Reporting from Goodyear, Ariz. — There was one benefit to being whacked in the nose by a ball that caromed off the center-field wall Wednesday.
That sinus infection bothering Torii Hunter? Not an issue anymore.
“It’s crazy, man,” said Hunter, who was back in center field Thursday, the swelling around his right eye having subsided. “You go to the doctor for a sinus infection, then you get hit in the nose. I get an X-ray and they say, ‘Well, one thing I can tell you is your sinuses cleared up.’ That was pretty funny.”
No, not as President of France, but as Co-Prince of Andorra.
See IHT. I originally heard this story on Radio France this morning, and there it was noted that Andorra has elections coming up for its “directly elected head of government.” I had previously thought there were no cases of avdirectly elected head of government in a constitutional monarchy,* but apparently there is at least one. I suppose that’s because we practitioners of comparative politics tend to overlook countries with populations of around only 72,000.
* Of course, an even bigger oddity is that half of its dual monarchy is actually an elected republican leader–elected by citizens of another country, that is. The other half is a Catalan bishop.
The United Progressive Alliance put together by Congress president Sonia Gandhi in 2004 has almost completely unravelled with the exit of the PMK on Thursday.
Worse, some of the allies who went their own way earlier are getting together, outside the UPA, to fight the Lok Sabha elections — such as the Rashtriya Janata Dal, the Lok Janshakti Party and the Samajwadi Party.
Here is the UPA’s growing list of estranged allies and outside supporters — the PMK, TRS, MDMK, PDP, SP, RJD and LJP. And there was the Left Front that left in 2008 following differences over the nuclear agreement with the US.
The ruling alliance now has only the Congress, NCP, DMK and some minor outfits.
Gandhi’s strategy (which I noted previously) of eschewing a national alliance such as that of 2004, and instead going for state-by-state alliances, may go down as a major strategic mistake. Then again, if the NDA (the alliance led by the BJP and which had won a majority in 1999) falls short of a majority, the Congress Party may be able to form a minority government with the help of its various state-level allies.
With these developments and with the increased pre-electoral presence of the Third Front alliance, it appears that the elections that are about to begin will produce a much less clear-cut picture than the last two.
Supporters claim the ballot in June will escape the distress of an election drive, bring the date closer to the provincial elections, while cutting expenses and keep voters´ interest.
These are the midterm elections, halfway through term of current President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner. Or a little earlier than halfway if her proposal becomes law.
The elections will renew half the Chamber of Deputies–is Argentina the only country in the world still not to renew in full its first or sole chamber at each election?–and a third of the Senate. (More detail: in the first chamber that’s half the seats in every province–plus or minus one in case of odd number of seats–and all three senate seats in one third of the provinces. Or at least I think I got that right.)
The Labor party’s central committee has voted 680-570 to ratify a coalition agreement that party leader and Defense Minister Ehud Barak negotiated, against considerable and open dissent from some of his party’s own Knesset members. The party will join the cabinet led by PM-designate Benjamin Netanyahu of Likud, along with Yisrael Beiteinu, Shas, and HaBayit HaYehudi.
I am not sure which surprises me more, that Labor is joining what will be an ideologically un-connected government (unless Kadima ultimately relents and signs on as well), or that Labor got such a sweet deal in both portfolio payoffs and policy commitments.
Or, to look at it another way, I am not sure who ultimately was revealed to be more desperate: Barak to avoid leading his diminished party into opposition, or Netanyahu to avoid leading a strictly right-wing/Orthodox government.
Nonetheless, despite what the second-linked item implies, Labor does not look over-represented. It will have 5 ministers. If the cabinet continues to have around 25 ministers, that would be 20%. Labor has 13 Knesset seats, and the coalition will have 66 seats, giving Labor just under 20% of the coalition’s seats. Gamson rules!
Labor will get five very important portfolios and they may indeed come with some policy influence outside of what the party’s size might imply: Defense, Industry, Trade and Labor, Agriculture, Welfare and Social Services and one minister without portfolio who will be in charge of minorities’ affairs. The JPost notes that “The two sides also agreed that Netanyahu would not be the one to appoint Labor ministers to the portfolios, but Barak would do so.” Of course, the notion that a party (through its agent, the leader) and not the head of the government, controls the ministerial posts, is as much a core principle of parliamentary government as is Gamson’s Law.
