Perusing the results of last Sunday’s German election (thank you, Adam Carr), one thing that jumps out at me is the high–by standards of Germany’s proportional system–disproportionality.
The CDU/CSU won 239 seats, out of a total of 622, for 38.4% of the seats. These parties (which we can, following convention, treat as one in national politics) won 33.8% of the party-list vote. So they had an Advantage Ratio of 1.137. That is rather high, given that the proportionality in Germany is calculated on a national basis. It is higher than the CDU/CSU had in 2005 (1.046) or the SPD in 2002 when it was the largest party (1.081). In fact, not since at least 1969 has the largest party ever had an advantage ratio over 1.10, a level that was reached only in 1990 (the first post-unification election, which was held under slightly different rules). So the CDU/CSU did exceptionally well in this election, beating the limits of proportionality by a good margin.
The greater leading-party advantage ratio is not simply attributable to more below-threshold votes. The combined vote for parties that individually failed to win 5% of list votes in this election was 6.0%, which is not exceptionally high. For instance, the total sub-threshold vote was 5.9% in 1998, although it was lower in the two intervening elections (3.0% in 2002, 3.9% in 2005). (In the last pre-unification election, 1987, it was only 1.3%! Very low sub-threshold shares were typical of the long period of stable three- or four-party politics in West Germany.)
Even without the sub-threshold votes included in the denominator, the CDU/CSU Advantage Ratio would be 1.067, which would remain high for a national proportional system.
Of course, a key feature of Germany’s proportional system is its mixed-member (MMP) character, and specifically its provision for “overhangs.” If a party wins, at the nominal tier of single-seat districts, a number of seats greater than its party-list votes would entitle it to, it naturally gets to keep these extra seats. Seats are then added to the parliament in order to compensate the other parties, but even after compensation the party that has won the overhang keeps some of the advantage. I think of it as a reward for local strength, and thus as a natural feature of a system that is as much mixed-member as it is proportional.
Because of the additional compensation feature, the new German Bundestag will have 323 list seats and 299 nominal-tier seats. The total of 622 is eight more than in 2005 (when the starting point was, as this year, 299 in each tier).
Much of the overhang appears to have resulted from strategic coalitional ticket-splitting: some substantial share of voters chose the CDU or CSU local candidate, but gave their party-list vote to the likely coalition partner, the FDP. Of course, this is by no means the first time we have seen such voting, but the scale of it this time seems rather large.
Consider that the FDP obtained 14.6% of the party-list vote, but only 9.4% of the nominal-tier vote. (I know the list vote is its highest ever, by a good margin, and I am sure the nominal vote is also its highest, but I do not have such votes immediately available for all past elections.)
It is worth noting that this sort of strategic ticket splitting would have contributed to the voter’s favored coalition only if the single-seat district in question would be an overhang for the bigger party. It would be interesting to know whether ticket-splitting was systematically higher in these overhang districts (and perhaps in some near misses), as the strategic coalition splitting argument would imply (at least if we assume voters are sufficiently informed to know the shape of the contest in their own district).
So the likely next government of CDU/CSU and FDP will be formed by parties that won a combined 48.4% of the list votes and 48.8% of the nominal votes. Not much difference there. It will have 332 of the 622 seats, or 53.4%. Even if we (inaccurately) treated all of this vote as a joint governmental vote, we would still have an advantage ratio of 1.103. I do not know how that compares historically, but it must still be on the high side.
Did the overhang seats make the difference between a CDU/CSU + FDP majority and a “hung” parliament? I do not think so, but it was a close call. I hope others who have followed the German election can offer their insights on this “disproportional” outcome. (Again, disproportional only in the context of Germany’s highly proportional rules.)
Aside from Germany, there is also a general election in Portugal today. Portugal, a semi-presidential democracy, is electing is parliament, via closed-list PR (with widely varying district magnitudes).
