Shame on the California Supreme Court for, by a 6-1 vote, caving. This ruling was entirely expected, of course. It was probably even constitutionally correct, which only reinforces the need we have been discussing for an entirely new constitution.
While the argument that the reversal of a Court-granted right contained in Proposition 8 amounted to a a “revision” rather than an amendment to the constitution always seemed a stretch, its failure to convince the Court reveals the deeper problem: under what model of “good government” can a majority of voters (which might be a quarter or so of registered voters) trump the highest court of the jurisdiction when the issue at hand involves the rights of minority groups?*
There was a time when this state had a reasonably well deserved reputation as progressive. Now it has fallen behind various New England states and Iowa in the most important civil rights issue of the 21st century so far. Indeed, although the Court claims that those marriages performed in the brief era between the first Court ruling and Prop. 8 remain legal, in fact they have been placed in an illogical second-class, and hence potentially vulnerable, position.
* Whereas it takes a two-thirds vote of the legislature to pass a budget.
In the thread quoting a critic of STV in Ireland, Tom Round has quoted an extraordinarily scathing and interesting critique, from 1971, of party-based representation that is well worth replanting here:
The weakness of the Diet [ie, Riksdag], and its irrelevance to the search for political advancement, are not the arcane discoveries of political theorists, but truths so evident to the average Swede as not to be worth discussing. He knows that, although Cabinet ministers are nowadays expected to sit in the Diet, it is in the bureaucracy that they achieve their position, seats being provided as an afterthought. And he also knows full well that a Diet seat is usually the reward of a party hack or a stalwart of a corporate organisation. This is perfectly acceptable. Personality is at a discount in Swedish politics. Indeed, to say that an election has concerned personalities is to speak in a derogatory manner. Elections in Sweden are not about politicians but parties; that is to say, not about men [sic], but impersonal interest groups or disembodied manifestoes.
This is partly a consequence of proportional representation. The huge constituencies involved, with their cohorts of participants, mitigate [scil militate] against personal identity. The average Swedish constituency sends fifteen members to the Diet, and engages 150 candidates at a General Election. On the other hand, most European countries have some kind of proportional representation without necessarily abolishing the significance of the individual candidate: Germany is a case in point. But the Swede has consciously banned personality from politics; he has done so to obtain peace of mind. As a corollary, he has no respect for the Diet, which he sees as an assembly of nonentities. To him, the Diet’s function is to toe the party line, and keep the files moving. The real power lies elsewhere…’
–Roland Huntford, The New Totalitarians, (1971), Chapter 7: “The Rule of the Apparatchik,” pp 138-39.
The Swedish electoral system has been revised recently to make preference votes more important in the final ranking of lists. Perhaps the change was motivated in part by disenchantment with the sorts of behaviors that led to Huntford’s critique.
The idea has resurfaced, mentioned by Juan Manuel Santos, the man who until recently was Uribe’s Defense Minister, and who would be a likely successor to Uribe from within the president’s own party, known as La U–technically for Unidad, but obviously really signifying the president’s initial. (Santos legally had to resign to preserve his eligibility for next year’s presidential election.)
Colombia uses a two-round majority system to elect the president, so candidates of various parties, including the several that have backed Uribe, could present separate candidates in the first round, and then combine in the runoff. However, there are some risks in doing so, including that they could split the vote and fail to get any candidate into the runoff (extremely unlikely given their current high popularity, but the French 2002 experience offers a caution) or that they could wind up with a divisive runoff featuring two of their candidates (which is quite a realistic possibility).
Steven Taylor quotes from and discusses the interview, in which Santos suggests the uribista parties would select their single candidate in a consulta among the members of congress of the various parties (the most important of which are La U, Radical Change, and what remains of the traditional Conservative party).
Such an elite-driven pre-selection could be hard to enforce, given the temptation of any party that suspects its candidate to be more popular with voters than with legislators to defect and run in the first round of the popular election. In fact, Steven also notes that Radical Change is flirting with the possibility of joining the opposition Liberal party (from which most of its leaders defected to back Uribe’s first campaign in 2002).
It is worth noting that Colombian electoral law permits parties to hold a popular primary, which would be concurrent with the congressional elections (about two months before the first round of the presidential election). However, I do not think the law permits two or more parties to hold a joint primary to select a single candidate for a pre-electoral alliance, though these parties would have the votes to make such a change, if they wanted to do so.
In any event, the above shows the posturing of the various uribista successors, and implies that the question of whether Uribe will indeed run for a third term may not yet be settled. A constitutional amendment to allow the president to run again has cleared several of its key legal hurdles and is likely to be submitted to a referendum (which would almost certainly approve it). In the meantime, La U the man remains cagey about his intentions.
