Midterm congressional and local elections are held today in the Philippines. Opposition candidates are expected to do well–as is often the case with midterm elections in presidential systems.
You have to love the first paragraph of this morning’s LA Times story:
Lured by ladies’ underwear, herring, free insurance and other gifts, millions of voters cast ballots today in a midterm election the opposition hopes will strengthen efforts to impeach President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
I don’t know about you, but I’d vote for the candidate offering the herring.
Most of the seats in the lower house of congress are elected by FPTP. The Senate is elected nationwide by multiple nontransferable vote (MNTV, sometimes miseladingly known as bloc vote). The Philippines is notorious for its weak parties and personalized campaigns. The article refers to one candidate, Manny Pacquiao, a former World Boxing Council super featherweight. He is running on the Peoples Champ Movement, which is offering free insurance policies.
The House Speaker, Jose de Valencia is under investigation for vote-buying, which his lawyer defended as follows in a letter to the National Election Commission:
There is nothing illegal, much less an act of vote-buying, in the distribution of the cards [for insurance] because they are given to party members who are already captive voters.
Despite polls showing opposition strength, don’t count out President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s Lakas Christian Muslim Democrats Party, or her allies in Team Unity, just yet.
With the Turkish parliament having been unable to elect a president in recent weeks and with new parliamentary elections having been called for July, the latest move in the constitutional tug-of-war is a proposal to amend the constitution in order that the president be elected popularly.
Currently, as in many parliamentary republics, the president has limited, but by no means trivial powers, and is elected by a procedure meant to encourage a supermajority, but not require it. For instance, the Turkish parliament needs two thirds in early ballots, but ultimately can elect a president by a majority.
If there is no majority party, the method requires cross-party agreement even if the initial supermajority threshold is not met. Turkey has the highly unusual situation of a majority party in parliament that rests on only around a third of the electorate. In fact, the majority party, the AKP, is only a few seats shy of two thirds on its own. The presidential term is currently seven years, so this is the first presidential election since the AK has been in power.
The cabinet, headed by a prime minister and dependent on confidence of the parliamentary majority, is far more powerful than the presidency. However, the presidency has some significant powers–mostly in judicial appointments, national security (where it serves as a liaison between the military and the civilian authorities), and the ability to refer bills passed by parliament to the constitutional court rather than promulgate them.
It is hardly surprising that the AK and its opponents would clash over this election. But what should we make of the proposal for direct elections? The measure won 367 votes (against 184), which is one vote shy of two thirds. This is significant, because the next move falls to–who else–the president, and his range of options depend on whether the proposal has cleared three fifths or two thirds of parliament. If the amendments are approved by two thirds, the proposal can go straight to a referendum without presidential approval. However, if it obtains less than two thirds of the votes in parliament (but at least three fifths), then the president effectively has a veto on the proposal. No referendum can be held if the president does not approve.
As is often the case with legislative procedures, the bill’s individual articles must be voted separately. The article on direct presidential elections won 370 votes–which would be good enough to convoke a referendum on the proposal over the president’s veto. However, the package–which also includes cutting parliament’s term to four years and the president’s to five (with reelection permitted), and other measures–failed to reach the required 369 votes.*
Clearly the bargaining is going to keep going on–all in the context of the upcoming parliamentary elections. And if parliament re-passes the same bill a second time (after the veto), the president must take it to a referendum (assuming I understand correctly).
A crucial question here, which I have not been able to find the answer to, is what is the method by which the president would be elected, if the amendment is ultimately approved? The AK clearly would benefit from plurality if the opposition continued to be unable to coordinate. It is less clear that it could win a runoff, given that it starts with a base of only around 34% of the vote (as of the 2002 elections).
Given that the logic of the presidency is to have a check on the parliamentary majority, and that the latter is itself manufactured by the electoral system (and fragmentation), a directly elected presidency potentially offers a greater check on the majority than does one elected by the same parliament that chooses the government. However, the AK’s behavior suggests it is confident that it can get its candidate elected president by the people where it has so far failed in parliament.
* BBC reports 376 votes, which would be two thirds. This appears to be an error. The source cited above is a Turkish news source that is a day newer than the BBC report.
