Political party controllers: The case of Likud

How many political parties are organized to have an internal controller with authority to sanction the party leader? I do not think I have heard of such a case before. The controller* for the Likud Party has disqualified incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from the party’s leadership primary in advance of the snap election (set for March, 2015). The disqualification is due to allegations of misuse of party funds and other resources.

There is dispute about whether, in fact, the Likud controller can do this. The case itself is interesting, and could even add to the woes that suggest that Netanyahu could be “finished“. But the general question is of even more interest: do other parties have such powerful internal checks? (Powerful, that is, if this disqualification is not overturned on procedural grounds.)


* Yes, the article refers to the “comptroller”, but as far as I know the correct pronunciation is always “controller” and so it should be spelled.

Small party electoral strategy

The strategy of parties, especially smaller ones, in multiparty systems is a particular interest of mine (a statement that will surprise no one). Here are a few interesting examples from the current New Zealand campaign.

One area of interest is about… interests. What interest groups do small parties cultivate for support?

Greens want to spend millions backing NZ game developers” was a headline on TV NZ on 12 September. Green Party Co-leader Dr Russel Norman says, “Game developers are currently locked out of the government support and grants that other creatives receive. Our plan remedies this anomaly”. Computer game developers are not an interest group I normally think about, but the Green Party has acknowledged them.

Photo credit: Errol Cavit, in Maungakiekie electorate. Used by permission. I am not there this year, so I rely on Errol for my election-sign photos. But you can still see my collection from 2011!

OK, so what about the racehorse industry? Check. Winston Peters recently reminded voters of “a 10-point plan from New Zealand First to save the racing industry”. In fact, earlier in the campaign, he gave a speech to the New Zealand Trainers’ Association. In the speech he claimed credit for past good deeds when he was Racing Minister in a Labour-led government:

In 2006, New Zealand First recognised the export potential of the New Zealand breeding industry and the need for improved international marketing, and achieved a much improved taxation regime through a reduction in totalisator duty and an accelerated write-down regime for bloodstock.

Peters added an allegation that “Over the past six years National has done nothing for the racing industry.”

Returning to the Greens, of course, the party is mostly an urban-based party. However, one of the characteristics of nationwide proportional representation is that votes anywhere help increase your aggregate seat total. And so the Greens’ co-leader Norman and their transport spokesperson, Julie Anne Genter, campaigned in the rural far north on their plans to make rebuilding storm-battered roads a priority. “Ms Genter said central government’s roading priorities meant there was not enough investment outside big cities.”

Additionally, Greens did a photo-op* at a dairy farm to announce their “Smart farming for clean rivers’ policy”. I suspect that one, unlike the one regarding roads in Northland, was mainly aimed at urban consumers. But the party does seek (and, apparently, receive) votes from the small-farm sector, especially organic and “sustainable” farms. Not to be outdone in this policy niche, a big party, National, has emphasized that its primary industries policy takes into account that:

Environmental sustainability is increasingly important to consumers around the world and this is a priority for National. We are cleaning up waterways and carefully manage fishing stocks, including the creation of two recreational fishing parks in the Hauraki Gulf and Marlborough Sounds.

National’s primary industries spokesman Nathan Guy also noted that “We will continue to support carefully-targeted irrigation projects that will deliver economic and environmental benefits for New Zealand.”

I must admit that I am happy New Zealand’s legislative term is just three years, and that it has a thriving multiparty system. These characteristics of NZ politics keep things interesting!

* The linked item has the photo and caption, but the story is about “Greens need to compromise to get ahead”. This is something that some of their subsequent statements indicate they are well aware of.

Slovenia election and the power of a “weak” president

The blog, Presidential Power, has a good discussion of the recent parliamentary election in Slovenia, and how the formally quite “weak” president played a role in the timing of the election.

Some background on the Slovenian ruling party’s internal splits, which triggered the whole chain of events, can be found in an earlier F&V post authored by JD.

Pakistani parties

Pakistan perhaps could use a modification of its laws on political parties.