As for Kadima, this brings me back to another core principle of coalition government: that coalitions tend to be ideologically connected. If Kadima stays in opposition, it is in a really strange and perhaps untenable position. It sits pretty much at the center of the Israeli political spectrum, on each of the main policy dimensions, and yet will have governing parties all around it in the issue space. I have a hard time imagining how a party with such little ideological coherence of its own can survive in that position.
This month shall be for you the beginning of the months, it shall be for you the first of the months of the year.
It’s the first day of spring* and Nowruz, the Persian new year. Tomorrow, the 25th of Adar, is Shabbat ha-Chodesh on the Hebrew calendar, the Shabbat preceding the first of Nisan, when we remember the blooming of liberation. The 25 of Adar also just happens to be the anniversary of the day when your orchardist and his beloved were under the chupah.
So what better time to celebrate amidst the blooms?
* If you are north of the equator, of course.
My interest in the WBC teams is roughly inversely correlated with the presence of major-league regulars on the roster. For that reason, I am sorry that one of the still-contending teams in the pool now nearing its conclusion in San Diego will be eliminated. Korea, with hardly anyone I have heard of on the roster, but many players who are a joy to watch play the game (and play it really well), is already in the final four. I suppose my first sentence gives away my rooting interest for tonight, but it will be really hard not to root for the team I am not rooting for. (This international baseball fan stuff is hard!)
Naturally, given the interest mentioned in that first sentence, I have not paid close attention to the pool of teams playing in Miami (especially since the expected early exit of the surprising Netherlands team). But last night’s USA comeback in the bottom of the 9th against Puerto Rico was, well, a classic. And the advance of Team USA to the final four is great news for increasing interest in the tournament; it should certainly help ticket sales and TV ratings for this weekend’s games in Los Angeles. And if they were to play Korea in either the semi-final (seeding to be determined by USA-Venezuela game tonight) or the final (or both), the presence of a very large Korean community in Los Angeles would make for an intense and exciting atmosphere. But really, any of the still-possible match-ups would be interesting.
President Marc Ravalomanana, under siege for a while, actually tried to hand power to a military junta, but Andry Rajoelina, the former mayor of the capital, apparently will become “interim” president instead. Rajoelina had been in a power struggle with Ravalomanana for months.
Ravalomanana won the 2006 presidential election with over 55% of the vote. The runner-up had 11%, and Rajoelina was not even a candidate.
Madagascar is interesting to me as one of the few countries ever to have qualified for each of the three variants of “presidential” democracy. I show it as democratic and premier-presidential from 1991 to 1993, president-parliamentary from 1993 to 1997, and (more or less “pure”) presidential since 1997 (though for now, no longer democratic). The progression shows the steady increase in formal presidential power over the cabinet–in the 1991-93 system the president had barely any say in who became premier, as well as no right to dismiss the premier. Since 1997 the post of premier still exists, but it now takes a two-thirds vote of parliament to remove the premier and cabinet, taking the country out of the realm of “semi-” presidentialism.
As if to underscore the lowly status of the PM, apparently the constitution actually states that the leader of the upper house should be the interim president if the elected president resigns. (I believe most semi-presidential systems have that role fall to the premier, though I have never looked into this systematically.) In any case, it certainly should not fall to the Constitutional Court to pick a non-legislator, who is constitutionally too young for the presidency in any case.
In career-path trivia, I wonder how many other countries have had presidents (interim or otherwise) who were former dic jockeys.
Eighteen years after the end of a civil war viewed by leading 1980s US policy-makers as nothing more than another Soviet-US proxy war, the candidate of the former guerrilla movement, FMLN, has won El Salvador’s presidential election.
At latest check of La Prensa Grafica, the FMLN’s Mauricio Funes had 51.3% of the votes in the two-candidate race, with almost 91% of votes counted. So it was no landslide, but when I asked yesterday if reports of very high turnout (by Salvadoran standards) indicated a possible leftist landslide, I really should have asked if it indicated a “massive swing.” Given the polarization of the country, and the fact that the FMLN in January’s legislative elections had won its highest percentage ever–by far–at 42.8% of the vote, a landslide (which I would take roughly to mean 55% or more in a 2-way race) was never realistic.
