The New Zealand parliament recently voted 84-34 to defeat a bill that would have legalized medical cannabis, with the governing National Party voting in bloc against it. I agree completely with Idiot/Savant at No Right Turn that those who voted NO are guilty of lacking compassion, of preferring to “see people suffer than let them legally use a drug which helps them.” But I digress. That is not what this planting is about. Rather, I was struck by the clear divide within Labour, the main opposition party, based on the tier of election in NZ’s MMP system. By my count, Labour voted overall 21-17 in favor of the bill, but by tier:
Idiot/Savant notes that “This could reflect the differing pressures on list and electorate MPs, or it could reflect age, as the list MPs are generally younger.”
As for the National Party’s smaller support parties, the ACT voted against its large partner with all four of its members who were present voting in favor. Maori and United Future (a one-MP “party”) voted with the government, except for one member of the Maori Party.
I got a bit of a chuckle out of an internal e-mail that appeared on the department’s internal e-mail today. Evidently there is a petition being circulated by some economics professors. The source of this assumption of political participation?
There is now a bill circulating in the House (apparently endorsed by over 250 Congressmen) that calls for the government accounting office to oversee the Fed’s conduct of monetary policy.
OK, my immediate reaction to the notion of more oversight of the bank regulatory agency was, It’s about time!
But on more sober reflection I was moved to ask: Why would the GAO (an INDEPENDENT agency) overseeing the central bank be a threat to the latter’s independence (by implication, from Congress)?
Sorry, I am just a political scientist, but I can’t get too terribly excited about this one.
Good question. My response is that my very specific understanding of a junta is that it is a governing council of active-duty military officers, who assume the role of the executive and usually also the legislative branch.
Sometimes there is a civilian-military junta, as after the Salvadoran coup of 1979. But that means still that there is an executive council that consists at least in part of military officers.
So, while I have argued all along that this event in Honduras was a military coup, I do not think the current de-facto governing situation qualifies as a military junta. There is a single executive official who is actually the constitutional civilian successor to the president–what makes it illegal is that the military, rather than the constitutional process–overthrew, by force, the rightful president. And, of course, the legislature still functions, at least formally.
So Honduras has had a military coup, but does not have a military junta. At least for now.
Or is my definition too narrow?
And I suppose another relevant question is how do you pronounce “junta” in English?
My colleague, Robert Pekkanen, sends this note from Bloomberg:
Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party may pledge to cut the nation’s parliament from two chambers to one and reduce the number of legislators by 30 percent in 10 years…
The party will include the promise in its platform for the next general election, the [Yomiuri] newspaper reported, without saying where it got the information. The LDP also plans to restrict close relatives of lawmakers from inheriting constituencies, the report said.
There is nothing like losing control of the second chamber to make a ruling party think of cameral change! The LDP is in serious danger of losing control of the first chamber, too, in this September’s election. Japan’s second chamber (House of Councilors) is one of the more powerful among parliamentary democracies, although the government need maintain the confidence only of the first chamber (House of Representatives).
The point on “inherited” seats is also interesting; Japan probably has the highest rate among all democracies of sons, daughters, wives, grandsons, etc., of former politicians serving in its legislature.
To be elected president in one round, the leading candidate must have over 50% of the nationwide votes and 20% in at least 17 of the 33 provinces. Otherwise, there would be a runoff in September. However, as the polls open there is not much suspense, as it appears certain that Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is set to become Indonesia’s first democratically reelected president.
For those interested in some historical reflections on the Honduran military coup, I recommend Steven’s post from yesterday. He refers to various reminders of why “folks who study Latin American politics (such as myself, Greg Weeks, Matthew Shugart and others) feel like we’ve seen, to one degree or another, the Honduran coup before and why it is concerning.”
Beneath this morning’s Mexico planting, Ed, and later Manuel, have provided preliminary seat counts. If the results hold, the PRI and Greens together may have a majority.
They ran in a partial pre-electoral coalition: joint candidates in 63 districts, but separate lists (and candidates elsewhere).
The coalition apparently has won in 50 districts, which is impressive.
Also noteworthy is that the Mexican Green Party, at 6.5% of the votes in this election, would suddenly find itself among the largest Green parties in the world. I did not see that coming. (I will leave it to others to decide whether a Green alliance with a party like the PRI is anything to celebrate.)
