Retractable concession–Gambia

It is always a remarkable thing when an authoritarian president who no one expects to lose accepts defeat (quite jovially and seemingly even humbly) in an election. It is still remarkable, though less enjoyable, to see such a president turn around and retract his concession. That’s what happened in Gambia in the space of a week earlier this month.

An opposition leader’s unfortunate remark about plans to prosecute President Yahya Jammeh might have contributed, but surely Jammeh would fear that regardless of any statements. He may have attempted to stop the vote count on election day and failed, lacking support among military and police. (Guardian, Dec. 7)

Perhaps it just took him a week to rally (buy?) support in the security services to reject the election. The head of the army actually pledged his allegiance to the victor, Adama Barrow (defenceWeb, Dec. 8) only to appear a few days later with an image of Jammeh pinned to his uniform (Dakaractu, Dec. 14)

In the meantime, there had also been a substantial revision of the vote. Jammeh’s margin of defeat to Barrow narrowed from about nine percentage points to only four, although that’s still a fairly clear margin. Notwithstanding the result, Jammeh has declared himself president while armed forces continue to block the Independent Election Commission headquarters.

(Gambians vote with marbles!)

I will add, because this is F&V, that Gambia elects its president by plurality. Barrow’s vote total, according to the election commission, was 43.3%. Jammeh’s was 39.6% and a third candidate, Mama Kandeh, won 17.1%. I don’t know anything about Kandeh, but I wonder if his presence–or the lack of a runoff requirement–robbed Barrow of a more decisive victory. It might not have mattered, and of course we have seen African dictators before who admit falling to second place in the first round of a two-round election, then manage to make it impossible for the opposition to prevail (or even contest) the runoff. (See Zimbabwe, 2008.)


Austria’s presidential re-run

The right-wing populist Norbert Hofer has conceded defeat in the Austrian presidential runoff, confirming in today’s re-vote the original razor-thin result.

Bullet dodged.

And, no, despite what BBC and others say, the Austrian presidency is not merely “ceremonial” in its formal powers.

Is the winner, Alexander Van der Bellen, the first Green ever elected to a presidency anywhere? (Running as an independent, but former head of that party.)

Austrian presidential re-vote ordered

This is quite a big deal. One of the closest presidential elections anywhere, anytime will have to be re-run, due to irregularities. The Constitutional Court so ordered today.

How many other cases are there of re-votes of an entire national election in established democracies? I am unable to think of one.

(I should note that “entire” here means of the second round, thus with just the two candidates.)

Peru’s narrow presidential win–and unusual divided government

In Peru, narrow loser Keiko Fujimori has now conceded defeat to Pedro Pablo Kaczynski (PPK) in the presidential run-off. The final result is 50.12% to 49.9%. This is right up there with some of the slimmest margins in the annals of presidential elections. It does not quite beat Taiwan, 2004, however (50.11-49.89).*

Of particular interest is that this election results in divided government, defined as a single-party majority in the assembly opposed to the president. That majority is itself unusual, as it was based on just 37.8% of the vote. Fujimori’s party, Fuerza Popular (FP), won 73 seats out of 130 (56.5%), for an advantage ratio of 1.49. That is staggeringly high for a “proportional” system. Peru uses D’Hondt divisors. The mean district magnitude is around 5. Ordinarily, even D’Hondt (known to favor the largest party) would not produce such a disproportional outcome, particularly given that the country has several large-magnitude districts. However, the second largest party nationwide had only 17.1% (Peruanos Por el Kambio**), implying that in many districts, FP must have been far ahead and therefore poised to maximize advantage out of the D’Hondt divisors. (I did not take the time to scrutinize the district results myself.)

The assembly election was concurrent with the first round, and the FP actually ran just a little behind its candidate, who won 39.9%. PPK (the candidate) won 21.1% in the first round, thereby running well ahead of PPK (the party). Even so, he required a big runoff comeback to eventually win. In fact, Peru 2016 would be just a bit to the right of Austria’s recent (also very close) election in the graph I posted on runoff comebacks.

