Social Democrats claim to be in a position to supplant the current Liberal-led coalition after today’s legislative election in Romania , AFP reports:
Prime Minister Calin Tariceanu pleaded with stay-away voters in the hours before polling stations closed, but the 39 percent turnout was the lowest since the fall of communism in 1989.
Exit polls by the Insomar and CCSB institutes gave the Social Democrats 36 percent of the votes that were cast, ahead of the right-wing Liberal Democrats with 30.5 percent, and Tariceanu’s ruling Liberals with just over 20 percent. [...]
The first general elections since Romania joined the EU in 2007, and the sixth since the end of communism, saw the far-right Greater Romania Party, the country’s second political force in 2000, unable to get into parliament for the first time.
But the junior partner in the Liberal-led government, the Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania (UDMR), was likely to figure in coalition talks with about seven percent support, according to CCSB.
To this institutionalist, this election is noteworthy not simply because it is the first since Romania joined the EU, but because it is the first nonconcurrent legislative election in Romania as well as the first under a reformed electoral system.
Romania has a premier-presidential system (the variant of semi-presidentialism in which the president has the most limited powers over government formation and legislation). If the opposition were able to form a majority, Romania would experience cohabitation for the first time (see below). Until recent constitutional changes, cohabitation was unlikely (to result from elections), because the assembly was elected at the same time as the first round of the presidential elections.
However, initiative in the naming of a prime minister after a parliamentary election remains with the president, and so the continuation of a coalition led by the president’s rightist allies remains likely. (In 2004, cohabitation was averted only by a flip of one party from one pre-electoral alliance to the other, once the presidential runoff result was known; see previous discussion.) Presidential elections are not due for a year, as the term is now five years (while the terms for both houses of parliament remain at four). Of course, if Romania does not get cohabitation now, it could yet get it a year from now, if President Traian Basescu loses his expected reelection bid.
As for the new electoral system, it seems still to be PR, but with some sort of local component. Maybe. See discussion in a previous comment thread.
P.S. Press accountability: The linked AFP item is wrong when it says:
For the first time, senators and deputies were elected in a single round of voting, using a combination of party and candidate lists.
While there is evidently a change in the ballot format, a single round is nothing new. In past elections, only the presidency has been elected in two rounds.
Late correction: Actually, the outgoing government was a cohabitation situation, though not one that had resulted directly from elections. The government formed after the 2004 parliamentary and presidential elections was a coalition that included the president’s party. But in 2007, the PM (from a then-allied party) fired the ministers from the president’s party, reshuffled the cabinet among the remaining parties, and won the confidence of parliament. Thereby a cohabitation cabinet was created, and, this being a premier-presidential system, the president lacked the constitutional power to do anything about it!
Various news stories in the US have used phrases like “India’s 9/11″ in attempt to contextualize the Mumbai terror for American readers.
Aside from the fact that India unfortunately has endured many previous militant attacks–some of them originating from the same likely suspects, even if not on the coordinated, militarily precise, and mass-terrorizing scale as these latest–there is one overlooked sense in which this horrible incident has already been shown not to be India’s 9/11. (more…)
I will be surprised if it leads anywhere (other than simply to negotiations over the content of the fiscal plan). But definitely interested.
Finally, some constitutional matters of interest:
Traditionally, the governor general is bound to take the advice of a prime minister to call an election when a government is defeated. But historian Michael Behiels said Gov. Gen. Michaëlle Jean wouldn’t have much choice but to give a coalition a chance given that the last election was just over a month ago.
* Elsewhere in the news story, it is noted that neither the Bloc Quebecois nor the NDP would participate in any coalition with the Liberals if it meant Dion would be PM.
With all the other news from India these last few days, I almost missed the news that VP Singh died on Thursday.
Singh was India’s first Prime Minister not from the Congress Party, other than the period immediately following the broad front that defeated Congress during the emergency rule of 1977. His PM-ship was a short one, lasting less than a year in 1989-1990, as head of a so-called National Front. This was the beginning of a period of high government turnover, prior to the formation of the two broad alliances (National Democratic Alliance and United Progressive Alliance) that have taken turns governing since the late 1990s.