A small personal note: Back in 1989 I met and interviewed Santos twice (once at a conference near Washington, DC, and once in his then-office at El Tiempo in Bogota). I most certainly had the impression I was meeting a future leader of his country. The broader point is that the Colombian political system has numerous qualified leaders, and there really is no objective reason to believe that only Uribe can provide continuity to the very considerable successes his own presidency has achieved. The pressing question for Colombian institutions is whether they are strong enough to resist the temptation to cast their lot yet again with the emerging jefe maximo.
Germany’s Federal Assembly has reelected the country’s mostly ceremonial president, Horst Köhler, a conservative ally of prime minister (Chancellor) Angela Merkel, to a second 5-year term.
We can call him Landslide Horst, for he won 613 votes in the 1,224-member Assembly. Gesine Schwan, a political science professor endorsed by the Social Democratic and Green parties, came in second with 503 votes. (Financial Times.)
The Federal Assembly includes all 612 members of the first chamber of the national parliament, the Bundestag, and 612 delegates chosen specifically for this purpose by the state legislatures. The Federal Assembly meets only for the purpose of electing the president, which it may take up to three ballots to do. The first two ballots require an absolute majority of all members, whereas the third ballot requires only a majority of votes cast for the previous top two candidates. Several past election have required a third ballot.
The voting procedure is unusual. We might call it “roll-call secret ballot.” Each of the 1,224 member’s names is called, and the member then places a ballot, inside a sealed envelope, into a clear ballot box at the Assembly’s dais.
The campaign is also interesting. DW-TV reported as the vote was taking place that the candidates had “stumped” all around the country and that the outcome would be taken as an indication of the main parties’ strengths heading into the general parliamentary election due in September. This despite the fact that, obviously, this is an elite-driven electoral process with no popular votes, and all the members are chosen by Germany’s normally quite unified parties. It was known that Assembly members chosen by conservative parties controlled 614 seats, but because that would be only one vote more than a majority, and because that majority includes members of a center-right protest party that had held the Christian Social Union to a rare sub-majority share in the latest Bavarian election, and finally due to the secret vote, the outcome was not a sure thing. Or at least a first-round majority was by no means assured.
Also interesting is that the two main parties–the Christian Democrats (including the Bavarian Christian Social Union) and the Social Democrats–had separate presidential candidates despite sharing power in the federal “grand coalition” cabinet. Kohler’s re-election was endorsed by the Free Democratic Party, currently an opposition party, but the preferred coalition partner of the Christian Democrats, if the next election makes it possible again.
Gordon Brown is drawing up plans for a radical overhaul of his frontbench that could see Peter Mandelson promoted to foreign secretary, it emerged today, as the prime minister came under pressure to call a constitutional convention to reform parliament and reconnect politics with the people. [...]
What the modernisers inside the cabinet want on the agenda is:
• A referendum on electoral reform for the House of Commons.
• An elected upper house.
• Spending caps on donations to political parties.
• A widening of the base from which candidates are drawn.
An op-ed in the Irish Times decries the “inefficiency” of Irish politics. About the Irish political system, Gemma Hussey asks:
Is it fit for purpose? Is our electoral system, which frames that political establishment, suitable for Ireland of the 21st century? [...]
We have in Ireland an electoral system, multi-seat proportional representation, which almost ensures that a broad range of the best brains and achievers in the country will never see the inside of Leinster House, much less the Cabinet room. At the same time, we have too many Dáil members.
The electoral system imposes a lifestyle on politicians which is directly inimical to good government and is a considerable deterrent to potential participants.
The skills required to massage a constituency seven days and nights a week have nothing to do with running a small European country with an open economy.
Ministers have to spend 20 to 30 hours a week attending local functions, holding clinics, going to funerals – they’ll lose their seats if they don’t.
The solution? A party-list system and a smaller, unicameral parliament.
Actually, Ireland’s 166-member first chamber, the Dáil, just about nails the “right” size under the cube-root law, given a population of around 4.1 million. I’ll leave it to others to discuss the merits of STV vs. list forms of proportional representation for the 21st century.
The final vote for the referendum that would allow a second reelection for Álvaro Uribe in Colombia was 62-5 in the Colombia Senate (it has 102 members). The caucuses of the Liberal Party (PL) and the Democratic Alternative Pole (PDA) both abstained from the vote. The official results from the 2006 elections put the PL at 18 votes and the PDA at 10, for 28 total. As such, there were seven others that did not vote yesterday (62+5+18+10=95).
Further details and links are included in his post.
