The Los Angeles Times ran an interview on 28 March with Daniel Ben-Simon, one of the leaders of what is left of the Israeli Labor Party. His perspectives on the demise of this once-great party are interesting. He goes so far as to say it became a “Prostitution Party,” so much did it betray its principles in the pursuit of cabinet portfolios.
I found the most interesting aspect to be his comments on a possible merger with Kadima.
In 2010, Greens won their first seat in each of two of Her Majesty’s Realms (UK and Australia*). Could Canada’s Greens follow suit in 2011?
The Globe and Mail today has an interview with party leader Elizabeth May, who has relocated across the country from Nova Scotia, where she ran last time. This time she is the party’s candidate in Saanich-Gulf Islands, in British Columbia.
She explains the politics behind the move:
On the political side the Green Party decided after the 2008 election that perhaps they’d made a mistake not making my riding a priority. … The party had an epiphany … the council members were saying “good heavens, we did so well in this election, we got one million votes and all we’re getting is abuse … people are saying we didn’t elect the leader, but we weren’t even trying to elect the leader!” It was kind of a thought bubble that stayed dangling over the room while people started thinking, “Why didn’t we try to elect the leader? …”
I said you have to do some research … and Saanich-Gulf Islands emerged in every analysis as the place in the country where more voters were … excited about, in large numbers, the idea of electing the leader of the Green Party.**
In 2008 in the riding (district) the Conservative MP Gary Lunn was reelected with 43.4% over Liberal candidate Briony Penn, on 39.4%. The Green candidate, Andrew Lewis, came in third with 10.5%.
The Greens actually did far better in 2008 in several ridings in Ontario, even coming in second in one or two. But their research said this BC riding was the one to go for, and May claims (though take this with a grain of salt) that their own internal polling says it’s a two-candidate race between her and Lunn.
* Referring here to single-seat contests in the House of Representatives. They had held seats for a while in the PR-elected Senate.
** All ellipses in the quoted passage are in the original, except for the last one of the first paragraph.
In a brief and informative piece published eons ago in the current context (9 March), Bassam Haddad offers some comparisons between and among Syria, Egypt, and Tunisia.
Since its appearance, the article’s suggestions that large-scale rebellion would not happen in Syria, and that whatever unrest might occur would likely center on the north, look less prescient. Nonetheless, the arguments as to why a collapse of the regime remains unlikely still seem about right.
Quick summary of main points: Civil society is far less organized than it had been in Egypt for a decade or more, “Tunisia’s state, regime, and government did not overlap nearly as much as those of Syria do,” and “state-society relationships in Syria are much thicker than those of Libya, where detachment at the top has reached delusional levels.”
It’s official, the Green Party has “won” the Baden-Wurttemberg state assembly election today. It won 24.2%, nearly doubling its showing of 12.5% in the last election. Via DW:
“It’s a dream come true… we could never have dreamed of a result like this a few days ago,” said Franz Untersteller, a Green party spokesman.
To say the Greens “won” with less than 25% is, of course, in need of some qualification, given that this does not even make them the plurality party. That would be the Christian Democrats (CDU), on 39%. However, the Greens edged out the Social Democrats (23.1%), and the “Green-Red” combo thus has a majority. That means the Greens will have the premiership in the new coalition government.
The CDU’s partners, the Free Democrats (FDP), just held on to their place in the assembly, with 5.3%.
In neighboring Rhineland-Palatinate, the FDP fell below the 5% threshold and thus will not be in the assembly. There the incumbent SPD lots its majority (36.1), but the Greens won 15.1% (up by 10.5 points), making a Red-Green coalition the most likely result there.
As noted previously, the Green surge owes much to the Fukushima effect.
The minority Conservative government of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper could be defeated in the House of Commons on Friday.
The government tabled its budget this week. It has been long expected that both the Liberals and Bloc Quebecois would vote against it. Yesterday the New Democrats, not finding enough “sweeteners” in the budget, announced that they also will vote against.
The immediate trigger for an election, however, would be a motion by the Liberals that the government has lost the confidence of parliament on account of having been ruled “in contempt” for failing to provide the House with information on some of its policy costings.
If there is an election, it will likely be in early May, and it will be the county’s fourth in about seven years. The Conservatives, who have been leading in the polls but not usually sufficient for a majority of seats, are counting on their budget to have enough in it to please Canadian voters even if it did not please any opposition parties. In fact, it appears that was precisely the government’s strategy: send a budget the opposition would “have to” reject, and have an election.
If Harper falls just short of a majority, he is likely safe for another few years as head of the government. But what if he falls well short again? Could talk of a coalition, like the aborted one after the last election, be revived?
The cabinet of Portuguese premier José Sócrates failed to secure a crucial vote on an austerity package in the Assembly yesterday, and has resigned. Portugal may need to follow Greece and Ireland in seeking a financial stabilization package (or, less charitably, a “bailout”), and could be headed for a snap election.
