I would note that his specific suggestion that New York City could form a single 13-seat district might not be the best way to sell STV. But perhaps one should not quibble with such details, important though they are, at this point.
I did not look at many of the comments (55 at last check), but I did notice that the first comment advocates expanding the size of the House (as an alternative, but why pick just one of these?), and another makes the all-too-common mistake of conflating the increased district magnitude of PR with “at large” plurality (with reference to such a provision in the Puerto Rican legislature).
And at least one of the comments mentions the looming referendum on STV in British Columbia.
Because of the shrinking Republican vote in the state [of Pennsylvania], Specter was seen as a dead man walking politically in the primary with polling showing him trailing [Republican primary challenger Pat] Toomey by ten or more points. The bar for Specter to run as an independent was also extremely high due to the rules governing such a third party candidacy.
That left a Democratic candidacy as Specter’s best option if he wanted to remain in the Senate beyond 2010.
And Specter himself justified his decision by saying “Since my election in 1980, as part of the Reagan Big Tent, the Republican Party has moved far to the right. Last year, more than 200,000 Republicans in Pennsylvania changed their registration to become Democrats. I now find my political philosophy more in line with Democrats than Republicans.”
Now, one might say that was a convenient “finding.”
But should we see this as “agency loss” (he was elected as a Republican, after all) or as “agent responsiveness” (his principal–the electorate of Pennsylvania–has shifted its preferences in the last five years)?
Whatever our answer may be in the case of the current US Senate and Pennsylvania, would it vary if the electoral system or constitutional context were different?
I would normally understand “citrus plot” to be a piece of land dedicated to growing oranges, grapefruit, and the like. However, in the past week, an Iranian official accused the opposition–it is soon to be voting season in Iran–of a “citrus plot” for having allegedly imported Israeli oranges into Iran.
But they were not actually Israeli. Nor was the Israeli fruit brand they were sold under that of an orange.
The fruits in question were imported into Iran from China, as the BBC notes:
It has now been revealed the fruit, a type of orange-grapefruit hybrid marketed as Jaffa Sweetie, were not Israeli in the first place.
The Sweeties were brought to Iran from China, where faking the origin of goods is a common practice.
The general manager of the Israel Citrus Marketing Board, Tal Amit, was no more amused than the Iranian officials, saying “it’s a bit annoying that somebody is using our brand name and registered trademark without our permission.” (Jaffa is a registered Appellation of Origin.)
The genuine Jaffa Sweetie commands high prices in Japanese and South Korean export markets, as well as in Europe. So someone in China was trading on the good name of this product by marketing another fruit as Jaffa Sweetie. And evidently blissfully unaware that this “good name” was not so good in Iran, where Israeli products are banned.
As photos accompanying the BBC story show, the boxes clearly show China as the place of origin, notwithstanding stickers on the fruits themselves that say “Jaffa Sweetie–Israel.”
But as we peel back the rind a bit farther, it turns out that the fruit in question is not an orange. And maybe not even an orange-grapefruit hybrid.
If it were an orange-grapefruit hybrid, it would be an orangelo, like the chironja (which I was able to taste some years ago at the Citrus State Historic Park in Riverside). However, one evident Nordic citrus-fancier suggests the ‘Jaffa Sweetie’ is not an orange at all. His photos certainly show a fruit that does not look like an orange(lo), nor like what is in the BBC photo. It seems that the Jaffa Sweetie is a grapefruit-pummelo hybrid similar to Oroblanco, but with a green skin, unlike the yellow-skinned Oroblanco.
So if the consumer (or the outraged Iranian official) knew his or her citrus, one could have told the counterfeit from the rind itself. Forget the sticker. Or the box. In any case, the counterfeiters did a really, really bad job all around.
Regarding the no. 1 candidate on each national list: he or she is technically the party’s “presidential candidate.” Yet another of those subtleties usually missing from the media coverage is that the successful candidate, while having the title of President, is really a prime minister: the election is not direct (because becoming President depends on the outcome of the parliamentary election), and the occupant of the post is subject to removal by a majority in a no-confidence vote.
Of course, one party is going to get an overwhelming majority once again, and the leadership will have chosen the individual legislators–due to the closed list.
It is also worth noting that the President/prime minister is also head of state, which is rather unusual for a parliamentary system. The occupant of the office is also limited in tenure, which is also unusual. So the roles of head of government and state are fused, but South Africa is without qualification a parliamentary system.
* Elsewhere, some closed-list ballots do list some (or, if the district is small, all) of the candidates and not just the leader. But given that such ballots allow no candidate voting, there is no “mechanical” need to show candidates. That’s what I mean by “classic” closed list: just the parties (and their candidate for national executive). (I suppose one could say it would even more classic if even the no. 1 candidate were not shown. I am not aware of such a ballot, but perhaps one has existed somewhere.)
Continuing this week’s theme of educating reporters, I would note that the lack of comparative politics understanding in the news media is not just an American affliction. On Deutsche Welle’s (English-language) Journal TV program this morning, a report on the South African election indicated that the main question was whether the ANC would retain the two thirds majority it needs “to make laws.”