In addition, there are primary elections in some Colombian parties.. Colombia is one of a small number of countries with state-administered primaries (which are optional for parties). The Liberals and the Alternative Democratic Pole are holding presidential primaries. For the first time in Colombian history, there are also some congressional primaries, including in the Conservative Party. The Conservatives canceled postponed their planned presidential primary when the proposed constitutional amendment to allow President Alvaro Uribe to run for a third term passed congress.* (This information is from Steven Taylor; see his post for further details.)
* In a correction, Steven Taylor notes that the Conservatives still have a presidential primary scheduled in March “just in case” Uribe is not running for a third term. (Up to today, all presidential primaries in Colombia had been held in March, on the same day as congressional elections. So the parties holding primaries today are part of what seems to be almost an iron law of primaries everywhere: they get earlier and earlier…
Thomas notes that this site has very interesting information about the electoral system, overhang (surplus) seats,* etc. (mostly in German).
A very big question–and one to which we might not know the answer right away–is how many overhang seats the CDU/CSU (Christian Democrats or “conservatives”) will have. They could get 15 or more, in which case they and the FDP (Free Democrats or “liberals”) could have a combined majority of seats even if their (party-list) votes total only 47% or so.
In addition, this election could see one of the highest shares of below-threshold votes in many years. A party needs 5% of the list vote to win seats,** and thus any votes cast for parties that fall below this level are “wasted.” The national proportional allocation (Before taking into account overhangs) is calculated on the “effective” vote, that is the votes for all parties that clear the 5% hurdle. There are no parties aside from the current five in parliament that will clear the threshold, but most polls put the combined micro-party vote at around five percent.
* Overhang seats are single-seat districts won by a party in excess of its total proportional entitlement. That is, a (modestly) disproportional element of Germany’s mixed-member proportional (MMP) system, which rewards parties for having strong local support, or popular candidates.
** Or three single-seat districts won; there are no parties in this election with any chance of winning even one single-seat district without also getting over 5%.
Two different polling companies have registered recent drops for the Free Democrats, and both suggest that a potential coalition of the FDP and Christian Democrats may fall short of a majority. Both parties’ leaders have publicly stated they desire to govern together, but it may not be possible. If it is not, then either the Greens would have to be brought in, or the current Grand Coalition (with the Social Democrats) would be renewed.
The first jujubes have started to ripen. Just in time.
About three years ago we developed a Ladera Frutal tradition of using the jujube (also known as the Chinese date) as the Rosh ha-Shanah “first fruit.” It is perfect, in many ways. The fruit has some apple-like qualities, but in my estimation, is even better dipped in honey (which really should be date honey) than an apple is.
But more to the point, it always ripens right around the autumnal equinox, and Rosh ha-Shanah (literally “Head of the Year”) is the new moon closest to the equinox. Apples, on the other hand, go practically year around here.
As the photo above makes clear, jujubes grow on trees, and therefore there need be no worries about which bracha is valid.
The crop, of GA866 variety, is a bit light this year, though not quite as light as it appears in the photo. For some reason I took the photo after I had harvested. You can see one ripe fruit (brown) way up high in the tree. There are some light green fruit hanging on other branches; these will ripen into the new year.
Of course, we won’t eat any till after sundown on the first of Tishri!
Not counting a two-election increase when Alaska and Hawaii were added** the House size has not changed since the 1912 election. Back then the US had about 95 million people, or around a third what it has today!
The House used to be expanded periodically to track population size (see graph at the second-linked item). Why not now? As the NYT notes, the US judicial system is about to be asked that question.
Some advocates of increased House size have suggested a House of over 1,000 Representatives. That’s ridiculous–and hardly helpful to the cause. The cube-root law (again, see second link) would suggest 620-660. But, really, even 600, or 550, would help restore Representativeness considerably.
* To one of the arms of the federal government, anyway.
** That is, those states came into the union between censuses, and a seat was added for each. With the subsequent reapportionment, those states’ Representatives came at the expense of voters in other states, in order to return the House at 435.
