Last December the PNG Supreme Court ruled that Michael Somare had not lawfully been removed as prime minister and therefore that the election of his successor was invalid. The PNG constitution goes into some detail on how to remove a prime minister and the method used, a parliamentary decision without any notice, did not meet the requirements for a vote of no confidence. The ABC has developed a nice turn of phrase by referring to Somare’s putative successor as the ‘effective prime minister’.
We now have fresh developments. The Supreme Court re-affirmed its December ruling 3 days ago. Today the deputy speaker ruled that the effective prime minister is out of office. In the meantime the deputy prime minster has arrested the chief justice and deputy chief justice and charged them with sedition. A ruling by the presiding officer is not one of the ways that a prime minister can be removed from office, although the deputy speaker may be relying on the new court ruling.
The foreign ministers of Australia and New Zealand are having a mild case of hysterics. There is some talk that the effective deputy prime minister will now charge the deputy speaker with sedition as well.
It appears the runoff in Egypt’s presidential election will be between two candidates who combined for less than half the votes cast–out of a turnout of well under half the voters.
Mohammed Morsi of the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party polled around 26% in the two-day first round. Ahmed Shafiq, Mubarak’s last prime minister, came second with 23% when 90% of the votes had been counted. (The Guardian)
It would seem that one would not want to wait until the week of a presidential election–or worse still, between rounds of said election–to define the powers of the president-to-be. But then there is Egypt.
I believe it is unusual for a president to be elected before a constitution–even a provisional one–has been enacted. Normally, there is a constituent assembly, during which time a provisional government remains in place, as in Tunisia currently, or else a constitution is negotiated prior to any elections (as with several Eastern European and African transitions of the 1990s). In fact, the only other examples that come to mind of presidential elections preceding a determination of presidential powers are Nicaragua (1984) and Romania (1990). At least in the latter case, the the first president was elected to only a two-year term (as was the concurrently elected constituent assembly).
Meanwhile, apparently the voter turnout in this week’s first round of the presidential elation was only 50% or even just 40%. Either figure would be really, really low for a first presidential election in a transition to democracy–or an alleged such transition.
This is not the first time that the Egyptian transition has prompted me to fret over issues of sequencing or turnout.
Today voters in Serbia voted in a runoff election for the country’s presidency; legislative elections were held concurrent with the first round on 6 May. Meanwhile, France is in the interim period between presidential and legislative elections. What difference does this make?
France has long been seen as the model of semi-presidential government (notwithstanding that there actually are older examples). Specifically, it is of the premier-presidential subtype, which is to say that the president actually has very limited powers over government formation and policy-making, unless he leads a party or alliance of parties with a majority in the parliament. Under the premier-presidential subtype, the premier and cabinet are responsible to the parliamentary majority, but not to the president. Nonetheless, when the president is the acknowledged head of the legislative majority, he can be as unchecked in practice as any executive leader in any democracy.
The Serbian constitution, is unambiguously premier-presidential. Perhaps the presidency is very slightly less powerful, but the basic configuration of powers is similar to that of France.
So let’s compare the two countries, at this very moment, in terms of the process of government formation. In a premier-presidential system, “government formation” typically means the president initiates the appointment of a premier, but only upon taking account of the balance of forces in the parliament, which must approve his selection (and, solely, has the constitutional power to remove it subsequently).
In Serbia, the first round of the presidential election produced a close result, which was not decisive. Boris Tadic of the Democratic Party won the plurality, but only around a quarter of the valid votes. Close behind him was Tomislav Nikolic of the nationalist Serbian Progressive Party. In third place, but with only around 14%, was Ivica Dacic, of the Socialist Party of Serbia. (No other candidate had even 7.5%.)
This outcome made Dacic, the strongest of the candidates not qualifying for the runoff, potentially influential. To say “kingmaker” would be an overstatement, given that even if he could deliver his support as a bloc, neither candidate would reach 40%. Still, that did not stop some stories following the first round from suggesting Dacic would be the kingmaker.