What I am unsure of is the extent to which the PRI and Greens have been cooperating in congress and whether they have anything like a commitment to cooperate in the upcoming congress. If they do, then I would be inclined to put this election into the relatively rare category of those in (pure) presidential systems that produce divided government.
See the comments for some updates on the preliminary seat totals.
According to preliminary results, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) has won the most votes and seats in the midterm Chamber of Deputies election.
Turnout was around 45%, which is higher than at the last (2003) midterm election, despite a “null vote” protest movement. (Null votes themselves were about 5% of total votes cast, which was barely any larger than in 2003.)
This is the firstsecond time in Mexico that a party other than that of the President will have the plurality of seats in the Chamber of Deputies. (Thanks to Manuel, below, for the correction.)
The PRI has not won enough votes to qualify for a majority of seats, as Mexican electoral law prohibits a party from having more than an 8-percentage point over-representation. The PRI has a preliminary total of 36.2% of the vote.
Thus it will not be divided government in the narrow sense of majority opposition, unless the PRI and other parties cooperate after the election to control the Chamber in opposition to the President. That is possible, but I would think unlikely.
The National Action Party (PAN) of current President Felipe Calderon is a distant second, at 28.0%. At about 5 percentage points, this is not much of a midterm decline for the incumbent party, and it is about 3 percentage points worse than its 2003 votes result. However, given the large boost the electoral system and three-way competition in the single-seat-district tier gave the party in 2006 (when it won about 41% of seats), it will likely have suffered a bigger decline in seats.
The Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) did quite badly, with only 12.2%, or barely more than a third of the votes that it won in 2006 when it narrowly lost the presidency.
The Green Party, which is an ally of the PRI, has 6.5%. These two parties had a partial pre-electoral coalition, running jointly nominated candidates in 63 of the 300 single-seat districts, but separate party lists for the “parallel” tier of 200 proportional list seats (as well as, of course, separate candidates in the other 237 single-seat districts). While seats totals are not yet reported (as far as I know), it is unlikely that these two parties would have a joint majority, despite 43% of the votes, as the Greens presumably have won no single-seat districts (outside of coalition districts, where they might have helped the PRI fend off another party’s candidate). I wonder if there will prove to have been districts where the PRI and Greens running separately might have “spoiled” a chance at a PRI win. Perhaps the parties’ pre-electoral strategy was sufficiently targeted to have avoided such an outcome.
The electoral law, and changes made in 2008 (see explanation by Manuel in the previous thread), permit parties to have their separate ballot symbols in districts where they have a joint candidacy. Because there is no separate vote for the list tier, this is important to parties in a coalition: they can still collect their separate PR seats despite the common candidacies. However, any pre-electoral coalition is bound to lose some votes for one of the parties from voters who dislike the partner (or its candidate in the district). Presumably this is why the parties ran separate candidates in the vast majority of districts.
The smaller Workers Party (PT), however, ran a coalition in all 300 districts with the Convergencia. And here I need some more help on how the new electoral law works. These two parties are shown having 3.6% (PT) and 2.4% (Convergencia) for their separate ballot symbols and 0.2% for the coalition, per se. So do voters have the choice of endorsing the coalition as a whole or choosing one of the component parties? Obviously any of these options would be a vote for the candidate in the given district, but how are list votes calculated in the case of voting for the coalition? (For the record, the PRI-Green coalition obtained 0.4% in addition to the separate votes by party reported above). (Again, Manuel to the rescue in the comments!)
Despite all the talk of a “comeback” by the PRI, this result is roughly the same as its performance in the last midterm election, 2003. Maybe 35-38% is just the party’s “natural” level of support in Mexico’s new democratic era. Of course, it does look like a comeback from its dismal third-place showing in 2006, but even then its congressional vote was only about eight percentage points worse than its showing in the current election. That is well within normal election-to-election variation in democracies–especially in presidential systems, where every legislative election takes place in the context of voter evaluations of the parties’ presidential candidates, or of the incumbent president. In the concurrent election of 2006, the PRI suffered defections due to an unusually strong PRD presidential candidate who was the main challenger to the PAN. The PRI also had an extremely weak candidate of its own in 2006: Roberto Madrazo, one of the ultimate “PRIosaurs.”
The PRI thus remains about where it has been since 2000: the pivot party in congress, with a strong regional base (having won most of the governor races in recent years including apparently four of the six up yesterday). Yet it remains a party that will need a very good candidate in 2012 if it is to reach the 40% range that will likely be needed to win back the presidency if the PRD does not make it another strong showing three-way race.
