The planned plebiscite in Honduras, which was the precipitating event for the military coup that overthrew the elected president, Manuel Zelaya, was as follows:
¿Está de acuerdo que en las elecciones generales de 2009 se instale una cuarta urna en la cual el pueblo decida la convocatoria a una asamblea nacional constituyente? = Sí…….ó………..No.
I am going to pick up now on Steven Taylor’s translation and comments:
Do you agree with the installation of a fourth ballot box during the 2009 general elections so that the people can decide on the calling of a national constituent assembly? Yes or no.
In other words: do you want there to be a ballot and a ballot box (Latin American elections often have one ballot per office and one ballot box per ballot) for the purpose of a referendum in November (alongside the presidential and congressional elections) to decide whether or not to call a constituent assembly to reform the constitution.
[...] This is important for a variety of reasons.
1. This language was not about re-election.
2. Even if the plebiscite was allowed to go forward, the answer was “yes,” and the results were allowed to stand, Zelaya would not have been in a position to be re-elected in November.
Steven has more on the theme, including a photo of the ballot,* at PoliBlog.
Perhaps Zelaya was going to find a way to extend his term, unconstitutionally, but I never understood how. Unless he had totally suspended the constitution, which it is doubtful he expected to be able to do, he was not going to get the right to run for immediate reelection in November, when his successor was due to be elected. The constitution has language that makes it impossible to amend for reelection, which would explain the need for a constituent assembly. (A constituent assembly could declare itself the “sovereign voice of the people” and therefore not bound by restrictions in the existing constitution.) However, if the assembly could not be elected, convened, and complete its work before the November election, it would be too late for Zelaya to extend his term.
If the planned vote this past Sunday had been one to call a constituent assembly for this summer, there might have been more urgency to the situation. I would still not see even the slightest justification for the coup, but the urgency to deal with an unconstitutional act by the president would have been, well, urgent. But there was plenty of time for constitutional processes to play out.
And, yes, this was a military coup. It does not matter that there is no military junta, or that the arrest of the president was allegedly approved by other state institutions (Supreme Court and congress). I heard a news item today that the US government has not officially branded the act a military coup, because to do so would force the cutoff of aid. If that is true, shame on the Obama administration. If it is actually governed by a democratic administration, the US must cut off military aid and diplomatic relations until the coup is reversed and the proper constitutional order is restored in Honduras. This must not be allowed to stand, and mere words of condemnation are not enough. The military needs to feel some economic pain for its actions.
Update: See Two Weeks Notice on the question of aid and military coups. Which is, of course, what this coup was, except in the Obama administration’s hairsplitting terminology. How very Clintonian of the US government.
* I had seen the ballot on TV Once (Mexico) last night, but even freezing the frame on my brand new, and unbelievably clear, plasma TV, I could not quite read the entire thing. So I thank Steven for posting it–and also thank Miguel Madeira (who pointed Steven to the source).
The Chamber of Deputies establishes whether there are grounds for impeachment of the president or cabinet ministers (205:15). No extraordinary majority is stipulated.
Well, that sounds easy.
But if you go look at the constitution as it apparently now stands, you see, in Article 205:
15. Derogado por Decreto 157/2003
So I can’t say what the procedure might be now, or what it might have been before the decree (about which see below). Perhaps after the president is impeached, he is tried by the Supreme Court. This is a procedure found in many Latin American constitutions.*
And then there is the question as to why, once the president was removed by the military, congress elected its own president to replace the President of the republic, when the constitution says:
ARTICULO 242.- En las ausencias temporales del Presidente de la República lo sustituirá en sus funciones el Vicepresidente. Si la falta del Presidente fuera absoluta, el Vicepresidente ejercerá la titularidad del Poder Ejecutivo por el tiempo que le falte para terminar el período constitucional. Pero si también faltare de modo absoluto el Vicepresidente de la República, el Poder Ejecutivo será ejercido por el Presidente del Congreso Nacional y, a falta de éste, por el Presidente de la Corte Suprema de Justicia, por el tiempo que faltare para terminar el período constitucional.
Unless the Vice Presidency was vacant [see below] the congress would appear to have committed an unconstitutional act by the way in which it has sought to fill the vacated presidential office–even leaving aside the constitutional status of the vacancy itself.
Micheletti era el sucesor constitucional natural de Zelaya, pues el vicepresidente Elvin Santos había renunciado para dedicarse a la campaña proselitista, ya que en las elecciones internas del año pasado fue consagrado candidato presidencial oficialista para los comicios generales de octubre próximo.