I do not know of another case of divided government resulting from a presidential runoff election where the assembly had been elected concurrent to the presidential first round.

This was a very unusual election season in Peru. Governing may be a challenge, and divided government may yield some upcoming reminders that the Peruvian system actually is semi-presidential.


* By comparison, the recent election in Austria was practically a landslide.

** The spelling is a play on Pedro Pablo Kaczynski’s initials.

Runoff comebacks

In light of the Austrian presidential runoff election this past Sunday, the question arises: how common is it for the first-round leader to be defeated in the runoff? I can’t claim to have a specific quantitative answer to this question. However, I do have a graph that I prepared some years ago that helps contextualize the Austrian case.

The original graph has only Latin American cases, and ends around 2006. In the version posted here, I add the Austrian election and another prominent example from Europe: Portugal (1986). The x-axis shows the vote percentage of the candidate who came in first in the first round, while the y-axis is the second candidate’s vote percentage. A triangle indicates cases in which the second-place candidate came back to win the runoff.

majority_graph w Austria//

The vertical grey line is at 50%. Obviously, if the first round result is to the right of this line, there is no comeback possible because the threshold for victory was met in the first round. The diagonal grey line marks equality between the top two candidates.

We should expect runoff comebacks (those marked with triangles) to be decreasingly common as we move farther down from the diagonal, and also as we get closer to the 50% line. In this sense, the Portugal 1986 case is truly extraordinary, as the first-round leader was quite close to 50% and faced a runoff challenger who had finished far back. The Austrian case is quite striking, too, with the second candidate having a shortfall to make up that was almost as big as in the Portuguese case. On the other hand, a leading candidate on only 35% is quite vulnerable. Most of the earlier cases depicted in the graph are of front-runners who were under 35%, and there are two others (aside from Portugal 1986) in which the first-round leader was over 40%. But all of these other cases had with a runner-up much closer than was the case in Austria.

Some day I should update the graph with more recent Latin American cases, as well as the full range of cases from other regions. This graph, however, makes clear that a comeback like we just saw in Austria is unusual.
(The original version of the graph appears in Matthew Søberg Shugart. 2007. “Mayoría relativa vs. segunda vuelta: la elección presidencial mexicana de 2006 en perspectiva comparada,” Política y gobiernoXIV, 1, Primer semestre.)

Austria’s presidency

Today Austrians voted in the runoff for their presidency. Latest reports suggest it is going to be a very close result. The candidates are Norbert Hofer from the populist/nationalist (“far right”) Freedom Party and Alexander Van der Bellen, of the Green Party although running as an independent.

The notion of a second round with a nationalist and a green as the two candidates is remarkable. I am sure there is no other runoff pairing like it in the annals of presidential elections.

That the establishment parties are in trouble is not news. In 2013 the Social Democrat and center-right People’s Party barely combined for half the votes and formed a not-so-grand coalition. In the first round of this year’s presidential election, on 24 April, their candidates could not even combine for a quarter of the votes! In fact, the Social Democrat got 11.3% and the People’s Party candidate managed 11.1%. Hofer led with 35.1%, and Van der Bellen trailed well behind at 21.3%–still nearly doubling what either of the establishment parties could manage. (An independent candidate finished third, with 18.9%.)

The BBC item (first link) says that Austria’s presidency “is a largely ceremonial post”. An earlier version followed up that statement by noting that the president can dismiss the government, and that Hofer has promised to do so if elected. One might question whether a president who can, on his or her political initiative, dismiss a government that has the confidence of parties controlling a majority of parliamentary seats, is “ceremonial”; in any case, the current version of the BBC story adds instead that:

a victory for Mr Hofer could be the springboard for Freedom Party success in the next parliamentary elections, scheduled for 2018.