Early parliamentary elections, already once delayed, will now not take place at all.
Any further legislative action to push for November elections was doomed to failure in the form of another challenge before the Constitutional Court, say leaders from political parties who reversed course Sept. 15 and declined to support dissolving the Chamber of Deputies and calling new elections. [...]
The result is that the technocratic government of Prime Minister Jan Fischer – appointed as a caretaker in May – would most likely be left governing until June of next year, when the current Chamber of Deputies’ mandate runs out and regular elections are already scheduled.
The dominoes fell starting with the Social Democrats (SSD) just hours before debate was to begin Sept. 15 in the Chamber of Deputies; the Green Party (DZ) and the Communists (KSM) followed suit. Until the announcement, the widespread consensus was that the lower house would be dissolved and that authorities would push forward with a plan for elections in November.
Already, elections that were being considered for October had been delayed:
After independent Deputy Miloš Melcak filed a challenge with the Constitutional Court over early elections originally slated for October, the court ruled in his favor Sept. 10, striking down the mechanisms used to call elections. To bypass this ruling, both houses of Parliament passed a constitutional amendment with the necessary three-fifths majority Sept. 11, which allowed the Chamber of Deputies to dissolve itself. At the same time, MPs passed a law shortening the period from 60 to 50 days that the president has to call for new elections. This was all meant to pave the way for elections in early November, but the process itself again appeared open to challenge in the Constitutional Court, and constitutional experts agree it easily could have been.
Many more juicy details at the Prague Post!
The Czech Republic system is “pure” parliamentary; the (unelected) presidency is (mostly) ceremonial.
However, clever though the headline is, I don’t quite get it. Yes, British Question Time can feature brutal give-and-take and heckling. But cries of liar? I don’t know, but I think not. Or a least not without a stern warning (whatever little that might be worth) from the Speaker (who, unlike in the US, actually is an arbiter and not the head of the majority party in the chamber–the latter role is played by the PM himself/herself, of course).
More fundamentally, there just is no parallel between speeches by a president and by a PM. The latter is by definition accountable to parliament, and thus expected to have to face, and respond to, harsh criticism from his or her fellow elected representatives of the people. A president, on the other hand, is essentially giving a Throne Speech, not engaging in a Question Time. It is one-way communication, notwithstanding that it is presented by the head of government, not (merely) the head of state. We would not subject THE CHIEF to such abuses of his/her dignity as questions from mere delegates of the commonfolk–which perhaps builds up the pressure that leads to said delegates (“Transcendent Hero/Dastardly Villain,” as Steven Taylor puts it) from time to time being unable to exercise dignified self-control.
I certainly am not defending the institution of “state of the union” and similar speeches, such as that given last night. In fact, I think it is a “worst of both worlds” practice. I am just pointing out the problem with the analogy to parliamentary practice.
Namibia’s parties present election lists that are on the short list (so to speak) of the world’s longest closed lists, nominating candidates for the single national district of 72 seats. The South-West Africa People’s Organization (SWAPO), which has governed the country since independence, has agreed on its list for the upcoming elections.
The party held its fifth electoral college on Saturday, with 211 members on the voters’ roll – those eligible to vote – and elected from 117 candidates that have been entered as candidates from the ranks of section, branch, district and regional conferences.
Nominations also came from the party’s youth League, women’s and elders’ councils, and the affiliated National Union of Namibian Workers (NUNW).
The story says there was a “behind-the-scenes bloody nosed fight,” but the party (predictably) promises unity.
It is not as if the multiple nominating entities within the party produced a well balanced slate.
On the list, there are 23 women, with Iivula-Ithana and Petrina Haingura the only women among the first 10 candidates.
A notable female omission is long-serving minister and current Deputy Prime Minister Libertina Amathila, who earlier indicated that she would not avail herself for re-election.