This case is particularly interesting to me because it is a case of cohabitation in a semi-presidential* democracy that had been going on–and apparently quite smoothly–for a long time.
The Portuguese president, Anibal Cavaco Silva, is from the misnamed conservative party, the Social Democratic Party (PSD). The outgoing PM is from the Socialist Party (PS). President Silva was reelected in January of this year by a wide margin. I mean, really, really wide:
Anibal Cavaco Silva, PSD, 53%
Manuel Alegre Duarte, PS, 19.8%
Obviously, the PM’s party did not make much of an effort to reclaim the presidency. It was also a very low turnout election, held amid the impending financial crisis.
The presidential election was an unusual case of an election during a cohabitation phase when things were clearly already not going well for the country. Yet the president was reelected easily, and apparently the possibility of the president’s using his power to dissolve parliament and change the government (i.e. the PM and cabinet) was not a campaign theme. (See, for example, a Bloomberg report on election day.)
(For the record, in 2006, Cavaco Silva likewise had won an outright majority.)
The comfortable working relationship between the two goes all the way back to Silva’s first election, in 2006. David Samuels and I have the following notation in the dataset for Presidents, Parties, and Prime Ministers (Cambridge, 2010):
Rival Parties- Silva’s campaign had promised to work with Socrates, did not attack the PM during the election, but inherited a PM from a rival party.
Sócrates had been in office since 2005.
Sócrates led a minority single-party cabinet. The PS obtained 37.7% of the vote in the September, 2009, election, winning 96 of 226 seats. This was a substantial drop from the 2005 election (-8.7% in votes and -24 seats), but good enough to remain in power. The president’s PSD won only 30% of the vote and 78 seats in the election. Parties farther to the left saw a greater increase in their votes and seats in the 2009 election than did the PSD. It was, of course, these leftist parties, in addition to the PSD, that defeated Sócrates in the austerity vote.
So now what? Contrary to some popular and academic assessments, the Portuguese presidency is far from powerless (see Amorim Neto and Lobo, 2009).
If negotiations to form a new government in the current parliament are not fruitful, the president could dissolve parliament and call an early parliamentary election. Whether that would put an end to cohabitation, or result in its reinforcement via an Ireland-style implosion of the governing party, is something I certainly am not in a position to predict. In any case, this will be interesting to watch for us students of semi-presidential systems.
* The Portuguese system fits squarely in the subtype of premier-presidential, wherein the outcome of legislative elections is more important for determining the composition of the cabinet than are the preferences of the president.
The state assembly election this Sunday in Baden-Württemberg has a decent chance to result in Germany’s first state premier from the Green Party.
The state has been led by the Christian Democrats, the party of German federal Chancellor (PM) Angela Merkel, for nearly 60 years. The party has slid in polls nationally recently, down to around 33%, according to Spiegel. Among the issues contributing to the slide, in addition to a plagiarist ex-minister, is the government’s stance on nuclear power. It recently announced a temporary shutdown of seven nuclear reactors in response to the Fukushima crisis. In Baden-Württemberg, the political problem for premier Stefan Mappus and his CDU is even especially acute:
Mappus’ problems, however, go beyond his party’s sinking numbers nationwide. The Baden-Württemberg governor, after all, has long been a firm, even boisterous, supporter of nuclear energy. Last year, as Merkel’s government was preparing legislation to extend the lifespans of Germany’s 17 nuclear reactors, Mappus even went so far as to hint that Environment Minister Norbert Röttgen — a CDU party ally — should resign due to his reluctance to support the extension.
The combined Green-Social Democratic vote could be larger than that of the CDU and its partner the Free Democratic party.
Current polls show that even though the CDU can still count on 38 percent support on Sunday, it may not be enough to keep Mappus in power. His current coalition partners, the business-friendly Free Democratic Party (FDP), stand at 6 percent in the polls. The Social Democrats and the Green Party, for their part, add up to 47 percent support — three points ahead of the CDU-FDP alliance — with recent Green gains suggesting it may be possible that the party could claim the state’s governorship.* It that happens, it would be a first for the Greens in Germany.
The Greens and Social Democrats (SPD) are close in the poll, at 25% and 22%, respectively; the Green gain is 5 points in the past week (The Local).
The Green Party’s strength is not only due to Fukushima, as it has been gaining for months due to its leading of the opposition to a controversial redevelopment project in Stuttgart, the state capital.
If the Greens pass the SPD and the SPD-Green combo is greater than the CDU-FDP combo, the Green leader could become premier. That’s two “ifs” and both races are close. This will be one to watch.
Aside from some municipalities, is there a government anywhere that has been led by a Green chief executive?
* Contrary to Spiegel, I prefer “premiership,” as that captures the fact that the state executive emerges from and is dependent upon the assembly majority.
Ballots in open-list PR, at least if they are paper ballots, are sometimes rather complex.
Steven Taylor offers a look at a re-design of the ballot for the upcoming municipal elections in Colombia, which might help with some problems of voter confusion seen in previous municipal and congressional elections since the list-PR system was adopted in 2003. (See Steven’s links to previous posts in which he discussed these problems.)
