In North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany’s largest state, it looks like the next government will be a SPD-Green minority administration. The incumbent CDU-FDP coalition failed to retain its majority in recent elections, and the outgoing premier, Juergen Ruettgers, announced on Saturday that he would not stand for re-election as premier in the new assembly.
The SPD and Greens are two seats short of a majority, and will rely on the backing or abstention of the Left Party to sustain their cabinet.
Other outcomes were possible, and maybe even seemed more likely following the election: a CDU-SPD grand coalition, or a CDU-FDP-Green coalition, for example. But negotiations for such alternatives led nowhere.
Questions I hope someone will know the answer to:
1. How common are minority cabinets in German states?
2. Is this the first time outside the former GDR that a government has needed at least tacit backing from the Left?
Because states’ Bundesrat delegations are appointed by state governments, this will mean the federal coalition of the CDU/CSU and FDP will lose its majority in the second chamber.
Seven list MPs are receiving almost $41,000 each a year to run offices in their local communities but choose not to.
Although MPs are not required to have local offices, and can transfer their funds to other MPs or their parties, the Appropriations Review Committee indicated that it “would be concerned if the number of MPs not opening offices was to increase significantly”.
Also in the article is this note on where some of the funds go:
ACT list MP John Boscawen said ACT’s list MPs shared office space in Auckland. However, he had used “a huge chunk”of his entitlement on organising and publicising 40 public meetings against the emissions trading scheme over the past four months.
ACT is a supporter of the current National-led minority government, and, to put it mildly, a party of climate-change skeptics. The Emissions Trading Scheme was one of the signature laws passed by the previous Labour-led government, late in its last term, and which the new government was committed to restructuring.
About a week ago, UK Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg announced the date for the referendum on adopting the Alternative Vote for Commons elections. According to the legislation, which must be approved by Parliament, the referendum would be on 5 May 2011.
This is the same date as Scottish, Welsh, Northern Ireland, and some local elections. This concurrence of elections has already become a matter of controversy.
Assuming the referendum goes ahead, the Conservatives will campaign against it. The coalition agreement only committed the two parties to holding a referendum, not to supporting its passage. The opposition Labour Party, despite having had such a referendum in its own campaign manifesto, is actually quite divided on the question. And now with the new Lib-Con politics, it may even be that Labour would be the party most hurt by AV. So the referendum’s passage is by no means certain.
This was originally a planting about Pippa Norris’s blog, reading:
It just came to my attention that Pippa Norris has a blog. (The archives go back to December, 2008. Where have I been?) Much there of interest to F&V readers, especially on the recent British election.
However, it somehow transformed itself in the comment thread into one about AV in the UK. Sometimes the tree has to bend with the wind…
(And this explains why some of the comments are older than the post’s current date. And why one of them is actually about Pippa Norris.)
Abandoning one of the planks of their coalition agreement with the Conservatives, the Liberal Democrats have announced that a simple majority will remain sufficient to dissolve the UK parliament if there is a no-confidence vote but no agreement on a new government.
The agreement had committed the government to introduce a statutory change that would have required a vote of 55% of the House of Commons to trigger an early election. (Conveniently, the combined votes of the non-Tory parties in the current House fall short of 55%.)
Plans for “fixed-term” parliaments will go ahead, with the next election set for 7 May 2015. The new plans state that if a majority votes no confidence, there will be a fourteen-day period in which there will be efforts to form an alternative government. If these fail, an early election would be held.
However, in an effort to prevent a government from calling an early election for its strategic benefit, there will be a two-thirds vote needed to call an early election (i.e. in the absence of a lost vote of no-confidence).
So what would there be to stop a government (or large party within a coalition) from faking its loss of confidence and going for an election anyway?
The item reminds me of one of the restrictions on parliamentary confidence in PNG’s democracy:
As the Constitution does not allow any vote of no-confidence in a prime minister 18 months before the next general elections, a vote must be called by the end of the year.
Essentially, this provision means that the parliamentary system is converted for the final 30% of a parliamentary term into an “assembly independent” system (defined as one in which the executive originates from the legislative assembly, but survives independently of any loss of confidence).
Do any other (otherwise) parliamentary systems have similar provisions restricting parliament’s ability to hold “its” executive to account?
The first second-chamber (House of Councilors) election since the Democratic Party of Japan ended the Liberal Democrats’ long run of power went badly for the party. It was not a drubbing, but the LDP won more of the seats at stake–especially in the single-seat races where the two parties went head-to-head.
The House of Councilors is elected by fixed six-year terms, half every three years. It does not have the power to remove a government or veto a budget, but in all other respects it is a powerful second chamber.
