The ‘Earli Autumn’ apricots are quite large this year, and already close to ripe.
The ‘Earli Autumn’ is the trunk at the right of the photo, while the one to the left is another late-ripening apricot, known as ‘Autumn Glo.’ This latter variety has only a few fruits this year, and they are going to ripen somewhat later, is obvious from their lack of any ‘glo’ thus far.
Finally, in the category of late-ripening apricots we have the ‘Autumn Royal.’
This fruit always has a tendency to crack before it can ripen, and the fruit has also attracted considerable interest from snails. I am not confident that I’ll get to harvest any of these. From past experience, it is by far the tastiest of the three late varieties. Oh well.
I have just uploaded a working paper, “The ‘Semi-presidential’ model and its subtypes: Party presidentialization and the selection and de-selection of prime ministers,” For French Political Science Association symposium on the contributions of Maurice Duverger to political science, September 2009.
Although it is a “working paper,” it is more or less complete, as it needs to be translated for publication in France.
The paper is co-authored with David Samuels, and based on part of our nearly finished book (the older chapter drafts of which may also be accessed from the same link).
As David and I approach the very final set of pre-production revisions for our book draft, we are considering shifting terminology. Instead of calling the head of a cabinet that depends on parliamentary confidence a prime minister, we are considering using premier.
Premier has the advantage of being one syllable word and of giving us a neatly alliterative three-word title.
Is there any downside that readers see? That is, are these terms not used synonymously in some way that we are overlooking? I am aware that in Canada the head of the federal cabinet is the Prime Minister, whereas the head of a provincial cabinet is Premier. But that is presumably only a convenience of federalism (much like Prime Minister and Chief Minister in India, or President and Governor in most presidential federal systems).
Comments very much welcome as we approach this momentous decision.
I often listen to the POTUS channel on XM satellite radio. It is quite good, at least when it sticks to its original theme, the US presidential elections of 2008, and its subsequently broader theme of “Politics of the United States” since the said elections. However, yesterday I was moved to write a letter:
On July 28, during the Morning Briefing segment on the day’s birthdays, Tim Farley referred to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s birthday. He said that Chavez was “wink, wink elected in 1998.”
This remark shows considerable ignorance of Venezuelan politics. Even those who are not fans of President Chavez must recognize that Chavez became president in a fully democratic election in 1998, under the rules of that country’s uninterrupted string of elections dating back to 1958. One might argue about the democratic character of the Venezuelan regime in the intervening decade, in which Chavez or his party has won several elections, and even accepted defeat in one key referendum, but during which civil liberties have been seriously eroded. Nonetheless, Chavez was elected, not “wink, wink elected.”
This phrasing by Mr. Farely is beneath the dignity of a usually unbiased and professional program like POTUS. If I want coverage that caters to the ideological biases of certain sectors of American political opinion, I will tune to Fox News.
Professor of Political Science
University of California, San Diego
(Institutional affiliation noted for identification purposes only, of course.)
In Moldova’s snap election, necessitated by the failure of the parliament elected in April to elect a new president, the Communist Party may have lost its majority. It will remain the biggest party, with 41.7% of the votes, according to an exit poll. The next biggest party, the Liberal Democrats, is far behind, at 17.4%.
Most of the opposition parties, combining for just under 54% of the vote, are described as a “pro-Europe” coalition. However, given that they ran separately, it is not clear that they can become a governing coalition. In fact, I would hold off just a bit on the celebrations of a victory, for if the leading party were to have an advantage ratio (%seats/%votes) as great as it had in April, when it was about 1.2, the Communists might yet eke out a very narrow majority.
Moreover, even if the Communists are just short of a majority of seats, or even if there were fewer wasted (sub-threshold) votes this time and the party has only 43% or so of the seats, it could find a partner in this obviously loose and divided “opposition coalition.” In fact, just this morning, DW-TV reported that a coalition of the Communists and one (unnamed) member of this so-called opposition was likely.
