Canada’s election Monday promises to be a fun one to watch. I can hardly wait!
Unless the polls–and I mean all of them–are way off in the measure of voter intentions, or its many mediocre-quality candidates and limited “get out the vote” capacity of the New Democrats in many ridings (districts) cause that party to under-perform significantly, we will be looking at a significantly changed composition of parliament. Most likely the Conservative seat share will not change a great deal, and will be just below 50%. But the NDP will have replaced the Liberals as the second party, and the Bloc Quebecois will have lost around half its seats (maybe even that of its leader).
That is not to say that the Conservatives could not yet eke out a majority. As noted at the EKOS polling blog on Friday, trends in Ontario could allow the Conservatives to win over 50% of the seats on only about a third of the nationwide votes. “It is hard to imagine what impact this would have on the Canadian public’s view of its first past the post system,” comments EKOS.
If there is no majority–and that seems most likely–the next parliament could be more dysfunctional than any of the recent minority parliaments, with less willingness on the part of any of the other parties to work with a Conservative government. Of course, we could see an NDP-Liberal government, or an NDP minority, although cabinets led by the second largest party are relatively rare (unless that party and another had cooperated in the election, which is absolutely not the case here).
Reflecting on some themes of previous threads, and especially the very thoughtful comment by Ross, I offer these pre-election questions and thoughts about the chances of a non-Conservative government forming when the newly elected House of Commons convenes:
Would the NDP be willing to rely on a collapsing Liberal party for its majority? For that matter, would the Liberals be willing to openly support any government after such a thrashing? The answer to both seems, based on patterns in “typical” coalition/minority parliaments, to be “probably not.”
And then there is the fact that the NDP will have a caucus, including (or should I say, especially) in Quebec made up of a lot of neophytes (and worse). It might not be an auspicious time to enter government. Better to wait for the next opportunity to bring down the Conservative minority in 2-3 years.
Please, someone, tell me why my analysis is wrong, and why Canada will have Prime Minister Jack Layton. Because that would be really interesting…
Planted by MSS
Planted in: CONSTITUTIONS
Hungary has a new constitution, effective 1 January 2012. It may not be an exaggeration to say that it represents an authoritarian turn in the country’s institutional framework.
There are numerous troubling provisions, but Jan-Werner Mueller, writing at The Guardian‘s Comment is Free, emphasizes what I would take to be some of the worst features:
[F]irst, a comprehensive weakening of checks and balances – notably a much enfeebled new constitutional court – and the fact that the new constitution will be virtually impossible to amend, while much legislation, notably budgets, can only be passed with a two-third majorities. Second, the systematic staffing of the judiciary and other nominally independent agencies with Fidesz appointees for exceptionally long periods.
What is the result? Fidesz’s nationalist vision has potentially been enshrined forever: even if the party loses future elections, its appointees will keep exercising power, while the party itself will in all likelihood retain considerable influence, since no other political grouping is likely to muster a two-thirds majority. Any potential leftwing government will be highly constrained; its budget could be vetoed by the (Fidesz-staffed) budgetary council, upon which the (Fidesz-appointed) president can dissolve parliament.
Currently, and unusually for either Hungary or other European countries, the ruling party, Fidesz, has a two-thirds majority. This has enabled it to pass a constitution without need to take into account opposition preferences. Yet, as Mueller notes, the constitution increases the range of legislation that requires two thirds votes to enact. In other words, this constitution is the work of a single party, which has put in provisions that will allow its representatives in parliament to veto many future policy changes as long as Fidesz retains at least one third of the seats.
It is worth noting how Fidesz got this two-thirds majority: it was manufactured out of a narrow simple majority of votes cast. The Hungarian electoral system, which some sources continue erroneously to classify as mixed-member proportional (MMP), made this possible. I have noted before why calling it MMP is wrong, in terms of the mechanics of the system. The results of the April, 2010, election, show just how disproportional the system can be: Fidesz won 263 of the 386 seats on 52.7% of the party-list votes (and 53.5% of the nominal votes).
Proportional systems do not turn 53% into 68%. But excessively majoritarian systems can facilitate democracies turning in to autocracies.