Two news items sent to me by Rob Richie of Fair Vote suggest that Sri Lanka may be in the process of dropping its open-list proportional (OLPR) system and returning, at least in part, to first-past-the-post (FPTP) rules (which were used for about the first three decades of statehood).
Government attention is being directed towards abolishing the preferential vote system. A committee has been appointed for this purpose with Minister Dinesh Gunawardena as its chairman. Minister Professor G.L. Peiris stated this at the cabinet press briefing held in Colombo today. The Minister said the preferential vote system has even caused problems within parties.
Even within the parties. Well, how about that? Candidates competing for votes is such a problem!
The Minister said the system will be changed with the objective of creating a better relationship between the voter and the representative.
It is certainly questionable whether FPTP, which obviously means only one party can represent a district and only one candidate is nominated per party, can actually create a better relationship.
The second item is in the Sri Lanka News. Again quoting Minister Peiris:
Minister Peiris noted that the present voting system had many flaws and brought the worst in human nature within the political parties themselves. “It was found that the preferential vote system has many negative aspects that impact negatively on the public as well as political parties themselves. There is no direct link between the public and elected member of the party. Thus, the system should be changed for the favour of the public,” he said.
However, this news item implies a mixed-member system of some sort:
Initially a balance between both the First Past the Post system and the Preferential voting system should be implemented at the Pradeshiya Sabha and Urban Council elections.
“During the Pradeshiya Sabha and Urban Council elections the new electoral system balancing 70 per cent of the First Past the Post and 30 per cent of the Preferential voting systems will be implemented,” Minister Peiris said.
Although it does not say, one might presume that this is a proposal for MMM (FPTP and list seats in parallel) rather than MMP (compensatory list seats to retain proportionality). I hope someone might have some further information.
If it were mixed-member of either type along with open lists, it would be a first at the national level (and maybe also a first with provincial/state electoral systems included). Other cases of preference votes within the list tier of MM systems (Lithuania, Bavaria) are flexible lists,* as far as I know.
Sri Lanka’s current system, as of the 2004 election, has twenty-two districts with magnitudes ranging from 4 to 20, and a mean around 9. Due to high thresholds and regional strongholds of parties, only one district has more than three parties with representation, and most have just two. On the intraparty dimension, the mean number of seats won in a district by the largest party is 5.3, with a maximum of 9. I can see the potential validity of poor connections between voters and representatives under OLPR in cases where there is excessive fragmentation, on either dimension: either very large numbers of 1-seat parties or high numbers of candidates elected by the major parties (in both cases, referring to the district level).** However, it does not seem like this charge would apply to the Sri Lankan system.
Any proposed changes in Sri Lanka’s electoral system would require a two-thirds vote in parliament and apparently also would be submitted to a referendum.
* As always at F&V and in my academic work, “open” lists refer to systems in which the order of election from within a list is determined entirely by preference votes obtained. “Flexible” lists have preference votes, but a party-given rank prevails except in the case of a candidate having obtained some stipulated quota of preference votes sufficient to vault others with higher party ranks. In practice, the latter tend not to be very flexible, and perhaps should be called “semi-closed” instead.
In their ongoing coverage at FiveThirtyEight of the recount in the US Senate race in Minnesota, one off-hand remark caught my attention:
Theoretically, a campaign could also argue that a vote has been counted for the wrong candidate (e.g. Coleman argues that a Franken vote should be a Coleman vote, rather than a no-vote), but I’d guess that these cases are exceptionally rare. One exception may be votes for third-party candidates (e.g. a Barkley vote that Coleman wants counted as a Coleman vote), where a campaign might have a slightly easier time closing the sale since the third-party won’t have representation in the room; [...]
Why are there no representatives of Barkley present? Yes, I know he has no chance of emerging the winner. But I would assume that, as a candidate in a disputed election, he would have a legal right to have agents present as ballots are reviewed. (For instance, to prevent one of the campaigns from tipping the race by converting marginal Barkley ballot marks into votes for their own candidate.)