Since 2001, when its directly elected presidency was changed to assembly-selected, Moldova has had a parliamentary democracy. However, that was also around the time that the Communist Party, out of power since shortly after the collapse of the USSR, regained its hegemony–temporarily, we now can say. The party continued to have its leader as president of the republic, rather than as prime minister as would usually be the case in a parliamentary system.
Now the party will be unable to determine unilaterally who occupies the presidency. In fact, that was already the case, as it was the inability of the party to command the required 61 votes in the 101-seat parliament after the April elections that constitutionally triggered this snap election. The most likely result may be a compromise in which the Communists entice one of the “opposition” parties by offering it the constitutionally less powerful presidency, while forming a Communist-led minority cabinet (or a Communist-dominated coalition cabinet).
In any case, the election result looks like good news for Moldova’s maturing parliamentary democracy.
Postscript: I have been unable to find the post-2001 version of the constitution on-line, so I am unable to answer Tom’s question in the previous thread, as to whether 61 votes still will be required. Some parliamentary systems allow a majority (51 seats) to select the head of state when a new parliament has been elected due to the failure of the previous one to reach the “required” super-majority.
Obviously, the answer to this question would affect the political calculations sketched above.
The most interesting recent developments are that the inter-cameral conference committee has failed to resolve differences in a bill that would have to pass before a referendum could be called on lifting the term limit. If the referendum is held, there is little doubt it will pass, and if Uribe then runs, there is little doubt he would win. The sticking point is thus congress, where Uribe has been backed by a large multiparty coalition since winning his first term in 2002. Some of the parties may finally be remembering that parties running under separate banners are supposed to compete with one another–something predicted in this space over three years ago, but that I thought would not take so long to materialize. Two uribista parties, Cambio Radical and the Conservative Party–have already said they will run their own candidates. And the coalition in congress is no longer unified; in fact, Steven notes that when combined with the Liberal and leftist parties, the opposition to a third term now appears to be in the majority in the Senate.
Good news for Colombian democracy, but this is one of those “developing stories,” as the news folks like to say.
In Iraq’s Kurdish region, the opposition apparently has made substantial gains in elections over the weekend, AFP reports:
A joint list uniting Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani* won 60 percent of ballots cast in the parliamentary vote, Hussein said.
The two parties have dominated Iraqi Kurdish politics for half a century, first as rebels and then as the region’s effective rulers in the aftermath of the 1991 Gulf war over Saddam Hussein’s invasion of neighbouring Kuwait.
The results would give the KDP-PUK list around 55 seats in the 111-seat parliament, down from 78 seats in the outgoing assembly elected in 2005.
A senior Goran [Change, the opposition alliance] official told AFP that his party would win 28 seats…
Something there does not quite add up. One the one hand, the ruling alliance is said to have won 60% of the votes. On the other hand, it is said to have won just short of half the seats.
The regional president, Massud Barzani, was reelected with 70% of the vote.
* Although always reported as “President,” technically he is the chairman of the three-person presidency council.
Moldova, which just had elections in April, will give it another try. There are snap elections for 29 July, made necessary by the inability of the recently elected parliament to muster the 61 votes needed to choose a new president. Preliminary results from that election had shown the Communist Party of Moldova winning 61 (of 101) seats, a claim that resulted in opposition protests. (The final allocation was 60, as Jack notes in a comment.)
Moldova has a parliamentary form of government, but the country’s year, 2009, so far serves as another reminder that just because a given presidency might be less powerful than the prime minister and cabinet does not mean the parties do not care–a lot–about who is chosen president.
Fair Vote has sketched a proposal to reform the US presidential nomination system. It is meant to be a “best of both worlds” proposal, with state-level contests early in the process, culminating in a runoff among the finalists on a single day nationally.
Following is their synopsis, but as the bloggers’ union requires me to say, read the whole thing.
