Today three German states held assembly elections, the last before the federal general election on 27 September.
While Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (and their Bavarian allies, the Christian Social Union) are riding high in most polls for the federal election, the party took “heavy hits” in two of these state elections.
The CDU will remain in power in Saxony, but is likely to be displaced by broad left coalitions in Saarland and Thuringia.
In the western German province of the Saarland, the CDU had ruled alone after pulling in 47.5 percent of the vote in 2004. Projections from Sunday’s election say the party will receive just 35 percent of the votes, which could lead to a coalition between the center-left Social Democratic Party, the Left Party and the environmentalist Green Party.
If the Left Party enters a coalition in the Saarland, it would be the first time the party, which is composed of former East German communists and disaffected SDP members, joins a government in western Germany.
A previous western attempt at SPD-Left collaboration in Hesse fell apart when SPD* backbenchers rebelled. However, the federal party leadership has given the green light (so to speak) to state parties to form coalitions with the Left and the Greens, where local conditions make it viable. If such arrangements work out, they could be models for future cooperation at the federal level. Such cooperation may be the only way the SPD can return to power–aside from a possible return or continuation of the current Grand Coalition with the CDU/CSU–in four or eight years’ time, given the drubbing the SPD likely will take in the upcoming federal election. Although the Greens are likely to do well, there is no chance of a repeat of the SPD-Green coalition that ruled from 1998 to 2005.
In fact, the only way the Greens will get back into federal power any time soon is if, contrary to current polling, the CDU/CSU and Free Democrats (FDP) fall short of a majority. In such a scenario, bringing the Greens in is actually more likely than a continued Grand Coalition (which obviously has not been good for the SPD). There was a report on DW-TV a few weeks ago that noted the considerable overlap in constituencies between the FDP and Greens that would make cooperation more plausible than it might at first seem. (Merkel might even welcome such a coalition, as a way to balance the very liberal [not in the American sense] budgetary and tax policy preferences of the FDP.** However, at this point it still seems unlikely to happen.)
In Saxony, the FDP made gains, and is likely to govern in coalition with the CDU. The anti-immigrant National Democratic Party held on to some seats, having barely remained above the 5% threshold, in the Saxon parliament.
Voter turnout was high in Thurngia and Saarland, the two states where voters have turned against the CDU.
* It is interesting that DW uses “SDP” for the party’s acronym in English, whereas most US and British news organizations use the German acronym SPD. I am just more used to thinking of the party as the SPD.
** She had some troubles from the right side of economic policies, from within her own party, in the 2005 campaign.
As Japan’s House of Representative election of 30 August looms, it is looking increasingly likely that the long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) could be voted out of power for the first time.* In fact, it could be a debacle for the party, with the opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) and its pre-electoral allies winning a very large majority.
Yomiuri reports, from a recent poll, that the DPJ could win more than 300 seats. The chamber has 480 seats, so the majority could be very big. Three hundred of the seats in the house are elected in single-seat districts by plurality, and the rest by proportional representation; however, the latter are not compensatory, so a party or pre-electoral coalition that wins lots of the district races can be significantly over-represented. (Please see the planting prior to the September, 2005, election for details on this MMM system.)
More from Yomiuri:
Of the 271 candidates the DPJ is fielding in the single-seat constituency race, nearly 200, or about 70 percent, look set to win, while about 40 are considered too close to call.
As for the LDP, it has relatively few safe seats (amazing!), and some of those where it is expected to do well are those in which it is facing the DPJ’s less popular pre-electoral allies (the Social Democratic Party or the NewNew Party Japan, rather than a candidate of the DPJ itself).
As for [LDP ally] New Komeito, eight of its members are running for reelection in the single-seat constituencies, but the party is unlikely to see the entire group returned to office. The party is having a difficult time winning support, especially in Tokyo and Osaka constituencies.
The DPJ could win around 80 of the list-tier seats. That would be 44%. Yet even with a likely ~40% party-list vote, all those mostly two-candidate races in the nominal tier of the MMM system would translate into a huge swing overall.
