Archive for June, 2009


Death by a thousand polls

Well, three polls, at least.

In a moment of synchronicity, three of Australia’s four pollsters have released federal voting intention polls, all clearly showing a collapse in support for the Coalition and possibly spelling the end of Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership.

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Latest NSW Newspoll hits hard

The latest Newspoll has reversed the small gains made by Nathan Rees in the previous Newspoll, with the Coalition polling 41%, the ALP 31% and the Greens 14%. The two-party-preferred figure put the Coalition on 55%, however, as many have pointed out, two-party-preferred figures are largely meaningless in current NSW politics, with a large number of seats being contests between a major party candidate and a Green or independent, and with high rates of exhaustion expected. This factor makes it difficult to calculate the impact of a uniform swing from a poll using a pendulum.

I thought it would be worth making an attempt to calculate uniform swings based on primary votes. Of course, that is not simple and there is a wide margin of error in any predictions that can be made. I also calculated swings based on a proportion of the vote previously received. So a swing for the Greens from 10% to 14% was translated into a 40% increase in the Greens vote, rather than a uniform swing. I then tried to estimate the likely impact of preferences in all seats where no-one won a majority of primary votes. I assumed that Green preferences would be practically neutral, with far fewer Greens preferencing the ALP. I projected that independent preferences would favour the Coalition. I’ve included what this exercise came up with in the post below the fold.

Elsewhere: Posts at Macquarie Street, Poll Bludger and Pollytics.

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NSW Greens choose Lee Rhiannon for Senate

In breaking news, the NSW Greens conducted their preselection ballot count yesterday, with Lee Rhiannon winning comfortably to be chosen for the first position on the ticket. The second position went to Executive Director of the Nature Conservation Council of NSW, Cate Faehrmann, with Lane Cove councillor Keith McIlroy taking the third position on the ticket.

This appears to be a strong ticket for the Greens, with a candidate with extensive experience in state Parliament and a record of going after the state Labor government bringing valuable experience to the Senate team from a large state currently unrepresented by Greens. In the case of a double dissolution, there would also be an outside chance of electing a second candidate, and Faehrmann would make a strong Senator, as a younger candidate with strong environmental credentials.

Meanwhile, the picture of the Greens lead Senate candidates around the country is becoming clearer. Richard di Natale, the 2007 lead candidate and candidate for Melbourne at the 2002 and 2006 state elections, has been selected to run in Victoria. It appears likely that Larissa Waters will run again in Queensland after performing well in 2007. I assume that Senators Rachel Siewert and Christine Milne will easily be re-endorsed by their respective states to run for second terms. I have no information on any potential candidates in South Australia.

In the ACT, it appears that the leading candidate could be a prominent left-wing intellectual with no previous history with the Greens. Hopefully I can say more in the future after checking some sources in the ACT.


5 things not to do when you’re trying to rig an election.

5. Rig an election where 80% of people turned out to vote

The turn out at the recent election in Iran was the largest in the country’s history.

This shows that the people were very committed to this particular election – and since the establishment has to give their blessing to candidates that are running, it might have been wise to just leave this one alone.

4. Give the election by a huge margin to an unpopular candidate – subtlety is the key

If you’re going to rig an election – any election – remember to do it by a believable margin. The Iranian government announced that Ahmadinejad polled over sixty percent of the vote.This is practically impossible to achieve in any context where any sort of diversity of opinion exists – if rigging an election, it’s best to be subtle and give the winning candidate a more believable vote.

3. Don’t announce the results until you count the votes

This is just a matter of good common sense or else people start to cut corners and then something like this happens.

This screen shot shows voting numbers being announced on Iranian television, and actually shows one of the candidates losing some 100 000 votes during the vote count.

2. When the people get angry tell them it’s just like a soccer game

Now this is just putting ideas into people’s heads. Especially when the analogy seems to be so ironic – dodgy referees anyone? But on a serious point any good dictator – especially one in a country where soccer is more like a second religion than a sport –should better than to mix politics with ‘the beautiful game’ or else you have it bite you in the ass. It certainly did in this case where some of the Iranian football team in a match that was aired on Iranian state owned television wore green wrist bands to support the pro-Mousavi protests.