None of the candidates nominated by the women’s or elders’ councils appear among the list of 72, and two of those nominated by the Youth League – Piet van der Walt and Paulus Kapia, have made it.
Most of the National Assembly candidates are Swapo Party Members of Parliament and members of the party’s central committee.
You have to be pretty far down the list not to be elected. SWAPO won just under 75% of the votes at the last election, in 2004. And not much is likely to change this time. The election is in November.
A recent poll suggests that Germany’s Christian Democrats and Free Democrats could fall short of a joint majority after federal elections on 27 September.
The N24 TV poll shows their combined support at 48%, which could be just enough. In any case, it looks like a closer call than it has seemed till now. The poll also shows the combined center-left (SPD, Linke, and Greens) at 48%. However, it would be a total reversal of SPD promises if these parties joined up in a coalition at the federal level.
In Thuringia state, however–one of three sates to have gone to the polls in late August–a broad center-left coalition was perceived as likely immediately after the election. However, DW-TV reported today that a SPD-CDU grand coalition (mirroring the outgoing federal government) is now seen as more likely. (I get DW via Link TV, so no link of the hyper variety is available to the referenced news item.)
Russian media quoted Communist party officials as saying Wednesday that Vladimir Voronin will step down as president of Moldova to become a member of the country’s parliament. [...]
The political stalemate in Moldova continued despite the general election in July, the second in four months, that reversed the swing in favor of the pro-Western opposition coalition.
The coalition announced at a press conference in Chisinau last week that Marian Lipu, the Democratic Party chief, would be nominated as president, and Vlad Filat, head of the Liberal Democratic Party, as prime minister.
However, it is far short of a 61-seat majority in the 101-member-parliament required to nominate a successor to Voronin.
Greece will have a snap election on 4 October. And this one is pretty snappy, as it will be held just over two years after the last one.
Why a new election so soon? The conservative New Democracy party won a (narrow) majority in 2007, and according to Reuters (first link above) polls do not suggest a larger majority (or any at all) is likely to result. In fact, New Democracy may not even win a plurality this time–unusual circumstances in which to have a snap election.
The Times of London suggests that PM Costas Karamanlis may be experiencing troubles within his majority, especially since the drubbing the party took in the recent European elections. The looming election of a new president also is a factor.
Mr Karamanlis said he feared that the Opposition would force an election in March over the choice of a new president and insisted that he wanted to spare the country six months of electioneering at a time when strong government was vital.
Of course, “sparing the country” is unlikely to be the main motivation behind calling the election. More likely, it is a classic case of a parliamentary ruling-party leader using an election call to pull his own party together and fight for a renewed mandate (however unlikely it may be), or else go into opposition (presumably with new leadership) and regroup.
The Times article quotes a “sarcastic… left-leaning tabloid” headline that pretty much sums it up: “I’ve failed — vote for me.”
The Colombian House of Representatives has approved the bill, already passed by the Senate, that will allow a referendum on lifting the current term limit on the presidency. The vote was 85-5, with 76 members not voting.
I still do not get it: the yes votes include members of parties that had already announced their own presidential candidates (who presumably will now suspend their campaigns).
Now only the Constitutional Court can stop it. Or, less likely, the voters.
See previous Colombia plantings for past votes and context.
I have heard of two candidates claiming victory in a presidential contest, but three? That’s unusual. But that is precisely what is happening in Gabon, where voters went to the polls to choose a new president.
One might think that this means that the president is elected by plurality, and the race among the three was thought to be close. But, assuming the version of the constitution I located is current,* it takes an absolute majority to be elected (Art. 9). I suppose there could be a close race for second place, with the leading candidate short of majority, and thus all three claiming they are advancing to the runoff. But I am guessing that’s not exactly what any of the three of them has in mind.
In any case, the country is tense as official results, delayed till Wednesday, are awaited.
* But apparently it is not. See Robert Elgie’s comment: the Gabonese constitution now has the president elected by plurality.
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