It is a regular theme here of F&V–indeed a core part of its very mission– that the American political system needs fundamental democratic reform if it is to be capable of addressing the major substantive policy challenges faced by Americans. Domestic democratic political reform is also critical if this country is to become a constructive deployer of its power–mainly of the “soft” variety–to help bring about positive change in the face of problems faced by the world more broadly. In terms of domestic problems, I often use healthcare and urban and intercity transportation as examples. In terms of world problems, think climate change, as well as the fundamental issues of war and peace in the Middle East and elsewhere. But don’t think of any of these problems exclusively. These are just examples of problems for which I do not claim to know the solution, because they are not my field, though I lean pretty decisively towards solutions such as single-payer, high-speed rail, and carbon taxation (and, in foreign policy, sharp reductions in military spending and joining the international criminal tribunal process, among other steps).
When it comes to voting, the issues I mention above are paramount in my thinking. But the policy solutions I see as most viable all impose costs of one sort or another on concentrated economic interests that currently enjoy privileged access to political power–interests like pharmaceutical and insurance companies and the airline, trucking, and oil industries, and the military- industrial- congressional complex,1 among others. The problem of privileged access takes us right back to the basic problems of the political structure itself: The current US political structure retards responsiveness to public opinion about national problems, limits the incorporation of new ideas, and reinforces localism and parochialism, and is riddled with access points and vetoes favoring existing incumbent interest players. Serious discussion of political reform to eliminate or attenuate these problems needs to start somewhere, and in addition to this blog, a presidential campaign would seem to be a reasonable place to start.2
I am by no means a “single issue” voter, but I do care about political reform more than almost anything else. As such, I am very much a man without either a party or a candidate–at least if we focus on the parties and candidates that will gain either representation or a realistic prospect of influence on the current and future campaigns for president and congress. But a near constant of my political life has been to vote for candidates and parties with little prospect of such representation or influence, and so in that sense, the election year about to begin is nothing new. As I have noted here before, I do not believe in voting strategically. My vote is much too valuable to give it away to a candidate or party with a realistic chance of winning an election simply because that candidate or party is better than another with an approximately equal or better chance at winning.
Indeed, assuming I vote in the Democratic primary, its 15% threshold for a candidate to win any delegates and the fact that I consider each of the three candidates who looks at all likely to break 15% in California to be almost equally unacceptable,3 means I am free to vote my conscience even if I were to be inclined to vote strategically. Which I am not.
So, what are the stances of candidates for Presidential nomination in 2008 in the area of political reform? Not surprisingly, for most, the answer is “not much.” But there are political-reform ideas being raised in the candidates’ programs, as indicated at their respective websites. These are not high-profile aspects of the campaign, to be sure. But there is some interest on the campaign trail in political reform. This blog post will serve as the closest thing you are likely to find this year to a voter guide for political reform.
I am going to start with the candidates who have the most to say about this issue. Not surprisingly, perhaps, they are both Democrats. Democrats, I might say, who take their own party’s name seriously. Perhaps also not surprisingly, they are also the two Democrats who regularly bring up the rear in any polling–in polls that actually include them among the options, that is.
Because I do not care only about political reform, but see it as a means to better policy solutions, I am also going to refer to candidates’ stances on several other issues, including an overview of several candidates’ ratings from some of the public interest groups that provide such ratings, as compiled by Global Stewards. (more…)
That was the original term President Eisenhower intended to use in his Farewell Address, but he dropped the references to Congress before actually giving the speech. [↩]
I am not in this entry proposing specific solutions, but as I periodically articulate in the set of plantings on American Political Reform, I start with the principles of the original Madisonian draft–the “Virginia Plan“–which called for both chambers of the legislature to be apportioned by population and for the executive to be selected by that legislature and to have no effective veto on legislative acts. Regardless of any changes to the cameral and executive-legislature structures, political reform should include the use of proportional representation in a larger House and, even if we keep equal state representation in the Senate, expand that body, too, to accommodate PR. Assuming a separate presidency is here to stay, elect via National Popular Vote instead of the absurd and archaic electoral college. Make the veto weaker. Other reforms are discussed regularly, including in the comment threads. [↩]
I am referring to Clinton, Obama, and Edwards. Below I will note that Edwards might be the third best candidate on political reform. He is, however, unacceptable to me on other issues, including his terrible record on the environment and civil rights when he was a Senator and his vote for the Iraq War and the so-called Patriot Act. Some past transgressions can’t be forgiven. (Among current candidates who were members of Congress at the time, only Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul voted NO on either; in fact, both voted NO on both of them.) [↩]
Benazir Bhutto’s 19-year-old son, Bilawal, is to be her successor. The party is such a family dynasty that not even Ms Bhutto’s husband, who was named successor in her will, can take over the party from a Bhutto by blood.