Yes indeed. Even weak presidencies, when elected, can have this effect (Samuels and Shugart, 2010). The first round already led to a leadership crisis within the coalition, as the Social Democratic leader and premier (Chancellor), Werner Faymann, resigned.

The Austrian presidency actually has quite significant constitutional powers. In fact, it would be a “president parliamentary” system, according to formal powers. This is the hybrid in which the popularly elected president does indeed have powers to dismiss a government. Presidents have not actually deployed these powers in the past, owing to the “establishment” consensus that the system should operate in a fundamentally parliamentary manner. However, a president from outside this consensus could certainly be expected to attempt to deploy the powers.

And, oh by the way, among the powers of initiative that the Austrian presidency has is the right to dissolve parliament. So that election “scheduled for 2018” may be coming a bit sooner.

Brazil: Early elections instead?

Further regarding the impeachment and possible removal of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff…

There is now a constitutional amendment being proposed by some senators that would result in an early election for president and vice president in October this year, rather than having the current VP take over in event of removal of the incumbent president.

In principle, I don’t like procedures that allow a VP to assume office following impeachment (resignation, death, etc.)–even less when it is common for the VP to be from a coalition partner (or former one, in current Brazilian case.) In fact, I’d say don’t even have a VP; I prefer early elections, although I can imagine that option creating some perverse incentives of its own. However, altering the constitution in the midst of an impeachment process doesn’t seem like a good idea.

The proposal is to have early presidential/VP elections this October. The sponsors have not decided whether this would be for would be for two years (the remainder of the current term) or a full four-year new term. If the latter, Brazil would go back to non concurrent elections, which would be an especially bad idea.

The possibility of early elections is already raised by the Brazilian constitution, however, although only in the unlikely event that the offices of both the president and the vice president are vacant:

Article 81. In the event of vacancy of the offices of President and Vice-President of the republic, elections shall be held ninety days after the occurrence of the last vacancy.

Paragraph 1. If the vacancy occurs during the last two years of the President’s term of office, the National Congress shall hold elections for both of ces thirty days after the last vacancy, as established by law.

Paragraph 2. In any of the cases, those elected shall complete the term of office of their predecessors.

Note that if this provision were ever in force, the president would be elected for only the remainder of the current term, thus restoring concurrent elections at the next election. However, the proposed constitutional amendment evidently could end up calling for four year terms, starting in 2016, whereas congress is elected every four years, with the next one being 2018.

I have no idea if the amendment stands any chance of passage. It takes just 3/5 votes of both chambers to amend the constitution. Ratification by states or voters is not required.

There is yet another way an early election could be called: by the Superior Electoral Court. In a separate (as far as I know) case, there is an investigation into election irregularities from the 2014 reelection of Rousseff.

Via Inter-Press Services:

If the 2014 elections outcome is challenged, new elections will be held. But experts believe that this ruling will not come until 2017, and in that case it would be Congress that would elect the new president and vice president who would complete the current term until 2018.

I find it quite extraordinary that the electoral tribunal could invalidate an election halfway–or even later–through the elected incumbent’s term.

Zambia’s offseason election

Zambia normally votes in September or October. However, the country’s constitution mandates an early election to fill the remainder of a term when a president leaves office early–notwithstanding the existence of a vice president, who takes over only on an interim basis.

Earlier this week, the country went to the polls to elect a new president (and vice president, I assume) to fill the vacancy left by the death in October of President Michael Sata, elected in 2011. The replacement will sit till the end of 2016.

The rainy season can make travel in Zambia difficult:

A lot of the camps in Zambia are closed from the 1st December right through to mid-May on an annual basis, due to the roads being impassable because of the heavy rains.

Those who have to transport ballots are not immune to these seasonal travel challenges. Thus the results of the election are going to take a while longer to be known, while the boats and oxen are deployed.