What a mess!
*Thanks to John Carey, in an e-mail, for inspiring this re-write. And to Steven Taylor, in a comment below, for noting that the decree in question is actually 175, and giving us a link where it can be found. From reading it, I still am not sure what the impeachment rules are, but it appears that the purpose of the change to the constitution is to remove privileges for the “political class,” which would imply that a president could be tried for constitutional violation even without a vote by a congressional majority. (But I am only interpreting here, with some uncertainty.)
Another year of inter-league play comes to an end today. With just two games yet to be played, the AL will finish with at least a .540 winning percent against the other league.
And today’s last Angels interleague game (which left them 13-4 for this soft part of their schedule) was a poster-game for the imbalance of the leagues–especially the fifth inning, when the Snakes had the sort of inning that even a decent Little League team rarely inflicts on itself.
Now on to a tough big-league schedule for the remaining 89 games.
Of course, ABC refers to him, in the very first sentence, as a “leftist” president, notwithstanding that he is from one of the oldest and most elitist parties in Latin America, the Liberal Party, which along with the National Party, makes up one of the last of the old traditional two-party systems. (In fact, with Paraguay and Colombia having seen the emergence of numerous newer parties in recent years, and Uruguay’s third force having elected its first president, I guess Honduras now has the last stodgy old two-party system in Latin America.)
Albania and Argentina have legislative elections today.
The election in Albania, a parliamentary democracy, will be its first under a pure list-PR system (which is, of course, much too “complicated” for us to even try to understand, according to the obliging WaPo). At various times since the end of the communist government, Albania has used mixed-member systems of both the majoritarian and proportional variety.*
Of course, the NY Times saw fit to print that the proportional system was “prompting concerns that a messy coalition-forming process could plunge the country further into murk.”
The WaPo story (first link) notes:
At one polling station in the mountainside town on Kruja, famed as the 15th-century stronghold of resistance to Ottoman invasion, a Reuters correspondent saw two separate incidents of men casting ballots for elderly women dressed in black.
Ah, Kruja. Fascinating place. A small personal aside: on my trip to Albania as an electoral system adviser (but don’t blame me for the “murk”!) in 1991, our delegation’s driver took us on an off day to Kruja (Kruje?). The museum of Albanian culture was closed, officially. But being so excited by the appearance of the then-rare Westerners, the caretaker opened it up and showed us around. On the same trip, I drank raki with Sali Berisha, who was already one of the main non-communist leaders then, and is currently Prime Minister.
OK, back to the elections…
Argentina’s election is a midterm legislative election. The president, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, succeeded in moving up the date of the elections, which would normally not have been held till October.
Argentina is among the relative few presidential systems to have both concurrent and midterm legislative elections (as are the USA and Mexico, with the latter’s midterm elections a week from today). Argentina is also the only democracy in the world that I know of that has staggered elections for its first (or sole) chamber (as well as for its second chamber).
As is typically the case with midterm elections in presidential democracies, the election is being seen as a “referendum” on the executive.
Argentina’s Chamber of Deputies is elected by closed-list PR, but it is not very proportional, due to both malapportionment and many small-magnitude districts.** The Kirchner couple has used the closed-list system rather creatively to try to hold on to votes for their Peronist party. As the WSJ noted on 10 June:
The campaign has also seen the phenomenon of “testimonial candidates:” star names like Buenos Aires Governor Daniel Scioli and actor Nacha Guevara added to Kirchner’s list of fellow candidates even though they are widely expected to never take office. Two judges have already turned down opposition efforts to ban those candidacies, arguing that there is no way to determine ahead of time whether they truly intend to take office or not.
Of course, the governor could not take up legislative office without giving up the (far more valuable) governorship.
Although the election date was moved froward several months, the installation date for new members is unchanged, giving the outgoing chamber, many of whose members will have been replaced as candidates by their parties or as legislators by the vote outcome, a long lame-duck period.
* The first competitive election, in 1990, used two-round majority. See the comment thread of the second link for discussion of some problems Albania had with its mixed-member systems.
** And, of course, due to the staggering. That is, each provincial district (and the Capital Territory) votes on new legislators at each election, but on only half its delegation (or half, +/-.5, in the case of odd numbers from a district).
Mr Zelaya fired Gen Romeo Vasquez after he refused to help with a referendum on constitutional change that could allow the president to seek a second term.