The entire political universe, from the heights of the Washington establishment to the depths of the grassroots, agrees that our presidential nominating process needs to be reformed. But while there is broad consensus that a problem exists, there are myriad diagnoses as to what actually needs fixing. As the parties begin internal and interparty discussions about what elements need tweaking, it‘s time to take a serious look at more extensive and comprehensive reforms that will truly fix the process. The parties should begin to debate a plan that includes traditional state-based nomination contests culminating in a final, decisive national primary.
I am not going to comment, for now, on the substance of the proposal. However, I am going to single out seemingly small item for criticism:
More specifically, we like the idea of making that primary a set day in early June – perhaps the first Tuesday, or, more daringly, the first Saturday.
OK, but why Saturday? Please don’t be so “daring”! Expect (and deserve) lots of push back on that idea form the Jewish community, if the proposal becomes “serious.” Why not Sunday? Yes, I know that is a rather important day of the week to a rather larger segment of the population than us Jews. But most Christians do not have anything like the restrictions on Sunday activities that observant Jews have on Saturdays. Presumably that is why most of the world’s Christian-majority countries regularly vote on Sunday. We should do so, too.
Sometimes, interesting discussions sprout in the comments that I fear will seem more buried than planted, if not re-propogated here in the main orchard.
Several of us have been discussing the merits of the Alternative Vote (AV), one of several formulas that might fit under the rubric of what American reformers mean by “Instant Runoff Voting” (IRV).
Just this week, I received an e-mail from a political science contact (based outside the USA) who said that he “loathes AV.” At first, I thought the comment a tad harsh. But the more I think about, the more I wonder if it might not fit my own views, with respect to the suitability of the system for US legislative elections (or for the nominal tier of potential MMP systems).
I’m also impressed by the evidence that the effect of AV is to reduce the plurality of voices and parties in the legislature. I used to support use of AV over FTFP until I looked more closely at Australian elections.
Its interesting that the use of runoffs have not had quite the same effect in France.
To which I responded:
Of course, in France there was an existing very fragmented party system into which a two-round system was (re-)introduced, in 1958.
All path dependency aside, there are good logical reasons to expect that a two-round system, especially of the majority-plurality variant used in France, would tend to support a multiparty system, but AV (IRV) would not.
When there is an actual second round of voting if no candidate has won a majority of first votes, parties have much more opportunity to enter as “spoilers” (and all the more so, again, when the runoff is a restricted plurality rule and not 50%, plus 1).
Advocates of AV/IRV often favor it because it avoids spoilers. Yes, and perhaps too well.
This latter comment moved Bob to ask:
By “too well” do you mean that reducing spoiled elections reduces the effect of small party and independent candidates on outcomes? If so, then that’s a good thing for the small parties themselves, because spoiled elections are what prevent people who support these candidates from actually voting for them. Or do you mean that small party and independent candidates win less often? If so, then less often that under what other voting rule(s)?
My response to Bob’s question–and now this is something new to this current planting–is that, regarding his two ways of possibly interpreting what I said about AV dealing too effectively with the “spoiler” problem, I would endorse the first one as closer to my view.
I take a pretty Machiavellian view of interparty dynamics under winner-take-all systems (whether FPTP, AV, two-round, the absurd list-plurality system of the absurd US electoral college, or what have you). I am pretty sure large parties take such a view themselves, when they bother to be worried about the groupuscules that, in most US legislative elections, pass for parties other than the dominant Two. Large parties will take note of smaller when the latter threaten the former. So, go and spoil if you are serious about increasing the influence of small parties. As I have suggested before, that is the most likely route to real electoral reform–a form of PR (which is not, by any means, to suggest that it inevitably leads there).
It is clear from the experience of most FPTP cases that (certain types of) small parties can win seats under FPTP, even if they tend to be under-represented, sometimes seriously (but sometimes not). Of course, the USA is not such a system. It has a 2-party system that is even more solidly so than that for Australia’s AV-elected first chamber.
