The details are rather fascinating. Please follow the link, and if so inclined, come back here to discuss!
Although I am planting this under Coalition governance, the government technically is not a coalition. Or is it? Only one party is in cabinet, but others have “ministers outside cabinet,” an innovation pioneered by the previous Labour government (and much criticized at the time by National). More precisely, it’s a minority government, but with a series of signed agreements with other parties.
Sure, MMP means that, mostly, outcomes in terms of the inter-party dimension (how many seats each party wins) are the same as if the system were just a (closed-list) PR system.
The one obvious way in which MMP is different is the rules may permit a party to enter parliament through winning a district, even if the party’s overall popularity was not enough to clear the party-list threshold. That’s how the Progressive and United Future and, most importantly, the ACT and Maori parties will be in the just-elected New Zealand parliament, despite not having cleared 5% of the party-list vote.
Here is another difference, and it comes on the intra-party dimension:
Elsewhere in Christchurch, Labour can thank the personal following of their incumbent MPs for not being routed. National won the party vote in Port Hills and Waimakariri, but the popularity of Cabinet Ministers Ruth Dyson and Clayton Cosgrove meant they held onto their seats. [...]
Dalziel [Lianne Dalziel, another Labour member who survived in her district] said Labour would look at whether Christchurch showed anything other than the national trend. “If there were issues in Christchurch that people responded to in a particular way then all of us would be very interested to know what those were and act on those,” she said.
In other words, candidate popularity and local issues still count, and likely to a greater degree than they would in a purely closed-list PR system. Naturally, these seats did not change the overall balance of seats won by Labour or any other party. However, they do allow the districts to have an advocate within the party. And they encourage the party to nominate appealing candidates and attend to local issues.
I’m always amazed by large temperature variations over short distances. This morning’s 9:00 a.m. version of the regular forecast discussion noted:
TEMPERATURES THIS MORNING WERE INTERESTING TOO BECAUSE OF THE LOCALIZED WINDS. WITHIN THE CITY OF RIVERSIDE AT 6 AM THE AIRPORT WAS A WINDY 79 DEGREES WHILE MARCH FIELD WAS VIRTUALLY CALM AND 49. [CAPS theirs]
Those locations are less than 15 miles apart.
Here at Ladera Frutal, just over 50 miles south of March, we hit a low of 55 shortly before six this morning. And we got to 96 during the day. Yes, it’s feeling a lot like fall around here!
Ted Stevens has now fallen behind, though plenty of votes still remain to be counted. (More at 538, where a separate item also notes that one academic study suggests Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman may yet be defeated.)
Three states’ electoral votes in 2008 were won with less than a majority and with at least one third-party/independent candidate having more votes than the margin between the top two. One other state was likewise won with less than a majority, with two candidates combining for more than the margin.
Won by Obama with 49.92% over McCain’s 48.96%
Obama margin over McCain: 26,163
Bob Barr: 29,196
Won by McCain with 49.44% over Obama’s 49.24%
McCain margin over Obama: 5,868
Ralph Nader: 17,769
Bob Barr: 11,355
Chuck Baldwin: 8,181
(Cynthia McKinney: 958)
Won by McCain with 49.66% to Obama’s 47.16%
McCain margin over Obama: 12,136
Ron Paul: 10,499
Ralph Nader: 3,570
Bob Barr: 1,300
Won by Obama with 49.70% over McCain’s 49.38%
Obama margin over McCain: 13,692
Bob Barr: 25,408
It is very likely that votes for Ralph Nader (at 3.03 times the margin) cost Obama the electoral votes of Missouri and that votes for Bob Barr (at 1.86 times the margin) cost McCain the electoral votes of North Carolina. As for Montana and Indiana, as well as the vote totals of Barr and Baldwin in Missouri, because I will not assume that all Barr/Baldwin/Paul votes would have gone to McCain or all Nader/McKinney to Obama, it is harder to say, but an affect on the outcome is certainly possible.
Fortunately, the choice of President did not hinge on these states. But it is well past time that we did away with the electoral college and plurality voting.
Source: Dave Leip, with an assist from good old Wikipedia (where, unlike at Leip or the media sites I checked, someone bothered to enter the individual candidate totals for candidates not named McCain or Obama.)
The results of Saturday’s election in New Zealand are now clear (albeit preliminary). The National Party has won 59 seats in a parliament that will have 122 seats. With 62 seats needed for a majority, it will be an easy government to form. The Act did better than I imagined possible, with 5 seats.
