All that Belgium wants for Christmas is a government â€” and thousands of people marched through Brussels yesterday to demand that politicians should avoid the break-up of their country.
Yes, Belgium held elections for parliament in June. And, no, there still is not a new coalition in place to govern the country.
The demonstration referred to by the Times is, on one level, a great show of national unity. The Times reports that the demonstrators were:
bedecked with the black, gold and red of the national flag, with not a party affiliation in sight.
In a sign of the division between the two main language communities, there were noticeably more French-speaking marchers than those from the Flemish north, where support for national unity is more ambivalent.
The “Czechoslovakia option” is being discussed in the newspapers,1 and as the VOA reports, the impasse over coalition formation is indeed related to classic issues of federalism: how to divide the national wealth and the extent to which citizens of a richer region perceive themselves to be subsidizing the less wealthy citizens in other units of the federation.
Huge obstacles remain and neither side is budging. Flemish parties insist that regional governments must have more autonomy. With 60 percent of the population, Flanders generates 70 percent of Belgium’s Gross Domestic Product. The Dutch speaking area wants to retain more power and tax money, rather than sending it south.
Wallonia’s politicians are resisting this, partly because they see it as the first step toward dividing the country, which Walloons oppose in large numbers.
Then what to do with Brussels, which is mixed linguistically, unlike Prague, the former Czecho-Slovak capital. Brussels and Prague. Two of my favorite cities, and no, that is not only for the beer. But the beer is a major consideration, for sure. [↩]
The Hindustan Times has an interesting feature on a “Liberated Zone” in the Indian state of Chhattisgarh, where “Naxalite” Maoist rebels provide public services, are redistributing land amongst their followers, and into which state police forces have not entered in over twenty years. Right in the heart of the world’s biggest democracy.
So says the General, who also says the army will not be called out during the polls, as it has been in past elections.
The bigger question than the army’s participation is whether there will be any opposition parties running. Benazir Bhutto has threatened a boycott by her party, given the emergency rule and her own house arrest. The other major party leader, Nawaz Sharif (whose government the military overthrew in 1999), is still in exile. Not the most auspicious conditions for an election.
The terms of the federal parliament and all state parliaments have expired and those bodies have been dissolved in the past week.
In the state elections, the PRD held on to the state’s governorship, but with not even one third of the votes. Leonel Godoy Rangel had 33.1%, beating the candidate of the National Action Party (PAN, the party of President Felipe CalderÃ³n). The PAN candidate, Salvador Lopez OrduÃ±a, had 30.5%.1 The candidate of the PRI won 24%. In addition to the PRD, Godoy was backed by the smaller PT, Convergencia, and Alternativa parties.
From a preliminary count of the elections for state deputies (for the unicameral legislative assembly), it appears the PRD-PT alliance won about 31.9% of the vote to 29.2% for the PRI and 27.5% for the PAN.2 Assuming those results are correct, note that the order of finish for the second and third parties was reversed between the two elections. The obvious conclusion would be that some PRI voters favored the PAN gubernatorial candidate in an effort to block Godoy. Similar tactical voting (on a much larger scale) by PRI voters probably prevented AMLO from winning the presidency in 2006.
Despite the “juxtaposed government” of PAN at the center and PRD in the state,3 and despite AMLO’s continuing refusal to accept the PAN national victory, Governor-elect Godoy promises that his relations with the President will be “cordial.” He further says:
Nosotros no podemos adoptar actitudes suicidas, de no tener una relaciÃ³n de plena colaboraciÃ³n ante tal dependencia del Gobierno federal.
Indeed, it would be “suicidal” to adopt a confrontational attitude, given that 96% of the state’s revenues come from federal transfers.4
Normally, like the federal executive, a state governor in Mexico serves a six-year term. However, Godoy’s term will be four years, following a state constitutional change. Reforma says the change is meant to synchronize state and federal elections in the future. How far in the future? The next federal elections will be in 2009 (lower house of congress) and after that, 2012 (presidency and both federal chambers). So, only if this governor and his successor are elected for four-year terms will elections be synchronized–in the federal midterm election of 2015 (presumably again for a six-year term). It seems if synchronization is the goal, a clever and mathematically inclined political engineer might have come up with another way (e.g. elect this governor for five years, and then have state and federal elections in 2012).