In the US context, that might imply that AV (or another form of IRV) would be a step forward for pluralism in our legislative bodies. I doubt it, though it is possible. I suspect that it is more likely that AV would enhance the role of single-issue organizations that could make a claim to be able to determine which candidates won through following the preference trail. That is, we might see more candidates, but I wonder about more parties, in a form that is recognizably partisan. If single-issue organizations were more institutionalized in US elections, that would hardly be a step forward.
Maybe my views of smaller US parties and AV are too bleak. I don’t know, honestly. But I am very skeptical of the passion that many reformers have for AV/IRV for US House or state-legislative races. I am actually somewhat agnostic about FPTP vs. AV for these types of contests.* I just do not feel that the difference between them is worth getting too excited over, even if the balance of the comparison is favorable to AV. Which, obviously, I am yet to be persuaded it is.
Beyond that, I’ll just say “what Ed said.” And, so that you do not have to go a-clicking, I will let Ed have the more-or-less last word in this planting (for now). Here is what Ed said:
…the evidence from Australian House of Representatives is pretty clear.
Minor parties such as the Greens, Australian Democrats, and Democratic Labor have existed in Australia and elected candidates to the Senate, which uses STV. None of these parties have ever won a House of Representatives seat in a general election, or come even close. The National/ Country Party has won seats in coalition with the Liberals, though the alliance is so close there is reason not to treat Liberals and National as separate parties.
First-Past-the-Post elected legislatures such as Canada, New Zealand (before the switch) and the UK have all had significant third party representation, from both national third parties and regional third parties. Even in the case of the US House of Representatives the Socialists have won a couple of seats. The PDS, the Greens, and I think also the FDP have won Bundesrat districts at various times. [FDP, I think not; certainly not in recent decades--MSS]
So the record is pretty clear. This could be due to cultural reasons unique to Australia, though its hard to see what the are. Minor parties in Australia seem to be much more accepted than in the US. It could be due to the failure of minor party leaders to cultivate regional bases of support, though the dynamics of AV would encourage that, as these parties can exert influence through second preferences without actually winning a seat in the House. I suspect voters may not want to be in a situation where a minor party is a “finalist” for a seat. Mathematically, its hard for a party polling 10% to get enough a deviation in any one district to get over 50%, but they might reach the 30% mark.
I hope we might have a visitor or two with actual experience voting in AV elections stop by later.
(I still need to address the question of the incompatibility of AV and MMP, which has come up in another thread. I’ll get to it–promise.)
* On the other hand, for replacing two-round majority elections at the municipal level, especially in the case of officially non-partisan contests, the superiority of AV is clear to me. By the same token, it is obviously superior to the “top two” proposal (which would replace the partisan primary and restrict general election ballots to just two candidates, even if of the same party) being floated in California, but then so is the existing two-stage FPTP (once in the primary, once in the general).
Soon it will all be chips, but not the kind for guacamole.
For background on how we got to this point, see this year’s Sukkot planting.
I am often asked what I will do with the land.
If I had the resources, maybe wine grapes, or olive trees. Both were once common in these parts, before cheap water and protected markets led to the “green gold” boom (and the fruit of the vine is making a notable comeback, even very nearby). Both crops are much more adaptable to this climate, for sure. But I do not have the resources. So, for now, think of it as a (very) late start to shmitah.
Or maybe I should plant pinyon pine trees. Pine nuts are twenty dollars a pound at a local market.
Japan will hold its general election on 30 August–not a moment too soon for a public that is ready to dump a cabinet in which less than 20% approve.
Is there any scenario in which the Liberal Democratic Party does not suffer its first ever outright election loss? The party was founded by a merger of two existing parties (amazingly, one was the Liberal Party and the other was the Democratic Party) in 1955. It was out of power briefly following the 1993 election, but that was not a straight government-vs.-opposition contest. Those have happened only under the MMM system implemented during the LDP’s brief opposition phase, and the LDP has done quite well under MMM, up to now.
Is the gig finally up? I have learned not to count the LDP out. But it looks so.