In October, 2005, I commented on the intercameral differences within the Republican Congress on the question of federal grants for “homeland security.” The dispute–with the Senate favoring most of the money being divided equally among the states and the House favoring a high percentage of the disbursements being based on insured risk–is the stuff of classic bicameral policy disagreement. Insured risk tends to be roughly correlated with population, and so it is hardly a surprise that the House would prefer such a determination of where most of the money should go. The Senate, on the other hand, with its equal representation of even the smallest state, would be predicted to find the “risk” from terrorism to be about the same in Wyoming as it is in New York, and indeed that is the logic–the political logic–of its formula.
Now, fast forward to 2007. We had a change in party control, from both houses being Republican to both being Democratic. And at the moment, the chambers are once again bargaining over the formula for the distribution of homeland security grants. The proposals by each chamber again reveal the institutional biases of each chamber. But when compared to the 2005 intercameral bargaining, the 2007 proposals show even more starkly the difference between the parties and their constituencies, on this issue.
Here I compare the House and Senate proposals at each of these moments of bargaining:
2005 bills (Republican majorities)
House: 25% of funds distributed equally among states–but state must show need; most of rest allocated based on risk
Senate: 75% of funds distributed equally among states; 25% allocated according to risk
2007 bills (Democratic majorities)
House: 12.5% of funds distributed equally among states; most of rest allocated based on risk
Senate: 22.5% of funds distributed equally among states; most of rest according to risk
Wow. Good stuff!
Of course, one critical factor here is the relative sizes of the states each party draws its main support base from. That is, the parties’ positions (holding constant the chamber) are partly shaped by the same factor that separates the chambers (holding constant the parties). Consider the following breakdown of the populations of the states represented in each of these two Senates. The first column is the number of states (with half a state in each party row whenever the state delegation is split), and then the cumulative population of those states (or half states).
Note that the Republican states constituted the minority of the population even when the Republicans held the (spurious) partisan majority of the Senate. (This a theme I have covered before, in a somewhat more refined analysis with electoral data and cool graphs!)
President Bush has threatened to veto this bill over several other provisions, especially that which would extend collective bargaining rights to baggage screeners and other employees who were barred such rights when DHS was established.
We may see the first successful override vote in the House during the W years. The bill passed 299-128. However, the vote was 60-38 in the Senate. These results means a lot of Republicans in each house went with the majority, even if the non-democratic chamber will be able to sustain the minority veto in this case. What a difference it makes which party is setting the congressional agenda!
In calculating state populations by party delegation, independents are counted as if members of the party with which they caucus (here, all Democrat: Jeffords, Sanders, Lieberman); population numbers are based on 2000 census.
On the specific issue of union rights for baggage screeners, I highly recommend the thread sparked by Matthew Yglesias in early March. The discussion in the comments contains pretty much the whole gamut of hypotheses about policy-making!
Well, today is the day. The runoff in the French presidential election. It is probably a foregone conclusion. It is hard to see Royal winning this. Still, I can no more watch an election without rooting for a candidate or party than I can watch a baseball game if I don’t care which team wins. Go, Sego!!
Oh well, turns out it was not even close. It looks like Sarkozy will win, 53-47. No surprise there.
Turnout was apparently as high as it was in the first round, contrary to my guess that it might fall off (a little bit) and suggesting that even Le Pen’s supporters did not heed his call for an abstention.*
This morning’s LA Times has a story on the candidates. Unless one read very carefully–and maybe not even then–one would not know:
(1) That the incumbent, Chirac, is not a Socialist;
(2) That the center-right candidate, Sarkozy, who is promising a “new direction” in both foreign and domestic policy, is not only a member of the incumbent’s party, but has been a prominent member of the incumbent government;
(3) That the French president can do little without a compatible prime minister and cabinet; and
(4) That the identity of the prime minister and the political complexion of the cabinet will not be known till after National Assembly elections in June.
* though it is possible that any Le Pen abstainers were simply counterbalanced by some of the 15% who abstained in the first round turning out for the final decision.
The Electoral Commission announced it will conduct a full inquiry into problems with the new electronic counting system that resulted in several counts being suspended. As many as 100,000 ballots were also rejected because they were classed as spoilt papers.
These are two separate problems. The ballots are paper ballots–separate papers for the assembly (with two columns, one for the constituency vote and one for the regional party list) and the local council (ranked choice, STV). So any problem with the electronic counting should be easily resolvable: the ballots can be re-tallied by hand. However, the problem of spoiled ballots may have resulted from voter confusion: not understanding the different kinds of marks needed on each ballot (a single check in each column on the MMP ballot and ranking candidate choices on the STV ballot).
