The 345-member legislature passed the amendment by 291 to one, in a vote boycotted by the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) of former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia.
Last month the Supreme Court ruled that the system of interim administrations was unconstitutional.
The Bangladesh provision has been in place since the mid 1990s. I am not aware of other democracies with such a provision. Predictably, the opposition is claiming that the constitutional change is a move by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to rig the election due in 2013.
Bangladesh is striking for how big its swings are. For instance, in 2008, the incumbent party lost 167 seats (out of 300 total). The scale of the swing in seats is a result of the use of FPTP; in votes the swing was 9.5 percentage points against the incumbent party. Notwithstanding the use of a “majoritarian” electoral system, without many relatively close districts seeing vote shifts in the same direction, the seat swing could not be so massive. Some earlier elections also had seen similarly large swings. I wonder if the caretaker provisions have had anything to do with the unusual scale of Bangladesh’s incumbency disadvantage in the past. If so, the opposition charges against this constitutional change may have merit.
In the face of protests, Senegalese president Abdoulaye Wade has backed down over a proposal to change the method of presidential elections.
Instead of a majority-runoff system, Wade wanted to change to allowing 25% to suffice for a first round victory. As the Euronews story comments:
His rivals saw this as a ploy virtually guaranteeing his re-election next February, as the opposition is currently fragmented.
I guess so!
The adjusting of presidential victory thresholds reminds me of the Sandinista ploy in Nicaragua in 2006. The lowering of the threshold there was far less drastic that Wade’s gambit, and paid off–just barely–for Daniel Ortega’s return to the presidency.
Does the old man (he’s 85) in Senegal think he can’t win even 40%? Or 35%? Or 30%?…
Senegal has been generally classed as a democracy for the 11 years that Wade has been president.
In response to a query about a challenge to Germany’s electoral law, Espen Bjerke has the following reply. (All of what follows is from Espen.)
It seems the deadline to fix the problem of “negative vote-values” will be missed, meaning that Germany will be without a valid electoral law starting 1 July. The deadline was imposed by the Constitutional Court three years ago when it ruled against that inherent paradox.
From what I just read it seems the problem is that the CDU wants to keep its current advantage but has been unable to come up with changes that would be constitutional as well as practical. The coalition parties say they will introduce something after the summer break, so that this rather Merkelian disarray is ended.
For those who read some German, wahlrecht.de is probably the best source on this, especially since they were among those who brought the suit in the first place.
In response to my planting on Syria and Turkey, I received the following message from Professor Kürsad Turan of the Department of International Relations, Gazi University, Ankara, Turkey.
With Professor Turan’s permission, I am posting it here.
I am an assistant professor at Gazi University, Ankara – Turkey, working on ethnicity and the Middle East. Mike from Central American Politics passed your question on “A cross-border comparison of political institutions and communal conflict” along to me for comment and I thought I may be able to clarify some things.
I have read both articles you mentioned. It is true that both countries have very diverse populations, but they are nor necessarily paralel to each other. Alawites in Syria are as similar as it is claimed to Alevis in Turkey. Religiously speaking Alevis in Turkey represent a mixture of the Shiites and former Turkish religions, with more emphasis on the latter. As a result, they do not necessarily match well with Syrian Alawites. It is true that there is a double standard when it comes to places of worship, but it seems to me that it mainly stems from the Sunni religious establishment’s unwillingness to share the resources given to religious bureaucracy (I may be wrong on that one, it is an interpretation of what we have been hearing from both sides before the elections).
When it comes to keeping Syrian refugees away from the general population I can say with certainty that it has nothing to do with ethnic identities of both countries because that is not a concern here in Turkey. There are three reasons for that choice. Prior to and after the Gulf War (1991) Turkey experienced two large waves of Kurdish refugees from Northern Iraq and very few of these refugees returned to Iraq until now. This posed to types of problems. First, economically they increased the pressure in a region where the economy was bad (due to underdevelopment) to begin with and had become even worse following the war. Second, it is believed that at least some of them were either connected to PKK (Kurdish separatist terrorist organizaton focused on Turkey, but with members from Iraq and Syria, as well as Turkey), or facilitated the movements of the organization accross the border, creating a security threat. There is also a practical reason for the refugee camps. When the refugees are kept in camps instead of being mixed in the general population they occupy the headlines and are considered a global problem that at least the UN needs to contribute to its solution. Otherwise they become Turkey’s problem that should be dealt with Turkey’s resources.