The Maori Party slightly exceeded expectations, winning 5 of the 7 Maori districts, creating two overhangs (given only 2.2% of the list vote).
The only real questions are whether (1) National and its leader (soon to be PM) John Key will negotiate cabinet seats with Act, or simply rely on a confidence-and-supply agreement, and (2) how closely tied to Act National will be willing to appear. If the answer to the second question is ‘not too much’ we might see some sort of cooperation agreement with the Maori Party and with United Future (though the latter has only one seat, making it not sufficient by itself to give National a majority on any legislation). Key will be speaking with all three parties as he prepares to name a cabinet. Key still is saying he does not want Act’s Roger Douglas in the cabinet:
“I made it clear on the campaign trail I was going to lead a centre-Right government that was moderate. I do not believe that’s compatible with having Mr Douglas in Cabinet.”
Thus he will need understandings with UF and Maori to resist Act’s otherwise considerable leverage, given the latter’s showing.
It looks to me as if we’ll see a single-party minority cabinet (perhaps with a Maori ministry outside cabinet), to preserve National’s flexibility and prevent its being too tethered to Act.
The Green Party had a strong showing, with 8 seats on 6.4% of the party-list vote. But it obviously will be in opposition, along with Labour, which won 43 seats.
The party vote for National was slightly below most late polls, at 45.5%. Labour’s was 33.8%. Labour leader–and PM since 1999–Helen Clark, has resigned her party post.
The variable threshold produced some odd results, in addition to the five seats made possible by the Maori Party’s dominance of the Maori districts. While Act will have 5 seats on only 3.7% of the list vote, New Zealand First will have none, despite 4.2% of the list vote. The difference is that while NZF came much closer to the 5% list-vote threshold than pre-election polls had suggested, it failed to win a district plurality. Act, on the other hand, won one district (Rodney Hide’s reelection in Epsom), and hence qualified for full list proportionality. The single seats won by both United Future and Progressive Party also stem from their leader’s continuing ability to win their own districts; each of these parties failed to get 1% of the vote.
Obviously, under any MMP system, a party that wins a district must be permitted to enter parliament with that victory. But allowing a lower party-vote threshold for a single district win has always struck me as anomalous. Again, I am not referring to the Maori seats, which are a separate issue. But having two parties in the range of three to five percent, but the smaller one with five seats and the larger one with none is a very odd outcome. So, electoral-systems designers, it is now your mission to design a fair way to ‘correct’ this anomaly. I would suggest lowering the list threshold (for future elections, obviously) to 2.5%, which is about what it takes to win 3 of 120 seats. I doubt this one would fly, so the orchard floor is open for alternatives. One other before I ‘plant’: one could require two district seats to open up a sub-5% party to list representation (following the German example, where the threshold is 5% or three district wins).
California Proposition 1A on last week’s ballot passed, 52.2% to 47.8%. This measure allows the state to sell bonds to finance a high-speed rail system. Good news!
If one compares the map of counties in which the measure won or lost with the route map (cool graphics there!), one finds only a loose correlation. Sure, the measure won in the big population centers that would be connected by the rail system (those in the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles County). It also won in Kern and Fresno Counties (Bakersfield and Fresno, Central Valley population centers, would have stops), and a few other counties along the route. However, it much of the rest of the Central Valley (including the counties where Sacramento and Modesto, which would have stops, are located), while passing in some locales quite distant from the route (e.g. Mendocino, Monterey, and Santa Barbara). The biggest percentage win was in Modoc County, about as far from any proposed station as one could be and still be in the state. It lost, 52-48, here in San Diego County, which would be on an eventual extension (running close to Ladera Frutal!), but not the preliminary route.
Despite the passage of the bonds, this system is still a long way from being built. But it is a step in the right direction.
As this planting takes root into the virtual soil here at laderafrutal, polls are opening for New Zealand’s general election. It is noon Friday here, 9:00 a.m. Saturday there.