The widower said in a statement: “nobody other than Bilawal can keep the PPP and the federation (of Pakistan) intact.”
And therein lies much of the problem with Pakistani politics, even in its “democratic” incarnations.
The Electoral Commission of Kenya has declared President Mwai Kibaki the winner of the 2007 polls and he was immediately sworn in at State House gardens, Nairobi. He will now serve a second term in office.
The election was close, and various news reports for days had indicated that the challenger, Rail Odinga, was leading vote counts. The official result is:
Despite the news reports that the official result has been declared (and the ‘winner’ sworn in!), a check of the Electoral Commission website at around noon (west coast North America time) still says, “These results are provisional; winning candidate not yet declared.” It also shows Odinga with just over 1.5 million votes and Mwai with about 1.1 million. There were seven other candidates, but only one with over 100,000 (and actually only that one with even 5,000 in this partial return).
In the parliamentary elections, several close allies of the (allegedly) reelected President, including the Vice President as 12 of 32 cabinet members, were defeated.
As I said in the previous Kenya planting, at the time of the “Oranges and Bananas” constitutional referendum, Kenya’s president is popularly elected, but the government structure is almost parliamentary. The President must be a member of the National Assembly, and he appoints (and may dismiss) a vice president from among the members of the National Assembly. The VP is defined as â€œthe principal assistant of the President in the discharge of his functions.â€
The presidential election rules are regionally qualified plurality, or what is sometimes known as a “distribution requirement.” The winner must have a nationwide plurality and at least 25% in at least five of the eight provinces. It appears that the dispute in this election concerns the plurality itself, rather than the distribution.
Pakistan without Benazir is like India without Indira. The comparison isnâ€™t out of place. In an interview some years ago to a house journal of the London School of Economics, she named three role models â€” father Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, Indira Gandhi and the Joan of Arc.
It remains to be seen whether Pakistanâ€™s best known dynasty would, like the Gandhi family, have a scion goaded into public life. For the present however, the January 8 elections have become purposeless. To the many tragic similarities between the Bhuttos and the Gandhis, one more has got added. Like Benazir, Rajiv Gandhi too was killed by a suicide bomber while campaigning for his party in 1991.
And on the likely motives for the killing:
As a woman in politics, Benazir was forever the target of the Islamic fringe. What made her a greater anathema was her proximity to the US. Former state department official Richard Armitage saw perhaps the writing on the wall when he cautioned Washington against doing anything that made Benazir look like â€œAmericaâ€™s girl.â€
Without my intending to point any fingers–I certainly do not know who did this–I find even more chillingly compelling the remarks by Amit Baruah, also in the HT:
The foot soldiers of Pakistan’s state-spawned Bhindranwales1 have snuffed out the life of Benazir Bhutto. The spectre of extremism, haunting Pakistan since it began the jihad against the Soviet Union in 1980, has taken away the leader of the only real political party in the country. …
Far from turning Pakistan away from the politics of Islamist extremism, General Musharraf’s policies of “enlightened moderation”, a case of one step forward two steps back, have firmly entrenched the jihadis in the country’s politics.
Yes, Musharraf arrested many Al Qaeda men at the behest of the US after 9/11. But his men didn’t have their hearts in the job. They didn’t believe in it.
…Benazir was more dangerous to the jihadis than Musharraf. She was a political leader who could fight the battle of ideas, who could tell people why the jihadis were not their friends. That’s why she had to be killed.
It’s possible that the days ahead will be full of disaster and turmoil for Pakistan. The meaningless elections of January 8 may be cancelled; the army may again say that it needs more powers to maintain law and order and state stability. But more of the same is not going to help.
Indeed, the scheduled elections do look “purposeless” and “meaningless” now.
