The Coalition Inside the Party

The Jamaican solution is now rapidly hurtling towards the plausibility horizon, as perhaps the most serious objection against it becomes blindingly clear. After all, the CDU-CSU is in itself a coalition of two parties. It’s usually in British politics that one speaks of a party being in itself a coalition, assuming as one does that proportional representation countries tend to make their coalitions explicit. But it remains true that political parties are rarely monolithic.

Down-blog, there’s been a discussion going about whether the CDU-CSU is really a single entity, a pair of political parties who share a parliamentary fraction, two political parties in coalition, or something else. Whatever it formally is, there are indubitably both CDU and CSU MPs. And that’s all you need for a potential inner-party politics. The CSU’s leader, Edmund Stoiber, is seriously not happy with the Jamaican option. Here, he tells the CSU faction in the Bavarian parliament (what, there are others? Who knew?) that “the contradictions between the interested parties are so great that such an alliance is not in sight”, and that the Greens “would have to reinvent themselves completely”. The Bavarian interior minister remarked that the CSU would have to swallow not just a frog but a giant toad to join such a coalition, and the minister of the economy pointed out all the policy disputes listed in my last post, and then some more. Not just the kerazy Bavarians said so – the Federal CDU’s deputy leader Christoph Böhr said that he could not imagine “throwing the heart of our manifesto into the wastepaper basket”. Damn, the metaphors are getting a hammering.

On the other hand, although Claudia Roth, one of the Greens’ multiple leaders, repeated that the FDP would have to do what Stoiber said the Greens would have to (she used exactly the same words) before they could join a traffic light coalition, her colleague and fellow-leader Reinhard Bütikofer signalled that the Greens were available for talks with both the CDU and the FDP. He also said that “his fantasy did not reach far enough” to visualise Angela Merkel becoming chancellor.

Meanwhile, on the Ampelkoalition front….

Losing the CSU would outweigh gaining the Greens, so that’s as good as a veto of the idea.
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German Election: Lawyered Up

Well, it’s back to another wave of German electoral goodness. The latest bizarre artefact of coalition weirdness is that Angela Merkel’s team are frantically denying claims that they have a secret plan to call new elections in the event that the elections end in a hung parliament. Obviously, this would rely on Merkel actually becoming Chancellor, but without a working majority…and would mean a really tiresome bout of national self loathing.

As the election campaign powers into the final desperate dash, some rightwingers have been frantically signalling that they might, might, just go in for a grand coalition (read: that way we can ditch the bitch AND get back in power). The CDU’s deputy leader, and chief in Rheinland-Pfalz, says at the link above that this would encompass “their duty as citizens”. Ha. (What is it with people from RP?)

Meanwhile, on the Handelsblatt‘s election futures market Wahlstreet, where the percentages are quoted to two decimal places and the cigarettes are paid for on the bill, the CDU showed a marked turn for the better, pushing back over 40%. But the Greens also showed an uptick, or perhaps only a technical rally, getting back to 8.1%. The result? Neither black-gold or red-green can quite make the nut. BG is hovering around 47-48%, with RG around 41% – which sounds like a decisive margin until you remember that the Linke are still in the game, with enough points to push RG over the finish line. And, equally, there are still enough FDP about to give the Ampelkoalition a majority over all other parties….
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Elections in Albania (I)

So Albania is having a general election. The voters will go to the polls on July 4, in a little over three weeks.

The Albanian electoral system is rather interesting IMO. The Parliament has 140 members. 100 members are elected in “zones”, one-member districts with a first-past-the-post system, rather like Britain. But 40 members are elected at large, using party lists. All the parties that get more than 2.5% of the vote will divide these 40 seats among them, proportionately.

I don’t know anyone else who uses this mixed system, though I’m sure it can’t be unique to Albania.
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The thing about referendums

I’m quite fond of representative democracy, and don’t think replicating the Swiss or Californian system would be a particularly good idea. I do however think that referendums are an occasionally vital and necessary part of democracy, and to do away with them, like the German constitution does, would be a great mistake.

There are situations where referendums are the only acceptable alternative. As a supporter of representative democracy I disagree with people who say that this or that issue is too important to be dealt with by the normal electoral process. But I do think I think referendums are necessary when an issue is 1) divisive 2) vitally important and 3) the normal partisan system cannot properly deal with, because the fault lines are different. As a corollary, anytime sovereignty is involved, I think an issue has to be pretty minor for you not to hold a referendum.