Both Congress and the courts have already deemed the planned referendum unlawful.
An initial referendum plebiscite* is set for this Sunday,
to ask Hondurans if they approve of holding a vote on unspecified constitutional change at the same time as the presidential election in November.
The story also notes that “hundreds of troops” have been deployed in Tegucigalpa, with the army saying they are there, in the BBC’s words, “to prevent disturbances by the president’s supporters.”
Zelaya, of the Liberal Party, was elected in a close election in November, 2005. He beat Porofirio Lobo of the National Party, 918,669 (49.9%) to 850,005 (46.2%).
The Liberal party has 62 of the 128 seats (48.4%) to the Nationals’ 55. Given that the BBC indicates that congress has declared Zelaya’s referendum unlawful, and the governing party is just a few seats short of a majority, I wonder if all the other parties voted against the president’s own unified party, or if the Liberals are split over the question of auto-succession. I hope someone can fill us in on details.
As for votes, the Georgetown database shows the vote for the two parties as 7,746,806 to 6,983,056. Why so many more legislative than presidential votes? Because Honduras used for the first time in 2005 a very unusual variant of open-list PR in which the voter may cast as many candidate-preference votes as the district’s magnitude (M, the seats elected in the district), which ranges from 2 to 23, and averages 8.8. I do not think the votes can be cast across lists of different parties (which leaves me wondering what is the point of having M preference votes**). I suppose we could get a rough approximation of party votes by dividing a party’s preference votes by 8.8, in which we would estimate around 880,000 for the Liberals and 793,500 for the Nationals. But that would be very rough. For the record, the Liberal total of preference votes is only 44.8% of the total votes cast, suggesting Zelaya’s coattails were limited. But that does not tell us the disposition of his party with respect to his reelection attempt.
Honduras has had a quite stable democracy since 1985 1981. But it does not look so stable right now.
Update: See what boz has to say, including, in the comments, a great quote from the president regarding his handpicked legislative leader, and in two (so far) posts at his blog. He calls one episode in this crisis “one of the more dramatic moments of Latin America politics I’ve seen in recent years.”
* I think a vote submitted unilaterally by the executive on a matter that would benefit the chief executive personally is properly termed a plebiscite, and not a referendum (which implies a legislative act that requires popular confirmation).
Update: a contact tells me that the president is calling it a “survey” and using the national statistical institute, rather than the electoral commission, to carry it out!
** I assume parties must be able to nominate many more than M candidates, or it would really make no sense. Even then, it hardly does, because any given party will win many fewer than M seats, except in the smallest districts. Ecuador also recently adopted a similar M-votes system, except that Ecuadorian voters may vote for candidates on different party lists. I would not even begin to try to explain the complex weighting rules employed for allocating seats to parties there.
The Mesh Mesh Amrah had a pretty good crop, and ripened earlier than usual. Pictured here on the last day of May, part way through the harvest period.
And the Flavorella, always somewhat of a shy bearer, had a better crop than usual (pictured on 5 June).
The Mesh Mesh Amrah has gotten so big (even with my regular pruning) that I can hardly believe that it is the same tree that I dug up, with some assistance from my wife, from our old place in Carlsbad in 2002. (I still had a relatively healthy back at the time.)
Plumcots have such a distinctive flavor–clearly a best of both worlds!
The Hunza apricot has a dozen or so fruits this year. No, that is not a big crop, but it is more than I ever really expected. This was not, by reputation, a variety likely to succeed here. But reputation never keeps the scientific farmer from an experiment!
The fruit is barely noticeable in the photo, because only a few of them (lower branch to the right) yet have any color beyond green. But most of them are quite large (which should mean a good sized tasty kernel inside!). And it was time to (try to) protect them from other species that co-habit at the finca.
So, now the tree is netted, after a little summer pruning to control size and help fit the netting over it. Note also the metal wrapped around the trunk, which sometimes seems to help (a little bit) with climbing rodents.
Behind the Hunza are a grapefruit tree and a “volunteer” Coast Live Oak. I fear the latter is going to need to be cut down, which I would hate to do to a native. But I have many others–opportunists growing on the water of the grapefruit grove and actually more valuable in many ways than grapefruit–and this one will soon provide too much shade and competition for the Hunza and the nearby corralito.
Now certainly is a good time for summer pruning, given that it is officially–axially–summer! At sundown, it also will be Rosh Chodesh Tammuz, so this year the day of maximum light* will have to wait a couple of weeks past the solstice.