Dacic tried, by announcing an alliance with Tadic, amid speculation that Dacic would become premier. Legislative elections were held at the same time as the first round, and they gave the alliance led by Tadic, called Choice for a Better Life, 67 seats. Nikolic’s alliance, Let’s Get Serbia Moving, won 73 seats. Dacic’s Socialists won 44 seats. With an assembly size of 250, a coalition led by Tadic and Dacic could combine for 111 seats–not enough for a majority, but with 44.4% of the seats, a strong base from which to build a government. Only one small detail: this coalition had to succeed in electing Tadic to the presidency first.
The voters did not cooperate, however, as Nikolic has won today’s runoff. Now Nikolic will need to begin negotiations to put together a cabinet that can command a majority in parliament.
This strikes me as more or less how premier-presidentialism is supposed to work. Parliamentary elections determine the parameters of coalition possibilities, given that–as in a parliamentary democracy–the cabinet must have the confidence of the parliamentary majority. Yet when there is no electorally based majority, it falls not to a third party in parliament, but to the voters, acting through their agent in the presidency, to serve as the real kingmaker.
Now contrast this process just sketched with that in France now. The presidential election is concluded, but parliamentary elections are looming in June. However, the newly inaugurated President, Francois Hollande, has already appointed his cabinet. Meanwhile, Hollande’s Socialists and the allies of the presidential candidate who finished fourth, Jean-Luc Melenchon of the Left Front, are divvying up the districts in which they will present joint candidacies, in order to maximize the seats of the broad left. In effect, Hollande (and Melenchon) are asking voters to ratify decisions they have taken since Hollande was voted into the presidency.
Events in France seem less in the spirit of premier-presidentialism, because they lend a far more “presidentialized” air to the whole process by permitting the appointment of the next government before the election of the parliament to which it is (formally) accountable.
The critical difference here is in the electoral cycle, with Serbia having its parliamentary elections concurrent with the first round of the presidential contest, whereas France, since 2002, has been employing a “honeymoon” cycle with parliamentary elections following close on the heels of the presidential runoff. When combined with the two-round majority-plurality system by which France elects its National Assembly, the honeymoon elections will tend to create a very large president-supporting majority, rather than a legislature that serves as a check on the president through coalition politics.
While both France and Serbia are clearly premier-presidential systems, the Serbian electoral cycle is much more in the spirit of the hybrid process of government formation that this subtype of constitutional form is supposed to generate.
As expected, it looks like another bad outcome for federal Chancellor (PM) Angela Merkel and her Christian Democratic Union (CDU).
Initial projections put the Social Democrats (SPD) on 38.8% of the vote, compared to the CDU’s 25.8%. That is a record low for the latter party, whose leader in the state immediately resigned.
It is still not clear if the vote of the Green Party will be enough to give a bare majority to coalition of the SPD and Greens. It was the minority government of these two parties that resigned after losing a budget vote, triggering this election.
The Pirate Party continues its run of success, with 6%. The Left, which was in the previous parliament, collapsed to 2.6% and thus will not have seats in the new parliament.
The process since last Sunday’s election in Greece is playing out exactly as detailed in the constitution. In other words, for all the hand-wringing about a possible second election, the constitution precisely contemplates such a contingency. From Article 37:
1. The President of the Republic shall appoint the Prime Minister and on his recommendation shall appoint and dismiss the other members of the Cabinet and the Undersecretaries.
* 2. The leader of the party having the absolute majority of seats in Parliament shall be appointed Prime Minister. If no party has the absolute majority, the President of the Republic shall give the leader of the party with a relative majority an exploratory mandate in order to ascertain the possibility of forming a Government enjoying the confidence of the Parliament.