In Colombia, parties have the option of presenting either a closed or an open list, although a very large majority of lists are open. Voters must make a party choice and then, if they choose and their party allows, may mark a candidate preference.
Is Egypt’s revolution, if it ever was one, now officially over?
The results of Saturday’s referendum on amendments to the constitution–seen as a first step towards competitive elections later this year–suggest less than great excitement.
According to Ahram, the turnout was around 41%. Yes, forty one.
Of those who bothered to show up, 77.2% said yes to the amendments.
I wondered how this compared to other referenda on either a new constitution, or amendments to the pre-existing authoritarian one, in past transitions to democracy.
The following is probably missing some key cases. I put it together by perusing my volumes of the Nohlen, et al., data handbooks on Latin America and Africa, as well as some sources on Eastern Europe.*
What this means going forward, I do not know. Various reports said the pro-democracy forces were divided over whether the reforms went far enough to be worthy of a yes vote. However, I did not hear anything about an organized boycott. Yet the yes vote was fairly strong out of those who voted, while the turnout shockingly weak for a country supposedly in the process of a mass-instigated transition to democracy.
* I did not find any in Eastern Europe that took place prior to democratic elections. However, Poland’s referendum on its constitution in 1993 had a turnout on par with Egypt’s: 42.9. The yes vote was 53.5. Poland was already democratic by this point, having been governed under the interim Little Constitution.
Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood has reached agreement in principle to run a joint list with other parties in the next parliamentary elections, its deputy leader said …
The groups at the meeting, which included the liberal Wafd party and the leftist Nasserist and Karama parties, issued a joint declaration after a press conference that called for a series of democratic reforms.
“We know that political parties have issues of tension about who is actually a leader of that political party. It will have implications in terms of how we run our processes. It is on that basis that we are saying that political parties must submit the list of those people that will be authorised. We are trying to avoid a situation where in the morning you receive a list from political parties from one specific leadership and later on another one comes and says the person who submitted the list is not authorised,” he added.
Asked how they would resolve a situation like that in Cope, where there were two factions each claiming to be in charge Tselane responded: “We are operating on the basis of information submitted to us before the (2009) elections. Until such time that there are changes we will continue to operate on the basis of information they submitted to us.”
do Michigan and Wisconsin perhaps tell us there is a case for a confirmation vote 6 months or a year after an executive is first elected? In many jobs you are on probation for the first 6 months to a year when you get made permanent. [Copied from another thread]
I don’t know, but it’s certainly an interesting idea. Thoughts?
I’m uneasy about the proposed Egyptian election schedule — I would prefer to see elections to a caretaker President first, then Constitutional reforms and finally Parliamentary elections — but I’m encouraged by the continuing forward momentum.
This seems like an odd preference to me. I can’t think of a single case anywhere in which there was a “caretaker” president elected as the first stage of a transition to elected government. In fact, I do not know if there could be such a thing as an elected president who was a mere caretaker. As soon as a president is elected, he is democratically legitimated, for better or worse. And constrained by what, if there is not yet a new constitutional framework–or even a legislature–in place?
It seems far better to elect a constituent assembly, which would also serve as an interim legislature, first. Or, as in some transitions, for the provisional (and thus still authoritarian) government to promulgate a new constitution (preferably with as wide a consultative process as possible), followed by legislative and, depending on the constitutional form, presidential elections. But electing only a president before a democratic constitution is in place seems suboptimal to me, as well as rare (if not unprecedented).
The recent elections in the Philippines were the first to use precinct-level optical-scan ballots. You can watch an interesting video guide for voters (a bit over 2 minutes long).
One thing that jumped out at me is that each voter is allowed only one try; if you spoil a ballot, tough luck. This is unconscionable, especially for the first use of a new ballot format. A voter must be allowed to catch a mistake, destroy the ballot, and obtain a new one (at least once!).
This appears to be exactly the system used now in San Diego County and various other US jurisdictions (except that we’re allowed to spoil a ballot and get a fresh one). Like these jurisdictions, the Philippine ballot also has several offices being elected at once, and some offices require a vote for no more than one candidate and others allow several (up to 12 for Senate!). These multiple offices and different numbers of votes only increase the risk of voter error. All the more reason to allow voters a second chance if they catch a mistake (or if the scanning machine reports an “overvote”); in fact, at least in the US, the machine’s feedback on overvotes has been claimed as one the main advantages of precinct-level scanning.
I also wonder why the Philippines chose this system instead of the electronic machines of the sort that have recently been adopted in Brazil and India.
It would be interesting to compare invalid-ballot rates before and after the change. COMELEC reported for the 2010 Senate a number of “valid ballots counted” that was exactly identical to the number of “voters actually voted.” So 100% of ballots were error-free. (I hope readers can detect the hint of skepticism here.)
Thanks to Eduardo, one of my students, for the tip.
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