Now I do not deny that some constitutions require two-thirds majorities to make certain laws (and sometimes not only constitutional amendments). And the ANC may well have an agenda for the coming term that would require super-majorities to accomplish. However, one might have gotten the impression from the report that all laws require two thirds to pass in South Africa. One would be mistaken in that impression; like most democratic legislatures, most decisions are taken by (simple) majority (see Article 53).
I offer up this space for discussion of South Africa’s general elections on 22 April.
The main question of interest is how strong a performance we will see from the Congress of the People (COPE), which split from the currently hegemonic African National Congress (ANC). Could the ANC fall below a majority? If it did, that would be some fall, given that it won almost 70% of votes and seats in 2004.
Nelson Mandela made a “surprise” appearance at the ANC’s final election rally. That presumably can’t hurt.
India’s general election is underway. It goes in stages–not all of the country votes on the same day–and it will be about a month before the process is completed, but once the vote-counting begins, it will be a matter of hours before results are known. Most of India’s polling places use electronic voting machines.
But none of this is what this planting is about. No, it is more a ranting: Why can’t the media understand even basic comparative politics?
On Tuesday afternoon, I heard a report on National Public Radio that asserted that, following this election, the party with the most votes in parliament would choose India’s next president.
What’s wrong with that statement? Let’s see, where should we begin? Perhaps with the recognition that India is a parliamentary democracy with a rather extreme multiparty system. These elections will determine the make-up of the first chamber of parliament, the Lok Sabha. And the next prime minister will depend on the outcome of not only the election itself, but the post-electoral bargaining situation. There is no guarantee that the prime minister will be from the party with the most seats in the Lok Sabha, because no party will win a majority on its own, and perhaps no pre-electoral alliance will have a majority, either. Even if one of the pre-electoral alliances has a majority of seats, there may very well be a bigger party (in terms of seats in the Lok Sabha and/or popular votes), but without the alliance partners needed for its leader to become the prime minister.
This election is not likely to result in a majority for any of the main pre-electoral alliances, leaving several possibilities to result after the election, including a small chance of a reunion of the current governing Congress Party-led alliance and its erstwhile partners on the left.
As for the president of India, she has been in office (we can’t say “in power,” but that’s getting ahead of ourselves) since 2007. She has a fixed term, which will extend until 2012. These elections have no bearing on the tenure in office of the president, who is in any case elected not by parliament nor the voters, but by an electoral college (of which parliament–both houses–is a part, along with representatives of states).
Fairly cursory glances at the websites of both the presidency and the current prime minister will give one a clue as to who is the more powerful actor in Indian politics. (Hint: the more powerful one is the one that has policy featured prominently on the front page, and not the one that shows ceremonies, has links to views of residences, and banquet speeches.)
So, to sum up today’s crash course in comparative politics, in India, as in other parliamentary systems, general elections determine who will be prime minister. Sometimes the process of determining who will be the prime minister–and the rest of the cabinet–is rather indirect, based on the bargaining strengths in parliament that the election has directly determined. And the prime minister may not be from the party with the most seats (unless that party has a majority on its own).
While I was otherwise engaged on 9 April, it seems Indonesia had its (‘counter-honeymoon’) legislative elections. (Click the country name in the ‘planted in’ line for previous discussions, which included some interesting discussion of party-list dynamics.)
The Pesach seder is a time for questions. This year we had a new one.
Jordan, his grandma Helen, and Matthew at the Pesach table. Photo credit: Merry. And that’s my mom’s seder plate.
The traditional plate would have a shankbone, symbolic of the lamb sacrificed for the ancient observance, and of the blood placed on the Hebrews’ doorposts so that the Malakh haMavet would know which houses to pass over, as we awaited our exodus.
But what is a non-meat-eater to do? Many have suggested a beet. However, this being Ladera Frutal, we had other ideas. So this year’s seder plate had a representative of the season’s new crop of blood oranges.
From our table to yours, happy feast(s) of spring and freedom!
The other day, in the planting about the complete book draft for Presidents, Prime Ministers and Parties, I mentioned Moldova in passing. Although I was vaguely aware that elections in that small country were due in spring, 2009, I was not aware that they actually were just winding down as I wrote–or that post-election protests were just getting wound up.
The reason for the mention of Moldova was that it is the only case, under democratic auspices, to move from one of the “separated powers” types to parliamentarism. The country moved to a parliamentary system in 2001 after a decade under the premier-presidential form (i.e. a directly elected, fixed-term presidency, alongside a prime minister and cabinet exclusively responsible to parliament).*
The Moldovan change in executive-legislative structure came along with the reemergence of electoral dominance by the Communist Party, via democratic elections.** The change to parliamentarism allowed the party to re-concentrate authority without the possibility that the opposition might be able to counterbalance it through finding a popular candidate who could win a national presidential election.
The results of Sunday’s election show the Communist Party winning again, but opposition supporters have rioted, claiming the elections were rigged. The opposition parties are demanding new elections.