* 3. If this possibility cannot be ascertained, the President of the Republic shall give the exploratory mandate to the leader of the second largest party in Parliament, and if this proves to be unsuccessful, to the leader of the third largest party in Parliament. Each exploratory mandate shall be in force for three days. If all exploratory mandates prove to be unsuccessful, the President of the Republic summons all party leaders, and if the impossibility to form a Cabinet enjoying the confidence of the Parliament is confirmed, he shall attempt to form a Cabinet composed of all parties in Parliament for the purpose of holding parliamentary elections. If this fails, he shall entrust the President of the Supreme Administrative Court or of the Supreme Civil and Criminal Court or of the Court of Auditors to form a Cabinet as widely accepted as possible to carry out elections and dissolves Parliament.
* 4. In cases that a mandate to form a Cabinet or an exploratory mandate is given in accordance with the aforementioned paragraphs, if the party has no leader or party spokesman, or if the leader or party spokesman has not been elected to Parliament, the President of the Republic shall give the mandate to a person proposed by the party’s parliamentary group. The proposal for the assignment of a mandate must occur within three days of the Speaker’s or his Deputy’s communication to the President of the Republic about the number of seats possessed by each party in Parliament; the aforesaid communication must take place before any mandate is given.
*Interpretative clause: As far as exploratory mandates are concerned, when parties have an equal number of seats in Parliament, the one having acquired more votes at the elections, precedes the other. A recently formed party with a parliamentary group, as provided by the Standing Orders of Parliament, follows an older one with an equal number of seats. In both these instances, exploratory mandates cannot be given to more than four parties.
(The president is selected by parliament for a fixed term of five years, according to Articles 30-32.)
Constitutionally, it seems there is no other solution but to have another election, now that the leaders of each of the three largest parties have proven (as expected) unable to form a majority-backed (or majority-tolerated) government.
Democratically, it also seems that there is no other solution. One senses hand-wringing in all the media coverage of this past week’s playing out of the Greek constitutional process, with phrases such as the “failure to bridge the gap” repeated over and over. Actually, the failure is with the troika so far to convince a majority of the Greek electorate that it has a solution to the country’s current troubles.
As discussed at length in a previous thread, an electoral system rigged to ensure the largest party a substantial above-proportional share of the vote very nearly turned a a combined vote share for the two old (and formerly opposed) establishment parties that was under one third into a parliamentary majority. The election results show that the old center-right New Democracy won 18.9% of the vote and 108 of the 300 seats, with 50 of those coming from the plurality-boosting provision. PASOK, the old socialist party, won 41 seats on 13.2%. But the key word there was “nearly”; ND and PASOK combined for 149 seats, where a majority is 151. All of the other parties that won seats are, to varying degrees, opposed to the troika agreement, their disagreements on tactics and other issues notwithstanding.
Moreover, the close second place finish of Syriza (the Coalition of the Radical Left), with 16.8% of the vote–but only 52 seats–may imply a failure of anti-troika Greek voters to realize that a plurality for this formerly marginal party was even possible.
Additionally, over 18% of Greek voters selected parties that fell below the 3% threshold. That is a lot of wasted votes.
And turnout was only 65%.
Given all this context, a second election, in addition to being constitutionally mandated given the impasse, is the only democratically acceptable outcome.
In the event, it may be that the establishment-boosting provision in the electoral law comes back to bite the establishment on the posterior. Polling now suggests that Syriza could win over 25% of the vote in a new election. This would allow the radical left to win the 50 bonus seats on top of its proportional share of the remaining 250. That could mean 110-115 seats, putting it in a strong bargaining position to form an anti-austerity coalition.
The election likely would take place on 17 June. Of course, this could be a very, very long month for Greek politics, and maybe ND, PASOK, and other like-minded parties will yet win the argument.
I take no position here on what is the correct policy for Greece to get out of its current economic and social debacle–that is an area in which I am not qualified. However, giving Greek voters a second chance to coordinate on either a pro-troika or anti-troika set of parties makes more likely that the resulting government will have an actual mandate.
I wonder if anyone knows what the party law is like in Greece. That is, what does it take to register a new party? Are joint lists of two or more parties permitted?
The question arises because in Sunday’s election, there was a clear coordination failure. Anti-austerity parties had a clear plurality of the votes, yet the two establishment parties combined to be one short of a majority of seats–on less than a third of votes.