It was, however, a massive swing. The FMLN had managed less than a third of the vote in the one two-candidate presidential race it previously participated in, the 1994 runoff. In both 1999 and 2004 the ARENA candidate had won a first-round majority with the FMLN managing only 29% and 36%, respectively.
I will admit to some surprise that, with turnout rising so much, ARENA could still manage to come so close to half the votes. That is a good sign: both major parties were able to mobilize new voters, and to break their near-complete dependence on the wartime polarization. It is hard to exaggerate how important this election outcome is for Central American history and for post-civil-war democracies more generally. It marks the first real alternation in power in El Salvador’s history (not to trivialize the Christian Democratic presidential victory of 1984, but that happened under decidedly ‘special’ circumstances of US sponsorship).
Now comes the hard part: governing. This election gives the Salvadoran left a chance, but dealing with the divided assembly will not be easy for Funes. In January’s election, the FMLN won 35 seats, placing it 8 seats shy of a majority in the single chamber. The remnant of the Christian Democratic Party (PDC) has only 5 seats and a small centrist party 1.
There is simply no way that Funes can craft majorities for any proposed statutory changes without votes of the smaller right-wing party, the PCN, which has 11 seats. There is rich irony in that, as the PCN was the party of the governing landlord-military alliance against which the FMLN’s precursor organizations initially rebelled. The PCN has normally been an ally in congress of ARENA, although the PCN has on occasion joined with the FMLN. One prominent item of cooperation I recall from some years ago was on a proposal to forgive agrarian debt. That measure passed with the support of the FMLN, PDC, and PCN. It was vetoed by the president, and because it takes a two thirds vote to override a presidential veto and because ARENA held exactly one third of the seats, plus one, at the time, the bill died. The FMLN will need to work with the PCN again, and I expect the latter to be willing to bargain in order to preserve its place in a party system whose balance is now titled against it.
The presidency of El Salvador is by no means one of the strongest constitutionally in Latin America, but it is far from weak. It would be nearly impossible for the ARENA and PCN to legislate over the head of the executive, even if the PCN wanted to try, and despite these parties holding a joint majority of seats. The presidential veto would prevent it, and the FMLN has enough seats to sustain vetoes. More importantly, when the president of El Salvador vetoes a bill, he has the right to amend it. Stronger than a “line-item” veto, this veto permits the president to act as if he were a unipersonal revisory legislative chamber. By crafting an alternative bill to present to the Legislative Assembly after rejecting their proposal, he can bring the outcome far closer to his own preferences than if his veto strictly amounted to a choice between the status quo and the proposal passed by the legislature (as with the “package” veto of the US president).
The legislative balance of party forces, the PCN’s need to distinguish itself from ARENA now that the latter lacks control of the executive, and the constitutional powers of the presidency all give the FMLN a real opportunity to compromise with other political forces for the benefit of the Salvadoran populace.
The Cold War is over at last. The Salvadoran people have won.
In the 1980s, El Salvador’s “Pol Pot Left” was an obsession with America’s far right, which was at the time well represented in the halls of power. The governing US Republican party made stopping the allegedly imminent threat of a Soviet-Castroite takeover of Central America–with El Salvador next, after Nicaragua, on the “hit list”–one of its highest priorities. And that meant stopping the Farbundo Marti Front for National Liberation, or FMLN, from seizing power by force of arms and popular insurrection. It also meant not negotiating with it until it would “lay down its arms” and participate in elections. The very real and grinding inequality of land ownership, against which the FMLN was fighting, was de-emphasized (although there was a small land reform undertaken with US support in the 1980s).
The ideological affinity between the far right in the US and El Salvador was so strong that the latter even named its emerging movement the Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA), as it turned its original death-squad structure into an essentially fascist (and I do not toss that term around lightly) political party.
Now here we are in 2009, with the far right (mostly stripped of its fascist baggage but not of its economic ideology) having governed El Salvador for twenty years. The FMLN laid down its weapons in the 1990s, during the G.H.W. Bush presidency, and has been participating in El Salvador’s elections since 1994. Its candidate in today’s presidential election is not tainted by the war and does not advocate radical economic reform. In other words, El Salvador’s left has done precisely what it was told to do by Uncle Sam. The Soviet Union is a distant memory and Fidel Castro is barely hanging on in a country whose government no one considers a model. Yet here we are, 15 years into El Salvador’s post-war democracy, and certain far-right dead-enders in the US Congress just can’t get over the fact that the FMLN might actually win an election.