Outside of Pakistan, the US government is one of biggest losers here. It has placed almost all its bets on General Musharraf getting himself elected2 “civilian” president (mission accomplished3), and on Bhutto becoming the face of “democratized” Pakistan. So much for the second part of the plan.
Close on the heels of its worse-than-expected defeat in Gujarat, the Indian National Congress is bracing for a possible defeat in state assembly elections just completed in the northwestern state of Himachal Pradesh, reports Daily News & Analysis India (26 December). Votes will be counted Friday.
Congress fears anti-incumbent voting might emerge as a strong factor against the party in Himachal, reports DNA India(25 December). Congress currently rules the state. It won 43 of the 68 seats in the previous election, in 2003. The main rival, BJP, won only 16 seats in that election. However, the 2003 election was much closer than that seat result implies: Congress beat the BJP in votes only 41.0% to 35.4%.1 The Congress won 18 of those districts with less than 45% of the votes, 8 with less than 40%. It would not take much of a votes swing to give the BJP a plurality of seats.
In an odd twist, the current Himachal assembly and cabinet are due to remain in office until March. Commenting on what many have perceived to be an impending constitutional crisis, if the BJP wins, Chief Election Commissioner N Gopalaswamy, said on 13 December:
The Constitution is very clear on this issue.Two assemblies can co-exist. After the elections, there will be no constitutional crisis in the state. (Indian Express, 14 December.)
The current government of Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh can remain in power through this lengthy transition. The new assembly would not actually sit till 9 March, but its composition will be known by the end of this month. The Revenue Minister in the incumbent government has filed a petition with the high court demanding that counting be delayed until March, though national Congress officials have “distanced” themselves from the move (DNA India, 25 Dec.).
Why the long period of lame duckery?
Elections in Himachal Pradesh are being held about three months in advance to facilitate voting for three assembly seats of Kinnaur, Lahaul & Spiti and Bharmour along with the rest of the state. All high altitude passes that connect these areas to the rest of the state are official closed on November 15. Polling in these three constituencies were held on November 14. In the rest of the 65 assembly constituencies, elections are slated for December 19. (Indian Express.)
Himachal Pradesh borders Jammu & Kashmir in the western Himalaya.
When the election results are known, I will post them in a comment, an excerpt of which will then appear on the right sidebar.
Both parties contested all 68 seats in 2003. There is a state party, the Himachal Vikas Congress that contested 49 (and won 1, on 5.9% of the statewide vote). No other party contested 30. This is significant, as it means that most districts featured something close to a straight fight between the two main national parties. So, while small, the state is something of a bellwether. There were also 110 independents, 6 of whom won; they combined for 12.6% of the statewide vote, and some might have been ‘spoilers’ in specific races. The electoral data cited here are based on the Statistical Report available from the Election Commission of India. [↩]
It is very encouraging to know that, after an initial phase of brewery closures after the communist regime fell, the number has been trending upwards again. Proof that the market works after all!
And future travel note:
There was one beer I found in Pribor, which is Sigmund Freud’s home town, and they call it Freudovo pivo. You can only find it in that town, it’s a 13-degree dark beer, and it’s rich and chocolaty and malty – it’s more like a desert than or a Sacher-torte than it is a beer itself.
The stuff of dreams, for sure.
On the impact of tourism on the variety and quality of beers:
It’s definitely helped and I encourage every tourist to do his or her part. Please drink as many beers as you can and try as widely as you can to drink beers from different places.
Words to travel by!
Now, if you will excuse me, I’m feeling rather thirsty.
More and more fast-food chains are going kosher, at least in selected outlets. Laura Frankel, at The Jew and the Carrot remarks:
Why should I be happy and even celebratory over another fast food chain that opened kosher outposts? The food just isnâ€™t good, period. These fast food restaurants are all about everything that is bad in American pop culture.
Amein to that.
There is a better approach:
Frankel and groups like Hazon, which sponsors The Jew & The Carrot blog, are suggesting that we widen our definition of Jewish and kosher food. Instead of celebrating our co-option by corporate culture, they are promoting efforts such as community-supported agricultural (CSA) programs. Such programs, often run through synagogues, Hazon, and other groups, put congregants in touch with area farms, which provide regular deliveries of organic, local produce to subscribers. In addition to supporting sustainable agriculture and local farmers, a Jewish CSA, writes Hazon, offers a chance to re-examine and potentially redefine what it means for food to be â€œfitâ€1 not only for us, but for the community and the earth as well.