With the huge bonus in seats–50 out of 300 total–there for the taking by whichever list is largest, the electoral law should provide a strong incentive to coordinate. One possibility is that the regulations on party and list formation work in the other direction.
Already, the largest party following the Greek election, New Democracy, has given up leading a government. The mandate now shifts to Syriza, the Coalition of the Radical Left.
I don’t see a plausible government out of these results. A second election looks likely. The conventional wisdom seems to be that would mean chaos. I don’t buy it. Two important things could change.
1. The roughly 18% (!) who voted for parties earning less than the 3% threshold would have a chance to update their preferences and choose from among viable parties. If even a small chunk of this shifted the result could differ appreciably.
2. With a swing of barely over 2percentage points, Syriza instead of New Democracy could be the party with >100 seats, taking advantage of the massive seat bonus guaranteed the largest party. Then a leftist anti-austerity government would be viable.
The elections are off. Some things you just don’t see coming. That’s what keeps political science, and political blogging, interesting.
What Mofaz saw coming was the collapse of Kadima support, and the complete absence of any bounce from his becoming party leader and an unlikely head of the center-left bloc. It is less clear what Netanyahu’s motives are, as the polls showed a large increase in Likud seats from an early election, and a dominant position in subsequent coalition-building.
There is a mention of an agreement to pursue changes to the electoral system, but it is not clear of what sort.
Socialist presidential candidate Hollande has won the presidency of France, with 51.9%. That’s closer than expected, but a majority is a majority.
It is only the second time in the Fifth Republic (i.e. since direct elections began in 1965) that power has shifted from the right to the left, and also only the second time an incumbent has been defeated in a reelection bid.
One might conclude that the only way the Socialists can win is for voters to be tired of the incumbent conservative. Or when they have a candidate named Francois.
Now on quickly to the legislative elections. As happened in 1981, in the honeymoon elections following Mitterrand’s win, I would expect a large Socialist majority and premier, plus a broad left cabinet, to result.
For the third consecutive state election in Germany, the Pirate Party has won seats, France24 reports. This time, in Schleswig-Holstein, where first estimates from today’s election show the party on 8.2%. This puts them just behind the Free Democrats, who are on 8.3%. This result for the FDP is a lot better than they have done in other recent state elections, or were expected to do in this contest.
The combined vote for the ruling coalition of the FDP and Christian Democrats is well below 50%, with the latter on only 30.6%. However, the alternate coalition, while bigger, also lacks a majority: Social Democrats 29.9% and Greens 13.6%.
Presumably this result will mean a grand coalition of the two big parties will now rule the state.
Greece has parliamentary elections Sunday. All indications are that the two parties that have taken turns in power in recent decades–New Democracy and PASOK–may struggle to reach a combined 40% this time.
A motley collection of far-left and ultra-nationalist parties look to be among those winning seats. Among these are the Golden Dawn, which uses a symbol that looks way too much like a swastika for my comfort. Oh, and their leaders also have a fondness for the Hitlerian salute. What is that old saying about if it quacks like a duck…
But what is the electoral system? It has been changed many times, and the Wikipedia page says:
the new electoral law, which will be used for the first time in the election on 6th May 2012, reserves 50 parliamentary seats for the “first past the post” party or coalition of parties, and apportions the remaining 250 seats proportionally according to each party’s total valid vote percentage.
The previous system, used in 2007 and 2009, had 40 seats guaranteed for the leading party/coalition. The total assembly size is 300.
The interesting thing will be whether the largest party actually gets more seats via the “bonus” clause than it is entitled to via the proportional component for the rest of the seats! That likely won’t happen, but it could be a close call, if the remaining seats are allocated something like proportionally to national vote percentages, as the above quote implies.
But how are the rest of the seats allocated? Various sources, including the one linked, say that there are 56 districts, which would make for an average district magnitude of only 4.5. The link between these districts and nationwide proportionality is not clear to me. Does anyone know?
There is also apparently a 3% threshold required to win any seats.
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