes clear my own position on that question), such overrepresentation is much more easily justified on democratic grounds when the electoral system is nominal in character, as is FPTP. In a nominal system, voters are choosing a legislator in a local district and, no matter how strong the normal party discipline in Westminster-type parliamentary systems, the representation of parties in parliament remains fundamentally centered around locally accountable individual members of parliament.
In Turkey, however, as we shall see, even local accountability is limited. Not only is the electoral system one of (apparently closed) party lists, rather than nominal votes for locally elected and accountable members. More significantly, it has a very high national threshold, notwithstanding the existence of numerous regional multiseat districts.
Additionally, a nationwide threshold can introduce disproportionality, but it has the potential advantage of ensuring that parliamentary blocs meet a minimum size, while ensuring that all parties that cross the threshold are treated fairly. Most list-based electoral systems with nationwide thresholds result in each represented party having about the same advantage ratio (% seats/% votes) as every other. We can expect voters and politicians alike to adapt to such thresholds, with the result that strategic entry (of parties) and strategic voting kick in, and few parties just fail to meet the threshold. Instead of strategic voting district-by-district, as occurs in FPTP systems, it is strategic voting based on expected national party vote shares. That’s perfectly consistent with the competing-parties logic of list systems.
Turkey’s electoral system really has the worst of all of these provisions. On the one hand, manufactured majorities, but without the local and individual accountability of members. On the other hand, a nationwide threshold, but in the context of exclusively district-based allocation of seats. Unlike many two-tier proportional systems, in which seats are allocated first at a local multiseat district, and the threshold is applied to national (or regional) compensation seats after the local results are known, in Turkey the nationwide threshold is applied first.
The Turkish system has local competition in self-contained districts–79 of them in all (for an average magnitude of around 7)–but the seats in these races are allocated only after the nationwide votes are tabulated and it is determined which parties have cleared the nationwide threshold. And that threshold is high, at 10%. This is the highest threshold I have ever seen, but I want to keep the stress here not on the absolute magnitude of the threshold (significant though that is), but on its unusual application in a way that overrides the local accountability otherwise implied by a system based on medium-sized local districts.1
This is a genuinely perverse system. It often results in districts being represented only by the parties that placed third and fourth, simply because the leading parties in the district did not have 10% of the national vote. For instance, in Afyon, the AKP won 6 of the 7 seats on 42.6% of the vote. The seventh seat was won by a party with only the fourth highest local vote total. With a more typical d’Hondt PR allocation of the seats, the AK would have won four seats, and each of three other parties would have won one each.
Or take Agri, where the AKP won three of five seats on a mere 17.6% of the vote. The leading party in the district, the DHP, had 35% of the vote, yet won no seats. Two seats were won by the CHP, despite its having only 9.6% of the vote. The DHP was similarly shortchanged in Van, where it won 40.9% of the votes but no seats, while the AKP won 6 of the 7 seats on only 25.8% and the fourth-place CHP the other seat on just 5.2%.
In Ardahan, the AKP had the fourth highest vote total (11.7%), yet won one of the two seats, while parties with 18% and 15.8% went without representation.
The Turkish electoral law allows legislators to be elected on local strength if the candidate runs as an independent. The district of Sirnak offers a good demonstration of the impact of this provision. There, one independent was elected with just over 10,000 votes (9.7%), while a party with just over 1,500 more votes than the independent won no seats. Oh, and incidentally, another party had over 47,000 votes and elected no one. (In this district, the AKP won two seats on 14,512 votes.) The Sirnak example gave rise to a case before the European Court of Human Rights.
Earlier this year, the Court ruled that the Turkish electoral law was not in violation of Article 3 of Protocol No. 1 to the European Convention on Human Rights.2 Two candidates had alleged that the 10% threshold’s exclusion of parties who won more votes locally than other parties or independents who won seats “interfered with the free expression of the opinion of the people in their choice of the legislature.”
Whether it is a human rights violation or not, the exclusion of all votes cast for parties that fail to cross the nationwide threshold obviously lowers significantly the threshold at the district level for non-party candidates. Another example, the district of Sanliufra, is perhaps even more egregious. There an independent won with only 4.4% of the district vote while three parties with more than 10% (including one with more than 19%) went unrepresented. (Three seats in Sanliufra were won by the CHP on 9.9%.)
