Greens as Abbot-proofing the Senate

In the launch of the Australian Greens’ campaign, leader Christine Milne acknowledged that polls showed that the opposition Coalition, led by Tony Abbot, was likely to defeat Labor and PM Kevin Rudd. Milne called a vote for the Greens one of “Abbot-proofing the Senate” and further elaborated:

‘Voting Greens is double value voting.

‘Not only does it return the Greens but it stops Tony Abbott getting absolute power in the federal parliament.’

It is an interesting case of a smaller party using the possibility of its holding the balance of power to its advantage. The Senate, unlike the House, is elected by a proportional system.

The Greens also have signaled a willingness to work to “improve” Coalition policies, specifically its parental leave program. ‘We have explained how much our paid parental leave policy will cost and how we would pay for it. It’s time for Tony Abbott to do the same’, said Green Senator Sarah Hanson-Young.

Party identity in coalition

An Australian Green senator, Richard Di Natale (Victoria) has spoken of the importance of the smaller party maintaining its identity if it enters coalition. The remarks were made at the New Zealand Greens’ conference in Christchurch (NZ Herald).

Sen. Di Natale spoke of changes to the current Labor Party minority cabinet’s program that his party could claim credit for–putting a price on pollution, a new $10 billion investment in renewable energy, and free dental care for children–but also of the fear of the credit not being noted. “The key issue is knowing when not to compromise,” Dr Di Natale said. Moreover,

Maintaining your identity when there is a perception that you are part of the government is a huge challenge.

Such are the perils for small parties. However, based on polling in the run-up to this year’s Australian election, claiming credit for policy seems like the least of the Greens’ current concerns. Rather, they need to be more worried about keeping enough senators after the coming debacle for Labor to protect the few policy gains they’ve managed since 2010.

Labour+Greens or +NZF?

There is an interesting item about a recent poll in the New Zealand Herald. The upshot of it, as I read it, is that the New Zealand Labour party may be so concerned about being tied too closely to the Greens that they’d at least like to signal a preference for forming a coalition with Winston Peters and his New Zealand First Party. Now that’s desperate!

The story notes that Labour+NZF would be unlikely to be a majority, but they may hope they can just say to the Greens that they can either agree at least to abstain and allow a minority government to function, or be blamed for a fresh election.

Then again, maybe Labour and Greens will yet end up forging a joint program before the election, and this is all posturing. As also noted in the news item, the Greens have made no secret of wanting the Finance ministry, and Labour certainly has an interest in signaling that this would be non-negotiable.

Green in runoff for Finnish presidency

In Finland’s presidential election this past weekend, the two leading candidates were Sauli Niinistö of the National Coalition Party and Pekka Haavisto of the Green League.

Niinistö won 37.0%, Haavisto 18.8%. The third-place candidate was Paavo Väyrynen of the Centre Party (KESK), with 17.5%. The Social Democratic Party had an embarrassing result, with its candidate getting only 6.7%, behind the candidate of the True Finns (9.4%). See Robert Elgie’s blog for more.

The Social Democrats currently hold the presidency, having won 46.3% in the first round in the 2006 presidential election, and then 19.1% in the 2011 parliamentary election, so this year’s result is a spectacular fall for the party.

Both runoff candidates’ parties are in the current governing coalition, as are the Social Democrats.

Robert asks the same question I was wondering when I heard of the Finnish result on the news: Is this the first time a Green has qualified for a presidential runoff anywhere? At first I thought so, but then I remembered Colombia’s precedent.

In the run-up to the 2010 Colombian presidential election, polling suggested Antanas Mockus, the Green candidate would not only make the runoff, but might win it. Mockus did indeed finish second in the first round, with a higher percentage (21.5%) than Haavisto just won, but Juan Manuel Santos (46.6%) went on to win the runoff easily.

As Helsingin Sanomat notes, Haavisto would need the support of 71% of the 45% of voters who voted for a now-eliminated candidate in order to win. Despite some labor-union endorsements, that seems like a tall order.

Finland’s constitutional structure is permier-presidential, meaning that the cabinet depends on the exclusive confidence of the parliamentary majority. The presidency was reduced in power by a constitutional reform in 2000.

Australia’s carbon bill passes House

The Australian House of Representatives has passed the government’s carbon tax bill by a vote of 74-72. To paraphrase Joe Biden, this is a B.F.D.

The measure still must pass the Senate, but there the Labor government and Greens combine for a large majority, so it is not in doubt. The House, where Labor has a minority and there is only one Green MP, was where the result was uncertain.

The Green leader, Bob Brown, has claimed that his party was right to block the previous Labor PM Kevin Rudd’s emissions trading scheme, because the now-passed measures offer “so much more” than the previous proposal.

On the other side, opposition leader Tony Abbot has made a “pledge in blood” to repeal it if his Coalition wins the next election. Brown, the Green, does not think the threat is credible. “We’ll be winning more lower house seats, and we’ll be winning a stronger hold in the Senate,” he predicted.

Ontario Greens

Two questions on the Ontario Green Party that I hope someone can answer.

1. What happened to their campaign this time? In 2007, they came pretty close to winning one riding (district). ((I can’t recall which one. So I guess that’s yet another question that I hope someone can answer!)) Apparently they have almost no chance this time, despite this being the year when the national Green Party got its first seat (in British Columbia).

2. Is the Green Party of Ontario really to the right of the Liberal Party (on the socio-economic dimension), as well as more socially conservative? That is what the CBC’s Ontario Votes-Vote Compass says.