Archive for April, 2009

Queensland submissions

Submissions closed last Friday for Queensland’s federal redistribution, and they have now been published online. The interesting factors include:

  • A large number of submissions have called for the districts in the western parts of the Flynn electorate be redistributed back into Maranoa, including submissions from a number of local councils.
  • Most submissions suggest the extra seat being added to the growing suburbs to the south of Brisbane, in the Ipswich-Logan-Gold Coast corridor.

The most interesting element are the variety of suggestions for the name of the 30th Queensland seat, including:

  • Bjelke-Peterson – Named after former Queensland Premier Joh.
  • Coulter – Named after 2004 Australian Idol winner Ricki-Lee Coulter. I’m not kidding.
  • Killen – Named after former federal Liberal minister James Killen. This was the suggestion of the Liberal National Party and another person.
  • Wright – Named after poet Judith Wright. The name was the suggestion of the Queensland Greens in 2007, and was used by the AEC as the original choice for the seat that was later renamed Flynn due to local concern that the seat would be associated with disgraced former politician Keith Wright. However, if a seat was based in another part of Queensland, this concern may not be as strong.
  • Gair – Named after former Queensland ALP Premier and DLP Senator Vince Gair.
  • Theodore – Named after former Queensland ALP Premier and federal Treasurer Ted Theodore. This was the suggestion of the ALP.

What is your idea? Please post electorate name ideas in the comments section below, and you might want to read the AEC’s guidelines to naming divisions.

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Greens push for republic vote

The republican debate has been restarted this morning as a Senate inquiry has begun sitting to consider a Greens proposal for a plebiscite on a republic.

Monarchist and professional pompous gasbag David Flint has dismissed the idea in his usual style:

David Flint, a spokesman from Australians for a Constitutional Monarchy, says the Australian public has already rejected the idea.

“This is about the sixth major federal exercise into this question and the people have already spoken,” he said.

“They have made it very clear, in 1999, on the best model the republicans could produce, that they weren’t interested.

Flint and his ilk may have spoken, but I know a lot of people who have never had a chance to speak. There are now over 2.65 million votes on the rolls aged 17-29, which adds up to about 19% of the Australian electorate. While a few of the oldest members of the cohort had the right to vote in 1999, most of us had no say. There will be people voting in a hypothetical plebiscite in 2010 who were only seven in 1999.

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Good riddance to bad newspapers

Listening to Radio New Zealand’s Mediawatch podcast this morning, I heard this fascinating excerpt from ABC Radio National’s Saturday Extra program three weeks ago, from former editor of The Age and publisher of online business publications The Business Spectator and the Eureka Report, Alan Kohler, responding to former News Limited editor Campbell Reid:

I actually agree with Campbell in the sense that journalism is extremely vibrant at the moment; there’s a lot going on, but for precisely the opposite reason to Campbell, and that is that I believe that newspapers are dying. But not only does that not matter, I think it’s a great thing. I think newspapers hold journalism back for a couple of reasons.

One is that they’re an incredibly inefficient way of delivering information. They require a whole lot of wood pulp, they need to be delivered using a whole lot of energy to get them there. They get wrapped up in plastic, and so they’re terrible for the planet. And secondly, they’re incredibly limited in scope and size. I mean the size of the newspaper each day — and I’ve been an editor of two of them; I know this — that the size of the newspaper each day is determined by the amount of advertising that’s been sold for that particular paper. So whether the book is for 54 pages or 32 pages is decided not by the stories that are around or the requirement of the public for information that particular day, it’s decided by the advertising. And also because it’s so expensive to produce, it comes out just once a day. And I just don’t think that’s very good. And I think that the reason that the newspaper circulations are declining is because not only people realise that the newspaper is not particularly good for them, or the planet, they get dirty, they get ink all over their hands, but also they’ve now got an alterative, which is the internet. And Wendy’s right, I mean the internet is by far the best way to deliver journalism. It goes all the time, and Business Spectator is going 24 hours a day, there is any number; we can publish any amount of articles that need to be published. It’s entirely flexible. If there’s a lot happening in the world, if there’s a big story going on, it’s just infinitely expandable. And you know, I mean you can see it now with all of the newspapers themselves publishing far more on their websites than they do in the paper

Hear hear.