So, is his absence a matter of law, or just practicality (such as financial constraints, or inability to recruit observers)?
Several subsequent comments address mine, with one stating that there is indeed no legal right to third-party representation in a recount (and seemingly surprised that the question would even arise).
I wonder if anyone reading F&V can confirm that. I suppose I should not be surprised or appalled if this is the case, but I suppose I am, nonetheless.
* Edited to fix some rather bad syntax in the original.
As the Thanksgiving holiday is upon us here in the USA, the news from Mumbai, India, is of a “fierce gunbattle with hiding terrorists, nearly 22 hours after terror struck prime locations in the city” (Hindustan Times).
Among the blessings for which we Americans must be most thankful is our functioning democracy in the midst of great religious and cultural diversity.* In these respects, perhaps no other country on earth is as much like ours as is India. And some do not like it that way. The terrorists who attacked in the name of an evilly twisted definition of one religion have done so with vitriol directed at Hindus, and among the sites attacked was a Jewish cultural center** that serves the city’s dwindling but very long established community.***
On a day dominated with this sort of terrible news, we are all Mubmaikars. And kinship with such a diverse and tolerant place, and its people’s struggle against intolerance and evil, is something to be thankful for.
* And, this month in particular, we can be even more thankful than usual: After eight years of official contempt for democracy and freedom, the possibilities of a brighter future are again real, current economic conditions notwithstanding.
** As the linked item, from the J-Post, notes:
Israelis feel at one with the people of India, especially at times like these. Both countries are modern incarnations of ancient civilizations. We share common political values, overlapping security concerns and a growing commerce.
India was established in 1947; Israel in 1948. Both peoples rejected British rule, both faced Muslim opposition to their independence. The subcontinent was divided into the secular state of India and the Muslim state of Pakistan. In the Mideast, the Palestinian Arabs rejected the idea of two states for two peoples. Substantially, they still do. [...]
India is a genuine multicultural democracy. Among its 1.1 billion people are 150 million Muslims. Its former president, and father of New Delhi’s nuclear program, is a Muslim.
*** Although the pre-19th century history is not well known, the west coast of India was to one of the first diaspora communities of Jews outside the Middle East. That coast, including the Mumbai region, would be among the first land one would reach if setting sail from somewhere along the Persian Gulf as exiles from the Babylon/Persia region.
From The Australian, this is the sort of story you just can’t make up…
SEX sells, and the newly formed Australian Sex Party knows it.
That’s why, even with what seem to be sensible policies rooted in a desire to make sexuality and discussions about it less touchy subjects, the party has chosen a name that stands out from the traditional ballot paper line-up.
The party, with the slogan “we’re serious about sex”, launches at Melbourne Sexpo on November 20th and party convenor Fiona Patten is confident it will gain the 500 members required to register and contest state Upper House and Senate seats. [...]
The party’s provocative and potentially alienating name was a decision the group wrestled with, Ms Patten said.
“We felt that – sex in a crowded room – now we’ve got your attention. It’s half the problem with politicians, because they still giggle when they say the word sex, and that’s why we have such idiotic policies at state and federal levels,” she said. [...]
“We’ll probably have our 500 members by the time we launch on Thursday. But there’s four million customers of adult shops in Australia.”
She also hoped the 1000 or so adult shops around the country would become Sex Party branches.
“Hopefully we’ll get their attention with the word but then we may be able to help influence some reasonably sensible policies.”
The California Supreme Court has granted a hearing on the challenges to Prop 8, which eliminated the right of same-sex couples to marry.
Four of the seven justices voted with the majority in the original ruling overturning the state’s previous voter-enacted ban on same-sex marriage. Of these four, one voted against yesterday’s 6-1 decision to grant a review of the challenges to Prop. 8. In other words, of the six to vote to grant a review, half were in the previous ruling’s minority. That breakdown of the votes for further review is probably not good news to proponents of equal marriage rights. We won’t know till well into next year, as the hearing is scheduled for March.