Double amein. Local and organic: Fit food for all.
As has been widely reported this week, Nepal’s political parties, including the demobilized Maoist rebels, have signed an accord that will abolish the nation’s monarchy. As part of a 23-point deal,1 the Maoists also agreed to drop their demands for full proportional representation, AFP reports.
The pact paves the way for declaring the country a federal democratic republic immediately by amending the interim constitution — but the move will be ratified only after constituent assembly elections set for April…
Elections to the assembly that will shape the impoverished nation’s political future were postponed twice due to wrangling2 over Maoist demands that the electoral system be reformed and the monarchy abolished immediately…
Instead of a 497-member assembly, the country will have 601. Some 335 will be elected by proportional representation and 240 using the first-past-the-post system. The parties will nominate a total of 26 members.3
That is a big assembly for a country of under 30 million. I assume that will not be the size of the permanent legislative assembly; it is not uncommon for countries to have constituent assemblies much larger than their legislatures.4
Left unclear (to me) is whether the system is MMM or MMP.5 I am guessing the former. The Maoists have wanted PR (preferring no nominal tier, I believe), because of uncertainty about their own political strength and concerns about the ability of the established parties to gerrymander or malapportion in favor of their (more known) areas of strength. The existing parties presumably do not want nationwide PR (with or without a nominal tier) because of fears that the Maoists could inflate their vote in their zones of control, thereby favoring themselves in the total national seat balance. Either MMM or a variant of MMP with a small and/or regionalized list tier would be obvious compromises.
Leaders in Nepal’s Terai plains have dismissed the agreement among the Seven-Party Alliance that paves the way for a new political and electoral system as “nothing but a power-sharing deal”, unlikely to address the problems of the Madhesi community in the region…
Two factions of the Madhesi People’s Rights Forum (MPRF) and the Rajendra Mahato-led Sadbhavana Party said the SPA pact to increase the number of seats under the proportional electoral system and the process for declaring Nepal a federal republic would not address the problems faced by the people living in the Terai plains bordering India.
From a later paragraph it seems that these groups do not object to the PR seats, per se (as the above implies), but to there not being enough of them.
“Key demands of these groups like a fully proportional electoral system and an autonomous Madhesh state with the right to self-determination under a federal structure have been completely ignored,” B P Yadav, the group’s general secretary was quoted as saying by the Kantipur online Monday.
“Turning a blind eye towards the need for addressing the demands of the armed groups operating in the Terai cannot ensure polls,” he said, stressing the agreement was nothing but a power-sharing deal.
If anyone finds any details of the proposed electoral system or the federal structure, please post a comment.
Or 22 points, or 20 points, depending on the news sources one wants to believe. [↩]
I always love how the media refer to political bargaining as “wrangling.” [↩]
Other sources say these 26 will be appointed by the Cabinet, or by the Prime Minister; the purpose it to represent “the ethnic and indigenous groups who are not represented in the first-past-the post and the proportional system, according to the proposed bill,” reports The Rising Nepal. [↩]
The Rising Nepal (previous footnote) quotes Amod Prasad Upadhyay of Nepali Congress as saying, “Though the size of the CA will be huge, it will be able to encompass all the underprivileged groups.” [↩]
Jack, at The Democratic Piece, previously noted the confusion and conflicting reports on such important details of the electoral system being discussed. [↩]
In the wake of the poor showing by Congress in Gujarat, the Left parties are asserting themselves, in the expectation that Congress will not be willing to risk a federal general election any time soon. (The next election would not be due till May, 2009, but for months there has been speculation that there would be a snap election.) The US-India nuclear deal, negotiated by the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance, but opposed by the UPA’s support partners in the Left and thus not yet in effect, would seem to be in trouble.
Left leaders say that Narendra Modiâ€™s emphatic victory has revived the “communal” threat… And they are confident that Congress may no longer have the stomach for a fight in the face of a renewed challenge from “common enemy” BJP…
Left expects UPA to see the writing on the wall … and dust off the allianceâ€™s commitment document namely the Common Minimum Programme and implement all the promises made…
The Gujarat debacle should lead to better cohesion among UPA partners with allies like Sharad Pawar acknowledging the revived threat of communal polarisation. But this may not necessarily result in Congress having its way as [pre-election, state-party] allies are known to use such situations to demand higher sensitivity to their wishes.
