Less democratic than Bonaparte

The new office of European President has been filled by a cabal of national politicians with the result that Herman van Rompuy, Belgium's Prime Minister, has been "elected."

It's worth noting just how undemocratic this choice is.

When Napoleon Bonaparte wanted to declare himself the First Consul of France (and dictator of most of what is now the European Union), he held a plebiscite. If he had lost, he would have been finished. Unlike the Lisbon Treaty.

True there were no alternative candidates allowed. Also true, I doubt if anyone would seriously argue the voting was "free and fair." But there was at least the possibilty that a protest could be made.

Not with Mr van Rompuy.

If Belgium's Prime Minister were remotely concerned with the problem that he was chosen by fewer than 27 people out the E.U.'s 500 million citizens, he would refuse the post or insist on an election.

I've started a group on Facebook called "He's not my (European) President" to call for the post to be filled by one of two methods: either a proper electoral college, such as that used in U.S. presidential elections, or one person one vote across the whole of the E.U.. The French presidential election system would seem eminently reasonable, although if I were Belgian or Maltese, I might prefer a U.S.-style solution.

We've got a European head of state now. I don't see why it needs to be selected by a less democratic process than that for China or Iran.


Post mortem on U.S. election night

The gubernatorial elections [here {very good map of New Jersey voting} and here] in the U.S. states of New Jersey and Virginia have produced two gains for the Republican Party from the Democrats, supporting opinion polls that suggested the opposition is able to mobilise a majority of voters on the issues of the economy, excessive public spending and health care reform.

One problem for the Republican Party is that the wrong lessons could easily be "learned" from the events yesterday. As Scott Rasmussen wrote recently, there is a bigger untapped conservative vote in America that isn't going to back the Democrats and doesn't vote Republican, than there is a Republican-inclined "centre."

So the conventional wisdom of widening appeal by going for independents doesn't work, as the New York State's 23rd congressional election result indicates: the Conservative Party candidate scored over 45% of the vote.

If the Democrats can hold this district in November next year when the 435 seats in the House of Representatives come up for election, they will have reasonable cause for cheer. Also if the Republican Party thinks that its mistake was not giving enough backing Dede Scozzafava, an ACORN supporting "moderate," and that picking candidates from the top is the way forward in the 21st century (watch out in Florida next year!), then the Democrats could even emerge stronger from last night's voting.

The immediate practical consequence of the two gains for the G.O.P. are that the number of Republican Governors has risen to 23 with 27 Democrats remaining. Both New Jersey and Virginia were states that voted for Barack Obama and the Republicans had been fading in these East Coast states. The meme that the Republicans are being driven into the Deep South and the less populated Mountain States has been dented by this election.

For those interested in the New York mayoral election: as expected Bloomberg was re-elected as a nominal Republican. The voting breakdown can be found here, with an interesting graphic showing the various districts of NYC and how polarised they are. To give one example, there are two districts on the Rockaway Peninsula in Long Island which are split as one safe Republican (district 23) and one safe Democrat (district 31).

Late forecast for US election night (Updated)


Candidate Party Votes (%)
Bill Owens Democrat 47,826 49.1%
Doug Hoffman Conservative 44,349 45.5
Dede Scozzafava Republican 5,294 5.4
67% reporting

As of time of writing (03:54 GMT), the gap has been narrowing. Scozzafava's votes are thought to mostly be absentee ballots which would have been posted before she withdrew.

UPDATE: Local media calling NJ for Republican candidate Christie.

UPDATE: Creigh Deeds, the Democratic candidate has conceded in Virginia. President Obama is said by the White House Press Office to not be watching returns tonight.

Governor New Jersey: the courts will decide, absentee ballots could give this to Joe Corzine (ex-Goldman Sachs director), returning the Democrat to a second term.

Governor Virginia: one of the states that does not allow a Governor to stand for re-election. Expect Bob McDonnell to win easily for the Republicans, a gain from Democrats.

California 10th congressional district: expect Democrat hold for John Garamendi (currently the Lieutenant Governor of California).

New York 23rd CD: expect CONSERVATIVE PARTY win for Doug Hoffman (the "Republican" candidate quit over the weekend and endorsed the Democrat, justifying charges she was too close to the Dems). However, this is getting so dirty, I don't expect Democrats to play fair here.

Election nerds will be looking at the changes since last year, when Barack Obama won all four constituencies.

2008 results:
NJ: 57%
VA: 53%
CA 10th CD: 65%
NY 23rd CD: 52%

My forecast is a big swing against the Obama landslide, but to be fair, this is not entirely surprising.

For what it's worth, four years ago I covered the same two gubernatorial elections [and here] in New Jersey and Virginia, when both were won by the Democrats, in what I considered to be an impressive result.

What I got wrong in 2005-2006, was the degree to which the Democrats got themselves organised from a grassroots campaign using blogs such as Daily Kos as well as the idiotic consequences of the McCain-Feingold Act (the main loser being Senator John McCain's presidential ambitions).