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Specter switches parties

I haven’t been covering the early movements in the lead-up to the 2010 U.S. mid-term elections on this blog. One of the key contests has been shaping up to be in Pennsylvania, where moderate Republican Senator Arlen Specter was facing a challenge from conservative Republican Pat Toomey.

Toomey had challenged Specter in 2004, when the Republican establishment fell in behind Specter and saw him re-elected. Since 2004, however, much of the moderate Republican voter base has switched to become Independents or Democrats, and polls indicate Toomey was on track to win the primary, before being badly beaten by any old Democrat in the general election.

Well, Specter has now done what appears to have been inevitable in hindsight: he has switched to the Democratic Party, and will run as a Democrat in 2010. It looks likely that Specter will win the Democratic primary, and will likely defeat Toomey in the general election.

This decision also means that, once Senator Al Franken is seated, the Democrats will hold the vaunted 60 seats in the Senate, with prospects of more gains in 2010.

More elsewhere: at Polswatch, at FiveThirtyEight, and much, much more at Daily Kos.

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Wrapping up South Africa

The final votes have been tallied in South Africa, and the results are in. The national and provincial tallies have been published at the World Elections blog, with the key part being the national tally for the major parties:

  • ANC 65.90% (-3.79%)
  • DA 16.66% (+4.29%)
  • COPE 7.42% (+7.42%)
  • IFP 4.55% (-2.42%)

Looking at the results nationally, clearly the Democratic Alliance has gained ground, but only by a little. Congress of the People must be disappointed with their result. While the African National Congress has lost votes, little dent has been made on their dominance.

It’s more interesting when you examine the provincial votes. The African National Congress gained ground only in KwaZulu-Natal, which was one of their poorest provinces in 2004. They recovered 16% to 63%, with most of the vote coming at the expense of the Inkatha Freedom Party, who dropped from 34% to 20%. It appears that this would have had a lot to do with  Jacob Zuma’s Zulu heritage, as the IFP’s base is centred on Zulus in KZN.

I haven’t had the time to determine what the swing against the ANC would have been outside of KZN, but you would have to think it would be substantially larger.

The other interesting fact from the provincial breakdowns can be seen in the Democratic Alliance vote. While the DA gained 21.86% in Western Cape, the other eight provinces saw very small swings, varying from a negative swing of 0.1% in Limpopo to swings of 3.23% in Free State and Northwest.

What do we take away from this? One interpretation is that the DA campaign focused largely on winning control of the Western Cape province as a stepping stone to future party development, and if this is true, they achieved their goal.

An alternative interpretation is that the DA remains essentially restricted to the white and coloured community, and their success in Western Cape simply reflects the fact that it is a more racially diverse province, allowing a minority white-dominated party to achieve success that it cannot in the rest of the country, which is so much more dominated by the black community.

If you subscribe to the first theory, then the DA’s new prominence as leader of a multi-party coalition government should give them the credibility to become a strong national opposition in 2014. If you subscribe to the second theory, then the problem of creating a credible South African opposition remains just as unsolved after last week’s election as it was five years ago.

It appears that any credible opposition that can defeat the ANC needs credibility amongst the black community, and that requires the party to broaden its base. It’s possible that a coalition of the DA, COPE and smaller parties in Western Cape could be the beginning of a new opposition coalition that can appeal to inland black voters.

Of course, it’s possible that Helen Zille could be South Africa’s Barack Obama, as she herself suggested, but that doesn’t seem very likely. It has been less than two decades since the end of apartheid, and I doubt black voters will willingly give up power to a new white-dominated government any time soon.