Sometimes it is at least useful when the real extremists reveal themselves.
On Sunday voters in El Salvador will elect their next president. As discussed here previously, I still think the leftist candidate, Mauricio Funes, will win, ending 20 years of rule by the right-wing ARENA party and marking the first presidential victory by the former guerrilla FMLN. But it could be close, and one can’t ever rule out a surprise.
The reason there surely will not be a runoff is that the candidates of the other parties withdrew from the race after the legislative election. So, in essence, the legislative election functioned as the de-facto first round of the presidential election. The elections for legislature confirmed what surely everyone knew: that the FMLN and ARENA were by far the two dominant parties. More importantly, they perhaps showed the small left party, the CD, that it had better get out of the way and the vaguely centrist but mostly right-wing PCN and PDC that it might be possible to defeat Funes, after all. While a majority of votes would be required, whether in one round or two, the “momentum” factor of a strong plurality by either major candidate might have been something the other bloc wanted to avoid. Better to go for the one-round victory, when there is no question about who will contend for the second slot in the runoff (as there often is in two-round contests).
In any case, a legislative election within a few months of a presidential election is expected to function as a field-winnower. At least that is what I have long claimed about these “counterhoneymoon” elections. Nice to see theory confirmed by data–or, in this case, datum!*
POLL NUMBERS!!! Salvador election close, or not (boz)
For various reasons, I have not been able to write about the World Baseball Classic 2009 the way I did in 2006.
But, with the first round over but for one slot in the next round to be determined tonight (and a couple of games only about Round-2 seeding), this has been a thriller so far.
Who knew that The Netherlands1 would have the best pitching and just enough offense to beat twice–and thus eliminate–a Dominican team loaded with all-star talent? They even held a Puerto Rican team, also loaded with top talent, scoreless till late in a game eventually won by also-advancing Puerto Rico. (Maybe the Dutch pitching coach can add this to a Hall of Fame resume that continues, for unfathomable reasons, to fail to impress the Hall electorate.)
And Australia? We don’t usually think of our friends down under when we think of baseball powerhouses (though the number of Australian players signed by MLB organizations in recent years seems to be sharply up). Yet tonight they have a chance to advance if they can beat Mexico a second time. That seems like a tall order, but given that they not only beat, but dismantled, the Mexican team earlier in the week, who can rule it out? Their team looks good, if not exactly deep. They even gave the Cubans a hard time last night (though Cuba got a clutch 3-run homer and thus assured itself of moving on to the next round).
Even Italy2 pulled off an upset, beating Canada (though not advancing). And Chinese Beijing won its first WBC game, and has some players who look like they might have a shot on this side of the Pacific.
The world of baseball is looking good. And the final Netherlands-DR game and last night’s Cuba-Australia game were as tense and exciting as anything I could hope for over the coming regular MLB season. Too bad that, after this tournament ends, we have to wait four years for the next one.
1. Many of the Dutch players are from the Netherlands Antilles (Aruba and Curacao–don’t they play baseball on Bonaire?), and a few are Americans with perhaps somewhat tenuous connections to their family’s European roots. Yet several are directly from the European country whose name the team bears. Regarding that pitching, remember these names: Tom Stuifbergen, Alexander Smit, Rob Cordemas, Dennis Neuman, Diegomar Markwell and Leon Boyd. (And not to be forgotten: Sidney Ponson.)
2. While still featuring several Italian-Americans (e.g. Nick Punto) and even a Venezuelan (the country name means Little Venice, after all!), there seem to be more Italian-born players who actually play in Italy’s professional leagues than at WBC ’06.
With a viable Third Front appearing more realistic than ever during the last five years, the CPI(M)-led Left Front has stepped up efforts to snatch regional parties presently with the Congress and BJP.
The CPI(M) looks in charge, more so after snaring the Biju Janata Dal, ending its 11-year-old alliance with the BJP. Encouraged by this early success, it is lining up more such parties for a friendship pitch.
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