Conservatives are likely to be reasonably cheered by these results, but the Republican fiasco in New York and the possible theft of two elections by the Democrats (not the first in recent years at state level) suggest that the Republican party machine and its ruling élite are a shambles.

Rasmussen on US parties' best tactics for outreach

Scott Rasmussen, one of the more reliable pollsters in the U.S.A., has written a thoughtful round up of the issues surrounding the New York State's 23rd congressional district election, which took place on November 3, and which has not yet been called.

He writes:

while Republican voters overwhelmingly consider themselves conservative, only 56% of conservative voters consider themselves to be Republicans. In other words, nearly half of all conservatives nationwide reject the Republican Party label.

This means that Republicans looking to broaden their party’s outreach cannot ignore the need to attract a large number of conservative voters along with some political moderates. Of all the non-Republicans in the nation, 31% consider themselves at least somewhat conservative while 37% say they’re political moderates.

The sweet spot for Republicans are core issues that unify conservatives while dividing more moderate voters. One such issue is health care where conservatives are united in their opposition to the plan proposed by President Obama and congressional Democrats, and 37% of moderates are opposed, too.

Looked at from that perspective, nominating a GOP candidate who supports the president’s health care plan is likely to drive away more voters than it attracts. The same logic applies to the stimulus package, card check and other such proposals. That’s just what happened in NY-23. Nationwide, 42% currently support the health care plan working its way through Congress.

It should be noted that Democratic Party dynamics are entirely different.

While a plurality (44%) of Democrats are politically liberal, nearly as many (35%) are moderate. So Democrats must make compromises within their party before reaching out. Also, the pool of available non-Democrats is very heavily on the moderate side.

Just nine percent (9%) of non-Democrats are even somewhat liberal while 29% are politically moderate. These non-Democratic political moderates are absolutely essential to Democratic candidates. That’s why Democrats are eager to suggest that situations such as NY-23 indicate a GOP rejection of moderates in favor of extremists.

Interestingly, while Republican voters say their congressional representatives are out of touch, a plurality (47%) of Democratic voters view their members of Congress as roughly in the same place they are ideologically. Just 27% say the average Democratic member of Congress is more liberal than the average Democrat, while 19% think the average Democrat in Congress is more conservative.


A thought about European elections: why they're boring

The drama of an election comes from the combination of a plot where the end is not known: we don't know who will win (in some cases, who has won), whether the result will be accepted by the loser, and how well or badly the defeated will behave.

But in an election with the D'Hondt method of proportional representation (that rolls of the tongue!), it seems like almost everyone wins something, and really isn't clear who has lost, or by how much: was it close or a landslide?

The U.K. elections for the European Parliament this month are a case in point.
How many people realise that the British Nationalist Party scored nearly one million votes across the U.K.? Or how close the B.N.P. came to winning elsewhere and which party narrowly defeated it?

Supporters of proportional representation might pause and think about how much of a turn-off it is to voters to remove the drama from an election. When there are no losers and no clear winners, there is no interest in taking part.


Twitter ALLOWS Iranian protests

If this isn't power, what is?

Twitter has re-scheduled a maintenance downtime to about 1.30am local time in Tehran, to allow the protesters to organise and agitate against the recent election result (which "concerns" U.S. President Barack Obama - whatever that means).

MG Siegler at TechCrunch has the story:
Twitter had been planning to have a 90 minute downtime tonight for maintenance. Given what’s going on over in Iran right now, that was a problem. And so Twitter has decided to reschedule the maintenance so the protests can go on.

This is a good move by Twitter. It clearly didn’t want to have to move the maintenance window that it calls a “critical network upgrade,” but the #nomaintenance hashtag that has spent the entire day on the trending topic list, made it pretty clear that Twitter’s users don’t want the service going down at all during this important time. So Twitter worked with its network partner NTT America to reschedule the maintenance for 2-3 PM Pacific, which will be 1:30 in the morning in Iran, rather than during the day.

Twitter uses the rest of the post to praise NTT America for its flexibility, but really this is all about Iran. The people over there are using Twitter as a tool of choice to spread information about what is going on, even as other outlets for communication are being blocked.

N.B. a hashtag on Twitter is explained here.

[Hat tip: Laurent Maumet's Twitter feed]

"I think hiatus is the word"

If it's good enough for Salam Pax...

I've been too long away from this blog. For reasons that are not really nice (the company I worked for has gone into liquidation) I now have time in the day with a computer that actually works. Hiatus over, at least for now.

I have completed my statistical compilation of the UK's European Parliamentary election data and will be issuing my analysis over coming days.

Clearly a big issue right now is the contested Iranian election result.

For those unfamiliar with Twitter, this is something I predicted recently: the first use of social media to try and overthrow a government. This is something quite different from using social media to run election campaigns, which I think is now the norm.