In addition to Mexico, there are also legislative elections today in Bulgaria (a semi-presidential democracy).
Apparently there was some electoral-system change. Bulgaria has used closed-list PR since 1991 (after one MMM election in 1990 for the post-communist constituent assembly). FOCUS Information Agency says:
Analysts argue that recent changes to Bulgaria’s proportional voting system, whereby 31 of the 240 deputies, or one from each constituency, is now elected directly, has contributed to the practice [of candidacies by "suspected criminals, some already on trial"*], since it allows people to run as independent candidates without backing from a particular political party.
The other 209 parliamentary seats are allotted on a proportional basis.
For the first time in years, OSCE observers will monitor Sunday’s vote.
The nature of this change is unclear to me. Does it mean that one of the M candidates (where M, as always, is the number elected) in each district is running on nominal (candidate-specific) votes only, with the remaining M-1 elected by the regular PR system? Or something else?
Now a small terminology rant! I wish reporters would not conflate nominal (as in plurality or SNTV systems) election with “direct,” and thereby implicitly conflate list election with “indirect” election. Whether elected nominally or by list, the election of legislators is still direct: It depends directly on the votes cast, as processed through the given electoral rules. An indirect legislative election would be one in which the voters elected something like an “electoral college” that, in turn, chose the legislators. For a first or sole chamber, such a practice is totally unknown today, at least in any country we would recognize as a democracy. Democracies have direct election, whether by exclusively nominal votes or on party lists, for their legislators (with some second chambers excepted).**
If anyone knows the details of Bulgaria’s electoral-law changes, please enlighten us.
* More from the same item: “Taking advantage of the country’s immunity laws, which automatically suspend any court proceedings from the moment people register as political candidates to the end of their term in office, if elected, a number of businessmen with dubious reputations are running for parliament.”
** But even in the case of indirectly elected second chambers, the body choosing the legislators is usually directly elected for some other purpose aside from choosing legislators. For example, often state assemblies, as in India, choose their state’s second-chamber delegates. Actual electoral colleges–elected for the sole purpose of choosing legislators–belong to a pre-democratic era, as in some Latin American countries of the 19th and earlier 20th centuries.
Thanks to Rob Richie for sending me the quoted story.
Will Mexico’s midterm elections on 5 July result in divided government? If so, it would be a first in many decades–probably first ever–for Mexico.
For the record, it is important to note that I define “divided government” as a situation in which the legislative majority (at least one chamber) is controlled by a single party or alliance of parties that is opposed to the president. This is a stricter and narrower definition than many others use: it is common to see reference to “divided government” whenever the president’s own party does not control a majority. However, simple cases of no-majority situations are a mixed bag: in some, the president may have effective control over the legislative agenda through alliances (formalized or not) with other parties. Or the president’s party may be sufficiently dominant that the president enjoys something very nearly approaching “unified” government, the absence of a majority notwithstanding. In still other cases, there may be bill-by-bill negotiations between the president’s party and others parties (or individual legislators) to achieve majorities. None of these quite matches the image conjured up by the idea of “divided government,” which implies that the institutions of governance are divided from one another in their partisan preferences. While some cases of no-majority may qualify, it is likely that many (probably most) do not.
In addition, a situation in which no party has a majority is actually the norm in most presidential systems–including Mexico in the past 12 years. If the concept of “divided government” it is to be useful for setting off specific situations from a presumed norm, then we might not find very useful a conception in which presidentialism is “divided” most of the time.
So, will Mexico have divided government after these elections? That is, will one party, other than that of the president, win a majority of seats? It is possible, but hard (for me, anyway) to say just now likely.
In Mexico’s bicameral congress, only the Chamber of Deputies is up for election Sunday. The Chamber is fully renewed every three years, concurrent with the presidential election every six years, and again three years later at each president’s midterm. (The Senate elections are entirely concurrent with the presidential; no party currently has a majority in that body, either.)
The former ruling party, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), is expected to do well. No party has had a majority in Mexico’s Chamber of Deputies since the the PRI lost its decades-long control in 1997, the same year in which the current electoral system was used for the first time.
