Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Fruits and Votes guest post

Along with commenter on this blog JD Mussel, I have written a post on Fruits and Votes on the subject of potential use of preferential voting/the Alternative Vote in the United Kingdom. You can check it out here.

Friday, December 25, 2015

No, that is not what the House of Commons would look like under proportional representation

Following the 2015 United Kingdom election, a large number of news sites published projections of the result under what was described as proportional representation. Electoral reform is a frequently discussed topic in the United Kingdom (for more information on the issue, you can read my previous post on the topic), and it is usually discussed around election time. Personally, I think it is good to see discussion of electoral reform; the sort of electoral system used in the United Kingdom has a significant impact on the nation's governance.

However, there is an issue with these charts. The issue is that, as far as I can tell, they do not accurately represent any serious proposals made for proportional representation in the United Kingdom. These articles instead represent a national party list system as proportional representation. While this is strictly true, a national list system has a number of flaws, and no one in the electoral reform movement has supported it.

What is national list, and why is it not realistic in the UK?

National list is a very basic electoral system. It's simply the application of a party-list proportional representation system, except there is only one district, which includes the entire electorate. It can be open or closed list, although the large magnitude means that it can be hard to use open list. It's also fairly normal to have a threshold. It is used, in its purest form, in the Netherlands (with semi-open list, and a threshold of 0.67%), Fiji (open list, with a 5% threshold) and Israel (with closed list, and a threshold of 3.25%). Sweden and Denmark use an electoral system that uses districts with more open lists, and then the seats are allocated on a nationwide basis, thus making it effectively national list.

Such systems are rarely used in large countries like the United Kingdom, though. The issue with them is that it can lead to a weak connection between voters and electors, as there is no individual accountability. It would be organisationally difficult to use open lists to allocate all 650 seats, which would mean that parties would have large control over who was elected. 

The other issue with this system is that it would lead to fragmentation. One can simply look at recent elections in the Netherlands and Israel to see that proportionality, unrestricted, can lead to massive fragmentation. Certainly, thresholds could be introduced. But that would mean the end of regional parties and local independents. 

It would mean that Plaid Cymru or the SNP, for example, would not be able to win seats in many cases despite strong support in their areas. If a 5% threshold were used at this election (not an uncommon figure), the Conservatives would have 266 seats, Labour 219, UKIP 91, and the Liberal Democrats would have 56 (excluding Northern Ireland, although none of the Northern Irish parties would have any seats under this system). The SNP would have zero seats, which would surely have made the Scottish Nationalists unhappy, since they would be represented 100% by unionist parties (for more information on this, see my previous post about thresholds). This is less of an issue in smaller countries, where there is less regionalism. 

Even if a mixed-member system was used along with national lists, there would still be some of these problems. Most mixed-member systems use closed lists, so there would still be the issue of a lack of accountability. If the New Zealand-style system of allowing parties which win constituency seats to enter the list allocation was adopted, the threshold issue could be averted somewhat, but it would still be a flawed system.

What sort of systems have actually been proposed?

In its 2015 report, the Electoral Reform Society (a pro-proportional representation pressure group) published projections for the result under a variety of electoral systems.

Results exclude Northern Ireland
The 'List PR' system here is a districted system. While the Electoral Reform Society does not exactly show the districts, it appears that they are using European Parliament constituencies. This would lead to a very high average magnitude of 63. You could potentially use smaller constituencies, or use a mixed-member system (although they are large constituencies compared to Scottish and Welsh list tier districts), but this is a more realistic party list system. 

The Alternative Vote projection is self-explanatory, though I personally think the campaign would have changed if it had been in use, and the results would have been more different than that purely technical perspective, but that is obviously quite hard to model.

The other proposal is the single transferable vote. While I don't know what sort of district size would be used, this is a more likely proposal than national list; indeed, it appears to be the preferred proportional representation system of the Electoral Reform Society, despite its relatively rare use in the United Kingdom (outside Northern Ireland, only in Scottish local government). I'm not sure what the methodology is, or whether preferences 

Other proposals for electoral reform include AV+, the proposal of the Jenkins Commission into the electoral system convened (and then promptly ignored) by the Blair government. This system is similar to a mixed-member proportional system, except that there would be relatively few list seats in each district (each one of the 80 districts would only elect one or two list members), the district vote would be the alternative vote/preferential voting instead of single-member plurality, and an open list system would be used in the districts. The existence of this system was noted by the ERS, but they did not project it "on the basis that it is not used in any country and is no longer being advocated in any meaningful way".

While it is important that issues like electoral reform are discussed in the United Kingdom, it is equally important that what is presented as alternatives to single-member plurality are serious proposals. A national list system is not a serious proposal, and the projections from the ERS offer more relevant statistics of what will happen under proportional representation.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Hong Kong 2015-a tale of two incentives

Hong Kong has a long political history of semi-democracy. Until 1997, it was a British colony, governed by a bewildering mix of appointed and elected councils and officials. The main elected body was the Municipal Council, which had only four elected members elected with strict qualifications (the number increased over time, and from 1956 half of the Council was elected). However, this council had very limited roles in serious governance, and elections to it had poor turnout anyway. Most power resided with the Governor, who was appointed by the Queen on the advice of the British Prime Minister, and the Legislative Council, half of which was appointed by the Governor and half of which was comprised of government officials.

As Hong Kong (or, at least parts of it) had been leased from China for 99 years, it was due for return in 1997. The details of this were complicated by the Communist takeover of China after the Civil War, but in 1983 an agreement was signed between the two countries. It stated that Hong Kong would be handed back to China in 1997, but that China would give it substantial autonomy.

The first elections to the Legislative Council took place in 1985. 24 seats were actually elected. 12 of these were elected by professional associations; chambers of commerce, trade unions and the like. The other 12 were indirectly elected, in twelve single-member districts, by local councils (looking at the 1988 White Paper, it appears that an exhaustive ballot system was used, where, if one candidate did not have a majority, the lowest polling candidate would be excluded, and the voters would vote again. This process would be repeated until one candidate had a majority). These local councils were partially elected through universal suffrage and partially appointed.

Similar arrangements were in place for the next election (held in 1988), despite plans being put out for direct elections that year. The number of appointed seats was reduced by two, though, and the British made it clear that direct elections would be on the cards for future elections. A number of changes were made to the electoral system, including the introduction of preferential voting for the seats elected by local councils.

The first direct elections took place, as promised, in 1991. 18 seats were directly elected, 21 were 'functional constituencies', 18 were directly appointed by the Governor, and three seats were reserved for officials (again, British appointed). The directly elected seats were elected in two-member districts, with voters having two votes.

The result was a landslide for the liberal pro-democratic parties. Off a low turnout, broadly pro-democratic parties won 16 out of 18 seats, and 58% of the vote. Two other candidates were elected. One of these was Tai Chin-wah, a pro-Beijing candidate, who was later discovered to have falsified his legal credentials. The by-election to replace him was won by a pro-democracy candidate. The other independent was Andrew Wong, and, while the paper on the election lists him as independent, he seems to have been recognised as a pro-democracy candidate later in his career.

However, this win was balanced out by a strong result for conservative and pro-British and Beijing candidates in the functional constituencies. The pro-democrats won only four seats out of 21, and the remaining seats were apparently mostly won by pro-establishment conservative businessmen.

As a result, direct elections did not change the majority in the legislative council. However, they did draw the dividing lines for the future of Hong Kong's political competition; pro-democracy versus pro-Beijing parties.

The next elections, in 1995, saw a change in the electoral system. Instead of two-member districts, single-member plurality districts were used. Twenty members were elected in these districts. Thirty were elected in functional constituencies (28 single-member districts, and ten were elected by members of an Election Committee, elected from local councils. Election Committee seats used the single-transferable vote (electronically counted).

As in the last election, pro-democratic candidates made a near sweep of the directly elected seats. They won 17 of the 20 seats, with the Democratic Party, the largest party in the pro-democratic group, winning 12 of these seats and 42% of the vote. The other five seats were won by independents and by the Association for Democracy and People's Livelihoods (ADPL), a slightly more economically leftist group. The pro-Beijing parties won three seats; two by the more pro-Beijing Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB) and one by the Liberal Party (a more pro-business group).

The DAB victories in their districts were all very narrow. The DAB won New Territories North by only 48 votes, while they won Kowloon North-East by a more comfortable margin of 5.5%. The Liberal was elected in New Territories North-East with 35% to 28% for a DAB opponent, and 26% and 11% for two democrats. The competition patterns were quite interesting. Most seats saw competition between one pro-democrat and one pro-Beijing candidate. However, in some seats, there was more than one candidate from one of these groups. These seats were mostly safe ones, and there were no cases where strategic nomination would have made a difference.

In the functional constituencies, the Liberal Party dominated. Their pro-business stance allowed them to win many of the seats. Most of the others were won by Beijing-aligned independents, although pan-democrats were elected in the Construction district (a case where strategic nomination might have made the difference; the Democrat was elected with 38% against a field of three pro-Beijing candidates). Most other pro-democrat victories in the functional constituencies were more clear-cut, and it does not appear that nomination was a very big factor.

The Election Committee seats split 6-4 in favour of the pro-Beijing candidates, thus meaning that the overall Legislative Council was controlled 31-29 by pro-democrats. Beijing was obviously not happy with this, and before the handover, decided to handpick a Selection Committee to elect a new Legislative Council, that would sit until elections could be held. As you can imagine, this committee was dominated by pro-Beijing members, and most of the pro-democrats did not contest. The ADPL won two seats. The remaining seats were won by pro-Beijing parties and independents.