Thanks to Jack S. (a frequent visitor to the virtual orchard) and his contact, Binio S. Binev (a Ph.D. Candidate in Comparative Government at the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University), we have a clarification to the changes implemented to the Bulgarian electoral system at the recent election.
I am now quoting (with permission, of course) from an e-mail from Mr Binev:
Each voter has two votes – one for a majoritarian candidate, one for a party list. The second vote is for the party, not for the candidates. There are 31 districts, 31 MPs are majoritarian, 209 are from the party lists.
A candidate can be supported by a party or coalition in maximally two multi-member districts.
A majoritarian [nominal-tier-] candidate can run with the support of a party, coalition, or initiative committee in one single member district only. If the candidate is independent, a majoritarian candidate needs 10,000 signatures of people living in the district where the candidate will be running.
A majoritarian candidate can run only in one single member district.
A candidate can be supported by a party or coalition in maximally two multi-member districts.
(Combining the last two, we deduce that a candidate can be registered in 2 districts, but a majoritarian candidate can only be registered as such – a majoritarian candidate – in one district only. I.e., a majoritarian candidate can be a list candidate in a different district.)
This would seem to qualify the system as a two-vote mixed-member majoritarian (MMM) system, as I have seen no reference to the list-PR seats being allocated in a compensatory manner. Thus I assume they are allocated in parallel. Obviously there is substantial malapportionment in the nominal tier (the 31 districts of varying population size, each of which elects one member by FPTP), although these seats represent only 12.9% of the total.
It is worth recalling that the first election after the fall of the communist regime was also held under an MMM system (with a more conventional even split in seats between the two tiers, but some malapportionment of the nominal tier). The renamed Socialists won that election, in 1990, but their close call led them to favor a pure Pr system (closed lists) for the 1991, and subsequent elections.
Despite the adoption of PR by the Grand National Assembly (a constituent assembly, with 400 members) in 1991, there was much talk that summer of maintaining an element of representation for “independent” candidates. I was there, as a consultant to the GNA, and my team members and I struggled to propose various not-too-complex forms of PR that would satisfy the “non-party” advocates within the Socialist party. Yet the ultimate result was closed-list PR–for the next 18 years, anyway.
Just as the Socialists’ change to preferring PR in 1991 was based on updated information of their declining popularity, so was their change to a partially nominal system just a month before this election.
Jack had noted, also in an e-mail, that “the SP thought that running local notables in [the nominal] tier would cause voters to tick off the SP in the [list] tier.” There is considerable evidence from mixed-member systems that this is a reasonable expectation. (The literature tends to refer to this as a cross-tier “contamination” effect.) In the event, however, the right-wing coalition won the election, including 30 of the 31 nominal seats. Of course, that does not mean that they didn’t do better with the nominal tier than they would have without it. That would be hard to determine, either way.
One other interesting item from the election is that the opposition won with the help of the “charismatic” mayor of Sofia, Boiko Borissov, as its national leader. It is fairly rare for subnational elected executives to become the leader of a national parliamentary party. Bulgaria’s constitutional format is semi-presidential, rather than parliamentary, although its presidency is relatively weak. In any case, choosing a well known municipal politician looks like a classic case of “presidentialization” of the party, and one that did not go through the institution of the presidency itself. The incumbent president, Georgi Parvanov, is of the Socialist Party. He was elected to a second term in 2006. The next election for that office is not due till October, 2011.
The opposition also exploited the electoral system change, as its leadership also recruited local notable to run for the new nominal seats.
The LA Times has a list of some proposals for changing how California is governed. Some of them are modern and reformist, even democratizing and citizen-empowering–such as those that have been discussed in the previous thread (now up over 100 comments!) and are supported by newer businesses such as Yahoo and Google. Others are reactionary, such as a part-time legislature or requiring referenda on tax increases, supported by the usual-suspect organizations that are always out for more upward wealth distribution and other means of destroying the commons.
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