In countries with rough weather seasons and limited infrastructure in parts of the territory, fixed election dates seem like a good idea. Having a vice president to fill out a term also seems like a good idea in such countries. Why Zambia has a vice presidency and yet a provision for interim elections is puzzling to me–especially as special election can come up at inopportune seasons.

The election is apparently close. Edgar Lungu, the candidate of Sata’s Patriotic Front (PF), is leading, but not by much. (Aside: odd that results are being released while voting is ongoing.) Hakainde Hichilema (who had run a distant third in the 2011 presidential election) of the United Party for National Development (UPND) is very close behind. No party won a majority in the congress elected concurrently with Sata in 2011, but the UPND is the third largest party, with only 28 of 150 seats, against 60 for the PF and 55 for the Movement for Multi-party Democracy. With numbers like that, a Hichilema victory could make for stormy executive-legislative relations.

Presidential elections with “distribution” or with ranked choice

In preparation for a grad seminar next week, I am re-reading Donald Horowitz’s 1990 article, “Comparing Democratic Systems”* in which he argues against Juan Linz’s critique of presidentialism as being too much of a “winner takes all” form of democracy.

In the piece, he speaks approvingly of alternatives to plurality and majority forms of direct executive election, and mentions the rules in Nigeria and Sri Lanka, which he says encourage the winner to appeal broadly. This has been on my mind anyway, with the surprise result in Sri Lanka’s presidential election yesterday. It is not clear to me how much these various cases of more complex rules for direct election have mattered in practice.

On Nigeria, Horowitz says:

To be elected, a president needed a plurality plus distribution. The successful candidate was required to have at least 25 percent of the vote in no fewer than two-thirds of the then-19 states. This double requirement was meant to ensure that the president had support from many ethnic groups. (p. 76)

Subsequently, a similar “distribution” requirement has been built into the presidential election methods of Kenya, where the rule requires 25% of the vote in at least five of the eight provinces. This did not prevent a winner in 1992 from having only 36% of the national votes. Nor did it prevent a serious crisis over the 2007 election.

I believe there is, or was, a distribution requirement in Indonesia, although the IFES description of the system in 2014 just says two-round majority.

The Sri Lanka system as described by IFES:

Under the contingent vote system, voters may rank up to three candidates. If no candidate wins a majority in the first round of counting, ballots whose first ranking are eliminated candidates are redistributed to the next-ranked candidates on those ballots. The winner is the candidate with the most votes after this second round of counting.

(I gather that means that third preferences come into play only for voters whose first two choices were both eliminated? As I understand it, all candidates but the top two are immediately eliminated when no one has a majority.)

Horowitz says about the adoption of this system in 1978:

It was expected that presidential candidates would build their majority on the second and third choices of voters whose preferred candidate was not among the top two. This would put ethnic minorities (especially the Sri Lankan Tamils) in a position to require compromise as the price for their second preferences.

It would seem that this motivation has never been realized; in fact, in the just concluded election, the winner did obtain support from Tamils and other minorities–but in the first preferences. Just as if it were a plurality system–or so it seems to me.

I do not think actual second or third preferences have come in to play in any Sri Lankan election, although I can’t claim to know. As for the “distribution” requirements, I wonder if any reader knows of elections in which campaign strategy was seen to be shaped by the rule. Of course, I generally believe rules shape strategy and behavior! But my limited knowledge of these cases does not lead me to be convinced that the outcomes have actually been different from what they would have been under more standard direct election rules.

* Journal of Democracy, Volume 1, Number 4, Fall 1990, pp. 73-79.

Sri Lanka: Rajapaksa defeated

This is a surprise. And a pleasant one. Incumbent President Mahinda Rajapaksa of Sri Lanka has conceded defeat to Maithripala Sirisena.

The Department of Elections said that of 3.26m votes counted so far, Sirisena had taken 51.3% and Rajapaksa was trailing on 46.9%.

Although there obviously were other candidates in the race, evidently the ranked-choice ballots did not come in to play (again).