Left, which was already drawing its “wish list”, expects government to listen to its prescriptions seriously rather than chase the chimera of mindless economic reforms and Indo-US nuclear deal.
Interesting time to be following coalition politics and elections in India
Following up on some themes of the earlier Thai planting, I continue reading items from the English-language Thai press about the election outcome and the electoral system. One item from the Bangkok Post‘s general news section, 24 December, caught my eye with the headline, “Big names fall by the wayside.”1
I am going to quote most of the news item below. It shows the hazard parties faced due to the smaller list-tier magnitudes (compared to the former system, with its 100-seat nationwide list district) and the ban on dual nomination (i.e. a candidate had to run in either tier, but could not run in both).
Puea Pandin party leader Suvit Khunkitti and Matchimathipataya party leader Prachai Leophairatana are unlikely to make it to parliament. Mr Suvit was earlier named by deposed prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra as a possible alternative prime minister if Samak Sundaravej, the People Power party leader, faced strong opposition.
Mr Suvit, who stood in constituency 3 of Khon Kaen province, was running in fourth place in unofficial poll results last night behind three PPP candidates.2
The constituency has three seats up for grabs.
Puea Pandin party is expected to be an important component in the formation of a coalition government.
Mr Suvit and his party yesterday abruptly postponed a press conference after their poor polling results.
Mr Prachai is also disappointed with the outcome for his party.
He put his name on top of the party list for the proportional representation vote in election zone 6, covering Bangkok, Samut Prakan and Nonthaburi.
But the 10 seats available in the zone went to other parties: the Democrats, which won five seats, PPP, four seats, and Puea Pandin, one seat.3
Several other big-name or veteran politicians also look in danger of failing to get in, based on unofficial results.
They include secretary-general of Ruam Jai Thai Chart Pattana, Pradit Phataraprasit, who is a list candidate for election zone 2; secretary-general of Matchimathipataya party, Anongwan Thepsuthin, who is a list candidate for election zone 1; and two Chart Thai deputy leaders, Chongchai Thiengtham and Nikorn Jamnong, who are list candidates for zones 7 and 8 respectively.
Mrs Anongwan, a former executive of the now-disbanded Thai Rak Thai party, said she believed voters were confused about voting procedures.4
Former actress and MP Janista Liewchalermwong, better known ”Bam”, also failed to get a seat. She was Chart Thai’s best chance of getting a constituency seat in Bangkok. In constituency 5 where she ran, PPP candidates won all three seats.5
That’s one for the party list “clipping file,” for sure!
This came in a Google News alert, but the link is no longer valid. I read it through the cached page. [↩]
He has 93,161 votes; the third Peoples Power candidate has 98,486. Pua Paendin also ran another candidate, who is in fifth place with 83,515. Two other elected Peoples Power candidates each won more than 103,000 votes. [↩]
The party actually does not appear to have come very close to winning in that zone. [↩]
Not likely; rather, parties just did not have as many safe slots to go around as before. [↩]
She had less than half the votes of the last winner, also finishing well behind three Democrats. Nonetheless, an interesting effort by a minor party to exploit a celebrity personal vote. She won 1.6 times the votes of the second Chatthai (Chart Thai) candidate and almost 2.4 times the vote of the third candidate of the party. [↩]
The pre-coup electoral system, adopted in 1997, was mixed-member majoritarian (parallel) in its most straightforward design: a nominal tier of only single-seat districts (plurality rule) and a list tier that was nationwide (and closed list). The list tier comprised 20% of the total 500 seats. It had been engineered with the intent of consigning to history Thailand’s weakly organized parties and fragmented multiparty system with shortlived coalitions. Mission accomplished–too well. Thaksin’s Thai Rak Thai1 party emerged as dominant–initially just missing a manufactured majority2 and then with an “earned” majority but overwhelmingly over-represented by the MMM system.3
The military-initiated constitutional re-engineering project resulted in a revised electoral system that is still MMM, but in a way that is potentially less majoritarian in the nominal tier yet more so in the list tier. Now the list tier is only around 17% of the total (80 of 480) and regionalized rather than a single national district. These 80 list seats are elected in eight districts or “zones,” each comprising from 9 to 15 provinces. The “zone magnitude” is in all cases 10 seats. Lists remain closed. The much lower magnitudes mean that there are fewer “safe” seats on the lists and, obviously, fewer deputies elected far down their list in “invisible” ranks. In most list districts, the PPP and Democrats each won 3 to 5 seats. Only in two cases did one of the parties win more than five.4 This is quite a contrast from 2001, when 48 TRT candidates and 31 Democrats were elected from their respective party’s single national list.