The low threshold for independents makes me wonder why more candidates do not run as independents, clandestinely backed by locally strong parties that might not pass the threshold. (I assume there are privileges in the electoral law for registered parties that discourage the practice.)3
Turkey’s electoral results clearly show a pattern of significant regional variation in the vote. As in many developing countries, national fragmentation masks considerable local bailiwicks of strong support for nationally minor parties. Yet the electoral system completely fails to represent this reality of Turkish regionalism.
Is the Turkish electoral system democratic? I think a strong case can be made that it is not.
1. It is actually a good deal more complex. From the IPU description, we find that there are several restrictions on parties:
Party-list proportional representation system using the d’Hondt method, with restricted options and a double barrier (at the local and national level). Accordingly, a candidate from a political party can only be elected if the party (a) is fully organized in at least half of the provinces and one- third of the districts within these provinces; (b) has nominated two candidates for each parliamentary seat in at least half of the provinces; (c) has obtained at least 10% of the valid votes cast nationwide; and (d) has received, in the constituency in question, valid votes at least equal to the applicable simple electoral quotient. Subject to certain conditions and exceptions, vacancies arising between general elections are filled through by-elections. Voting is compulsory, abstention being punishable by a fine. [Emphasis mine]
3. In addition, it appears that it may simply be difficult for independents to obtain votes. A story in the IHT sent to me by one of my students, notes that independent candidates must pass out their own ballots. Apparently, the official state-provided ballots list only the parties. The story actually gives the impression that this makes it easier for independents. I don’t think so (and neither does my student). Maybe for a very well organized campaign, but otherwise, it has to be easier for a voter to obtain the official ballot and select one of the options already depicted on it. Besides, if the provision made it easier, we would expect to see many more independents, because running as an independent bypasses the risk that one’s party might not clear 10% nationally. (And, again, there is also the possibility that there are other legal provisions that give incentives to run as a party, such as campaign finance or the allocation of parliamentary rights.)
On 19 May, Romanians vote in a referendum that will decide the fate of their impeached president, Traian Basescu. Parliament, in joint sitting of its two chambers, voted to suspend the president on 20 April by a vote of 322-108. Under the Romanian constitution, the decision on whether to remove the president from office or reinstate him rests with the electorate. RFE/RL has a good background report on the crisis, which arises from conflicts within the dual executive structure of Romania’s semi-presidential system, and charges and counter-charges of corruption. SEEurope.net has a timeline. And I have previously provided some context in a discussion of the party realignments that took place between rounds of the presidential election in which Basescu was elected.
Basescu is expected to prevail easily. In the run-up to the referendum, demonstrations have taken place in Bucharest, such as the one shown here (via DW’s Journal program, broadcast on Link-TV this past week).
With the help of a friend who is Romanian, I can report that the sign in the center reads, “322 members of parliament thieves”, and the one on the right says “we voted for him, they suspended him.”
But the most interesting one of all to me is the sign on the left, which (rather obviously) says: “unicameral parliament, uninominal vote.” The term, uninominal, presumably refers to a call to replace Romania’s closed-list PR electoral system (used in both houses) with a single-seat district system.
Regarding the cameral structure, apparently Basescu in 2005 called for a referendum on unicameralism, although it has not occurred. If he indeed wins big over parliament on Saturday, one might expect various institutional reforms to follow.
With the first deciduous tree fruits of the season (the ‘Earlitreat’ peach) already harvested (they were especially good this year!) and most of the other deciduous trees fully leafed out and developing their fruit for the coming season, there are a few stragglers down in the corralito. Here we are in the middle of May, and one peach tree is still in bloom.
This is the “mystery flat peach” that I have written about before (note the developing fruit along with the blooms). Its late blooming only adds to the mystery.
Some of the apples, such as this one, espaliered in the corner, also are only beginning to leaf out.
Having any deciduous fruits still not well on their spring growth patterns this late is unusual–especially this year. A deciduous tree blooming and leafing out late often is a sign of inadequate chill. The trees depicted here (and some others) are always late, but this is ridiculous. And there is no way that chilling was inadequate this past winter!
Yesterday, 29 Iyar, Day 44 of the Omer and thus six days from Shavuot, I emerged from the mikveh a member of the People Israel. For some of you reading this, the only surprise is that I was not already a Jew. Others may not even care; you come here, after all, for the Fruits and the Votes and not for “religion.” Fair enough. I won’t tell my life story here, or even delve much into the reasons for taking such a momentous and personal step. My wife of 15 years is a Jew and I have identified with the Jewish People for some time. Now the Jewish People formally identify with me, as well. And Judaism is a communal religion (and much, much more than a religion) and thus a public declaration is part of the process. Or so it should be. And what better public forum than my blog? (more…)
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