Most of the referendums on EU memberships are textbook cases of this situation. In the case of Sweden, nearly half of voters opposed Swedish entry and for most of the campaign the no side led. Without a referendum they would have had to vote for the Green or Left parties if they wanted to stop our entry. Both quite radical non-mainstream parties who together held less than 10% of the vote. In some countries all parties were for membership. In these instances I feel not holding a referendum would be undemocratic, and would to some degree disenfranchise (to use an American term) the whole electorate.
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Sometimes it’s who you don’t vote for that counts

As many Fistful readers will be aware, it’s widely expected that there’ll be a General Election in the UK this May. Of course, because of the way our system works, no one can say for definite when it will be until the Prime Minister actually goes to the Queen and requests that she dissolve Parliament but all the signs on the Magic Political 8-Ball point to an election on 05/05/05 (for once, a date we can all agree on regardless of how you order days, months and years).

The UK remains the only country in the EU to use the First Past The Post electoral system which means that, thanks to the vagaries of the system, we can have electoral results that seem somewhat odd to an external observer. Since 1945, no party has won more than 50% of the national vote (the Conservatives came closest in 1955 and 1959) but only one election – in the February election of 1974 – has seen neither of the two main parties (Conservatives and Labour) achieve a majority of the seats in Parliament.
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The Greens and Die Gr?nen

Via Chris Bertram at Crooked Timber, an interesting article by Matthew Tempest in Spiegel Online (in English) comparing the rather contrasting fortunes of the German and British Green Parties. Both were founded at around the same time (the article does make an error in saying the Ecology Party renamed itself as the Green Party in the 70s – the change didn’t take place until the 80s, partly to link in with the increased use of the name Green across Europe and the rest of the world) but while the German party is now part of the Government with a number of representatives in the Bundestag, the British Party (or parties, given that the Scottish and Northern Ireland Green Parties now organise separately from the England and Wales Party) still seems some way from a breakthrough into Parliament, let alone government.

The article highlights two main reasons for the different levels of success achieved by the two parties – firstly, and most obviously, the different electoral systems in Britain and Germany and secondly, the way internal divisions were resolved in the two parties. Where the realists (‘realos’) won the internal party debates in Germany, the fundamentalists (‘fundis’) won in Britain, preventing the move towards mainstream politics that benefited the German party.
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Task Force.

While three hours of negotiation between the parties and the European mediators have – not unexpectedly – not produced an immediate resolution of the Ukrainian crisis, there are reports of some progress (Kyiv Post, Mr Yushenko and Yanukovych reportedly agreed to form a joint task force to peacefully end the constitutional crisis. The task force is supposed to start working immediately. Most importantly, given reports about military movements in Kyiv, both contenders once more denounced the use of violence.

Update: (Nick 2355 CET) Le Sabot has news of the results of the talks:

I haven’t been able to get full confirmation for these points, but from what I understand, Yushchenko has announced his support for new elections. This comes with three non-negotiable provisos:

1. A new Central Election Commission composed of half Opposition and half “Parties of Power” members.

2. A ban on absentee ballots.

3. Equal television coverage of both candidates during the intervening period.

The date I’ve heard is for two weeks hence. Word is that if these very basic requirements aren’t met, we go back to protesting. I’ll have fuller information tomorrow morning on this when I can talk to the right people.

The word is that the crowd in Independence Square weren’t initially impressed by the news, but after listening to Yuschenko they’re ‘guardedly supportive’. I’ll update with more when I get it.

Update: (Tobias, 0:33 CET): Via the email list archive of the American Association for Ukrainian Studies I find “[t]his page [that] was created to collect and publish a photographic record of these events from all over Ukraine and from abroad and to provide an opportunity for Ukrainians and other interested parties to witness history with their own eyes, rather than through the dry language of newspapers and mass media.

Interestingly, in addition to the orange wave, there are also pictures from Yanukovych rallies.

Update: (Tobias 1:00 CET) I tried to compile a cartogram about the regional vote/turnout distribution in Ukraine, like the ones we’ve seen with respect to the US election, using free cartogram software but I wasn’t able to find free digital map data that included the administrative units of Ukraine. So I will just link to the maps at SCSU scholars that gave me the idea. I don’t think there is a problem of credibility, but it should be noted that map illustrating the turnout differences has been supplied by the Yushenko camp.

Update: (Nick 0209 CET) It seems that me and Tobias tried to update at the same time, and my update lost out in the battle. However, mine included the SCSU link as well, so we avoided duplication.