Indonesia’s presidential election: Divided government?

Indonesia’s presidential election was earlier today–or yesterday, depending on where in the world you are.

Both candidates are claiming victory, but contacts I have who follow Indonesia tend to put more credibility in the claims of Jakarta governor Joko “Jokowi” Widodo.

Legislative elections were held in April, under Indonesia’s “counterhoneymoon” cycle. In those elections, the largest party emerged with 19.0% of the votes and 109 of the 560 seats (19.5%). That was Indonesian Democratic Party – Struggle (PDI-P), led by Megawati Sukarnoputri, and the party that nominated Jokowi. In second place was Golkar, with less than 15% of votes and 91 seats (16.3%). Golkar was the ruling party under the Suharto dictatorship, and is part of the coalition backing Jokowi’s rival, ex-general Prabowo Subianto. Prabowo’s own party is the Great Indonesia Movement, which won 73 seats in April (13%, on 11.8% of votes).

Indonesian law states that only parties with 20% of seats or 25% of the votes in the preceding legislative election may nominate candidates for the presidency; the PDI-P was just short. Thus pre-election coalitions were necessary to nominate presidential/vice-presidential tickets; according to the Wikipedia entry:

The coalition supporting Prabowo/Hatta includes Gerindra [Great Indonesia Movement], PPP, PKS, Golkar, PAN, and Demokrat. The coalition supporting Jokowi/JK includes PDI-P, PKB, NasDem and Hanura.

It appears that the Probowo coalition has at least 314 seats (56%), while Jokowi’s has 191 (34%). If Jokowi has won, Indonesia’s elections might be said to have produced divided government, in the sense that the coalition backing the presidential loser has a majority of legislative seats. However, such a conclusion exaggerates the importance of these coalitions. Indeed, the way I normally code a case of divided government would require either a single party or pre-electoral coalition formed for the legislative elections to have won a majority of seats. Given Indonesia’s electoral cycle, the coalitions formed only between the legislative and executive elections, and can be considered expedients dictated by electoral law. One can expect various parties in the Probowo alliance to defect and back the winner, in exchange for policy concessions, but more importantly for patronage.

One indicator of how relatively unimportant party lines are in predicting Indonesian political behavior is that Prabowo was the vice presidential candidate in 2009 on the ticket headed by Sukarnoputri.

Presidentialization in Turkey

As previously discussed at F&V, Turkey has made the constitutional change from parliamentary to premier-presidential system. The country’s first-ever direct election of the presidency is on 10 August (first round).

A headline today is a nice summary of the sort of things presidentialization can do to political parties: “Turkey’s secular opposition endorses devout Muslim for president“.

The two parties in question, the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), would be unlikely to have nominated for prime minister someone like Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, described as “devout Muslim tasked with winning votes from the AKP’s traditionally pious electorate”. They also would have been somewhat unlikely to forge a pre-electoral coalition. However, given the need to appeal to the median voter against the incumbent Islamist prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who will be seeking to move to the directly elected presidency, the opposition parties have devised a new vote-seeking strategy.

As the news item also makes clear, not everyone in the parties is happy about it. Yes, I have seen this sort of thing before…

Colombian alliances and ballot symbols

Amplifying a discussion in an earlier comment thread, I offer this image of the presidential election ballot used in this year’s first round of the Colombian presidential election (25 May).

2014 Pres tarjeton-First Round

The photo was supplied by Steven Taylor, who wrote about the first round, and posted some other photos of his trip to Colombia, at Outside the Beltway.