Following the handover, a new electoral system was put in place. Twenty seats would be directly elected, using party-list proportional representation and the Hare quota, with an average district magnitude of four. The goal of this appeared to be to prevent the pro-democrats sweeping all the directly elected seats, as they had done under the British.

Thirty seats would be elected in functional constituencies, which, as under the British, were elected by various businesses and trade unions. A further ten seats were elected by the Election Committee (despite the commitment to proportionality demonstrated in the direct constituencies, these seats were elected by the multiple non-transferable vote). Unlike under the British, this was a body elected in a similar manner to the functional constituencies; from various sectors of business and society. Members of the Legislative Council were eligible to sit in the Election Committee, too. The Committee also elects the Chief Executive of Hong Kong, who sits as the equivalent of a British colonial Governor; he signs legislation from the Council, appoints judges, and can issue decrees.

The result of the election was a win for the pro-Beijing group. In the direct constituenices, however, pro-democracy parties won 66% of the votes and 15 seats, with the pro-Beijing parties winning 5 seats and 30% of the vote. The pro-Beijing parties won a landslide victory in the functional constituency, with 25 seats, and they won all the Election Committee seats. This meant that the pro-Beijing parties controlled the Legislative Council 40-20.

A similar pattern was followed in 2000, although thanks to the Electoral Committee losing four seats which were transferred into the directly elected constituencies (thus increasing the average district magnitude to 4.8), the pro-democrats gained an extra seat overall despite losing about 6% of the vote.

The 2000 election was notable for the first use of a tactic not uncommon in party-list systems which use quotas. It involves running more than one list in a district, and then dividing your vote amongst the lists. Why is this an advantage? Let's look at the below table for an example, from the 2012 election in the seven member district of Hong Kong Island.
As you can see, in this heavily fragmented election the Civic Party was the only one to win two seats, very narrowly. However, this is not how the election worked. Instead, the DAB ran two lists, each headed by a different politician (one by Legislative Council president Jasper Tsang, and one by Christopher Chung), and split their votes roughly between the two lists. This was the result.
So, the DAB comfortably won more seats than Civic, despite winning slightly fewer votes. How did they manage that? Well, when you run one list if you have support levels like the DAB, one quota is tied up, thus meaning a smaller share of the vote is left over to compete after the quota is used to win a seat. Therefore, it makes sense for a party with substantially more than a quota's worth of to spread its votes amongst multiple lists.

A similar system was used in Colombia up until 2006. While it was nominally party-list with the Hare quota, the ability for parties to nominate multiple candidates meant that it was effectively single non-transferable vote. The lower house had an average magnitude of 4.8 (lower than Hong Kong's current average of 6.7), but the upper house used a single national district with a magnitude of 100. The highest polling list in this election got 2.2% of the vote (enough to secure two seats, though) and the lowest polling list to win a seat got 0.4% (full results here).

Hong Kong took some time to adapt to this system, with early elections being more conventional party-list. The Democrats were the first to try the system, running some multiple lists in 2000, with mixed results (in some cases, it would have made a difference, in some cases not). Indeed, they were the only party to do it up to 2012. At this point, the Democrats had lost support dramatically, as a result of their support for a controversial electoral reform package. This dramatically fragmented the pro-democrat vote, as a large number of Democrat voters switched to existing more radical democratic parties and new radical democratic parties. At this election, the DAB also tried running multiple lists.

The result of this was that, for the first time ever, no list elected more than one member. For most of the parties, this was not a deliberate strategic move. Very few of them had the support for more than one seat in each district, and so the running of one list made perfect sense. However, as the above example shows, the DAB's running of multiple lists meant that they were able to win more seats.

The election also demonstrate another factor in the multiple-list strategy; it requires tactical calculation. The Democrats ran two lists in New Territories West, for example, and very effectively divided the vote between them. However, they only won 11.8% of the vote in the district, and this meant that both lists went down to defeat, while parties with much smaller overall support that had not run multiple lists won seats.

In the same election, as demonstrated above, the Civic Party's failure to use multiple lists cost them seats. The Civic Party tried running single lists in districts where they had multiple incumbents, but this backfired on them, as described above, and they lost a few seats due to their failure to run multiple lists.

The main message here is that under an electoral system such as this, it is vitally important that parties learn to evaluate their electoral support, and the main way of doing this is through opinion polling. Hard, certainly, in certain countries where few people have phones, or where people are geographically spread. However, this is surely not the case in Hong Kong. While the accuracy of some polling is questionable (although this is not too great a sin in an area with many parties, and where small numbers of votes can have a dramatic impact on the result), it seems rather odd that the parties did not better evaluate their support.

District Councils, and why they matter

Like most countries, Hong Kong has multiple tiers of governance. There are eighteen districts of Hong Kong, and they all have local councils called District Councils. These councils provide certain public services, and spend grants from the Hong Kong-wide government. As far as I can tell, they do not levy taxes. Elections to these bodies are partisan.

The interesting thing about these council is their electoral system. The councils use single-member plurality/first-past-the-post (voters have one vote, the candidate with the most votes wins). This is a very different system from the single non-transferable vote, and has a practically opposite incentive. Under single-member plurality, having large numbers of parties is usually rare. As Duverger's Law states, plurality systems of any sort will lead to a two-party system, as minor parties with weak support will not be able to win seats. Given that that will lead to their votes being 'wasted', so to speak, their votes will head to larger parties with similar ideologies, in order to avoid opposing parties being elected.

Now, obviously there are exceptions to Duverger's Law. Nations like India, for example, have large numbers of parties despite using single-member plurality. However, in most of these countries, there is great regional variation in terms of party systems, and individual districts mostly have two-party competition. Hong Kong does not have this.

This means that there are two very different electoral systems in Hong Kong. One, in the Legislative Council, that encourages parties to split their vote between different candidates and encourages the formation of new parties. The other encourages small numbers of large and broad-based political parties. This creates an interesting conflict.

There are a number of ways parties and broader political groups could manage this conflict. They could hold internal primaries, they could agree on running a candidate from a party that had high support in the area, or they could decouple the LegCo party system from the District Council party system.

Now, I have had trouble finding the data available for District Council elections. However, a cursory look at the data available suggests that independents are a key fixture of these elections. 22% of pro-democrat votes were cast for independent candidates and 30% of pro-Beijing votes were cast for independents. This suggests a degree of decoupling between the LegCo and District Council electoral systems, as very few independents are normally elected in the geographic constituencies of the Legislative Council.

The other ideas for how is something that needs to be looked into further. However, a vaguely cursory look suggests that seats have a relatively low number of candidates. Overall statistics suggest this too; apparently, the pro-Beijing group runs 1.13 candidates to each seat, while the pro-democracy group only runs 0.77 candidates to each seat. This suggests a highly restrained nomination strategy by the pro-democrats (as well as some seats going uncontested), and a fairly restrained strategy by the pro-Beijing group.

While I don't have enough data to provide a proper analysis of these elections, it is very interesting to see these two electoral systems operating in parallel. The elections, however, seem to have sufficiently different vote shares, which makes any comparison rather hard and perhaps flawed.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Scotland 2016-One weird trick to improve a party's seat count

With elections to Scotland's devolved parliament coming up next year, it looks almost certain that the left-wing nationalist Scottish National Party, which has been governing since 2007, will win a comfortable victory. Polling done in recent months suggests that, off their near sweep of Scotland's Westminster seats earlier this year, the SNP will win a comfortable victory, under the leadership of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

However, unlike in Westminster, their gains will be limited somewhat, because of Scotland's usage of a mixed-member proportional representation system. Even if the SNP wins all of Scotland's constituencies, or makes a near sweep, the mechanism of the mixed-member system (described below) will keep their vote shares aligned with their seat shares. There is an option, though, for the SNP to make use of a tactic that has been used before in MMP and compensatory mixed-member systems to avoid this, called decoy lists.

How does Scotland's electoral system work?

Initial plans for a Scottish parliament were put forward by the Wilson-Callaghan governments in 1978, following an inquiry triggered by a strong SNP performance in the 1974 election (the October one). Exact details of the electoral system are unclear, as I don't seem to be able to find the specific legislation. It seems that some variation of the plurality system was proposed. This would have likely led to a Labour-dominated assembly, and this may have been one of the reasons that the proposal was rejected in a 1979 referendum (while 51.62% of voters voted Yes, this only represented 32.8% of the electorate, substantially short of the 40% of the electorate requirement).

Shortly after this referendum, a general election resulted in a Conservative government, led by Margaret Thatcher, take office. The Conservatives had little interest in devolution, and as a result it stayed off the agenda until 1997. In this year, a Labour government, led by Tony Blair, took office. Labour were committed to devolution. A referendum took place in 1997, which resulted in a 74-26 vote in favour of a Scottish assembly, and a 63-37 vote in favour of said assembly having tax-varying powers.

In order to get broad support for an assembly from the SNP and Liberal Democrats, the Blair government proposed a proportional system. Much discussion was had on the issue of this system, but the eventual result was a mixed-member proportional system that was later adopted by London and Wales.

The system works in this manner. Voters have two votes; one for single-member districts and one for regional party-lists. The single-member districts are simple: the candidate with the most votes wins. In the regions (of which there are currently eight, each electing seven members), all the party-list votes are counted up. The D'Hondt system is applied in these regions; however, the first divisor in the sequence is increased by the number of single-member districts won by the party.