The election, held under mixed-member proportional representation (MMP) pits the National and Labour parties against each other for the leadership of an expected coalition or minority government. Either party likely would need the active or tacit cooperation of at least two smaller parties. One of those smaller parties, the Maori Party, could end up holding the balance of power, although the most recent aggregates of polls (’08 Wire and Curia) suggest there is a good chance that a right-wing governing formula can be assembled without need to deal with the Maori Party. There is also some (evidently diminishing) chance that National could form a majority government on its own. (more…)
The data show that Obama’s victory was not a map-changer; it was mostly a national swing, the result of which was to lift some of the closer states (Colorado, New Mexico, Virginia, Iowa, etc.) over the threshold from “red” to “blue.” Again, that is consistent with the “partisan mandate” I referred to yesterday, rather than with any talk of a “realignment” (in which the underlying demographic electoral coalitions of the parties change). That is not to say there is no evidence for any of the latter. For instance, minority and youth vote turned decisively towards the Democrat. (We won’t know whether that is because of a young and biracial candidate’s personal appeal or partisan realignment till post-Obama elections.) Overall, however, this was clearly mostly a national swing–for the presidency, and most likely for the House and Senate, as well.
How big is Barack Obama’s presidential mandate? And how much is it a personal mandate for the remarkable candidate that is Mr Obama, and how much is it a mandate for his Democratic Party, and by extension, for its policy preferences?
These are highly subjective–if important–questions, and I shall not pretend to have the answer to “how big” in some absolute sense. However, we can look at some electoral data for a cross-temporal comparative perspective. How does the Obama/Democratic ‘mandate’ compare with those for other “change” presidents?
For purposes of this discussion, I am going to look at all of the newly elected presidents since 1932 whose election marked an alternation in the party controlling the presidency. We will consider the size of the president-elect’s own mandate in both votes (the real kind, i.e. the ‘popular vote’) and electoral votes.
I will then look at the extent to which the change in the presidency was reflected in the House of Representatives. Did the president’s party gain seats upon his election? If so, was the gain sufficient to alternate control of the chamber? If there was a big surge in House seats for the new president’s party, we have a classic “coattails” effect, whereby the enthusiasm for the incoming president motivates voters to cast votes for his party, too.
Then I will look at changes in the House over a two-election period. The logic for doing so is that, if control of the House alternated at the previous midterm, that election may be proven to be a harbinger of partisan change, which voters then can confirm at the subsequent presidential election. This would not be a coattails story, except perhaps one of reversed coattails: The presidency might be said to have changed partisan hands because the voters were in a two-year process of conferring a mandate on the party.
The data I am going to present provide some support for the notion that the Obama/Democratic mandate is historically significant by each of these measures. To summarize the conclusions just a bit, Obama’s personal victory, at least in the popular vote, was one of the biggest we have seen in decades. His coattails, measured by copartisan gains, were substantial, though not historic. His party’s gains over the two-election cycle are, however, historic. In fact, 2008 marks the first time since 1918-1920 that a partisan change has occurred in the House and then been confirmed at the next presidential election–and 2006-2008 was bigger than the one in 1918-1920.
Here are the data (and you may click here to open up a larger version in a new window).
I would submit that this is the biggest PARTISAN MANDATE we have seen in the USA since FDR.
First, let us look at the personal support Obama received, compared to the other “change” presidents. At 52.4%, it is the largest by a Democrat since FDR (who had 57.4%), but clearly falls short of Republican Eisenhower’s 55.1%. Thus, measured by share of the popular vote, Obama received a bigger personal mandate than any change president in fifty-six years.
I also include share of two-party vote, because it has been rather common for alternations to occur in years in which there was a significant third-party or independent candidate who shared with the victorious major-party challenger an articulation of voter desire for change. Notable cases are Ross Perot in 1992 and George Wallace (if you want to call that “change”) in 1968, as well as John Anderson in 1980. The exclusion of third-party/independent votes from the denominator tends to make the newly elected president’s share of the 2-party vote greater than his share of the total vote. I assume that is because the incumbent president (or the candidate of the outgoing president’s party) loses some support from voters who can’t quite bring themselves to vote for the other major party’s candidate. Indeed, we see that Obama’s share of the 2-party vote is comparable to (and slightly behind) that of Clinton in 1992. It is also well behind that of Reagan in 1980 (as well as, of course, the figures obtained by FDR and Ike).
In looking at these cases of presidential alternation, it is striking how low the overall popular vote is for so many of them: Five failed to win even 51% of the vote, including each of the last five before this one, and two could not reach 45%. A change vote that breaks 53% of the 2-party vote is, therefore, impressive. Obama is only the third to do so since Ike.