(And, an aside: contrary to what I had thought, Hunza is in the Pakistani-administered part of Kashmir, and thus near, but not in, the Swat region.)
* Assuming the gloom stays away–which, this year, is not a safe assumption.
An anonymous guest post at The Reaction by someone described as “a Truman National Security Project fellow [who] travels regularly to Iran” sketches the complex of security forces and wonders if they can remain loyal to Ahmadinejad and Khamenei.
The conclusion, in part: “It is difficult to predict how these mercenaries will operate when their “enemies” are unarmed citizens supported by respectable national leaders.”
The key, it seems to me, really is whether the more pragmatic elements within the leadership feel sufficiently threatened by the hardliners to test the loyalty of these forces to the latter.
There is a report this morning from Al Arabiya that Iran’s Assembly of Experts could be preparing to assert its institutional role of holding the Supreme Leader to accounts for the first time (seen at PoliBlog):
Iran’s religious clerics in Qom and members of the Assembly of Experts, headed by Ayatollah Rafsanjani, are mulling the formation of an alternative collective leadership to replace that of the supreme leader, sources in Qom told Al Arabiya on condition of anonymity.
I might note that by citing Steven’s PoliBlog here, I am engaging in a little blogger reciprocity: Earlier today Steven was kind enough to post an excerpt and extensive comment on my December, 2006, discussion of the last Assembly of Experts election in the context of considerations of how “institutionalized” Iran’s regime is. (I also had a follow-up on the theme of institutionalization a few days later.)
Today and tomorrow Italians (a few of them anyway) vote in a referendum to change (again) the country’s legislative electoral system.
As I understand it (and more informed readers, as always, are invited to correct me in the comments) the main proposal is to strike from the current electoral law the provision that awards to the largest pre-electoral coalition a guaranteed majority (nationally in the Chamber, region-by-region in the Senate). Instead, if the measure passed, the majoritarian bonus would go to the largest party list.
Give the nature of the Italian party system, this would be quite a radical change. It would generate extreme disproportionality and likely not, as its supporters claim, turn Italy into a “sistema bipartitico.” (Click the country name in the “Planted in” line above for previous discussions here.)
There are actually three related questions–one for each house of the legislature and one to ban candidates from running on a party’s (closed) list in more than one district. The full text (in Italian) is at the link above.
The measure is unlikely to pass, due to low turnout. The vote coincides with the second round of local elections.
(Thanks to Filippo, in an e-mail, for the reminder.)
As I have noted at various times over the last two and a half years of occasional analysis of Iranian elections and other developments, it has been clear that the Supreme Leader and the incumbent President are not exactly allies. There have even been signs that each might be trying to use the various elected and non-elected institutions established in the wake of the Islamic revolution to get rid of, or clip the powers of, the other.
However, it seems even more clear that in recent days, in reaction (and that is certainly the correct word here) to the protests against the suspicious ‘reelection’ of the president that the Supreme Leader has thrown his fate in with that of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Yesterday, the Supreme Leader’s attempt to appear above the fray, as a mediator among the clerics’ factions, evidently collapsed, when opposition candidates Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi declined to attend what was hailed as a reconciliation meeting (seen at Juan Cole, but his link to the story no longer works).
The Iranian regime, with its odd combination of a narrow self-appointed ruling clique of clerics and relatively open (albeit restricted) elections, could regulate the significant divisions within the elite via elections so long as the electorate accepted the limited choices offered and the official results. Obviously, that equilibrium (if it can said ever to have been one) has now broken. As I noted a few days ago, it is rare for an authoritarian regime to tolerate the defeat of an incumbent president in elections and yet remain authoritarian. It seems as though the Supreme Leader himself understands that basic political-science fact, and probably has all along.
Now, mostly likely, either the ‘supreme leader’ and ‘president’ (inverted commas now because clearly their legitimacy is gone) either go out together (in which case Iran has a chance to become a democracy) or they stay (in which case the Islamic Republic survives, but in a much narrower and more openly authoritarian form). I have to agree with my colleague in Sociology, Gershon Shafir, that the latter is more likely now. However, writing at the same site, Augustus Norton is not so sure that the forces of repression can maintain the upper hand, if protests continue, and given the continued open divisions within the broader clergy.
How this might end is still uncertain, and may remain so for a time. But a solution within the framework of the Islamic Republic as we have known it looks increasingly out of reach.
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