For example, if Labour wins 5 district seats and 50,000 votes, and the SNP wins 1 district seat and 40,000, Labour's vote is divided by 6, meaning that Labour's vote in the party list contest is 8,333. The SNP's vote in the party list contest is 20,000. Party list seats are then distributed using D'Hondt.

This system serves to reduce the disproportionality that happens with single-member plurality. For example, at the first election to the parliament, Labour won 53 constituency seats off 38.9% of the vote, but this strong result in the districts meant that they only won three seats in the lists, thus making the overall result relatively proportional (off 33% of the list vote, Labour won 43% of the seats).

What is a decoy list? 

A decoy list is a tactic used under a mixed-member proportional (or compensatory) system in order to turn it into a mixed-member majoritarian system. The basic idea is that you run your single-member district candidates as members of a different party to your district candidates. This means that you can avoid the penalties that these sort of electoral systems levy on parties that win big in the districts.

An example of this took place in Italy's 2001 election. At this time, the lower house of Italy used a mixed-member system called the scorporo. The voting process was similar to Scotland, except the compensatory mechanism was somewhat different; the list the winning candidate district was affilated to had its vote reduced by the votes cast for the second place candidate in the district plus one. If a candidate affiliated to the list of Party X wins 10,000 votes, and the runner-up gets 5,000 votes, Party X's list votes are deducted by 5,001.

A key element of this system is that parties are permitted to form coalitions, as parties need to win 4% of the nationwide vote to get party-list seats. As a result, a district candidate can display themselves as a candidate of a national coalition on the ballot paper, while being affiliated to a list within that coalition. All party lists were on the national ballot paper.

In the 2001 election, the centre-right coalition, Casa della Liberta (House of Freedoms), led by Silvio Berlusconi, affiliated many of their district candidates to a list called Abolizone Scorporo (Abolish Scorporo). This list used a dull symbol and was not publicised. Single-member district candidates affiliated to it used the Casa della Liberta symbol. Its only purpose was to soak up the vote reductions caused by the scorporo*. The centre-left list retaliated by running their own similar list, called Paese Nuovo (New Country). The two lists actually received some votes; 0.09% for Paese Nuovo and 0.07% for Abolizone Scorporo.

Given that statistics are vague and calculations are difficult, it's a bit hard to measure the exact impact of this tactic. However, the Gallagher index of disproportionality (measured out of 100, based on list votes) spiked from 6.91 in 1996 to 10.22. It's also notable that the Communist Refoundation Party got only 11 seats out of 630, for 5% of the vote. They relied entirely on list seats for their representation in parliament.

How would it work in Scotland?

Let's look at an example. The below table shows the result of a hypothetical election in a region. The SNP has won all 9 single-member district seats, off just 55,000 (33.5% of the vote). With what is clearly an unlucky vote distribution, Labour wins no seats and 27.4% of the vote. The Conservatives (they have the cross logo) win 21.3%, the Lib Dems win 12.2%, and the Greens win 5.5%.

If the SNP ran with their single-member district candidates affiliated to the list, they would win no list seats. Three seats would go to Labour and to the Conservatives, and one to the Liberal Democrats. This would mean that the severe disproportionality in the single-member districts would be compensated for as much as possible.

However, let's say the SNP did not run a party list attached to their district candidates. Instead, they ran a nominally independent list, called, say, the National Scottish Party, that all SNP voters voted for. As you can see, this would mean that the SNP's landslide in the district seats would not reduce their share of the list seats. They would win three of these, bringing their total up to 75% of the total seats in the region.

What if the SNP had tried this strategy in the last election? If we assume that all SNP voters would vote for the decoy list, the results would be as below.

As you can see, it would be a quite dramatic gain for the SNP. They would go from 69 to 96 MSPs, three-quarters of the parliament for 44% of the vote. This is not necessarily an accurate reflection, though. Some voters might not recognise the SNP's decoy, or, more importantly, the other parties could run decoy lists of their own as a defensive measure. This would effectively turn Scotland's electoral system into a pure mixed-member majoritarian system, with complete separation of both tiers. Given the small size of the regional districts, this would lead to a relatively disproportional electoral system (average magnitude would be 1.6).

How would it be done?

So, if you are Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, and you are reading this blog, you are probably thinking 'Great! But how do I put up a decoy list? What do I call it?'. Well, Ms Sturgeon, this is where you have to use your imagination.

Now, there are a wide variety of ways in which this particular nut can be cracked. However, my best idea is one that takes advantage of Nicola Sturgeon's personal popularity and recognition. First, Ms Sturgeon should resign her membership of the SNP, and form a new party, called, say, 'Nicola Sturgeon for Scotland' or 'Nicola Sturgeon Team'. As there are no formal membership requirements, and it could not be argued that the label was intended to confuse the SNP and the new party, as Sturgeon would not be an SNP member. This party could run in the party-list section, and it could be mentioned in SNP literature as an encouraged second vote.

Now, this article is not to present a strategy only for the SNP, and this strategy could also be used by the Scottish Conservatives, for example, who have strong local appeal in the South of Scotland. I'm not sure what sort of name recognition the Scottish Conservatives have, but had they registered their candidates in the South as independents, they would have won an extra three seats (assuming no SNP decoy and all Conservative voters voting for the independents).

What would be the consequences?

The SNP trying a trick like this would not go unnoticed in Westminster, which formally controls the election legislation for Scotland. If the Conservative government had significant doubts about the SNP's actions, and if the Scottish Conservatives were substantially hurt by decoys, there is the possibility of Westminster legislating to make decoy lists useless.

One way which they could do this would be by introducing one-vote MMP. Under this system, voters would vote only in the single-member districts, and these votes would be used to calculate the list totals, replacing the list votes in the previous system. If SNP candidates recieve 5000 votes in a region, the SNP list is credited with 5000 votes. As it is impossible to separate single-member district and list votes, this would blunt the SNP's tactic.

It's unclear what impact such a system would have on support for the parties. With one exception, no party has a marked difference between their list and district votes. The key exception, of course, is the Scottish Greens. They have adopted a policy of running lists only, in the hope of picking up list votes from left-leaning voters who, while recognising that the Greens cannot win a district seat and therefore not voting Green in the districts, are willing to vote Green in the lists. Under a single-vote system, the Greens would have a much harder time attracting voters.

Another option would be dumping the single-member districts entirely, and having a party-list system only. This option would likely prove controversial, as this has only been used in the European elections, and if it were introduced, it would probably have to have some form of mechanism to open up the lists, and give voters personal control over the elected members. Perhaps, too, the single transferable vote could be used. Scotland has experience with the single transferable vote, as it has been used in local elections since 2007. While this sounds like a good idea, the issue remains that Scotland has lots of land that is virtually empty (and for good reason). This would mean that some STV constituencies would be quite large.

This post is not intended to endorse the Scottish National Party. Indeed, this is a strategy that could be used by all of Scotland's parties. The SNP, however, is in an especially strong position to exploit this particular loophole. I would suggest that it would be advisable for Westminster to close it, in some way, to ensure Scotland's parliament continues with its original intention of proportional representation.

*The Abolizone Scorporo list was used again in the 2004 European election. In an attempt to reduce the vote for the Green party, the Abolizone Scorporo symbol was placed in the middle of the symbol for the 'Green-Greens', a right-wing Green party. Under Italian electoral law, this means the list is entitled to get on the ballot automatically.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Newfoundland and Labrador election, 2015-An island of volatility

The Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador will be holding an election to its unicameral legislature, the House of Assembly, on November 30. Newfoundland and Labrador is the easternmost province of Canada. It is also the newest province, having joined Canada in 1949.

Due to its position on the east coast, Newfoundland was one of the first British colonies in America. It was granted self-government and its own legislature in 1854. Elections in the colony were between the Liberal and Conservative parties. The Conservative premier, Fredrick Carter, expressed interest in joining Canada when the nation was federated in 1867, but his defeat by the Anti-Confederation Party (mostly comprised of Liberals) in the 1869 election stopped this.

Newfoundland was granted Dominion status in 1907, a similar status to that given to Australia and New Zealand until the 1950s. This made it a technically independent country, with its own legislature, and with its own Prime Minister.  The government, however, faced the issues that happen when you have a large, sparsely-populated country; the construction of a railway across the island of Newfoundland, and its need for government support, put the government in debt. 

The Great Depression hurt Newfoundland badly, and a drop in fish prices (fish being one of Newfoundland's major commodities) as well as high debt meant that the province was in serious crisis. In the 1932 election, the United Newfoundland Party, running on a platform of handing back government of Newfoundland back to the British in exchange for financial aid, defeated the incumbent Liberal government, and the functions of government were handed to an unelected Commission.

The Americans and Canadians spent significant amounts of money on Newfoundland during the war, which improved the economy. The government then decided, now that the crisis was largely over, to hold a Constituional Convention. After discussing a range of options, including the possibility of joining the United States, the convention agreed that a referendum should be held, in which the public would be given three options; returning to dominion status, continuing the Commission of Government, or Confederation with Canada (the Convention had not wanted this option to be on the ballot, but the British insisted)

The first referendum took place in June 1948. Off an 88% turnout, 44.5% voted for Confederation, 41.1% voted for dominion status, and the remaining 14.3% voted for the continuation of the Commission.

In order to ensure that the chosen option had majority support, a runoff referendum took place in July. The top two polling options were on the ballot, and Confederation won, with 52.3% of the vote to 47.7% for Dominion status. As a result, Newfoundland joined Canada in April 1949, and the rest of Canada were welcoming.