One can see immediately that two of the tickets were presented by alliances. Juan Manuel Santos, the incumbent who was reelected (in two rounds of voting), and his running mate are indicated as the candidates of Unidad Nacional, and then the symbols of the three parties comprising this alliance are shown: Partido Social de Unidad Nacional, Cambio Radical, and Liberal. As an aside, I would note that we had some discussion in the earlier thread about whether the first of these parties, which was founded in support of former president Uribe but now supports Santos in opposition to the Uribe-backed challenger (Zuluaga), still used “Partido de la U” as its informal name. That name remains in use, as indicated at their website: At least as of today, it has a video animation that starts with “Vota contra la guerra, vota por la paz”, and then a marking of an ‘X’ across their ballot symbol and photos.

Note that the ticket headed by Clara Lopez simply has the names of the two parties backing her at the top, rather than an alliance name.

The ballot is also interesting for allowing parties to have a short slogan, which two of them incorporate into their symbols. The ballot symbol for Centro Democratico, backing Oscar Zuluaga, says “Mano firme, corazon grande” (“firm hand, big heart”), a clear indicator of its opposition to the Santos policy of continuing negotiations with the FARC guerrillas. Back to the Santos alliance, we see the Liberal Party symbol having the slogan, “Para que vivas mejor” (“in oder that you might live better”). I am not sure I have seen ballot symbols elsewhere with words other than the party (and sometimes leader) name, although I am sure other examples exist.

Colombia presidential runoff, 2014

Colombia held its presidential runoff today. Incumbent Juan Manuel Santos has been reelected by a margin of around five percentage points. (Live feed via El Espectador.)

For those keeping score of political alliances in Colombia, this means that the handpicked successor to former President Alvaro Uribe has defeated the challenger drafted by Uribe.

Santos is supported by the Party of the U[ribe]*, which led the congressional election in March with under 20% of the vote for both chambers. The challenger, Oscar Zuluaga, is supported by the Democratic Center, for which Uribe was elected a Senator in March, winning around 17% of the congressional vote.

Zuluaga had narrowly led the first round in late May, with 29.3% to 25.7% for Santos. The third place candidate, Marta Lucia Ramirez of the Conservative Party, with 15.5%, backed Zuluaga but most of her party members of congress backed Santos just a few days after the first round–yet another case of presidential candidates and their parties diverging.

Just behind the Conservative in the first round was Clara Lopez Obregon of the leftist Polo Democratico Alterantivo, with 15.2%. The Polo endorsed neither candidate in a statement released on 29 May. Nonetheless, they indicated in the statement their support for continuation of the peace process with the FARC guerrillas, which is about as close to endorsing Santos as they could come without actually saying so. Opposition to the negotiations was the main theme motivating Uribe’s break with Santos (who had been his Defense Minister), and Zuluaga had promised to set conditions so tough that the talks surely would have ended. The remaining candidate in the first round was former Bogota mayor Enrique Penalosa of the Green Party. He too remained neutral in the runoff.

Just to emphasize further how long a shadow Uribe cast over this election, three of the five presidential candidates had served in Uribe’s cabinet.

* It is actually, in English, the Social Party of National Unity, but it is commonly known in Spanish is Paritdo de la U, with the “U” not so subtly signaling to was the party backing Uribe. But after Santos was elected, it remained the party supporting him even after Uribe formed an opposing party.

Costa Rica: Araya ends campaign

The changes in the Costa Rican party system really are fundamental. Last week, Johnny Araya, the presidential candidate of the current ruling party, National Liberation (PLN), quit the runoff race. The PLN was the country’s strongest party for most of the democratic period since 1949, but Araya won just under 30% of the vote in the first round in February.

Araya’s decision means Guillermo Solis of Citizen’s Action will be elected, essentially unopposed. It also means Costa Rica will have a president who won under 31% of the vote. While Araya’s decision reflects polling that said Solis would trounce him, it raises the question of whether one of the other candidates in the highly fragmented first-round field could have mounted a stronger challenge. Maybe not, as the third place candidate, Jose Villalta, had just 17.25%.

Meanwhile, has anyone seen a breakdown of the legislative seats? Legislative elections were concurrent with the first round of the presidential election, but various sources I have consulted still do not show the result.