Regarding the ethnic coalition in Syria, it is true that it relies on minority groups that do not want to be ruled by a Sunni majority, however, it would be somewhat of an exaggeration to include Kurds in that group because Kurdish groups often demanded some form of autonomy and have been regularly repressed by the regime.
The relative calm in larger cities can be attributed to the development of a middle class over the past decade, but it can also be argued that authoritarian regimes focus more heavily on large cities that have a larger potential to become a source of opposition movements.
I think the Yugoslav analogy is only wishfull thinking by Israel because a broken-up Syria does not benefit anybody, including the parts that will come out of it, other than Israel. For Israel, even though Syria is not and cannot become a military threat in the near future, they are capable of posing an indirect threat by supporting various terrorist organizations and through their diminished influence over Lebanon. It should also be taken into consideration that in a Sunni dominated Syria one of the main groups will be Muslim Brotherhood, which is more radical than their chapters in Egypt and Jordan.
I agree that the study would be an interesting one, but I do not think these countries did not have a similar enough exerience in the past to justify such a comparison. I think it may be more interesting to compare Iraq and Syria considering they were ruled by the same party (or at least ideology) for a long time, ethnically diverse, and ruled by a minority group. On the other hand, they differ on the sect that rules the country, their level of natural resources, and their neighbors (Iran and Israel). Hope this was helpful.
Kür?ad Turan Asst. Prof. Department of International Relations Gazi University Ankara – TURKEY
So what do you do if you are mayor of a major city, and your opponent is Jewish?
Recruit a rabbi to head your list for the local legislature, of course.
That’s what Mauricio Macri, Mayor of Buenos Aires, has done: the top-ranked candidate on the list of his PRO party in the 10 July elections is Rabbi Sergio Bergman, described by JTA as “one of Buenos Aires’ most prominent spiritual leaders.”
Macri’s main opponent is Daniel Filmus, a former national Minister of Education, and the favored candidate of President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner.
By decision of the electoral commission, Taiwan will move to concurrent elections for president and legislature. Robert Elgie has some details, and concludes by noting:
The other semi-presidential democracies with scheduled concurrent elections are Mozambique, Namibia and Peru. The last concurrent elections in Romania were in 2004.
Taiwan’s move makes sense, as did Romania’s–in the other direction–before it.
With the Taiwanese move, the remaining cases of concurrent elections are of the president-parliamentary subtype of semi-presidential democracy. Romania, on the other hand, is premier-presidential.1
I would argue that the more the formal rules of a semi-presidential system lean towards presidentialism, as in Taiwan, the less it makes sense to have nonconcurrent elections, which increase the odds of an opposition-dominated legislature. For premier-presidentialism, on the other hand, it is logical to increase the (potential for) independence of the premier by making legislative elections separate temporally from presidential.
It appears that constitutional reformers agree–at least those who have recently reformed the electoral cycles in Romania and Taiwan!
Definitions: A semi-presidential system has a popularly elected president alongside a premier (prime minister) who is responsible to the legislative majority. Under premier-presidentialism, that responsibility is exclusive: the president is not granted constitutional authority to dismiss a premier or cabinet. Under the president-parliamentary subtype, the president has constitutional authority to dismiss a premier, who thus (along with the rest of the cabinet) must maintain the confidence of both the elected president and the majority of the legislature. [↩]
Two articles I have read in the last day made me think of a comparative study I wish I could do, or sponsor some students to do. And I wonder if there is anything at all like this in the literature. (It’s far from my own specialty, so I really would not know.)
Apparently, the ethnic and religious mix in the Turkish province of Hatay is very similar to that of Syria, just over the border. The recent flood of refugees fleeing the Bashar al-Assad regime’s repression is, according to a fascinating account in The Independent, stoking some tensions among the Sunni, Alevi (similar to Syria’s Alawite), and Christian communities.
The 1.5 million population of Hatay province is divided almost equally between Sunnis and Alevis with a Christian minority. St Peter’s Church at Antakiya, one of the oldest in the world, is next to an ancient Sunni mosque. Down the road is a place of worship, a cemevleri, for the Alevis.
The Syrian refugees are not being allowed to mix into the general community in Hatay province by the Turkish authorities. Even the many that have cross-border family links are being stopped from staying with their relations. They are, instead, being corralled into one of the growing number of holding centres – two more camps are being built to add to the three which have been put up in just over 10 days.