The first election to Newfoundland's provincial legislature took place a month after Newfoundland entered Canada. The result was a win for the Newfoundland Liberal Party, under the leadership of member of the Constitutional Convention Joey Smallwood. The Liberals won 22 seats, to 5 for the Progressive Conservatives and one for an Independent.

The Liberals were re-elected easily until 1971, all under Smallwood's leadership. During this time, the Newfoundland New Democratic Party was formed. However, the New Democrats were failing to make much of an impact in Eastern Canada, and the Newfoundland branch was no exception; it did not win any seats, and it won below 8% of the vote in every election it contested. In 1971, with the Smallwood government ageing, the Progressive Conservatives won 21 seats to 20 for the Liberals and one for the Labrador Party (Labrador being the section of the province not on the island of Newfoundland). The Labrador Party member backed the Liberals, meaning that there was a 21-21 tie (and this is why odd numbers are important when you are figuring out how many seats you want in a legislature).

Smallwood resigned in January of 1972, and Conservative leader Frank Moores took over the reins of government. However, he quickly realised that it would be near-impossible to govern a province with an exact tie in the legislature, and called an election for March. This election was won by the Progressive Conservatives with a massive landslide; they won 60.5% of the vote and 33 out of 42 seats.

Following this defeat, the Liberal Party removed Smallwood as leader. In 1974, Smallwood ran against new Liberal leader Ed Roberts, but was defeated in the convention 403-298. He then left and formed the Liberal Reform Party. The same year, an election took place. At this election, the Progressive Conservatives were returned to government, with 45.5% of the vote and 30 out of 51 seats. The Liberals won 16 seats and 37.1% of the vote, Smallwood's Liberal Reform Party won 4 seats and 12% of the vote (with only 28 candidates), and the NDP won 4.3% and no seats, again with a limited slate of candidates. One Independent Liberal was elected. Had Smallwood's party not run, and had all his votes gone to the Liberals, the Liberals would have won 26 seats to 25 for the PCs.

The next few elections saw the PCs gaining strength, and consistently winning both majorities of votes and seats. 1984 saw the first elected NDP member, when Peter Fenwick was elected for the Labrador district of Menihek, with a 26% swing towards his party. In the election next year, the NDP won 14%, a gain of about 10% (although some of this was due to the NDP running substantially more candidates). However, they only won the one seat, to 36 for the PCs off 48.6% of the vote and 15 for the Liberals off 36.7% of the vote.

The next election in 1989, however, saw the defeat of the Progressive Conservatives, after the failure of a controversial greenhouse project. At this time, however, Newfoundland was experiencing significant growth; the result of substantial petroleum deposits off the coast. The previous PC premier, Brian Peckford, had been involved in conflicts with the federal government, and this would continue over the next years.

However, the election victory was far from a clean win. Despite winning 47.6% of the vote, the PCs only won 21 seats, to 31 for the Liberals off 47.2% of the vote and 4.4% for the NDP, which won no seats. The average Liberal candidate was elected with 4% fewer votes than the average elected PC candidate, which suggests that the reason the PCs lost was because their vote spread was inefficient.

The Liberals were reelected in 1993, in a victory that is potentially attributable to the landslide Liberal victory nationwide of the same year and the decision by the national Progressive Conservative government to close the cod fishery in Newfoundland due to a lack of fish, which led to the loss of tens of thousands of jobs in the province. The Liberals made minor vote gains, and the NDP won 7.4% (a gain of about 3%) and won a seat. In 1996, the Liberal government repeated this feat, winning 55% of the vote and 37 out of 48 seats, to nine for the PCs and one for an Independent and for the NDP.

Again, the Liberals were re-elected in 1999, with 49% of the vote and 32 seats, to 14 for the PCs and two for the NDP. A weak economy in the province, however, meant that in 2003, the Liberal government was defeated by the Progressive Conservatives, led by Danny Williams. Williams led the PCs to a landslide win. The party won 58% of the vote and 34 of 48 seats, to 33% and 12 seats for the Liberals and 6% and two seats for the NDP.

While the government was initially unpopular due to public service cuts, Williams' popularity soon rebounded dramatically after he was involved in a fight with Prime Minister Paul Martin involving equalisation payments. Newfoundland and Labrador wanted to keep all of its oil and gas revenue and receive equalisation payments until Newfoundland became as rich as the national average but the federal government wanted to take a share of oil and gas revenue or reduce payments. After a lengthy standoff, which included a controversial decision by Williams to stop displaying Canadian flags in the province, the government finally reached a deal, whereby Newfoundland would receive equalisation payments and would be able to keep its revenue from resources. This led to Williams becoming very popular in the newly wealthy province.

The 2007 election was therefore something of a foregone conclusion. Williams had massive support, and it was even speculated that the Progressive Conservatives would be able to win every seat, a feat that had only happened twice before in Canadian history. In the end, the PCs won 44 out of 48 seats off 69.5% of the vote. This was higher support than the Liberals had received in Prince Edward Island in 1935 (58%) and in New Brunswick in 1987 (60%), although both cases had resulted in one party winning all the seats in the legislature. The Liberals were able to hold on to three seats (two with over 60% of the vote, which may go some way to explaining why the party was still in the legislature; freakishly high support in small areas) off 21.7% of the vote, whereas the NDP won one seat off 8.5% of the vote.

Williams was involved in another public fight with Prime Minister Stephen Harper in 2008, after Harper decided to cap the amount of payments Newfoundland could receive. While this was fairly popular in other provinces, Williams was furious, and decided to campaign against the Conservatives in the federal election of that year. He formed the Anything But Conservative campaign, and his party campaigned for the election of federal Liberal and NDP candidates. The campaign had dramatic effect; the Conservatives polled only 16.5% of the vote in the province, their lowest total nationwide, and won no seats.

In 2010, Williams resigned, and was replaced by Deputy Premier Kathy Dunderdale. While this was initially on an interim basis, Ms Dunderdale chose to run for PC leader, and therefore Premier, on a permanent basis. She ran in a leadership convention unopposed, and was thus therefore made premier.

The election of the next year was widely expected to be another easy win for the PCs. With a wide lead in the polls and strong growth. The Liberals were struggling to make an impact, but the NDP gained support dramatically in the late days of the campaign, and it was considered possible that they would be able to finish second. At this point, the New Democrats were gaining support nationwide, in places where they had not had much support before (like Quebec).

In the end, the NDP finished second in terms of votes, with 25%, but third in seats, with 5 seats out of 48. The Liberals won 6 seats and 19.1% of the vote, while the PCs won 37 seats and 56%. Most of the NDP seats were won in St John's, the capital city, while the Liberals were strongest in Labrador and the west of the province.

Dunderdale's government started off popular, but has declined in support since the last election. This has been due to a variety of factors; the declining price of oil, an increasing provincial deficit, and cuts to education, amongst others. One year out from the election, the government had fallen into second place in the polls, behind a surging NDP.

With her polls collapsing, Dunderdale resigned in January 2014. She was replaced on an interim basis by Deputy Premier Tom Marshall. The first attempt to elect a permanent leader took place in March of the same year. Energy businessman Frank Coleman was the only candidate, but declined the leadership for family reasons, and Health Minister Paul Davis was elected narrowly in September.

However, the New Democrats eventually fell back. This was due to a leadership scandal that took place in late 2013 when NDP leader Lorraine Michael was criticised by her caucus (her entire caucus), who sent a letter asking that a leadership convention be held. Two members of the caucus backed out on the letter, while the other two stood by their words and left the party, later joining the Liberals.

A leadership review held in May 2014 allowed Michael to stay in office, but after dismal performances in the Conception Bay by-election (where there was a 21% swing against the NDP candidate) and the Trinity-Bay de Verde by-election (where the NDP candidate lost 8%), as well as fast declining polls, she resigned. In a leadership election, union leader Earle McCurdy was elected leader by 68%. McCurdy improved the party's polling for a short time, but in recent weeks they have fallen back, and their support has gone to the Liberals.

The Liberals have performed well over the past few years. Following the 2011 election, Kevin Aylward resigned, and was replaced by Dwight Ball, the member for the rural district of Humber Valley. The party has been leading the polls since August 2013, and has gained ten seats through defections and by-elections. The recent Conception Bay by-election saw a 42% swing towards the Liberals, and the Humber East by-election resulted in a 47% swing towards the Liberal candidate.

Expected results, and what they mean

It looks almost certain that the Liberals will win this election. The poll aggregator site ThreeHundredEight projects that the Liberals will win 57% of the vote and 30 out of 40 seats. Despite Canadian opinion polling's previous poor performances, it would take a significant fail on the part of pollsters to call this election wrong.

While part of this is local factors, another part is that the election has been timed well for the Liberal Party. It takes place during the honeymoon of the federal Trudeau Liberal government, which is not insubstantial (a recent poll gave the Liberals 55% of the vote to 25% for the Conservatives and 12% for the NDP). The election of the Trudeau government boosted the support of the provincial Liberals substantially.

Another impact of this election regards the NDP, and their position in Atlantic Canada. While the party gained significant support in Atlantic Canada in 1997, they have no seats in the area at this point. In terms of provincial governments, too, the NDP has not done so well in recent elections. Despite positive polls in New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, the party won no seats in both elections. They had more luck in Nova Scotia, winning government there for one term, but are now in third place. A loss in this election would represent another setback for the NDP in this region.