A few observations drawn from an Express Tribune item on the “mushroom growth” in the number of parties:

The number of approved political parties has grown from 147 to 281 in the last five years. Partly this is because “there are dozens of parties registered with the same prefix or suffix – the Pakistan Muslim League, for instance.”

Fully 90% of the registered parties are a “one man show”!

There is no law to deregister a party.

It gets worse:

Some argue that it is easier to register a political party in Pakistan than to register your child in school.

There are no registration fees and all you need is an application, a copy of the party’s manifesto and constitution along with a list of office-bearers. An applicant can also give an undertaking that intra-party elections will be held soon.

The ECP doesn’t have a mechanism to verify documents submitted and nor does it pursue the verification process. As a result, many party manifestos or constitutions are reworded versions of another party’s. The list of office-bearers is only checked for names that another party’s lists may include.

This process is not exactly helpful to developing a party system that would actually aid voter representation. And, no, this is not the worst of problems facing Pakistani democracy, or Pakistan more broadly.

Slovenia PM loses party leadership challenge; new election imminent

By JD Mussel

Slovenian Prime Minister Alenka Bratusek was defeated as party leader in a vote a week ago at a party conference of Positive Slovenia (PS).

The ballot was won by the party’s founder, Ljubljana mayor Zoran Jankovic by 338 votes to 422 (which raises the question, who could vote?). Jankovic formed the party in the lead-up to the last election in 2011, winning a plurality with 28 seats out of 90 in the National Assembly, but was thereafter unsuccessful in forming a government. Instead, a government was formed by Slovenian Democratic Party’s Janez Janša.

Janša’s government collapsed in early 2013 as a result of a corruption scandal (which ultimately resulted in Janša himself being sentenced to two years in prison). At that point, Jankovic stepped down from the party leadership to allow his successor Bratusek to form the new government.

Before the convention’s vote, Bratusek told the party she would resign if she was not re-elected. Jankovic said he said he hoped she would stay as PM nonetheless, but PS’s coalition partners have made it clear they would not govern together with the party if it is led by Jankovic, and would prefer holding new elections.

Bratusek will present her resignation to President Pahor on Monday. “The outgoing prime minister said on Saturday that snap elections could be held as soon as June 22, provided that none of the major parties presented a different prime ministerial candidate,” Deutsche Welle reported on 3 May.

Slovenia has a premier-presidential system, but one with quite weak presidential powers over either government-formation or assembly dissolution. When the premier resigns, the National Assembly has 30 days to elect a new PM. If the attempt is unsuccessful, the assembly is dissolved.

[Note: while the post was drafted by JD, MSS wrote the last two paragraphs after letting the post sit for a week as a draft. Apologies to JD for that; but at least it is up to date now!]

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.

APSA Task Force on Electoral Rules and Democratic Governance

The report of the Task Force on Electoral Rules and Democratic Governance of the American Political Science Association is now on line. (It appears not to require log-in.) I am the author of the chapter on “Ballot structure”. From the description:

Electoral rules help to make democracy work. Small variations in them influence the type of democracy that develops. The field of political science has defined the study of why and how this happens.

Political scientists have contributed to the world of electoral systems as scientists and as engineers. Taking stock of recent scientific research, this report shows that context modifies the effects of electoral rules on political outcomes in specific and systematic ways. It explores how electoral rules shape party systems, the inclusion of women and minorities, the depth and nature of political competition, and patterns of redistribution and regulation. It considers institutional innovations that could promote political equality. Finally, the report describes the diverse ways that political scientists are producing an impact on the world by sharing and applying their knowledge of the consequences of electoral rules and global trends in reform.

The task force members are:

Mala Htun, Univeristy of New Mexico, Chair
G. Bingham Powell, Jr., University of Rochester; President, APSA, 2011-12

John Carey, Dartmouth College
Karen E. Ferree, University of California, San Diego
Simon Hix, London School of Economics
Mona Lena Krook, Rutgers University
Robert G. Moser, University of Texas, Austin
Shaheen Mozaffar, Bridgewater State University
Andrew Rehfeld, Washington University in St. Louis
Andrew Reynolds, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Ethan Scheiner, University of California, Davis
Melissa Schwartzberg, Columbia University
Matthew S. Shugart, University of California, Davis