Now let’s turn to the House, and a look at coattails and reversed coattails.
Strikingly, no newly elected president since 1952 has brought the House over to his party along with his election. And in the case of Eisenhower, it was actually a spurious majority (his party’s votes were less than that of the Democrats). That’s pretty much the definition of a personal mandate, even if the party did gain the majority. Not surprisingly, it would lose it at the very next election, in 1954–and not get it back for forty years.
Given the Democratic “lock” on the House between Eisenhower’s first midterm and Clinton’s first midterm, the presidential changes to Republican in the interim both failed to bring about alternation in the House. By the same token, that meant that the changes of the presidency back to Democratic control in the same period meant no alternation: they were more “restorations” (of unified government) than alternations.
Of course, the 1980 election merits special note. The Republican Party gained what is still the highest number of seats in a presidential-alternation year since 1932. Nonetheless, their 34 seats, propelled by a 3.1 percentage-point increase in the party’s House vote compared to 1978, was insufficient to bring Reagan’s party the House majority. (The party did, of course, take over the majority of seats in the Senate.)
The other alternations from 1960 through 1992 are remarkable only for the absence of coattails. The parties of Kennedy and Clinton actually lost seats (22 in the case of JFK!), Carter’s managed only a one-seat pickup, and Nixon’s only six. Three of these presidents saw their parties lose House votes (as a percentage) as they were being elected (Kennedy, Carter, and Nixon). I already mentioned the spurious majority for Eisenhower’s party, though the party did manage a minuscule gain in votes percentage.
Obama’s party’s gain of 19 (pending final counts that could push it to 20 or higher) is the second highest since 1952 (and the higher one, in 1980, still left the new president with divided government).
As for the possibility that a partisan mandate may begin at the previous midterm and be confirmed by the presidential alternation, Obama’s and the Democrats’ example is the first in a very long time. In 2008, with a net change of 50 seats (and it could go higher) we see the highest two-election gain in seats for the newly elected president’s party since the remarkable 147-seat gain in 1930-32.
Thus there is some evidence of a reversed-coattails effect, whereby Obama rode a strong pro-Democratic wave that began in 2006.1 While the Republican gains over two elections in 1968 were a bit greater than those in 2006-08 and the gains in 1974-76 and 1990-92 were similar in magnitude, none of these produced an alternation.
Now, about that 1918-1920 partisan mandate. It is the most recent case, before 2006-08, that I could find of alternation in House control followed by presidential alternation. And it deserves an asterisk.2 Republicans had a 215 – 214 plurality in the House after 1916 (after having been in the minority at the 1914 election), and took the majority (240 – 192) in 1918, then presidency in 1920. (The 1916 House had Prohib 1, Socialist 1, others 4.) So it is not as if the Democrats held a clear majority at the time this alternation began–unlike the Republicans when the current one began in 2006. So, this current case appears to be the only clean example of a two-election partisan alternation in the House and presidency (with the Senate, too!) in over a century.
In short, Barack Obama and the Democratic Party have just won a mandate of historic proportions.
Gains in a concurrent election really could be either coattails or reversed coattails. [↩]
Speaking of asterisks, I am leaving out of this discussion the presidential alternation of 2000, as it was not driven by a popular vote plurality. I may add the rest of the numbers in a comment later, just for comparative purposes. [↩]
I thought I’d offer a little California presidential ballot trivia before the election recedes too far into our memories (and what memories those will be!).
I have noted before how we had such a strong field of minor-party candidates, based on purely objective criteria (name recognition, prior electoral experience, etc.). The field included two former congressmen (former Republican Bob Barr as the Libertarian candidate and former Democrat Cynthia McKinney as the Green candidate) as well as Ralph Nader (here as the Peace and Freedom Party candidate; in most states he is running as an independent).
I did not realize till a few days before the election that we also have Alan Keyes on the ballot. I don’t know if that makes the field stronger still or not, but Keyes certainly is well known. He has sought the Republican nomination in the past.
Further, this marks the second time Keyes and Obama have faced each other. Keyes was the Republican Party’s late “desperation” candidate drafted to run against Obama in his Senate bid in 2004.
Keyes is the candidate of the American Independent Party in California. Normally, I believe this party nominates the same presidential candidate as the Constitution Party. The Constitution Party’s candidate–who is not on this state’s ballot–is Chuck Baldwin, who earlier had received the endorsement of Ron Paul.
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