The loss for the Progressive Conservatives does not, as happened in Alberta, mean that they will be likely shut out of power for a long time. While the voters of Newfoundland seem to like strong government and large majorities, the performance of the last term suggests that a large majority will not make the Liberals invulnerable.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Poland 2015-Some observations on threshold

Poland recently held elections to both houses of its parliament: the Senate, which is the upper, newer and less powerful house, and the Sejm, which is the lower, older and more powerful house. The Senate is virtually powerless, in fact. A majority vote of the Sejm can override a Senate rejection of any bill. This rarely matters, though, because the Senate is elected at the same time as the Sejm, and uses a less proportional electoral system.

The impact of the threshold

Poland uses D'Hondt open party-list proportional representation in districts with an average magnitude of 11. The system includes a threshold of 5% on parties and 8% on coalitions of parties, which is implemented on the national level. An exemption is made for lists that represent ethnic minorities.

District allocation and a nationwide threshold both have a negative impact on proportionality. However, which one has the most significant impact says a lot about a nation's party system. If a nation has a party system where parties have consistent support across the country, then the use of district allocation will have a more substantial impact on proportionality. But if the party system is geographically diverse, the use of a nationwide threshold will have a more dramatic impact.

Let's look at Poland's party system. At this election, there were two major parties; Law and Justice and Civic Platform. Law and Justice is a traditionalist conservative party, while Civic Platform is a more liberal party on both social and economic issues. Civic Platform was in government coming up to this election. Musician Pawel Kukiz also formed his own party, after winning 20.8% in the first round of the presidential elections earlier this year. He is an anti-establishment figure, and his party's main issue is the introduction of the single-member plurality system in Poland, which he claims will remove party domination of Poland's politics.

The Polish left has not been especially strong in recent years. It's divided between post-communists, modern greens and socialists, and liberals. At the last election, the Democratic Left Alliance, which is the major left-wing party, won 8.2% of the vote and 27 out of 460 seats in the Sejm, while Palikot's Movement, a left-liberal party, won 10% of the vote and 40 seats. However, Palikot's Movement has dramatically lost support over the past few years. At this election, it (now called Your Movement) formed a coalition with Democratic Left Alliance and a number of other left-wing groups. The coalition was called United Left. Another more left-wing party was also formed, called Razem (Together).

A number of liberal parties also contested the election. The largest was Modern, which is a pro-EU centrist party, in a similar vein to the Liberal Democrats in the United Kingdom and the Free Democrats in Germany. It was only formed this year. The second is KORWiN, which is a more radical libertarian, Eurosceptic party. Its leader, Janusz Korwin (see what he did there?)-Mikke, is something of a controversial character. He has made statements about women that have gotten him in trouble, and his views are somewhat polarising. His former party, the Congress of the New Right, won four seats in the European Parliament at the 2014 elections, and Korwin-Mikke himself is a member of the European Parliament.

The Polish People's Party is the other substantial political presence in Polish politics. This party is one of the oldest, and was around before the Communists took control and in some form before World War 2. It is focused on rural issues, and is economically leftist and socially conservative.

It's worth noting that none of these parties are focused on local issues. Poland is also fairly ethnically homogeneous. As a result, I would expect that national instead of regional allocation would have the most substantial impact in terms of improving proportionality.

The graph above shows the results. As you can see, regional application of the threshold would lead to United Left and  However, this does not give us an indication of proportionality. To do this, the Gallagher index is used. This is a standard index of disproportionality that goes from 0 (most proportional) to 100 (least proportional). On this scale, the actual result scored 12.55. If the threshold was applied regionally, the index would be 9.86. However, if allocation was national but between the parties past the threshold, the index would be 9.41.

The reason that applying the threshold regionally would lead to a smaller increase in proportionality is that Poland has a geographically consistent party system, with none of the parties below the threshold receiving especially strong support in a geographic area.

A good country to compare Poland to is Turkey. The nations have similar electoral systems, but very different political environments. Turkey uses the D'Hondt method applied in small districts (average magnitude of 6.5) with a 10% national threshold. This has led to some very disproportional elections. For example, at the 2002 election, 45.3% of the vote was cast for parties that fell below the threshold. This led to Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Justice and Development Party winning two-thirds of the seats off 34% of the vote.

Now, if Turkey had gone with the approach of applying the threshold at a regional level, the results would be substantially different. The below graph shows the results, using the three methods described above.
As you can see, Turkey is quite different from Poland, mostly due to the large number of parties that fell below the threshold at this election. National allocation would, in theory, go some way to relieving this disproportionality. However, it removes Turkey's only alternative for candidates to be elected outside their parties; running as independents. Independents in Turkey are exempt from the national threshold, and are counted as single-candidate parties in district allocations. The Kurdish ethnic minority, following their failure to receive 10% nationwide, runs independent candidates in order to get some representation in the parliament.

The lack of independents means that a national allocation would actually make this election more disproportional. National allocation would score 27.47 on the Gallagher index, which is worse than the 27.41 the actual result got*. 27.41 is massive on the Gallagher index. Even in the UK, no result has not even been close to that.

Regional allocation would be a more dramatic change. As you can see, it would allow the entry into the parliament of other parties, although they would be very weak compared to their vote. The True Path Party, a centre-right secular party, would win 6.73% of the seats for 9.54% of the vote, and the centrist Young Party would win 2.36% of the seats and 7.25% of the seats.

The only party below 10% to receive more seats than their vote share is the pro-Kurdish Democratic People's Party, which would get 8.18% of the seats for 6.22% of the vote. This is because the Kurds are an ethnic group that mostly live in a small number of provinces in the nation's east. As a result, they can win these seats, whereas the other small nationwide parties have low vote shares everywhere, and cannot win many seats. This pattern has been repeated in recent elections, too; at this year's most recent election, the Kurdish-based People's Democratic Party won 59 seats with 10.76% of the vote, while the national-based Nationalist Movement Party won 40 seats with 11.9%.

Both results, however, show something important. Even under proportional representation systems, vote distribution is important. The lower the magnitude, the more important it is. Parties with uneven vote distribution will win more seats, but this assumes they get above the threshold. For parties like this (for example, the pro-Kurdish parties in Turkey), applying the threshold on the regional level would have the most positive effect. However, for parties with geographically consistent support, like Poland's Modern party, national allocation would have the most substantial impact.

*Note: Data is not consistent on the result of the election. However, this is likely to be close enough, although do not use this data for anything where accuracy is very important. 

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Infodump-Australian Capital Territory election, 1989

For some of my readers, this post is not going to be especially interesting. This post is mostly to put some data out there that may be useful to those seeking a record of Australian electoral history, and that is in too awkward a format to add to Wikipedia.

The Australian Capital Territory, after its formation, was directly governed by the federal government. Gough Whitlam's government established an elected assembly for the ACT, like with the Northern Territory. However, unlike the Northern Territory, the ACT was not given self-government; the assembly retained mainly an advisory role.

In 1978, a referendum took place on the governing status of the ACT. Voters were offered three options. They could vote for the ACT to have self-government, with the same power the Northern Territory has. This would effectively remove the role for the Federal Government in the government of the ACT. They could vote for power to be shared between an elected local government body and the federal government. Or, they could vote for the status quo.

The result was a landslide for the status quo. Territorians did not like the idea of more politicians, and did not want to have the same funding arrangements as the states. The government respected the result, and the current arrangements were kept in place. The elected advisory Assembly was continued, but voter interest was low.

In 1988, however, the federal Labor government decided to introduce self-government unilaterally. Four pieces of legislation were passed by the Federal Parliament to introduce self-government. The government would be a minimalist one; there would be no representative of the Crown to give assent to legislation, dissolve the legislature or appoint a cabinet. Assent to legislation would be automatically given by passage through the legislature, legislatures would have fixed terms, and the Chief Minister would be elected by secret ballot in the legislature and would then appoint a cabinet.

One of the most controversial parts of the legislation was the electoral system for the legislature. The Labor Party wanted the same electoral system as used for the federal House of Representatives; preferential voting with single member districts. However, Labor did not have a majority in the Senate at the time, and needed Liberal/National or Australian Democrat support for the legislation. 

Both parties, fearing that the ACT's homogeneous electoral geography would lead to Labor domination over the territory's government, blocked the legislation and demanded that the government introduce a proportional system. Labor, seeing this as inevitable, decided to go with a party-list system. The Australian Democrats didn't like this, though. Their status as a centrist party meant that they would be advantaged by preferential voting, and so they supported a system that would include preferences in a similar way to the single transferable vote. The Senate process merged the two systems, in a way that made a mess of both of them.

"Modified D'Hondt"

The resulting system was christened 'Modified D'Hondt'. It combined many of the key elements of the system used for the Senate, as well as party list proportional representation. These two have been combined before in Australia; South Australia used a hybrid of the two for elections to their upper house in the 1970s. Voters were permitted to number as many or as few parties as they wanted. Parties that failed to receive one-half of the Droop quota (about 4.16% of the vote) had their preferences distributed to parties that had hit that threshold. All seats were then distributed using the largest-remainder system and the Droop quota. However, the ACT system added a few more complicated features. I'll get right into the explanation.


Voting under Modified D'Hondt was a relatively simple process. The ballot paper was similar to that used for the Senate. There was a thick black line across the paper, with boxes for parties above the line and boxes for their candidates below. Voters voted by placing the number 1 in any box. That's all. They could number boxes for as many or as few candidates or parties as they wished, and they could number both parties and candidates (for example, you could vote 1 for John Smith, a Liberal candidate, 2 for the Labor Party box, and 3 for Jane Smith, a Green candidate).

Despite this, the informal rate was similar to the last federal House of Representative elections, where more preferences are required; it was speculated that this was due to people writing disparaging comments about the candidates on the ballot paper.