Anyway, Reuters confirm that Yuschenko is calling for a revote and notes that Solana says that option is still on the table for the task force meeting tomorrow. In the context of this, it’s worth noting that we’re still waiting for the Supreme Court ruling (expected Monday) and a special session of Parliament tomorrow. As Jon Edelstein (who found an English-language version of Ukraine’s Constitution) notes, it’s the Parliament, not the Court, that has authority over elections, as we saw with the attempt at a no confidence vote in the CEC on Tuesday.

But they’re kind to dogs and children, I hear

Some nazis won elections yesterday, and nobody in Germany is quite sure what to do about it. Should one adopt a tone of moral outrage? Or would it be better to make reassuring noises? (‘Germany is not moving towards extemism. This was merely a protest vote’. Repeat till you feel better.)

In the elections to the Landtage (state parliaments) of Brandenburg and Saxony, two eastern German states, the established parties took a bad beating1. The SPD in Brandenburg and the conservative CDU in Saxony remain the largest single parties in the parliaments of their respective L?nder, but saw an exodus of voters. The Saxon CDU was particularly hard-hit, losing 20 seats and their absolute majority.

Looking distinctly happy, by contrast, was the PDS, the successor party to the gang that ran East Germany in the old days. They’re now the second-largest party in both states, and in Brandenburg have only four seats fewer than the SPD.

But of course it’s the nazis who get the headlines. The NPD (‘National Democrats’) took 9.2% of the vote in Saxony, easily leaping the 5% hurdle that the Greens and Free Democrats barely managed to get past. In all, the NPD got only 0.5% less of the vote than did the SPD. In Brandenburg the browns’ success wasn’t quite so dramatic; the DVU (‘German People’s Union’), one of the NPD’s rival outfits, reentered the Landtag with 6.1%.

How could this happen? Well, if you’ve been following reports out of Germany at all, you’ll have heard that many Germans are scared and angered that the government, through the so-called Hartz IV reforms, is going to make it less attractive to be unemployed. The unemployed are not amused. On Friday Chancellor Schr?der called them ‘parasites’.2 On Sunday the parasites struck back. In Saxony, 18% of the jobless voted nazi (as compared with 13% of blue-collar workers and 6% of white-collar workers and civil servants).

So what is to be done? The very first thing, I should think, is for Wessis to carefully avoid congratulating themselves for being different to those awful nazi-electing Ossis. The prosperous burghers of Baden-W?rttemberg, for example, have put nazis in their state parliament more than once.

Guido Westerwelle, chief of the Free Democrats, put on his earnest frown and said the mainstream parties should deal with the extremists of both right and left in a constructive, rational manner. He’s wrong, I think, at least with regard to the nazis.3

So long as today’s nazi parties are careful not to cross the line that would allow them to be banned, those voters who wish to vote for them must be allowed to do so. That’s all they should be allowed, though. As after every election, spokespeople from all the parties were in the television studios last night for a round of questions. When an NPD man started to speak in Dresden, the representatives of all the other parties left the room. And they did the same thing when the DVU’s top candidate began to speak in Potsdam. Here, I think is the proper response to the presence of nazis in a democracy’s parliament. Let no one speak to them; let no one acknowledge them. Somebody will have to register their votes or abstentions, I suppose, but nobody need otherwise interact with them. Democrats of every stripe should make it plain to nazi voters that they have effectively spoilt their ballots.
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How Spain voted

Both Chris Brooke and Matthew Turner have raised the suggestion that the Socialist victory in Spain may not have been caused by an actual swing in the electorate from the Popular Party (PP) to the Socialists (PSOE) after Thursday, but rather by the attacks in Madrid inspiring more people to go out and vote. With the majority of these new voters trending towards the left and the PSOE, the argument goes, this meant that they can attribute their victory to these new voters, rather than voters who switched from the PP to the PSOE.

Curious about whether or not this is true, I took a look at the actual election results and there is evidence there to support this view. However, any conclusions from this evidence are necessarily tentative and speculative, as the evidence could be interpreted many ways.
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Mr K?hler Comes Back from Washington

Germany’s center-right and liberal parties have finally agreed on a candidate for the country’s largely, but not completely, symbolic presidency. Because these parties have been winning elections at the state level over the last few years, they have a working majority in the body that elects the president, even though they are actually in opposition.

(The selection itself has been a bit of an opera bouffe. Bild‘s lead yesterday showed various Muppets and cartoon characters over the headline, “Even more candidates!” The serious press had similar, if less colorful, opinions.)
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