OrduÃ±a has been the mayor of the capital, Morelia, for the past three years. (The PRD also won that city’s mayoralty on 11 November.) [↩]
I do not know the electoral system of Michoacan. All Mexican states have variants of the national single-vote MMM system, though some lean more towards MMP. There are 24 single-seat districts, and it appears that 12 of them were won by the PRD-PT, while the PAN won 8 and the PRI 4. There would also be some number of PR-list seats, but I do not know how many or how they are allocated. As long as they are not highly compensatory–i.e. that the system is not MMP–the PRD-PT will be substantially over-represented in the legislature–perhaps around 40% of the seats. The legislature’s website was not working when I tried to check on its size or electoral system. On the Google search page, there was a page within the legislature’s site indicated as being about an Acuerdo de Reforma Electoral. [↩]
I owe the term, juxtaposed government, to Alain De Remes. [↩]
According to an article in the 12 November edition of Reforma by AdÃ¡n GarcÃa, Denis RodrÃguez y Daniel Pensamiento, which was also the source of the quote from Godoy. (Via Lexis Nexis.) [↩]
The popular demand simply can’t be ignored any longer. Twice in the last week or so, I have had a reader note (one in e-mail and the other on a very old thread that is tangentially related) that I have no thread on the European Parliament.
Now I do. May it be a fertile source for the growth of ideas on an institution about which I know far less than I should.
And never say your Orchardist does not respond to requests.
The Liberal Party won 46 seats, the Social Democrats won 45 seats, the Danish People’s party 25, the Socialists 23, and the Conservatives 18. These are the five biggest parties in the newly elected Danish parliament.
The New Alliance wound up with only 5, but appears to be pivotal.
Actually, the new moon should have been last night, but I did not have a view of the sky then.
This is a welcome sight, Cheshvan having been a month to forget. Kislev’s new moon is a harbinger of the darkest time of year coming soon. But I trust it will be dark only in the sense of shortened daylight. Otherwise, things are looking brighter.
It is nice to have the sky more or less normal again. First the fires and their smoky aftermath, then several days of the heaviest gloom I can recall ever having in late autumn. Now, clear skies again! If only we could get some rain…
I will blame the San Diego fires for my completing forgetting about what earlier in the year had seemed like such a big deal: Turkey’s referendum on whether to move to direct election of the president. (Click on the country name in the “planted in” line for earlier information on Turkish elections.)
Well, not only the fires–also the fact that after the incumbent AK party did so well in the parliamentary elections in July, it seemed like a foregone conclusion.
On 21 October, 69% voted in favor of directly electing future presidents. Turnout was 67% (compared with 80% for the previous parliamentary elections).
The first direct election–by majority runoff–will be in 2014. The next parliamentary election is due in 2012; the amendments cut the terms to 5 and 4, respectively. Formerly it was 5 for parliament and 7 for president, with the latter elected by parliament. (The dates in this paragraph have been corrected.)
I have been meaning to post on the Danish election, which is 13 November, and on its interesting electoral system.
Espen beat me to the part on the electoral system (in a comment at another thread), so why don’t I just copy what he had to say here (with some minor editing that I hope Espen will not object to):
Although the parties have considerable flexibility in how they nominate and to what degree they give their own voters the ability to influence which candidates get elected, in most cases the following is true:
Each candidate is selected in one of 92 nomination districts (opstillingskrÃ¦dse). They all compete for votes in larger electoral districts (now ten in number) where party proportionality applies (also subject to national compensation). Thus, voters are free to choose among candidates nominated in any district within the larger, upper-tier districts, or to simply vote for a party without indicating a preference. In most cases, party candidates are elected in order of personal votes, although some parties in some upper-tier districts instead will choose either to count votes given straight to the party as support for the candidate standing in the respective nomination district, or to establish a ranked list, which the voters may only influence by letting lesser candidates reach a certain quota of personal votes (party-wise Droop, I believe). There is no requirement that all nomination districts will get someone elected, but there certainly is an incentive in the system for local associations to nominate visible candidates who will seek out personal votes in order to get elected. This also may help counteract somewhat the tendency in open- and flexible-list PR for personal votes to be concentrated at the top of the list, among candidates who would be elected anyway. [MSS here: Such a tendency does not, by definition, exist under open lists: only those with the top s preference votes, where s is the number of seats a list has won, can be elected. But what Espen says about flexible lists appears to be a typical occurrence.]