The article refers to several anecdotes regarding tensions between communities on the Turkish side.
The other article, from The Globe and Mail, is on the delicate ethnic mix inside Syria, and how the regime has held it together, at least till now. Christians, Druze and Kurds, in addition to Alawites, have tended to support the regime because of a common fear of an emboldened Sunni majority. The regime’s recent economic reforms have made an urban middle class, regardless of sect, relatively comfortable. This is given as a reason for the relative quiet in the main cities of Damascus and Aleppo (although, as noted, we can’t know how much of the quiet is simple pervasiveness of security forces). The article quotes Mordechai Kedar, a professor at Bar Ilan University, using a Yugoslav analogy and contemplating a break-up of Syria into six separate states that would be relatively homogenous compared to Syria as a whole, where 25% belong to one of the many minority groups.
This got me thinking of what an interesting research project someone could have here, caveats about the impossibility of research in Syria right now aside. The two countries, or at least specific regions of them, have similar ethnic and religious divisions. One country is an increasingly majoritarian democracy (whatever its limitations). The other is a minority-ruled police state based on a delicate balance of sectarian groups. How do the political institutions contribute to differences in the resolution (or not) of these tensions?
It is not a project I could ever carry out. But it would be great if someone could!
Not much can beat a Game 7 in a sports final series. And today we are so treated, with the Stanley Cup on the line.
I won’t mention my rooting preference, given that I have good friends in both Vancouver and Boston.1 Both cities are hungry for a championship.
It has been a strange series. More like two series in one. The Bruins have massively outscored the Canucks throughout the first six games, yet have not led at any point in the series. The games in Vancouver have been decided by one goal, the games in Boston have not been close at all.
The home team has won every game. If that pattern continues, there will be some happy Canadian hockey fans. Moreover, the home team has won 12 of 15 seventh games in the finals over the years.2 That is a much larger advantage than we have seen in baseball’s World Series. In fact, World Series Games 7 have seen the home team win just under half the time. (Small sample sizes, due to the unfortunate infrequency of series going the distance, aside) I wonder why the difference across these sports.
However, knowledge of my research and blogging interests might not make it hard to guess. [↩]
The Dodgers had a “throwback day” today, in which they played in old Brooklyn uniforms.
The old-timey feel meant only organ music between innings. None of the ear-splitting recorded music that invades the between-innings, and between-batters, experience in regular games nowadays. None of that bone-rattling bass that the stadium sound system is (in)famous for.
And on the TV broadcast, none of the juvenile sound effects that normally go with any on-screen graphic or replay on Fox sports channels.
Details at Ahwa Talk. The short story is that the proposal would be for a form of MMM. That is, 25% of seats via party lists, but the rest elected by the old (and odd) system that we discussed previously here.
This question that James raised in the comments to the previous planting on Turkey is a good one: how “friendly” or not is Turkey’s threshold to small parties, relative to a first-past-the-post (or plurality) system in single-seat districts?
The question can be addressed using Rein Taagepera’s “seat product.”
If all the mathematics that follow are not of interest, the reader can be advised that the conclusion of the exercise is that Turkey’s electoral system restricts the smallest party to around 50 seats at a minimum (not counting independents–addressed below). Thus it is extremely unfriendly to small parties. On the other hand, with a plurality system and the same size assembly, the smallest party could easily have one seat, and it would be a surprise if the smallest party did not have less than 10 seats. So the Turkish system is somewhere between 5 and 50 times more unfriendly to small parties than is an otherwise comparable plurality system.1
OK, on to the estimates…
For reasons Taagepera explains in his 2007 Oxford University Press book, Predicting Party Sizes, we can derive the expected number of parties winning at least one seat by taking the size of the assembly (S), multiplying it by the magnitude of the average district (M), and then taking the fourth root of the product.
As also explained in Taagepera (2007) we can expect the seat share of the largest party to be, on average:
s1 = (MS)-.125 (s1 as decimal share).
Turkey has S=550 in 85 districts, resulting in average M=6.5, approximately.
With no threshold, we would then expect 7.7 parties to win at least one seat, on average. This suggests that the “average” party would have around 71 seats (550 seats divided among 7.7 parties).
The second equation suggests that the largest party would be expected to win about 36% , or 128, seats. Many parties might have 1 or a few seats only, thereby explaining an average that is well below the expected largest share.2
However, the 10% nationwide threshold keeps any party from winning fewer than about 50 seats. (10% of 550 is obviously 55, but because only the threshold is national, not the actual seat allocation, it is impossible to specify precisely what the smallest possible party size is. It would depend on how a 10% party’s votes were distributed across districts. So we can use 50 as a round estimate.)