In less than a year in power, the DPJ has already had to change prime ministers and now this defeat. Not a promising beginning for Japan’s supposed new two-party era.
The Hurriyet Daily Newsreports that Latvian President Valdis Zatlers has called for a constitutional amendment permitting him to dissolve Parliament without the public’s consent at referendum. According to the article, he also has called for direct presidential elections.
Further, he has asked for the power to unilaterally dismiss the chief budget and central bank officers. Zalter’s stated reason for this is to ‘depoliticize’ these appointments.
There is no mention of any proposed change to presidential survivability. Will the dissolution of Parliament also trigger a presidential election, for example?
As is no surprise to F&V readers, the net effect of the above would be the diminution of arguably wise constraints on executive power.
With the Nationalists already trailing Labour in the polls for next year’s crucial Scottish Parliament elections on the back of a disastrous Westminster campaign, party chiefs admitted that they had been forced to take action over the selection process. [...]
After the alarm [about possibly fraudulent membership rolls] was raised by the East Dunbartonshire Council SNP group, the party’s executive intervened to prevent anyone from voting in selection battles who had not been a member before 6 June this year.
With many SNP MSPs nervous about keeping their seats, there is a fierce contest to get high up on the party list for regional vote.
Scotland elects its parliament via a mixed-member proportional system, in which the compensatory (PR) tier is elected by closed list in several districts electing seven list members each. (See the official description–PDF.)
Jaroslaw Kaczynski, former PM, failed in his bid to win the presidency that was vacated by the death of his twin brother, Lech, earlier this year.
The winner of the close contest, Bronislaw Komorowski, is from the party of the current premier, Civic Platform.
Aside from sympathy over the death of his brother, one source of support for Kaczynski was a desire to balance the control of the country’s dual executive structure.* But instead, Poland will now begin a new phase of unified government.
* According to some news coverage I saw over the past week while traveling in Europe, Kaczynski explicitly employed this theme of “balance” in the campaign.
Last week in Germany, everywhere we went in any city we were seldom far from a TV facing the sidewalk and tuned to a World Cup match. So it is a good thing that Wednesday was an idle day in the World Cup, allowing all of Germany to be tuned in to its presidential election.
Or maybe not…
There was no sign of this major event in the life of a democracy, aside from some special news coverage on TV–but not being played in the bars and restaurants. Of course, the reason for the far-from World Cup-like attention is that this was not a popular election. Germany’s president is chosen by a Federal Assembly consisting of the members of the Bundestag and an equal number of delegates from the states.
While there was a good deal of drama for those who were tuned in, the outcome was never in doubt, given the parties’ control over the delegates. That the coalition’s choice would prevail was a given because of the rule that stipulates that if no majority is produced in the first two ballots of the Assembly, a plurality suffices in the third round. However, given the nominal majority held by the Christian Democrat-Liberal governing coalition, that it went to the third ballot means that the government’s own delegates took the opportunity to give the coalition a bit of a bloody nose. In other words, the party control is not absolute, thanks in part to the secret ballot used in the Assembly. In the first two ballots, some members of the coalition’s delegation refused to vote for their candidate, Christian Wulff.
Had the election been by popular vote, the candidate of the Social Democrats and Greens might well have won. Joachim Gauck was a leader of the anti-communist opposition prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall. He evidently received some votes, especially in the first round, of Assembly members from within the governing parties’ delegation. He undoubtedly would have received many more votes from actual voters who favored these parties at the last general election if there had been a popular presidential election.
Then again, had the vote been popular, it is unlikely that Wulff would have been the conservative-liberal candidate. A career “insider” with little national profile, he is the sort of candidate parties often nominate to top positions in parliamentary democracies, but who are less likely to be selected when elections for an executive position are direct.
The opposition, on the other hand, essentially treated the contest as a de-facto popular vote. And it might have worked, but it would have required the Left party delegates to withdraw their own candidate. Given that the Left party is made up in part of the remnants of the old Communists against whom Gauk mobilized during the 1980s, that was never a realistic option. By nominating Gauck, however, the SPD and Greens succeeded in sending a strong signal to the nation of how unreconstructed the Left Party is. It would not join a broad left coalition to elect a popular “outsider” against the candidate of an unpopular government, even for the mostly ceremonial post of Germany’s presidency. Presumably, a large chunk of Left voters would have gone for Gauck in a popular runoff. In that sense, the SPD and Greens pulled off a big symbolic victory against their Left rivals even if they lost the election itself.
The whole contest also suggests that the electoral process for Germany’s head of state perhaps now has failed to maintain the delicate balance for which it was designed: being neither a simple ratification of the sitting government’s candidate nor an open popularity contest. This is a theme that I see some members of the F&V community have already begun discussing at an earlier thread.
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