Mexico uses a quite majoritarian version of a mixed-member system (not MMP, as sometimes erroneously said in some sources–see my previous discussion for why). There is a cap on just how majoritarian an outcome can be: no party may obtain more than 60% of the seats (which would, in any case be unlikely) and, more importantly, no party may have a percentage of seats that is more than eight percentage points greater than its votes percentage. Thus the PRI would have to win just over 42% of the vote to have full control of the Chamber. Winning this percentage would not guarantee a majority; rather, winning less than 42% would guarantee no party would have a majority.
Could the PRI win 42% of the vote? I do not have time to look at any actual polling. But who needs polls? Let’s look at trends and see what would be necessary for the PRI to pull this off!
To win 42% of the vote, it would need a 14-percentage-point improvement on its 28.4% showing in 2006. A tall order, but not impossible. In that election, current President Felipe Calderon of the National Action Party (PAN) won only 36.7% of the vote, and his party ran slightly behind that, at 34.6% (which was good for 41.2% of the seats, given the mixed-member majoritarian system). The Revolutionary Democratic Party (PRD), whose candidate, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, narrowly lost to Calderon with 36.1%, won 29% of the Deputies vote in 2006.
The most relevant comparison for 2009 would be the 2000-03 cycle, the last time a PAN president faced a midterm election. Here are the votes for the three parties in 2003, compared to 2000:
(Data from 1994-2003 are from the Nohlen, et al, handbook.)
It has been a long time since the PRI has seen 40% of the vote–in fact, not since 1994. So the answer to the question about divided government depends largely on where we think the PRI’s “natural” level of support lies. If its natural level in legislative elections, when it lacks any presidential-candidate coattails (which can be negative or positive) is reflected in its 39% share in 2003, it has a good base on which to build. And then it needs only a few percentage points more to make it to majority-possibility territory.
A lot also depends on how much the PRD has fallen since what was likely the highest share it will see again for many years in 2006. It is unlikely that many of its voters in 2006 have subsequently moved in the direction of the PAN.
The PAN actually may not lose many votes. It certainly will not lose 6.5 points, as it did in 2003, when it was coming off an “unnaturally” high share at the election of the first non-PRI president in 2000. It managed to retain the presidency with barely over a third of the vote in 2006, or not much beyond its “core” electorate. That is, smaller surge, smaller decline. So if we figure 30-33 percent for the PAN, the main question is how much of the remainder goes to the PRI, rather than is split between the PRI and PRD.
I think the implication is that 42% of the vote for the PRI is within reach, but far from assured. And then there is the question of whether the PRI could get the majoritarian boost it would need to get more than half the seats, even if it cleared 42% of the vote. Here, the prospect depends on how many districts there are in which an increase in its votes is sufficient to place it ahead where a PAN (or PRD) candidate won the plurality in 2006.
There is also a “null vote” protest movement. I have no idea how successful that could be, or which party would gain if many voters heeded it. Turnout is also a factor: in 2000, 63.2% voted and in 2003 only 41.1%. In 2006, turnout was back to nearly 2000 levels (58.5%), so we might expect the turnout to be again near 40%, or perhaps lower. But, as with the null-vote movement, I can’t say how that would help (or hurt) the PRI. (The turnout decline in 2003 obviously did not hurt.)
Divided government is most certainly possible. But the PRI will have to have everything go its way.
Not my thoughts, but those of John Carey, who sent them to me via e-mail. I had been thinking along similar lines, but as usual, John is more articulate than I am. So I am transplanting from the e-mail to here, with John’s permission, of course.
Do the Argentine electoral results demonstrate conclusively that Fernandez de K made a colossal strategic error in moving the election date up?
Let’s think about the counterfactuals. First, when she declared the June election date, the initial interpretation was that given the way the economy was headed (and expected to continue to head), the value of the Kirchner label was inevitably going to decline, so better to lock in a ‘price’ (i.e. some share of votes/seats) earlier than later when the expected value would be even lower. Is it possible that, as badly as things went for Cristina and Nestor, she was correct in that things would have been even worse had she waited until spring?
Finally, what happens now? Back in 1989, when the Argentine Constitution used to provide for an 8-month time window between the presidential election and inauguration, Alfonsin stepped down 6 months early, allowing Menem to take office early, basically acknowledging that the results had repudiated his party and government. Is Argentina going to sit on a Kircher-ite congressional majority for 6 months now? Would they dare to legislate?
Good questions. For some related thoughts, see also boz.
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