The system is a relic from 1918, when Denmark (outside the capital) had MMP. To promote proportionality, the FPTP element was removed in 1920, but the nomination process was kept at a very local level, in the former single-member constituencies (although the parties were made free to nominate at-large instead). There was major redistricting around 1970 and 2006, tied to local government reforms.
The Slovenian electoral system has similar traits, though I am not sure of the exact details there. Such “soft MMP” (which is not MMP at all, of course) also applied to the Italian Senate from 1948 to 1993, but there voters were limited to choosing candidates from within the smaller, lower-tier districts (the Regions constituted the upper-tier districts). Curiously, the 1994-2006 system was voted in, by referendum, simply by abolishing the 65 percent hurdle for direct election in the lower-tier Senate districts. The Parliament then tidied up the system and established a roughly similar system for the Camera. But that is another story.
Thanks for that, Espen!
Regarding Slovenia,1 the main difference is that parties do not have an option in how they structure their lists: they must nominate candidates in nomination districts, and voters are (as far as I know) able to cast votes only for those cast in their own nominating district. (Did I understand Espen correctly that even a party in Denmark that uses nomination districts must allow voters to cast a vote for a candidate in the larger allocation district if they prefer one of these to the one nominated in the local nomination (sub-) district?)
Indonesia also used (or attempted to use) a similar system–ACE Project calls it “proportional system with district characteristics“–in 1999, after the fall of the Suharto dictatorship. For the 2004 election, the system was changed to a more conventional flexible list.2
One could say the Danish/Slovenian nominating districts have a parallel (so to speak) in the list tier of the Japanese lower house mixed-member majoritarian (MMM) system: Parties may choose to “clump” at the same rank on the list several candidates who are nominated in a single-seat district as well as on the list. In such a case, the final ranking of the clumped candidates is based on how close they came to winning the plurality in their single-seat race.
As for the election itself–in Denmark, that is–one of the interesting developments is the formation of a new political party by a Syrian immigrant, Naser Khader’s New Alliance. It may displace the anti-immigrant Peoples Party as a major partner in the upcoming coalition. (See the recent preview in The Economist.)
See the translation of a 1995 Parliament of Slovenia document describing the system, which I believe is unchanged. The most relevant portion regarding the nomination districts is at the end:
When the list of candidates is determined, so is the respective electoral district in which each will stand, since only one candidate from the list stands in any one electoral district. Candidates may stand in one electoral unit [i.e. the larger multi-seat districts used for interparty allocation] and appear on one list only.
The appendix to Gary Cox’s Making Votes Count (1997) also has an excellent summary of the system. [↩]
The ACE project says:
The restricted open-list system finally agreed requires voters to vote for one party and, if they wish, one candidate from that party. However, this will only result in the election of a particular candidate out of the order in which names appear on the party list if that candidate gains more than a full Hare Quota of individual votesâ€”which made its likely effect minimal, as proved to be the case in practice in the 2004 elections to the legislature.
It has been far too long since my last Kiwi planting. And no better time than now, while I am doing my annual reading of students’ papers on NZ coalition governance.
Kiwiblog has posted graphs of polling trends since the current government (Labour/NZ First/United Future) was installed after the September, 2005 election. The graphs show National having declined from some recent polls that put it over 50% of the vote, but still it would be likely to win the most seats. However, whether the combined center-right would have a majority is less clear.