Counting was a more complicated process. It happened in stages. The first stage of counting was the simplest. All votes for a party or its candidates were counted and added up. The total of this was divided by 18 (the Droop quota; votes/seats+1). Parties that did not have this many votes were excluded from the count from this point on. This aspect of the law was controversial. Thresholds are fairly common under party-list systems, but at that point had only been used in South Australia under the aforementioned list system. 

At the second stage, the preferences from the parties that had failed to meet the quota were distributed. So, if you had voted 1 Shooters 2 Liberal, and the Shooters had failed to meet the quota, your vote would now go to the Liberal Party. At this point, party and candidate votes were not distinguished between. Votes with no preferences outside a party (i.e 1 Shooters, 2 Robert Jones, who is a Shooters candidate) could be transferred according to the party voting ticket, which was a list of all the parties in ranked order. If there was preferences outside a party, but none of them were for a party that had met the quota, the vote was exhausted and set aside: it will not play any further role in the count.

At the third stage, the D'Hondt system was used to distribute seats to parties in the normal way, using vote totals determined through the preferences. These were not formal allocations, though. Under the electoral law, these were considered only 'provisional', for reasons to be explained later.

At the fourth stage, seats were provisionally allocated to candidates within parties, based on the number of seats the parties had been provisionally allocated. This was done using the single transferable vote to count the rankings voters made when they voted for parties. A vote above the line for a party counted as a vote down that party's ticket. An incomplete vote within a ticket would have its preferences counted as far as they had been expressed. Further preferences in that vote would be considered ticket votes. For this reason, few candidates were elected outside their party's order.

At the fifth stage, candidates who had not been provisionally elected, but who were part of parties who had won a quota, had their preferences distributed to the next candidate still in the count. Candidates were not 'excluded' per se; they could still have votes distributed back to them.

The sixth stage was effectively a repetition of the third. The D'Hondt system was used to distribute seats amongst the parties using the new, adjusted vote totals. It would be possible that the seat distribution would change at this stage. As could be expected, the seventh stage was a repetition of the fourth. The single transferable vote was used to distribute seats within parties, using the new votes. These seats were final.

Election results

The results below are votes for individual candidates, organised into parties. Please note that first preference votes cast for more than one candidate within a party have been counted as party votes. An asterisk (*) denotes elected candidates.
Votes %
Labor 24587 17.33%
Rosemary Follett* 6654 4.69%
Paul Whalan* 321 0.23%
Wayne Berry* 90 0.06%
Ellnor Grassby* 90 0.08%
Bill Wood* 159 0.11%
Di Ford 33 0.02%
Kevin Gill 96 0.07%
Anna Robieson 40 0.03%
Martin Atteridge 40 0.03%
Peta Beelen 22 0.02%
Barry Reid 260 0.18%
Total Labor 32410 22.85%
Liberal 15526 10.94%
Gary Humphries* 3446 2.43%
Trevor Kaine* 1203 0.85%
Robyn Nolan* 70 0.05%
Bill Stefinak* 234 0.16%
Greg Cornwell 171 0.12%
Lyle Dunne 49 0.03%
Peter Kobold 90 0.06%
Judith Dowson 67 0.05%
Peter Jansen 86 0.06%
Bob Winnel 137 0.10%
Total Liberal 21079 14.86%
No Self Government Party 14125 14.86%
Craig Duby* 1657 1.17%
Carmel Maher* 55 0.04%
David Prowse* 54 0.04%
David Prowse* 54 0.04%
John Taylor 55 0.04%
Norman Henry 23 0.02%
Peter Alabaster 55 0.04%
John Cunningham 42 0.03%
Chris Elworthy 18 0.01%
Elma Lindh 14 0.01%
Nev Aurousseau 14 0.01%
John Cantlon 14 0.01%
Ken Durie 10 0.01%
Bob Smythe 31 0.02%
Lindsay Sales 11 0.01%
Phillipa Meredith 22 0.02%
Jack Wight 22 0.02%
Yvonne Hammond 44 0.03%
Total No Self Government Party 16274 11.47%
Residents Rally 8765 6.18%
Bernard Collaery* 1855 1.31%
Norm Jensen* 129 0.09%
Michael Moore* 301 0.21%
Hector Kinloch* 1696 1.20%
Joan Kellett 191 0.13%
Chris Donohue 142 0.10%
Marion Le 385 0.27%
Kevin Giles 77 0.05%
Catherine Rossiter 106 0.07%
Total Residents Rally 13647 9.62%
Abolish Self Government Coalition 9165 6.46%
Dennis Stevenson* 1327 0.94%
Flo Grant 36 0.03%
Gladys Dickson 15 0.01%
Chris Tazreiter 33 0.02%
Nerolie Bush 17 0.01%
Geoff Dopel 29 0.02%
Trish Orton 10 0.01%
Gail Aiken 20 0.01%
Mike Trevethan 35 0.02%
Reg Hayward 6 0.00%
Colin Beaton 15 0.01%
John Hesketh 23 0.02%
Total Abolish Self Government Coalition 10721 7.56%
Abolish Self Government Coalition 9165 6.46%
Dennis Stevenson* 1327 0.94%
Flo Grant 36 0.03%
Gladys Dickson 15 0.01%
Chris Tazreiter 33 0.02%
Nerolie Bush 17 0.01%
Geoff Dopel 29 0.02%
Trish Orton 10 0.01%
Gail Aiken 20 0.01%
Mike Trevethan 35 0.02%
Reg Hayward 6 0.00%
Colin Beaton 15 0.01%
John Hesketh 23 0.02%
Total Abolish Self Government Coalition 10721 7.56%
Fair Elections Coalition 1397 0.98%
Tony Fleming 5269 3.71%
Alan Runciman 494 0.35%
Sara Kirchbaum 94 0.07%
Gordon McAllister 19 0.01%
Gus Petersilka 345 0.24%
Julie McCarron-Benson 147 0.10%
Total Fair Elections Coalition 7765 5.47%
Fair Elections Coalition 1397 0.98%
Tony Fleming 5269 3.71%
Alan Runciman 494 0.35%
Sara Kirchbaum 94 0.07%
Gordon McAllister 19 0.01%
Gus Petersilka 345 0.24%
Julie McCarron-Benson 147 0.10%
Total Fair Elections Coalition 7765 5.47%
Independent Haslem 4253 3.00%
John Haslem 2548 1.80%
Caryl Haslem 66 0.05%
Total Independent Haslem 6867 4.84%
ACT Community Party 1645 1.16%
Ken Fry 3977 2.80%
Dominic Mico 142 0.10%
Lorne Doyle 13 0.01%
Total ACT Community Party 5777 4.07%
Canberra First Party 3774 2.66%
Allan Nelson 904 0.64%
Beryl Byrnes 29 0.02%
John McMahon 17 0.01%
Jeff Brown 74 0.05%
Michael Apps 18 0.01%
Barry Brogan 21 0.01%
Jennie Booth 8 0.01%
Arthur Hetherington 5 0.00%
Elizabeth Apps 16 0.01%
Mike McColl 31 0.02%
Matt Campbell 9 0.01%
Garry Behan 12 0.01%
Total Canberra First 3885 2.74%
Family Team 2929 2.06%
Bev Cains 686 0.48%
Ron Gane 26 0.02%
Bill Fearon 22 0.02%
Dennis Meagher 34 0.02%
Drewe Just 12 0.01%
Total Family Team 3885 2.74%
Australian Democrats 1720 1.21%
Arminel Ryan 515 0.36%
Bill Mason 47 0.03%
Heather Jeffcoat 68 0.05%
Total Australian Democrats 2350 1.66%
National Party 1477 1.04%
David Adams 380 0.27%
Michael Mullins 58 0.04%
Bruce MacKinnon 32 0.02%
Total National Party 1947 1.37%
Sun Ripened Warm Tomato Party 1165 0.82%
Emile Brunoro 453 0.32%
Rick Kenny 48 0.03%
Total Sun Ripened Warm Tomato 1666 1.17%
Party!Party!Party! 733 0.52%
Amanda Call 200 0.14%
Shane McMillan 46 0.03%
Total Party!Party!Party 979 0.69%
Christian Alternative Party 580 0.41%
Nathan Stirling 222 0.16%
Bernadette Ibell 44 0.03%
Total Christian Alternative Party 846 0.60%
Socialist Workers Party 483 0.34%
Kristian Whittaker 230 0.16%
Total Socialist Workers Party 713 0.50%
Sleepers Wake 120 0.08%
John Bellamy 53 0.04%
Total Sleepers Wake 173 0.12%
Surprise Party 124 0.09%
C.J.Burns 42 0.03%
Total Surprise Party 166 0.12%
Disabled and Redeployed Workers Party 106 0.07%
Peter Burrows 50 0.04%
Derek Robinson 7 0.00%
Total Disabled and Redeployed Workers Party 140 0.10%
Tony Spagnolo Independent for Canberra 75 0.05%
Tony Spagnolo 65 0.00%
Total Tony Spagnolo Independent for Canberra 140 0.10%
A Better Idea 64 0.05%
Michael Scurfield 16 0.01%
Total A Better Idea 80 0.06%
Home Rule OK 41 0.03%
Tony Boye 21 0.01%
Total Home Rule OK 62 0.04%
Independent candidates
Bill Mackey 5686 4.01%
Harold Hird 1872 1.32%
Lyall Gillespie 522 0.37%
Frank Crnkovic 445 0.31%
Bill Pye 414 0.31%
John Rocke 149 0.11%
Bob Reid 121 0.09%
Gary Pead 75 0.05%
Tony Boye 60 0.04%

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Canada 2015-What does it mean for political reform?