In a separate article in The Scotsman, Ken Ritchie, chief executive of the Electoral Reform Society, notes, “While the counting equipment has experienced teething problems in some areas, it is not the equipment that has caused people to make mistakes in the completion of their ballot papers.”
SNP leader Alex Salmond adds: “It is also the case that the decision to conduct an STV election at the same time as a first-past-the-post ballot for the Scottish Parliament was deeply mistaken.”
That’s right. Some degree of voter confusion may be inevitable in a first (which surely now will be the last) simultaneous use of categoric and ranked-choice ballots. Still, in examining ballot papers, some of these errors would seem recoverable.
For instance, if a voter marked a 1 (and other numbers) on the FPTP or party-list ballots, it’s pretty easy to know what the vote was intended to be (the lowest number on each side of the MMP ballot is the first–and only valid–choice on that part of the ballot). On the STV ballot, apparently voters were required to rank at least three candidates for the vote to be valid. So, if voters marked only one, there is not much that can be done. This is an unfortunate aspect of the law, and a worse decision (in my view) than the simultaneous use of MMP and STV.
In any event, I agree with Malcolm that, as bad as the failure to register so many votes in Scotland is, the bigger democratic failure yesterday was in the local councils of England. There, under FPTP and England’s increasingly multiparty system, large numbers of votes may have been literally counted (they will register in the final vote totals) but they will not count in the more fundamental sense of helping elect any candidates. The wasted votes are very high in many council races, with many councils having massive seat majorities for parties with small pluralities of the vote, or even less than a plurality.
Meanwhile, in Wales, Malcolm notes:
Conservatives should once again be proclaiming the benefits of a more proportional system, but are strangely silent. This time, they have gained 4 more constituency (FPTP) seats than 2003 – in part because of the electoral base that their ‘top-up’ regional list AMs [Assembly Members--ed.] have given them over the past years; despite being absent from parliamentary representation between 1997-2005.
- Labour: has gained an extra list seat to compensate a little for losing a number of constituency AMs. So even Labour is starting to get the benefits of the system.
From these numbers, what jumps out is the extent to which the Labour party was advantaged by the FPTP portion of the system, winning a majority of the seats allocated that way on less than a third of the votes, and fewer votes in both tiers than the SNP. The list tier “top-up” restored the correct ranking of the two parties’ seats, relative to votes, but barely! Labour remains more over-represented than the SNP (advantage ratio of 1.21 for Labour, 1.17 for SNP).
It is obvious that there was considerable ticket splitting. That is, for all the attention to the spoiled ballots caused by voter confusion, the bigger picture is that the electorate as a whole appeared to understand the strategic implications of the two votes. (It is interesting that among the major parties, it was the third and fourth parties that did better in the nominal vote; that reflects districts where they had the chance at the local plurality against Labour or the SNP.)
This comes as a surprise (to me): Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko and Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych have reached agreement Friday on holding early parliamentary elections. I thought Yanukovych had quite a solid constitutional argument against the president’s decree dissolving parliament. On the other hand, I don’t see how the Orange forces backing Yushchenko can expect a better result under new elections, so maybe Yanukovych is simply confident that he will get a fresh mandate, while defusing the tension in the streets and markets. The date is still to be agreed, although in Yushchenko’s amended decree, it is currently planned for 24 June.
The Guardian story notes, albeit in passing, that while awaiting a ruling on his decree by the constitutional court, Yushchenko fired two of the court’s judges. Where exactly he might find the authority to do that is not clear to me. Ukraine continues to experience a deep institutional crisis. Can early elections resolve it?
I have been watching the crisis over the election of a president of Turkey with considerable interest. The following remark by a young woman at the protests earlier this week against the ruling party’s candidate nicely summarizes the unusual dimensions of Turkish politics:
We, the free women of Turkey, do not want the hijab. We want to be like the European females, but we do not want to join the European Union. We want Turkey to stay free and independent.
–via Abu Dhabi TV, 29 April, 2007, as translated and broadcast by Mosaic on Link TV.
Is there another country where the dimensions of political issues cut this way, with the most nationalist sectors also being the most secular? I would think not. And, while I do not claim to know much about Turkish politics, I do suspect that, with the Turkish presidency actually being much weaker than the prime ministership that is already in the “Islamist” party’s hands, that the opposition has at least as much to do with resistance to economic liberalization (among the requirements for EU membership) as with the secular-religious divide. Of course, it is the latter that evokes more intense popular passion. Perhaps someone who actually knows Turkey can tell me why I am wrong about that.