The graphs also suggest that Greens would be the only party other than Labour and National to clear the 5% threshold for a party to win a seat without having won any district. Even that might be a close call (though I would be surprised if they failed to win seats). The Maori Party will retain, and perhaps substantially expand, its presence in parliament, based on polling in the special Maori districts.1
As for other small parties, United Future would presumably remain in parliament on its leader Peter Dunne’s ability to win one local district plurality, as would Jim Anderton (and his Progressive Coalition, which currently, in parliament, consists only of Jim Anderton). It is not clear to me whether New Zealand First will survive. A recent news item suggested leader Winston Peters was being coy about whether he will contest his old Tauranga seat again. Only if he stands and wins there would the party survive, on current polling.2 I suppose ACT might survive by winning the Epsom district.3
It could be another very close result, as it was in 2005. Of course, an election is not required until almost a year from now.
As David of Kiwiblog notes:
if the Maori Party does win all seven seats, then will probably have four overhang seats and hold the balance of power. It is possible their support would allow a Government to be formed which had less votes for it, than there were for the parties opposed to it.
So, I assume he will stand there, and my guess is he would have a good chance to win the seat back, given that he lost it narrowly last time, and largely due to tactical voting for the local National candidate by Labour and others voters seeking to dump Peters. [↩]
As it did in 2005, on tactical voting by National supporters who knew their party needed ACT to get into parliament to have any chance at a right-leaning government. [↩]
Only today did it come to my attention that Peter Garret, formerly the frontman of the band, Midnight Oil, is likely to be Australia’s next Minister of for Environment, after the elections of 24 November.
The House of Representatives has passed the United States-Peru Trade Promotion Agreement. This deal was signed in April, 2006, but it is the first trade agreement to come before Congress since the change in party control in the November, 2006, US midterm elections.
Given the centrality of trade to the outcome of those elections–particularly in many swing districts–it is hardly surprising that the vote split the majority party. The vote was 285-132, with 176 Republicans and only 109 Democrats in favor. In other words, over half (53.2%) of Democrats opposed the bill (as did about one in eight Republicans).
After the change of party control, both the US and Peruvian governments agreed to modify the deal to include labor and environmental standards in order to ensure passage. It worked, even if the final vote revealed the Democrats’ continuing deep divisions on trade.
The bill still has to pass the US Senate, but that is presumably a foregone conclusion.
The pact was originally ratified by the Peruvian congress easily (79-14, with 7 abstentions) in late June, 2006. (Thanks to a Wikipedia editor for the reference.) I wonder if the Peruvian congress had to re-authorize it after the additional standards were negotiated, or if under Peruvian law such changes are within executive prerogative. (Boz answers this question in the comments: Yes, Peru’s congress did reauthorize the revised agreement. Thanks, boz!)
For the first time in the Bush presidency, Congress has overridden a presidential veto. Of course, the incumbent president has vetoed very few bills (4, if I recall correctly).
In my discussion of his first veto–back when his own party still had congressional majorities–I noted that there are two basic types of veto. There are vetoes that follow the apparent intentions of Madison and Hamilton as being a defensive tool by the executive against acts of congress that impose burdens on the national treasury for particularistic advantage. And then there are those vetoes that allow the president to defend an ideological minority whose preferences were defeated in the bill congress passed.
Each veto issued by Bush before the one just overridden would be of the second type: The ideologue protection veto: The stem-cell research bill, the Iraq war “timeline” bill, and the S-CHIP bill.
The one now overridden, on the other hand, was clearly of the first type: the anti-particularism veto.
So, of course, congress overrides the latter. After all, as the Houston Chronicle notes in the headline of its article on the override–”Water projects in Texas authorized by veto override“–no matter how principled a conservative ideologue may be, he or she still lives somewhere and that location has canals and floodways and aqueducts that would benefit from a little federal assistance.
If the logroll is big enough, it can survive the veto. And water projects know no real ideological boundaries.
Next up the farm bill. Lots of pork, threatened veto, but will the pro-ag members of the House of Representatives be able to spread enough largesse around the country’s districts to get the needed two thirds vote?
I certainly do not have any insights into what is going on in Pakistan, but Barnett Rubin does. He has a series of posts up at Informed Comment Global Affairs in the last several days. Rubin was there when the martial law was imposed, and he recently returned.
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