Handing California and western environmental policy advocates a big win, U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman wrested control of the House Energy and Commerce Committee from Michigan Congressman John Dingell Thursday morning.Waxman won the gavel fight for control of the committee over the more senior Dingell by a vote of 137 to 122.
MPR has a very interesting interactive web feature showing photos of disputed ballots in the US Senate race in Minnesota. Highly recommended, and the reason behind my subject line will become apparent if you go to the MPR feature.
Britt Dysart, a lawyer who practises in Fredericton and president of the New Brunswick Liberal Association, reflects on the difficulties a PM faces in assembling, shuffling, and holding together, a single-party cabinet. The item begins:
From the day someone dreamed up the concept of an executive council, premiers, prime ministers, presidents and other heads of state [of course, a PM is a head of government] have at some time or another suffered from the shuffle demons.
While there might be a few exceptions to the rule, generally speaking every caucus member from outside of cabinet wants in. Those within cabinet generally want to stay.
That makes shuffling a cabinet, which happened this week [in New Brunswick], one of the most difficult job a premier faces. [continue at original source...]
Some signs suggest the State Supreme Court will grant a review of Proposition 8, which took away the right the same court granted earlier this year for same-sex couples of marry.
The case petitioners are seeking to argue before the court is that the proposition amounts to a “revision” rather than an “amendment” to the state constitution, because it strips a fundamental right. I am no legal scholar, so I won’t pretend to assess the legal value of that argument. However, with the decision so recent, and 4-3, and with California justices subject to periodic retention elections (and potentially subject to a recall-election petition), I would not put good money on their being willing to insist on their earlier decision and overturn the measure.
And then there will also be the legal question–if Prop. 8 is not overturned–of whether the marriages performed between the time of the Court’s ruling in spring and the fall election would remain valid.
Yet another interesting angle is that the state’s Attorney General, Jerry Brown, is a proponent of inclusive marriage rights, but his job title would require him to defend the state’s newly enacted constitutional amendment stripping that right if it comes before the court.
It is really hard to over-state just how uncompetitive California’s single-seat legislative districts are.
Here are some stats (calculated by me from the LA Times day-after report, so don’t consider them “official”):
State Assembly (80 districts)
68.59% mean winner’s share
7 (8.8%) uncontested (i.e.winner with 100%)
65.10% mean winner’s share in contested seats
12 (15.0%) won with 55% or less
1 won by less than 50%1
51 (63.4%) won by the Democrat
State delegation to US House (53 districts)
71.06% mean winner’s share
7 (13.2%) uncontested
66.77% mean winner’s share in contested seats
6 (11.3%) won with 55% or less
1 won by under 50%2
35 (66.04%) won by the Democrat
State Senate (20 of 40 districts up this year)
64.45% mean winner’s share
4 won with 55% or less
0 won with under 50% (but one at 50.02%)
12 (60%) won by the Democrat
That’s uncompetitive! And unrepresentative: I do not know what the Democrats’ statewide vote was–these sorts of things are largely secret in American democracy–but it wasn’t 66%, or even 60%.
With the outcome of Prop. 11, which would create an “independent” commission to redraw district lines for the Assembly and state Senate, still uncertain (but most likely approved), can anyone convincingly argue that it is possible for an “independent” commission to improve this situation significantly? I have my doubts…
Evidently the footnotes plug-in is not working well with the new Word Press software. Sometimes the footnotes do not appear at all. Sometimes they appear, but with “aa” for each footnote marker, instead of numbers. Sorry; I might be able to fix it–one of these days.
District 10, an open seat in the Sacramento area, apparently won by Republican Jack Sieglock (70,161 votes, 46.92%) over Democrat Allyson Huber (69,136 votes, 49.23%). Libertarian Janice Bonser won around 7%. This one has subsequently narrowed and is not yet called. [↩]
And two more with less than 50.1%. The one sub-majority winner would be in District 3 northeast of Sacramento, where Republican Dan Lungren was reelected (117,609 votes, 49%) over Democrat William Dunston (105,288, 44%). An independent won 4% and a Libertarian 2%. [↩]
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