It is not as though the election was close. The Communist Party supposedly has won 61 of the 101 seats (+6 from 2005) on 49.9% of the votes, and the largest opposition party is the Liberal Party, with 15 seats on 13% of the vote. In fact, the bigger story compared to the 2005 election is not the Communists’ strength so much as the opposition’s fragmentation. The 2005 election was a bit closer (56 seats to 34 for the Democratic Bloc).
The presidential term is about to end, and this parliament will select the replacement (as well as, and constitutionally more importantly, the prime minister). Given that the Communists represent just less than half the electorate, the opposition could stand a decent chance in a popular presidential election, but those are–at least for now–a thing of the past in Moldova.
* Israel moved from a different hybrid–an elected prime minister who was nonetheless still responsible to parliament–back to its pre-reform pure parliamentarism, effective with the election of 2003. (There were three direct PM elections, in 1996, 1999, and 2001; the change back occurred almost immediately after the 2001 election.)
** Moldova has scored quite well on the various indicators of democracy throughout almost all of its post-Soviet independence. Both BBC radio and DW-TV have reported that international observers found these elections also to be democratic, albeit not without flaws.
Please visit the site for the forthcoming Samuels and Shugart book. There you may download the “final” drafts, chapter by chapter. Comments very much welcome, whether here or at our university e-mail addresses (linked at the site).
A Framework for Analysis
David J. Samuels
Matthew S. Shugart
Forthcoming, Cambridge University Press
The arrangement of the terms in the title summarizes the main conclusions of the book: Presidents above parties; parties above prime ministers.
In other words, where there is a directly elected president, the political parties become “presidentialized,” meaning that the way they organize and behave in elections and governance is shaped by the dynamics of the separation of powers. On the other hand, in parliamentary democracy, prime ministers are clearly subordinate to parties. These different authority lines have several observable implications, and the book is devoted to systematic worldwide empirical testing of those implications.
A majority of the world’s democracies since around the year 2000 have had directly elected presidencies (Figure 1.1, which is also posted at the book’s website), yet our theories of political parties remain largely grounded in either the West European parliamentary experience, or American-centric theories that often implicitly assume away the impact of the presidency. Thus “catching up” theory with the real world is one of the underlying purposes of the book. So is subsuming the US case within the broader comparative politics enterprise.
An important further finding of the book is that when there is both an elected president and a parliamentary-dependent prime minister–a semi-presidential system–the president remains “above all”; in fact, the prime minister becomes subordinate to the president, as long as the presidentialized party has effective control of parliament. In our analysis of semi-presidential systems, we confirm that the premier-presidential subtype (where the PM’s formal accountability is exclusively to the parliamentary majority) results in effective subordination of the cabinet to the parliamentary majority, when the latter is controlled by the president’s opposition. Yet even these “cohabitation” phases remain presidentialized in important respects; they also account for barely over one fifth of all presidential tenure in premier-presidential systems. (They account for only about 2% in the other suybtype, president-parliamentary; we confirm that this latter subtype is almost totally presidentialized.)
The book is oriented theoretically by the neo-Madisonian framework. The empirical scope is worldwide, including every country that has met basic democratic criteria for at least five consecutive years since 1946 (see Table 2.1). We analyze the impact of different executive-legislative structures on the selection and de-selection of presidents and prime ministers, the impact of institutional variation on electoral “fusion of purpose” (constituency overlap), and the propensity for electoral mandates to be violated (by a “policy switch”). Two chapters contain paired case studies: one demonstrates the immediate presidentialization of parties that resulted from the adoption of direct executive elections in France and Israel (and the subsequent reversal when parliamentarism was re-adopted in the latter country); the other demonstrates the impact of presidentialization on the electoral and governing experiences of two long-time opposition parties in presidential systems, the (leftist) Workers Party in Brazil and the (rightist) National Action in Mexico.
The conclusion notes several broader implications, and also calls attention to a trend: while abolition of an existing directly elected executive almost never occurs in democracies (in addition to Israel, the only other case is Moldova), some countries have adopted reforms intended to limit the president’s formal powers over the cabinet. These reforms may indicate dissatisfaction with party presidentialization, though our overarching conclusion would be that continued presidentialization is likely to prevail, even if it can be attenuated somewhat (for instance by moving to premier-presidentialism).
I think this is the first bloom ever on the White Gold cherry.
This is a variety I planted as an experiment a few years ago, because it is a lesser known variety that is supposed to be self-fruitful,* and has some ‘Stella’ parentage. Stella always blooms well here (though fruit is another matter–our damp and gloomy late spring season is not cherry-friendly).
The tree looks like it may have more blooms yet to come. Meanwhile, the Stella and Royal Rainier (another somewhat reliable bloomer) are both near their peak blooms. There is also one bloom each on Bing and Craig’s Crimson, but these (not self-fruiful) varieties have fooled me before with their few flowers.
* For some reason some self-fruitful cherries seem to be able to set fruit in mild climates like ours, whereas those that need cross-pollination seem to need more chill as well.
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