So if the minumum number of possible seats for any party is around 50, we can take the geometric average of this figure and the theoretical maximum of 550 (when one party wins all seats), and we get an expected average number of seats of 166. Note this is about 2.3 times the size of the expected average under no threshold (71).
This suggests that, with Turkey’s 10% threshold, the average number of parties would only be around 3 (550/166=3.31). This can be double-checked by going back to the likely minimum party size, 50, and recognizing that at most 11 parties could win if all had the minimum size. The geometric average of the theoretical range from 1 party to 11 parties is 3.32. So our math checks out.
How does this check out in reality? Consider the actual number of parties winning at least one seat (p), the seat total of the largest party (s1), and the number of seats won by the smallest party (s-small), in each of the four most recent Turkish general elections.
Note that I am excluding independents here. In Turkey in 2007, although not in previous elections, there were many candidates who won without formal party endorsement, but with informal support. There were 28 of them in 2007 (5.1% of all seats), a huge increase over the 9 (1.6%) that won in 2002. This is an obvious loophole of the system that makes analyzing it more challenging. But the question at hand here was how unfriendly the 10% party threshold is. Parties that can’t hope to break 10% nationally are forced to play a different game, almost as if the system were SNTV.4 Choosing to run candidates as “independents” makes it hard for a party to win more than 1 seat per (multi-seat) district–because it must practice vote division among its candidates–even where it would be quite strong if it could compete on a level playing field with the major national parties. It is interesting that the recent trend appears to be towards a larger-than-expected largest party, and more seats won by independents, many of whom are de-facto small parties using the loophole in the threshold. It may be that the system is genuinely bifurcating into two classes of parties–a hegemonic ruling party and an increasingly fragmented and personalized opposition.5
Now contrast our expectations and results of the Turkish system with a FPTP system. The seat product when M=1 is obviously equivalent to the assembly size, S. So take the fourth root of 550 and get 4.8 expected average number of seat-winning parties. With 4.8 parties dividing 550 seats, the average per party has 115 seats. This is the largest any party could be in the extremely unlikely event that all “4.8″ parties had equal seat totals. The geometric average of the range of 1 to 115 is 10.7, which is where I dervied the estimate mentioned above of a smallest party in a 550-seat FPTP system of around 10 maximum, in contrast with 50 seats minimum (not an average, but a minimum number, for the smallest).
In fact, in plurality, single-seat districted systems of 400+ seats, the average number of seat-winning parties tends to exceed the estimate derived from the seat product appreciably. There have been at least 10 parties represented in each UK election since 1997, and obviously many more in the similarly sized Indian parliament. Canada almost nails its seat-product estimate, with 308 seats leading to an estimated 4.2 parties, and actually having had 4 parties in each recent parliament (and 5 in the one just elected).6 This fact only further underscores how much more favorable FPTP is to small parties than is Turkey’s system.
(Note: Minor editing and a couple of new footnotes added since original planting.)
The consideration of the smallest size of a party is important. As recent elections in the UK, Canada, and Australian first chambers show, a small party can concentrate its efforts on a few districts or even just one and thereby break into the system, as Greens have done in each country’s most recent election. However, in Turkey, to get to 10% nationally would require effort, and some measure of vote-winning success, in numerous districts. [↩]
as almost always is the case, under any electoral system, for the obvious reason that parties vary in size. [↩]
I derived the expectations on s1 and s-small under Turkey’s thresholds as follows…
s1 if there are 3.3 parties has to be at least the average (166) and at most around S-(2*s) where s is the smallest share, expected to be 50. That makes the maximum 450, and the geometric average of 166 and 450 is 273.
s for the smallest is expected to be 50 at a minimum and has to be no more than 166 (for 3.3 parties). The geometric average for this range is 91.
That is, single non-transferable vote, in which the M seats go to the highest vote-winning candidates, regardless of party affiliation, if any. In Turkey, candidates running independently of a party list are in direct competition with (closed) party lists for a district’s seats, making it sort of like having SNTV and list-PR systems running concurrently in any district in which there is at least one party that has two or more candidates running as “independents”). [↩]
With a maximum of 5% of seats won by “independents” so far, we should not exaggerate this trend, but given that 13.8% of votes in 2007 were cast for party lists that fell below the national threshold, we might expect these parties to turn towards playing the “independents”/SNTV game instead of risking winning nothing. [↩]
It seems as though the only interesting questions are: (1) how big will the incumbent party’s majority be, and (2) how many of the sorts of electoral-system induced anomalies that we have seen in recent elections will we see this time?