Interest in the election is high, and the 20% of poll respondents who say they are still undecided is actually a good deal lower than in past elections. (See the Yomiuri link above for details.)
A student shared a link to a site with nice maps. The text there is all in Japanese, but scroll down. All that red on the map indicates single-seat districts likely to be won by the DPJ, while blue is the LDP.
* The LDP lost control of the House of Councilors, the by-no-means weak second chamber, in July 2007. However, the cabinet depends on the exclusive confidence of the first chamber, and the LDP has never been defeated at a general election for this body. It was out of power briefly in the early 1990s when, due to splits (largely over the issue of reform of the electoral system), it failed to win a majority of seats.
Of course, that subject line is no surprise at all. Ladera Frutal proudly grows its fruits only with natural methods, the house has a solar water heater, and our green leanings when it comes to votes are well advertised. But, thanks to the virtual orchard’s host, we are greener still. I received the following from PowWeb:
Looking to bring green practices to the Web? Good news: by hosting with us, you already have.
How We Went Green
Since we’re not able to generate wind power onsite, we offset our energy use by purchasing Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs).
The energy grid must maintain a full supply of power without overflowing. When wind power is added to the grid through RECs, the amount of energy produced by fossil fuels is reduced.
As a result, our offices and data centers are 100% powered by renewable energy, which means your site is completely green.
Our commitment prevents the release of 2,660 metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year. That’s equivalent to planting nearly 2,390 acres of trees, or removing 510 cars from the road.
I was just doing a search on the UCSD on-line library catalog under Olson, Mancur–an author whose name will be familiar to readers who have any substantial exposure to the literature in either economics or political science.
In the on again, off again saga of the proposed referendum to lift the current two-successive-terms limit on the Colombian presidency, a conference-committee report on the measure has passed the Senate. See Steven Taylor for some comments and puzzlement, with which I am in complete agreement: How did the proposal get through at this late date? Of the many parties in incumbent Alvaro Uribe’s congressional coalition–which had seemed moribund a few week ago–some have already announced presidential candidates, and yet some of those same parties’ senators apparently voted in favor.
Today, El Tiempo notes that the conference report does not face as easy a passage through the House of Representatives. An ongoing Supreme Court case against 86 House members (in a chamber of 163 representatives) regarding potentially illegal inducements they might have accepted, complicates passage in that chamber. (In a terrific irony, one of the members of the most ‘uribista’ parties in the House is named Roy Barreras [Barriers]; it might be better if he were an opposition member, however!)
The story on the House notes:
Germán Vargas Lleras, candidato presidencial de Cambio Radical dijo que miembros de su partido han sido abordados de manera individual y colectiva para inducirlos a votar a favor del referendo.
[Germán Vargas Lleras, Radical Change presidential candidate said that his party members have been approached individually and collectively, to induce them to vote for the referendum.]
Three of the 21 members of his House caucus sided with Uribe in a previous vote in December.
The proposal still must pass each house and then go to a referendum. However, as noted before, the only real obstacle is the congress–or, now, the House. (Perhaps the courts yet could be an obstacle, as well.) It would be a very big surprise if voters either rejected the referendum, or voted to oust Uribe if he is on the ballot next May.
In other Colombian election news, three former mayors of Bogotá (known as The Three Tenors) have established a new political force, Confianza, and will run in the congressional elections of March and the presidential election either on their own, or in affiliation with an existing party (potentially Verde Opción Centro).
Steven Taylor notes that there is new information concerning the assassination of Colombian presidential “pre-candidate” Luis Carlos Galán, which took place twenty years ago yesterday.
As Steven notes:
He was a reform-minded member of the Liberal Party who was practically a shoe-in to win the 1990 election. He was considered by many in Colombia to be an extraordinary politician of the type who inspires a certain level of hope in the population. Of all the assassinations and murders in Colombian history, of which there are a horrendous number, two are perhaps the most prominent: the murder of Jorge Eliécer Gaitán on April 9, 1948, which sparked riots in Bogotá and is normally considered the beginning of the civil war know as La Violencia and the killing of Galán.