Icelandic left coming to power

After yesterday’s election, Iceland appears on track for a continuing Social Democrat/Left-Green coalition government, with the figures reflecting recent polling figures:

Iceland’s left wing parties are holding their advantage in the country’s parliamentary elections, but the Independence Party are resurgent. At 03.00 63 percent of the votes have been reported and the Social Democrats are on course for 20 MPs, the Independence Party for 15, the Left Greens for 14, the Progressives are on course for nine MPs and the Citizens’ Movement for five.

In comparison, the 2007 election saw the Independence Party win 25 seats, the Social Democratic Alliance 18 seats, Left-Green 9 seats, and Progressive 7 seats.

South Africa update

Since I last updated yesterday morning, most of the votes in South Africa have been counted, and the vote percentages have shifted significantly.

With about 15 million votes counted, the latest figures are as follows:

  • ANC – 66.56%
  • DA – 15.95%
  • COPE – 7.5%
  • IFP – 4.45%
  • ID – 0.9%

In addition, the Democratic Alliance has won a slim majority of the vote in the provincial election in Western Cape, which should give DA leader Helen Zille the Premiership of the province.

On the current trends, it appears that the ANC will reach its two-thirds majority. Although you would have to consider such a figure to be symbolic. The Mbeki administration held a larger two-thirds majority since the 2004 election, without any dramatic changes to the constitution. When you consider the ongoing divisions within the ANC, you would have to say that Zuma won’t have sufficient control over the National Assembly to be able to dictate constitutional change, even if he wanted to.

While the opposition vote has only increased slightly, they will be in a stronger position in the future. Zille’s leadership of Western Cape makes her a stronger candidate in the future. Talks of potential alliance between DA, COPE, the IFP and possibly the Independent Democrats opens up the possibility of giving Zille credibility amongst black voters.

While Zille’s DA has performed well amongst the white community, black voters are still firmly aligned with the ANC, and they will continue to hold a lock on re-election as long as they stay dominant amongst South Africa’s black voters. The credibility of some of COPE’s leaders due to their experience as part of the ANC during the apartheid era could help a unified opposition challenge the ANC in South Africa’ s black heartland.

Mapping update

I’ve added a few more maps today. I’ve completed the Google Earth map for the new Tasmanian boundaries for the next federal and state elections in 2010, and I’ve also uploaded a new version of the Queensland state map with the colours updated to the final election result.

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The role of the internet in campaigning

Following Barack Obama’s win in 2008, the dominant meme in election campaigning around the western world has been the importance of online campaigning and adopting the model Obama used.

Even in small western countries like Ireland, you find parties and politicians trying to get their taste of the “Obama magic”, with former Obama advisors drawing huge crowds and taking on contracts for political parties all over the world. The best example is the new Fianna Fail website, which was designed by the Blue State Digital firm, who were central to Obama’s online strategy. So how much is the “Obama style” of online campaigning going to revolutionise electioneering across the world, and how much has it been overhyped?

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Early South African returns

Polls have closed now in South Africa. I’ll be at work soon and won’t be able to keep up with the vote-counting, but some early results have come through.

Update: with about 266,000 votes cast (out of an estimated total of about 23 million), we have:

  • ANC – 54.91% (69.69%)
  • DA – 29.89% (12.37%)
  • COPE – 7.55% (-)
  • ID – 3.22% (1.7%)
  • FF+ – 2.28% (0.89%)
  • IFP – 1.42% (6.97%)

In brackets is their 2004 performance.

If these results hold, it will be a disappointing result for the ANC, running perilously close to losing their majority. It appears that a two-thirds majority is out of reach. It is also a strong performance for Helen Zille’s Democratic Alliance, with almost 30%.

It also appears that Zille is on track to become Premier of Western Cape, where the DA is polling a solid majority. They are also running a close second in Gauteng. In comparison, the ANC won in every provincial legislature in 2004.