At this point, it should now be clear that the Liberal Party of Canada has won the 2015 Canadian election, with 184 seats to 99 for the Conservative Party, 44 for the New Democrats, 10 for the Bloc Quebecois, and a single seat for the Green Party. The Liberals will have a majority of 14 in the new parliament.

This is a fairly unexpected result. The campaign period saw the Liberals pull out a narrow lead over the Conservatives, with the NDP relegated to third place. However, in the end, it appears pollsters overstated the NDP vote at the expense of the Liberals. This may have been because NDP voters tactically switched to the Liberals to prevent a Conservative government. At this point, it's a bit unclear. Canada's polling industry has had some significant errors recently; for example, all polls for the 2013 British Columbian election had the NDP in the lead, but the Liberals actually won. This is a less egregious error, and it has to be seen in the context of a long and complicated election campaign.

Despite Trudeau's small majority, it's certain that he will be able to pass his agenda through the House of Commons. Canada has strongly disciplined parties, and in the last parliament, even the most rebellious of MPs voted with their parties more than 95% of the time. The NDP will also offer support on some issues.

One interesting thing about this election is its similarity to the last one. The below image shows the results of both elections, side by side.
Click on the image for a larger size
While the colours change, the ratio is the same. There is a government party, with a small majority. The opposition has about 30% of the seats, and the third party has 10-12%. The fourth party is very minor, although the identity of this one has not changed. 

The above chart shows that the 2015 and 2011 results are perhaps a return to pre-1993, when Canada had a complete three-party system. The emergence of the Bloc and the splitting of the right between the Progressive Conservatives and Reform Party changed this, but both of these trends have now seemingly reversed.

Whether this will last is, again, unclear. However, I think it is very likely that the current state of affairs will persist. The Bloc polled badly despite Giles Duceppe's return as leader, and the Greens are shrinking. Of course, freak events like the NDP surge in 2011 might happen, and no one can really tell what the future holds. Trudeau may perform badly, and disappoint NDP or Conservative switchers. Or the Conservatives might split, or the Bloc might make a comeback. Who knows?

The election and political reform

Trudeau faces one issue when he gets into office. The Senate of Canada, a wholly appointed body, currently has a Conservative majority. There are 47 Conservative Senators, to 29 Liberal (affilated) Senators and seven independents. Now, this looks bad, but it is important to note that this is not the entire Senate. There are 22 seats that have fallen vacant, but have not had appointed members. Former Prime Minister Harper did not appoint people to these seats, as part of his sporadic enthusiasm for Senate reform.

Normally, Trudeau would appoint Liberals to all 22 seats, and that would be that. However, there are two factors in play here that will make this harder. First of all, the Liberals do not actually have a Senate caucus. Trudeau expelled all Liberal Senators from the party caucus in 2014, although the Senators quickly decided to call themselves Independent Liberals (a genius plan! How could Trudeau have seen it coming?).

Of course, this is fine for the current Senators. But Trudeau now has to make appointments. He is faced with the dilemma of having made promises not to appoint any Liberals, and having to appoint enough Senators who will toe the Liberal line in order to pass his agenda. One of those things may have to go, and I am willing to reckon it will be not appointing Liberals.

The other issue is that Trudeau will apparently not be in control of Senate appointments. The Liberal platform calls for the creation of a "new, non-partisan, merit-based process to advise the Prime Minister on Senate appointments". What this will exactly look like is really, really unclear. However, such a vague commitment gives the Liberals no shortage of room to wriggle out of this commitment. While this may seem cynical, I think that the 22 new Senators will most likely be fairly supportive of the Liberal Party.

Electoral reform is another matter. The Liberals made a more specific promise in this area, saying that they are "committed to ensuring that 2015 will be the last federal election conducted under the first-past-the post voting system". They say that they will convene a committee to discuss ideas, and then within 18 months they will pass legislation to introduce a new electoral system.

Of course, it's kind of hard to tell what system the Liberals will introduce. However, one can guess that they might go with some form of preferential voting, most likely single-transferable vote in single member districts/preferential voting/alternative vote. As the centrist party, they will receive preferences from the Conservatives against the New Democrats (although, if it is optional preferential, this flow will be fairly weak) and New Democrat and Green preferences against the Conservatives. It may be a way to solve the vote-splitting issue on the Canadian left without a merger of the two major parties, which would be acrimonious. Single-member districts will likely be maintained; only the much reduced NDP and the unimportant Greens have consistently been in favour of proportional representation with multi-member districts.

I would expect such a change to be heavily resisted by the Conservatives, who will try to block it in the Senate. They will argue that the proposal will not have democratic legitimacy, as it has not been presented to voters. If the Liberals have trouble passing it through the Senate (not likely), they might resort to a referendum on the issue.

The Canadian Senate has seemingly survived this election, although some more scandals may put Trudeau under pressure to make more changes. However, from a tactical perspective, electoral reform would be one Liberal promise worth keeping.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

European Radicals-Ireland

The Global Financial Crisis of 2007, and its impact on debt in European countries, has had a far-reaching impact on politics in Europe, especially in the nations hit by debt. Countries such as Italy, Spain, Greece and Ireland have gone through dramatic political change as a result of the crisis and the response of governments.

But have these changes lasted? As the worst of the crisis passes, have the new parties that popped up hung around, or have they collapsed? The fact is that there are examples that go both ways. Some of the parties have succeeded, and others have failed; this depends on the issues the parties are feeding off, the issues that are salient in the country, and the performance of the parties in the government (if they have been given any power).


Ireland was one of the hardest hit nations by the global financial crisis. Traditionally, it has been governed by the Fianna Fail party, which was formed in 1926. Describing Fianna Fail's position on the issues is not easy; they have been described as 'populist' and 'catch-all'. The traditional Irish opposition is Fine Gael, a party that is similar to Fianna Fail (although their main bit of ideology is 'not Fianna Fail'). Ireland's other significant party up to this point was the Labour Party, which is a traditional European social democratic party, but much electorally weaker than most European social democratic parties (its strongest electoral performance was 20% in 1992).

Fianna Fail governed Ireland almost consistently from 1932 to 1973, with only two breaks of short Fine Gael government when all members of the opposition teamed up. Ireland uses the single transferable vote, but with low district magnitude (between 3-5 members per district; 3.8 on average), this is not especially proportional. This meant that under this period, Fianna Fail either had a small majority of seats or a narrow minority, off 42-50% of the vote.

A more competitive political period began in 1973. At this election, Fianna Fail was defeated, and was replaced by a coalition government of Fine Gael and Labour. This government lasted its full term, before Fianna Fail returned to office in 1977 with a comfortable majority. This government lasted for only a short time; Irish governments at this point were under much pressure, due to the fighting in the North. The candidacy of strong supporters of Northern Ireland's reunification with Ireland attracted some sympathy, which put further pressure on governments, because in tight parliaments governments might need their support.

During the 1980s, five elections took place. All but one resulted in a change of government (from Fianna Fail to Fine Gael-Labour or Fine Gael minority or vice versa). This period ended with the election of a Fianna Fail government in 1987, which served in minority for two years before being re-elected in 1989, this time in coalition with the liberal Progressive Democrats.

In 1992, another election took place. This saw a dramatic increase in seats for the Labour Party, which won 33 seats and 19% of the vote. Fianna Fail was significantly short of a majority, but was nonetheless the largest party by a long way. After a long process, they decided to form a coalition with the Labour Party, which was rather unusual; Labour were traditionally allied with Fianna Fail. This coalition did not last very long, and in 1994 Labour formed a coalition with Fine Gael and the socialist Democratic Left party.

Labour were punished at the 1997 election for their decision to go into government with Fianna Fail. They lost half of their seats. This meant that the incumbent Fine Gael-Labour government would not be able to continue in office, despite gains made by Fine Gael. Fianna Fail teamed up with the Progressive Democrats and a few independents, and Fianna Fail leader Bertie Ahern was elected Prime Minister.

This coalition was continued after the 2002 election, despite dramatic losses for Fine Gael changing the balance of power somewhat. However, the Progressive Democrats were wiped out in 2007, so Fianna Fail had to deal with the Green Party, which had won a record 6 seats, as well as independents. Shortly after this election, Bertie Ahern was resigned and was replaced by Brian Cowen, the Minister of Finance and Deputy Prime Minister.

Over the next few years, Ireland's economy was placed under serious stress. Irish banks were unstable, and the government passed legislation bailing them out. This, of course, was not cheap, and in order to pay for it the government needed to make cuts to other services. Generous spending promises made in previous years had to be rescinded, and this caused many political headaches for the government, which fell to second place in local and European elections in 2009. The Green Party were wiped out entirely. Ahern was forced to ask for a bailout from the European Union in 2010, further eroding support for the government.

Independents that had backed the government were quickly withdrawing their support, and the Green Party was getting restless. In January 2011, the Green Party formally resigned from the government, and Ahern called an election for 25 February, before resigning as Fianna Fail leader (but not as PM): he was replaced in that capacity by Foreign Minister Micheal Martin.

Martin was placed in a virtually impossible position. Fianna Fail, the party which had finished first in almost every Irish election under the Republic, had a one in front of their vote. They were in third place, behind Fine Gael and Labour. Fine Gael had consistently been in first place since the beginning of the crisis, for the first time in their history. Labour, too, had massively benefited. Strong polling results, including some showing Labour in first place, led the party to start the campaign with hopes of something other than the junior partner in a coalition.