The nominal tier now consists mostly of 2- and 3-seat districts, using what I would call MNTV–votes are both multiple and nontransferable. Prior to 1997, all seats were elected by MNTV, and given the personalization and factionalization of Thai parties, few districts were won by partisan sweeps. (In other words, most voters either did not use all their multiple votes, or did not cast all for candidates of the same party). There are also some single-seat districts.
In preliminary results posted at The Nation (a leading Thai newspaper), the seat-winning parties’ votes and seats in each tier are as follows.
First, the list votes percentage, seats, seat percentage, and advantage ratio (%/s/%v). These are listed in descending order of list votes won.
s-nom s-list total …Party
198+ 34 =232 …People Power Party
132+ 33 =165 …Democrat Party
018+ 07 =025 …Pua Paendin
033+ 04 =037 …Chatthai Party
007+ 00 =007 …Matchima Thipataya Party
008+ 01 =009 …Ruam Jai Thai Chat Pattana Party
004+ 01 =005 …Pracharaj Party
Note that if the military wanted an electoral system to favor the party it had recently ousted, it did it a pretty good job! The PPP has won 48.3% of the seats, despite being very narrowly only the second choice of Thai voters on the party list. The PPP and Democrats roughly tied with 39.6% and the PPP won only 36.6% of the nominal votes. That is an overall advantage ratio for the PPP of 1.22, based on list votes, and 1.32 if we want to use the nominal votes in our denominator of overall advantage.
The Democrats won one less seat in the list tier than the PPP did, despite having more list votes. The reason, of course, is the regionalization of the list tier. But, of course, it was the nominal tier that benefited the PPP.
The Pua Paendin also was significantly advantaged in the list tier, with 8.8% of seats despite only 5.6% of list votes. Nowhere did it place higher than third in votes; however, it won one seat in each of seven list districts.
One might conclude that if the military had wanted to boost the anti-Thaksin forces, it might have found a way to use list-only allocation. The Democrats obviously have a stronger party label than they have candidates or regional machine, with a list vote equal to that of the PPP and +9.3 compared to its nominal vote. What surprises me somewhat is that the PPP does not show evidence of strong candidates and nominal-vote delivering capacity, as it, too, has a list vote greater than its nominal vote (+3.0). Its advantage comes from the mechanical effect of the majoritarian nominal tier at least as much as it comes from from a strong nominal vote (which, at 36%, is hardly impressive, even if it was the plurality by a six percentage-point margin).
The smaller Chatthai is evidently a party dependent on its regional candidates, with its list vote -4.8 compared to its nominal vote, or less than half.
I certainly do not have the time to go through all the nominal-tier results, but it is clear that votes in this tier remain significantly personal rather than partisan. Many of the districts that I looked at (a small and not necessarily representative sample) were not clean sweeps by one party, notwithstanding an electoral system that would allow a party to win all the seats if it were the plurality party and its voters cast their full allotment of votes for the party’s candidates.
In Bangkok there were many sweeps, but only because the Democrats are quite dominant there. Bangkok has twelve 3-seat districts. In seven of these, the Democratic candidates won all three, in one the PPP did, and there were four districts with 2-1 splits (two favoring each party).
One of the Bangkok splits shows the impact of personal and party votes under MNTV quite well. In Bangkok 6, the PPP had three candidates with individual votes ranging from 84,844 to 86,641 (average 86,042). Not much difference, suggesting they were mostly party votes. The three combined for 258,126 votes. The Democrats, on the other hand, had three candidates ranging from 84,653 to 92,386 (averaging 87,530) and summing to 262,591. So, the Democrats had a plurality of votes cast in this district, but won only one seat against a PPP competition that had more even candidate vote totals. That leading Democrat vote was sufficient to win the party the first seat in the district, and the party missed the third seat by only 726 votes.