I was in Bogotá at the time of the killing, and will always remember vividly when my host came in to wake me up and tell me that Galan was dead. My host was a political activist, and was with a different Liberal pre-candidate, but that did not matter. This was a great national tragedy. And it meant scary times. Would there be mass riots again, as in 1948?
The next day, moving around the city was not easy, with checkpoints and military vehicles and heavily armed police on all major corners and in front of many buildings.
After my host engaged in numerous consultations with various contacts, we went ahead the upcoming weekend with our planned drive to Villa de Leyva, one of the most beautiful places in the very beautiful nation of Colombia. There were numerous checkpoints and a few searches on the roads outside of the capital, but not much traffic! And we had the colonial town of Villa de Leyva practically to ourselves. In fact, it was idyllic, in stark contrast to the crisis the country was living at that moment.
Following the assassination, César Gaviria took on the galanista campaign as his own, and became the Liberal nominee and President, elected in 1990. Above is a photo of a billboard for him, taken in my subsequent trip to Bogotá, for the March, 1990, elections (for congress and other offices, as well as a Liberal presidential primary).
Gaviria practically ran as Galán, with the martyred leader’s image looming far larger than the actual candidate’s. But Gaviria was no Galán.
Galán was a charismatic and passionate advocate for cleaner government and political reform. Gaviria, much more technocratic and hardly inspiring, followed through on the reformist push. He was the president at the time that a Constituent Assembly was elected in 1991 to re-write the constitution in ways that have substantially improved the country’s democracy.
The “new information” is that the former head of Colombia’s state security agency, the DAS, has been implicated in the murder. Some of my Colombian friends at the time suspected that, I recall, although the official story has always been that it was Medellin Cartel drug traffickers (and the possibility that it was a joint job is very real). There has never been any official resolution of the crime, at least up to now.
Some days after the assassination, I participated with some of my political-activist friends in the funeral march. (Somewhere I have lots of photos, but I seem not to have ever scanned any of them.) It was a massive outpouring of civic action and revulsion at the violence that has so long afflicted the country–and still does. There were no riots or other disturbances, yet it was a bit scary to be a foreigner marching behind large red banners in such a tense moment in Colombian history.* It was a travel/research experience that I certainly never will forget.
*My friends were with a legal but self-declared revolutionary leftist organization that worked with mainstream party candidates; some of the members of this organization, MOIR, are now in congress).
A “well informed source” relates the following notes about elections in the Palestinian Territories:
1. They have been having rolling local elections but for some reason they decided to use list PR but didn’t force candidates to link themselves to parties either during nomination, or on the ballot. Thus, when they tried to allocate seats…errr…they couldn’t. So they had to go back to candidates and ask them which party they were, but most refused to tell them, so [and this is what another well informed source told source no. 1] the election commission just did it themselves (literally saying “we know who you really are aligned with) and just made parties themselves – fabulous!
2. The current Hamas central council elections are the block vote [what we call MNTV here at F&V], with 100+ to be elected, 600 candidates and you MUST use all votes.
My passport expired some months ago, and apparently it is no longer possible to mail in the old passport, form, photos, and fees. Now one must provide all these materials–and more, but we’ll get to that–to an authorized passport officer.
There is a handy list of authorized locations at travel.state.gov. Well, not as handy as it could be. It said that the City of Escondido Utility Billing Dept. accepted applications without requiring an appointment. So I went to the City of Escondido Utility Billing Dept., without an appointment. Things change. Now an appointment is required. Next available appointment was in two weeks. Strange, as the office did not look so busy, and how much staff time is involved in receiving the form, photos, etc.? But rules are rules…
So I went to the big postal processing facility in Carmel Mountain, which does not require an appointment. Really.
Frustrations about the City of Escondido Utility Billing Dept. (and the inaccurate information at travel.state.gov) aside, the strangest part of the experience was being required to make a photocopy (front and back) of my driver’s license as “proof of identity.” I was submitting my expired passport, which happens to have my photo and other identifying information, but a driver’s license or other ID is also required.
I can present my US passport anywhere in the world as proof of my identity–except at an authorized US passport office.
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