As the campaign begun, though, it became abundantly clear that Fine Gael, under the leadership of Enda Kenny, would win first place by a wide margin; indeed, at some points it looked like Fine Gael would win a majority. A large number of new independents with vague promises of 'new politics', as well as a number of new far-left parties and Sinn Fein.

Sinn Fein, as some of you will know, is a party strongly in favour of merging Northern Ireland with the Republic. It has been considered by many to have been the political arm of the Irish Liberation Army, the terrorist group responsible for many bombings and killings in the United Kingdom during the 1970s and 80s. They normally only contested elections for the UK and devolved parliaments in the North, but they started contesting elections in the Republic in 1982. They did not win seats for quite a while, and remained fairly minor up until the economic crisis, at which point their economically leftist views gained traction.

The results of the election saw Fianna Fail poll disastrously. They fell from 41.6% of the vote and 77 seats in 2007 to just 17.5% of the vote and 20 seats, and they went from having at least one member in each constituency to having seats in only 18 of 43 of the constituencies. Fine Gael gained significant number of seats, going from 27.3% and 51 seats to 36% and 76 seats, while Labour made substantial gains, going from 10% and 20 seats to 19.5% and 37 seats; while they made gains, they were well short of Fine Gael. Sinn Fein won 14 seats, a gain of ten, and the new socialist parties and independents won 2.7% and 5 seats.

Independents overall made significant gains from the election. While Fianna Fail had mostly taken the political blame for the crisis, the whole political system was tainted by the crisis. Independents were viewed as anti-politics as usual, and as a result people were motivated to vote for them to protest. In total, 12% of votes were cast for independent candidates. Of course, independent candidates are not a monolith, and the candidates elected were of vaguely different affiliations. Two independents were considered right-wing, five left-wing, five elected on local issues, and two did not fit into any of these categories. A diverse bunch, certainly.

While certain other options were considered, including a Fine Gael-Fianna Fail coalition, it was eventually decided that a Fine Gael-Labour coalition would be best. Opposition to this deal came mostly from within Labour; some members felt that it would be best for Fine Gael to take the fall for implementing harsh economic measures, leaving Labour with a strong run at the next election. Nonetheless, it was decided that Labour would enter government by the party conference.

Labour voters, of course, were not happy with the policy decisions made by the coalition. Neither, it turned out, were Fine Gael voters. While the coalition polled 55.5% at the election, one year later it was closer to 44-46%, and in another year it had sunk to 40%.

The major beneficiaries of this fall were Sinn Fein, who went from 10% to the high teens and low twenties by 2013. With Labour in government with Fine Gael, and therefore unable to convincingly express anti-austerity views, Sinn Fein were placed in the position of anti-austerity party. This was certainly an electorally advantageous one.

Independents also made dramatic gains, both outside the Dail (parliament) and inside it. By 2013, the total number of people who intended to vote 'other' had reached 18-20%. This included the far-left groups, but they were usually very minor. Independents also made gains from the other parties in the Dail. Sixteen members of parties left them to become independent, although some rejoined their old parties or joined new parties later on. Fianna Fail did not gain much, although they returned to the lead for a short period at the start of 2013, which was more due to the drop in Fine Gael's vote than any surge for Fianna Fail.

In 2014, the first national elections took place since 2011. These were for the European Parliament and local councils. These elections would have no actual impact on the government, but they would be a test of whether the dismal poll numbers for Labour and Fine Gael were real. It turned out that they were.

In terms of vote, Fianna Fail came first narrowly, with 22.3%. However, poor preferences from the other parties in Dublin (where their candidate won 12.6% compared to 10.2% for independent Nessa Childers, who received a stronger preference flow from other parties and was elected) and a close call in Midlands-North West (where their candidate was defeated for the last seat by 275 votes, or 0.04%) meant that they only ended up with one seat out of 11, losing two from their already poor result (24.1% of the vote) in 2009.

This is what is meant when certain people characterise STV as only semi-proportional; low district magnitude (on average, 3.7 members per constituency for the European elections) and the impact of transfers can mean that seat results do not necessarily closely match vote results. While this is not especially obvious in large elections, like for the Dail, it is a bit clearer in low-magnitude European elections.

Fianna Fail also ran too many candidates. Their running of two candidates in Midlands-North West was also blamed for the poor result, as only about 61% of the vote from second candidate Thomas Byrne went to number one candidate Pat Gallagher. Had there been only one candidate, it would have been likely that some of Byrne's votes that exhausted would go to Gallagher. Clearly, Fianna Fail still has delusions of its pre-2009 days.

Fine Gael won slightly fewer (425 votes, or 0.02%) votes than Fianna Fail, but nonetheless ended up with four seats. This was mostly due to the result in the South, where Fianna Fail's leading candidate Brian Crowley won 27%. This meant that that too many Fianna Fail votes were tied up with him, and so second Fianna Fail candidate Kieran Hartley was excluded too early. As a result, Fianna Fail's 32% was rewarded with one seat, while Fine Gael's better divided 28% won two seats.

While in terms of parties Sinn Fein finished third, in total independent candidates did better. In total, independents won 19.8% and three seats: one in Dublin and one in Midlands-North West. Independent candidates were good at picking up preferences from other candidates, which gave them an advantage. The average Independent candidate was elected with 13.37% of the vote, compared to 17.18% for the average elected party candidate and an average quota of 21.7%. Clearly, independents had some support in Ireland. This is odd for European elections. Only two other independents were elected in the rest of Europe.

Sinn Fein polled strongly. They won 19.5% (not far off their performance in the North) and three seats. They won one seat in each district, partially thanks to their strategy of running a single candidate which represented a better self-assessment of their support then Fianna Fail's.The three seats allowed Ireland to be one of two nations (the other being Greece) where the far-left group won (equal) first place. This is very strong, considering Ireland has traditionally been a very weak nation for the left.

Labour polled dismally, winning only 5.3% of the vote and no seats, a loss of three. Their vote plummeted by nearly 9%, and none of their candidates even came close to winning a seat. Indeed, they ended up only slightly ahead of the Green Party, which won 4.9% and no seats.

Local elections were similar in terms of vote, although the larger number of seats and the larger magnitude meant that Fianna Fail's first place win was recognised in terms of council seats. As is not unusual in local council elections in many countries, Independents polled strongly. Labour lost Dublin council, and Sinn Fein won the most seats there. A by-election in Dublin South-West saw the far-left Anti-Austerity Alliance win the seat, despite Sinn Fein polling in first place.

The disastrous election results for Labour meant that leader Eamon Gilmore's time was up. He resigned in July 2014, and was replaced by senior minister and long-time Labour Dail member Joan Burton. Burton has so far failed to improve the party's dismal polling, however.

So, about four and a half years after the most dramatic election in Ireland's political history, what has changed? Well, quite a bit. Fine Gael is battered and bruised after a term in government in which they have had to make unpopular decisions, and they will certainly have fewer seats after the next election; the same anti-incumbent tendency that destroyed Fianna Fail in 2011 will have a dramatic impact on Fine Gael. However, as a right-wing party, more of their voters will approve of cuts to public spending.

Labour does not have this lenience from their base. Their junior position in the coalition meant that they were taken along on cuts to public spending disliked by their voters, which has had a dramatic effect on their vote. They are polling in the single digits, and it is probable that they will lose many seats indeed.

Their status as the leading left-wing party will likely be taken by Sinn Fein. As Sinn Fein has no record in government, they will be able to run with a clean record, like SYRIZA in Greece. Their polling has been in the low twenties and high teens, though, and their lack of experience may mean that they run too many or too few candidates to take advantage of their surge in support.

Of course, the Independents will also be an important presence in the new parliament. Polling on independents has been fairly inconsistent, perhaps due to the inclusion of small parties in the question. However, the European and local results suggest that the vast majority of the other vote is for independents. A parliament with significant numbers of independents will present challenges to the government, especially if it does not have a majority. Parties, which usually vote coherently, are easier to manage than large numbers of independents. One way of dealing with them might be pork-barrelling in their districts; this happened in the past when governments depended on independents.

It seems implausible that any single party will come close to a majority, and it certainly seems unlikely that the government will come close to a majority. Fine Gael will likely be the largest party, too, with 25-30%. I see it as likely that there are two options for government; a Fine Gael-Fianna Fail alliance or a Fine Gael-Sinn Fein alliance. Either could include Labour's few members.

Both of these options are very unusual. Fine Gael and Fianna Fail are ideologically similar, but have never formed government due to long-held antipathy after the Irish Civil War. A Fine Gael-Sinn Fein deal would be even more controversial, however. The issue would be with Northern Ireland. Sinn Fein are strongly in favour of Northern Ireland becoming a part of the Republic; indeed, Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams has long been accused of being a member of the Irish Republican Army, a terrorist group. A government in the Republic with a strong position on this issue could endanger the fragile peace (which has become even more fragile in recent months) and thus a Fine Gael-Fianna Fail deal, maybe with Labour, would be the most likely outcome.

In any case, the Irish election demonstrates a case where dramatic political change has been more long-lasting. Fianna Fail are no longer the dominant party they once were. Perhaps this will change, perhaps not; the impact of a likely stint in government as the junior coalition partner is unlikely to help much. The unique part in Ireland is the gain for Independents; perhaps this is the Irish version of the fragmentation that other countries have seen in recent years. Sinn Fein are the version of the new political movement, replacing Labour. They are similar to new movements in Spain and Greece, although the nationalist dimension adds something new to the equation. Ireland is an unusual case of political change, but certainly a dramatic one.