I hope to be back with a more detailed post on the institutional aspects of this crisis in the coming days.
In the meantime, I leave you with a fact that has not been widely noted in the coverage I have seen: The ruling party rules on only 34% of the votes cast at the last election. Just four seats short of two thirds, this must be the biggest distortion of votes to seats in the annals of electoral systems, or very close to it.
Early parliamentary elections have been called–for July (about four months ahead of when they would have been required). Can the AK make it to two thirds?
FranÃ§ois Bayrou, on the same day as the only inter-round debate in the French presidential election: “Je ne voterai pas pour Sarkozy.” However, he would not say whether he would vote blank or for Royal, and he said he would “probably not” make any more announcements before Sunday’s runoff.
That’s as close as Royal is going to get to an endorsement. It is pretty clear where Bayrou stands. His problem–and Royal’s–is that much of the rest of his party leans very strongly towards the right, especially with an eye to the National Assembly elections that are coming up in June. A radio poll confirmed that most of the UDF deputies have indicated they will vote for Sarkozy.
Scottish voters go to the polls Thursday for general elections to their regional parliament and local councils. The BBC has a page with numerous links on the campaign. Scotland uses a form of mixed-member proportional (MMP) for its parliament at Holyrood, and single transferable vote (STV) for its local councils.
I am not aware of any other election day in which voters are casting pretty much every major type of vote: Nominal nontransferable, list proportional, and nominal transferable. Oh, to be Scottish, for at least one day!
On the MMP ballot, like Germany and New Zealand, Scotland has a two-column ballot format that clearly indicates that the voter has both a nominal (candidate, single-seat district plurality) vote and a list (PR) vote. Like Ireland, the STV ballot has candidate names and the voter writes in numbers to indicate first, second, (etc.) preferences.
Polling published in The Scotsman shows the Scottish National Party and Labour are in a dead heat in the parliamentary vote.
An ICM poll for The Scotsman gave the Nationalists a lead of two points in the constituency vote and one point in the regional vote. The figures for the constituency vote were: SNP 34 per cent; Labour 32; Liberal Democrats 16; Conservatives 13.
In the regional vote, the SNP was on 30 per cent; Labour 29; Lib Dems 16; Conservatives 13; Greens four; Scottish Socialists three. That would translate into 43 seats for the SNP, 42 for Labour, 23 for the Lib Dems, 17 for the Tories, one Green and three others.
A Populus poll for The Times put the SNP on 33 per cent in the constituency vote, Labour on 29 per cent, the Lib Dems 15, Tories 13 and others ten.
In the regional vote, it gave the SNP 31 per cent; Labour 28; Lib Dems 15; Tories 14; Greens four and others 11.
And it projects the share of seats as: SNP 45 [34.9%]; Labour 43; Lib Dems 23; Tories 17; Greens one.
Both polls suggest a viable coalition could be formed either by the SNP and the Lib Dems or Labour and the Lib Dems without needing to rely on third parties.
Update (3 May): From the comments by Espen and Bancki, we learn that the Scottish and Welsh systems are quite similar: with compensation in small “regional” districts (i.e. not jurisdiction-wide). That was what I had understood, but the seat projections reported above for Scotland implied Soctland-wide compensation, because they are almost perfectly proportional to the estimated vote.
With compensation magnitudes averaging only 7 (Scotland) and 4 (Wales), and with the compensatory tier being 43% (Scotland) and 33% (Wales), full compensation can’t be expected in either jurisdiction, and especially not in Wales.
I call on voters who have shown their confidence in me to cast their vote neither for Madame Royal nor for Mr Sarkozy and to abstain en masse.
The fourth-place candidate, who has considerable working-class support, is clearly unhappy about being out-lepenned in the campaign for the first round:
It would be illusory and dangerous to vote for the Socialist candidate to get revenge for the hold-up carried out on our programme by Nicolas Sarkozy.
Ordinarily, I would expect that many of his voters would still vote and ony the hardcore would really have no preference worthy of turning out for the contest between the two remaining candidates. However, consider how much his support fell off this year, compared to previous elections:
The season is about one sixth over. Time flies. Already we have had one no hitter, an unassisted triple play (only the 18th all time), and a 16-K game (a rarer feat than a perfect game). The team with baseball’s best home record also has its second worst road record, but it’s good enough for first place in the AL West. And the Yankees have baseball’s third worst record.
I don’t know what’s in store for the next five months of the regular season, but I am sure it will be something to watch. It always is. Play ball!
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