A Council of Europe report criticizes the Turkish 10% national threshold, as well it should. The source of the anomalies is that the country uses a fully distrcted “proportional” list system, but parties are unable to win seats, regardless of their district-level strength, unless they surpass 10% nationwide. “Independents,” on the other hand, can win seats on their local support.
The Council of Europe report criticizes numerous other aspects of Turkish politics. I continue to be skeptical that Turkey deserves to be ranked among the democracies, other than in the most minimal sense.
Filibusters are familiar to followers of American politics. A lone senator talks into the night in order to prevent a vote on a bill. They’re not often seen in Australian houses of parliament — that’s because most houses impose limits on how long parliamentarians can speak for. Not so in NSW.
Last week, Greens MLC David Shoebridge broke a record when he addressed the NSW Legislative Council for just under six hours on the topic of Barry O’Farrell’s new industrial relations laws. All those years as a barrister came in handy. He started on Thursday evening at 6.15pm and the debate went on, carried by other windy Greens and Labor MLCs until the guillotine was dropped and debate cut on Saturday morning. Those voting for the bill didn’t have much to contribute to the debate.
Although I am pleased to note that Shoebridge had to actually talk on his feet rather than notify the leader of the government in the council that he might talk for a really, really long time if he didn’t get everything he wanted. Immediately. And a pony.
The US Senate filibuster is famous. Is there ever a democratic case for a supermajority in a legislative body? Could it be made more rational than the US filibuster in its present incarnation? Denmark lets a legislative minority impose a referendum. I am quite attracted to the ‘filibuster’ provision in the UN Charter.
Each member of the General Assembly shall have one vote.
Decisions of the General Assembly on important questions shall be made by a two-thirds majority of the members present and voting. These questions shall include: recommendations with respect to the maintenance of international peace and security, the election of the non-permanent members of the Security Council, the election of the members of the Economic and Social Council, the election of members of the Trusteeship Council in accordance with paragraph 1 (c) of Article 86, the admission of new Members to the United Nations, the suspension of the rights and privileges of membership, the expulsion of Members, questions relating to the operation of the trusteeship system, and budgetary questions.
Decisions on other questions, including the determination of additional categories of questions to be decided by a two-thirds majority, shall be made by a majority of the members present and voting.
The true fructovoter has a passion for constitution-writing. Ken Parish is a legal academic at Charles Darwin University in (you guessed it) Darwin and has been a practising lawyer since 1983. Ken is also the founder of Club Troppo a notable Australian political blog. He has posted a draft statehood constitution for the Northern Territory and invited contributions and criticisms at the People’s Northern Territory Constitutional Convention. His plan is to get the final draft before the NT constitutional convention scheduled for later this year.
If nothing else, we need to change his mind about proportional representation.
Peruvians vote today in a presidential runoff that is being described as the country’s most “polarizing” ever.
What a bad choice: the daughter for the former president-turned-dictator over the “populist” and “leftist” (perhaps “Chavista”) former army officer. That would be Keiko (daughter of Alberto) Fujimori vs. Ollanta Humala. Polls suggest the race is tight.
The polarization is, of course, exacerbated by the electoral system, this being the runoff between two candidates who managed to combine for only about 55% the vote in the first round.
The legislature was elected concurrently with the first round in April. (We had a lengthy and information discussion here at that time.) The fragmentation of the legislature elected then reflects the fragmentation of the first-round field. That is, whoever wins today will face a deeply divided legislature. However, if it is Humala, he will have a larger base of co-partisan legislators than Fujimori would have. Partly that is because he came in first in the first round (31.7%-23.5%), and partly that is because his rural support and the legislative electoral system combined to over-represent his party to a significant degree. Peru has many small-magnitude districts in rural areas, and thus his party, Gana Peru (Peru Wins), has 36.2% of the seats despite only 25.3% of the legislative votes. (Note how much weaker, however, his party was than was Ollanta himself: 25% of the votes vs. 31%.) Fujimori’s party, Fuerza 2011, has 28.4% of seats on 23.0% of votes.
What a volatile combination: a polarized presidential race, and a fragmented congress!
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