As someone who has followed Colombian politics now for 20 years (including several trips to the country), and who was quite involved as an outsider assisting the very important legislative electoral-system reform passed in 2003, I am quite alarmed by this development. It has been expected for some time, but there was always the chance Uribe might have called it off by announcing he would not seek a third term. When he was elected in 2002, the constitution permitted only a single term; he then obtained an amendment to permit a second term, which he won easily in 2006. He should win easily again. (This amendment must be submitted to a referendum, but it is sure to pass.)
Both reelection amendments have been passed through legal processes, unlike some others in the region in the past that have come through institutional rupture (e.g. in Peru and Venezuela) or threats of rupture (e.g. Argentina when Carlos Menem was president). In some ways, that is what is so disturbing. The legislative electoral reforms were supposed to have empowered more meaningful parties, and there were indications in the first post-reform election, 2006, that they had done so. Furthering party development has had the predicted and desirable effect of making the congress more relevant in lawmaking. It also “should have” led to competition over national leadership, the ultimate prize for which is the presidency. Uribe does not have a single party, but rather is backed by several. One might have expected that these parties would have produced contending leaders, rather than have subordinated themselves to a single “above parties” jefe.* Alas, one would have been wrong to assume that, and now one must wonder whether the hard-won independence of the parties, the congress, and other institutions can survive.
This is a sad turn of events for Colombian democracy.
The voters of California, in their wisdom anger, have turned down the ‘Budget Stabilization‘ measure, giving it barely over one third of the vote. The other measures failed by similar wide margins. Except for the stupid one, which of course passed, with nearly three fourths of the vote.
The F-word* has been tossed around a lot at faculty discussions.
I suppose we are about to see what emergency powers the Governator has, because an emergency is what the state faces.
One final note: When my wife and I went to vote, about an hour before polls closed, a poll worker actually was excited to see us. He said to his colleagues, actual voters!
Things are moving fast following India’s election, in which the Congress Party-led United Progressive Alliance came up just a few seats of a majority.
UPA’s tally in the new Lok Sabha soared by 54 on Tuesday to reach 315 mark, far above the magic figure of 272, as it received unexpected bonus of support from BSP and SP besides some other parties and independents.
BSP and SP, the two bitter rivals in Uttar Pradesh which fought elections against Congress in UP and elsewhere, pledged their support saying that they want to strengthen secular forces and to keep BJP out.
What are Congress and its pre-electoral allies in the UPA trading for this support? Not much:
[BSP leader Mayawati] said BSP’s National Executive and Parliamentary Board, which met this morning, took the decision on giving unconditional support to the government from outside.
Well, it is almost here. The ‘special’ election that is anything but. A slew of statewide measures that “have to” pass, but probably won’t. Actually, one probably will, and it is the one that shouldn’t: 1F, which docks legislators’ pay during deficits–as though it was politicians’ personal, even venal, motivations that got us into this mess. Rather than, say, their electoral motivations and the constitution’s minority-veto constraints.
This is an election I would like to sit out. But under almost any scenario I can see, the consequences of defeat (especially of 1A) are far worse than this compromise package, negotiated by the Republican Governor, the Democratic legislative majorities, and the few Republican legislators who finally relented from their party’s no-deal-at-any-costs strategy. So duty calls me to the polls. Ugh.
The results of India’s general election show a big lead for the Congress Party and its allies, although they are 12 seats short of a majority in the 545-seat Lok Sabha.
This is a bit of a surprise, as indications had been that the election would be closer.*
Congress appears to have 205 seats, or 37.6% of the total, to a mere 116 (21.3%) for its main rival, the BJP. When the pre-poll allies are included, Congress reaches 261 (47.9%) and the BJP 157 (28.8%).
The much-vaunted Third Front (which includes various left and regional parties) continues to show the potential that it presumably always will have, managing 80 seats (14.7%).
The Fourth Front, made up for former Congress allies, won only 27 seats (about half what its various component parties had combined for in 2004)** and there are 18 ‘others.’
Given how close Congress and its allies are to a majority and the presence of various independents and regional parties from outside the main alliances, it should be quite easy for the Congress and its pre-electoral allies to form a minority government without any formal agreements. That would mark a departure from recent patterns of governance, as in 1999 the BJP and its allies won an outright majority, and in 2004 Congress formed a minority government with an explicit set of agreements with the Left bloc.
And, speaking of the left, is this the end of an era? Look at the state-level results and, in particular, West Bengal and Kerala. In these redoubts of elected Communist parties, the left support collapsed in these elections, compared to 2004.
The Sun reports that Rick Dignard, who was one of the few members of the BC Citizens Assembly who opposed STV when it first came before the body, and was vice-president of the No STV campaign, thinks reform is not dead.
The article has quotes from several pro-STV members of the Assembly 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