Another example, from outside Bangkok, is Kanchanaburi 2, in the Central region. There the leading candidate obviously had a strong personal vote. A Democrat, this candidate won over 74,000 votes and the first seat. The PPP won the second seat with around 58,000 votes. Then the first runner-up was another Democrat, with just over 53,000 votes, followed by the second PPP candidate, who had only around 41,000 votes. This kind of result can happen only if many voters split their two votes between the popular candidates of the two parties, or voted for just their one favorite. In either case, the personal votes obviously are determining the result. In this district, other parties that trailed farther behind likewise ran two candidates, and tended to have very small differences between the votes of their two, suggesting a party vote (i.e. their voters gave both their votes to the party’s candidates).
The electoral system promotes a personal vote, and these personal votes made the difference in specific races. However, one would need to do this analysis systematically to determine the degree to which the personal votes in MNTV affected the aggregate result. As I noted above, both parties had a total share of nominal votes that lagged behind their party votes, though this lag was more than three times as great for the Democrats as for People Power. The breakdown of nominal and list votes suggest that the Democrats would be in a strong position in coalition negotiations if the list vote predominated in seat allocation. However, because the nominal vote so predominates, the first post-coup government likely will be more similar to the pre-coup one than the military coup-makers presumably had hoped.
TRT, which means Thais Love Thais, in what has to be one of the worst-named major political parties of all time. It was banned by the military, so Thaksin’s allies banded together in the new People Power Party. Thaksin himself is in exile, but has vowed to return. [↩]
Perhaps this New Year’s greeting seems a bit early, but it is not. Not for the sun, anyway. It is the start of Tekufah Tevet! Tonight is the night of darkness, after which the days start getting longer again. Otherwise known as the start of winter. That seems like a pretty good definition of a “new year” to me, because now the fruit trees have been dormant for a while and have received their first bit of chill, with (we hope) much more to come as we look towards the surging of the sap and eventually the blooms that will begin in less than two months.1 In fruit-growing terms, it certainly means now it it time to get those winter chores (e.g. dormant spraying, cover-cropping) done. Yes, a new year begins!
The sun just set moments ago through the notch in the ridge to our west that serves as Ladera Frutal’s solar observatory on what will be the longest night of the year. The solstice is 22 December, which this year coincides with 13 Tevet (the day on the Jewish calendar that just began, which by the way is Shabbat).2
The 13th would be pretty close to the full moon. Indeed, as soon as I turned around from the front entrance of LF HQ and looked the other way, there was the moon:
Not quite full–that will be Sunday night (here in California). So, it is not a perfect convergence–solstice, full moon, and Shabbat. But two of three is not bad.
Happy (Solar) New Year and Shabbat Shalom!
In fact, we are barely more than a month from the date that marks the earliest signs of spring in the Mediterranean climate, such as Ladera Frutal–or the Land of Israel: Tu Bi-Sh’vat. It comes much closer to the winter solstice this year, which is one of the indications that we need a leap month in this year, or else the spring festival (Pesach) would be too early. For a good overview of the role of the tekufot in caclulating the date of Tu Bi-Shevat, leap years, and other solar-dependent features of the Jewish calendar, see “Calculating the Seasons and Tu B-Shvat” from Bar-Ilan University’s Parashat Hashavua Study Center. [↩]
So for the moment I clearly am not classifying blogging as work! [↩]
[Well, the exit polls got the winner right, but were wrong about the projected narrow margin. See my own comment below, at "propagation."]
In an election in one of India’s biggest states with major implications for the possibility of a snap federal election, exit polls point to the BJP holding on to the Gujarat assembly. The projection is for 105 seats for the BJP and around 70 for the Congress party. (As reported in the Economist.)
Real votes won’t be known till Sunday.
In the last election, in 2002, the BJP won 127 of 182 seats (almost 70%) on just under half the votes. Congress in 2002 won 51 seats on 39.3% of the vote. In addition to being one of the larger states, Gujarat is a bellwether because both major national parties are competitive there. This large a gain for Congress, if it holds in the official results, might make early election very tempting. All the more so given that the BJP win may have been just big enough to infuse new life into the bid by Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, a highly divisive figure (to put it mildly), to challenge LK Advani for the BJP’s national party leadership.
Congress, which leads a minority pre-election coalition at the center, would like to rid itself of the problems it faces with its support parties in the Left Front, mainly over the latter’s refusal to back the US-India nuclear deal.
I received this appeal from John Anderson today. I make such a contribution every year, and I hope some of my pro-reform American readers will consider doing the same:
December 18, 2007
My fellow friends and supporters of FairVote,
I write from my law school office in Florida, having just put the final touches on another semester of teaching constitutional law. Perhaps it is my regular opportunity to engage so intensely with our nationâ€™s future leaders that stirs in me an ongoing passion to have our nation move to democracyâ€™s cutting edge. Certainly it serves to reinforce one of my deepest commitments: the remarkable work of FairVote as it advances â€œthe way democracy will be.â€
I know many of you already appreciate FairVoteâ€™s work. Each year our supporters grow in their number and giving, with their recognition of our unique position: we are the one national organization winning a full range of structural reforms necessary to free the voter from the chains of Americaâ€™s 18th century electoral laws. We turn every gift into innovative thinking, strategic advocacy and one more step toward a democracy that can meet todayâ€™s challenges.
Allow me to be as bold as FairVoteâ€™s mission: please consider a donation to FairVote this year, as we move to the next level of reform impact. I firmly believe that our time is not coming. It is here. And we need your help.
Itâ€™s hard to convey all the successes of our dedicated staff. Rob Richieâ€™s report is a good start. Perusing fairvote.org is even better. But I wish you could have joined me for our Claim Democracy conference and intensive training session with advocates of instant runoff voting and proportional voting from across the nation. Our board meetings sparkle with ideas. You would feel the energy â€“ and see how much change flows from our work.
I wanted to give special thanks to those of you who filled the hall for our 15th Anniversary dinner. The staff surprised me with a tribute, and being there with family and so many FairVote allies made for a moving evening. Fellow board members Krist Novoselic, Eddie Hailes and Rick Hertzberg spoke powerfully about FairVoteâ€™s remarkable progress and exciting future. Change is coming, and it is a joy to have an opportunity to be part of it.
My profound thanks and best wishes to you and your family at this special time of year.
John B. Anderson
Chair, FairVote Board of Directors
John Anderson was the first presidential candidate whose campaign I ever worked for, and also the first I voted for. In fact, I was the Garden Grove Area Petition Coordinator, helping him get on the ballot in California in 1980. I wish I had a photo of the old red Cougar I was driving back then and dubbed The Andersonmobile for the multiple (and also red) Anderson stickers affixed to it. I even briefly participated in a movement to draft him as the Reform Party nominee in 2000, but it was clear that Anderson was not interested and the Reform Party wasn’t worthy of either word in its name.1
I had the pleasure of meeting him for coffee about six years ago (when he was in San Diego with the World Federalist Movement). That makes him one of three presidential candidates I ever have had the opportunity to meet personally (the others being Ralph Nader and Bill Richardson). Anderson’s commitment to reform impressed me in 1980–when I supported him as much for his energy-saving gas-tax increase as for anything else. He still impresses me today, especially for his role with Fairvote.
Let me make clear that the faction–groupuscule would be more like it–that I was loosely involved with had no connection to the eventual Reform nominee, Pat Buchanan. Many of its members were, in addition to Anderson, also interested in drafting John McCain, but most eventually turned to Ralph Nader. [↩]
The reason is that Kucinich chairs the Domestic Policy Subcommittee of the House Oversight Committee. Issa and Bilbray are the only two local members of that Committee. Now his appearance makes more sense.
In his statement (which you can find through the link in the previous paragraph) he has a mild, but still somewhat stinging, rebuke to San Diego County officials for allowing their County to remain the only one in California without a fire department. The County continues to have a patchwork of small special districts and private fire companies. Local control and all that. Problem is that wildfires are very much a whole-County phenomenon. They have this annoying tendency to start way out east in the jurisdiction of some little, understaffed and underfunded, department or district and then, by next morning, be burning houses in incorporated cities. In 2004, there was 81% Countywide endorsement of a ballot measure (advisory only, of course) to propose a consolidate County fire department. This was in the wake of the 2003 fires. Of course, nothing has been done. And then came the 2007 fires.
Good for Kucinich to help shed some light on this problem. I don’t think it will win him any delegates out this way for his presidential campaign (given the 15% threshold), but it might win him a vote or two from some frustrated residents of an always badly governed County’s urban-wildlands interface.
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