1. If you have veto power, don’t let someone run that has links to the institution and will be able to find proof the election was rigged

Mousavi was Iran’s Prime Minister back in the 1980s. He then decided to run off and design buildings and be an artist for the last twenty years. Since he once held such political office he still had many people loyal to him in the establishment who would have no qualms telling him that the votes were dodgy. The lesson here is that, if you get to pick which guy runs, don’t let the ones with any power do anything or else they’ll be able to find out if you do anything dodgy.

Remember, rigging an election is all about being able to hide your tracks.


Europe 2009 – summary

The overall results for the European Parliament were:

  • EPP-ED – 264
  • PES – 161
  • ALDE – 83
  • G/EFA – 53
  • EUL-NGL – 33
  • I/D – 18
  • UEN – 14
  • Other – 110

While all of the groups except the Greens lost seats, due to the reduction in size of the Parliament, these were on very different scales. ALDE and the EUL-NGL each lost 5 seats, once you take into account the parliamentary reduction. The Greens gained 13 seats. The People’s Party and Democrats gained 20, and the Socialists lost 35. This shows that there was a clear swing away from the centre-left which effectively went to both the centre-right and the Greens.

The UEN and Independence/Democracy are reduced to effective rumps. In both cases a majority of the group’s remaining seats are held by a single party. 13 of the 18 seats in the Independence/Democracy group are held by the United Kingdom Independence Party, while 9 of the 14 UEN seats are held by Italy’s Lega Nord.

It appears that Italy’s Democratic Party will join in a coalition with the Party of European Socialists, which will become the Alliance of Socialists and Democrats for Europe. These 21 MEPs will lessen the losses suffered by the PES.

There appears that there will be a reorganisation of the groups of the European right, with the creation of a European Conservatives group led by the UK Conservative Party. There will be a group of MEPs left over from the dissolution of UEN and I/D. There are also a sizeable number of far-right MEPs, some of which were formerly part of Identity, Tradition, Sovereignty during its brief existence and others from parties that have never had seats before (such as the British National Party). There may well be sufficient right-wing MEPs, once the Conservative group has formed, to create some sort of far-right coalition.

In one final note, I produced an elaborate prediction just before the election predicting where every seat would go. I’ve gone back and revisited the prediction, and calculated that I correctly predicted 89.95% of the seats, or 662 seats (with 74 seats being incorrectly predicted). It’s not quite as impressive when you bear in mind that all EU countries use proportional representation, so it’s easy to guess the bulk of seats, and it’s always the last few that are up for grabs. Anyway, it’s always good to review your predictions after the election.


Guest post at FairVote Blog

I’ve been taking a break post-EU but will be back to usual transmissions soon, with a final concluding post on the EU and a couple of other posts. However, you may satisfy yourself in the meantime by reading a guest post I wrote for the blog of FairVote, a US group campaigning for fair electoral processes, proportional representation and preference voting in US elections. The post deals with the impact of preference voting on the Greens in Australia.


Today’s elections

Since I focused all my attention on the European Parliament election, I’ve missed a few other elections. I thought it would be good to mention a few interesting elections that are taking place today:

  • Iran’s voters are almost finished going to the polls to elect their President. The race has turned into a fierce contest between hardline supporters of Mahmoud Ahmedinejad and reformists led by Mir Hossein Mousavi. It has been really hard to provide sensible psephological analysis of the election, so I won’t try, but a good source of  information is the Guardian liveblog.
  • Voters are going to the polls in Auckland to elect a new Member of Parliament in Helen Clark’s old seat of Mount Albert. Although electorate seats help determine the number of list seats each party wins, a change in party holding Mount Albert would result in Labour losing one of their seats. The National Party has largely given up on the race, and recent polls suggest Labour is on track for about 60%  of the vote. The interesting element is in the campaign for Green Party co-leader Russel Norman, who is a sitting list MP. He won’t win, but it would be a strong result for the Green Party and their new leadership team of Norman and Metiria Turei if they manage to overtake the National Party candidate.

Europe 2009 – Results wrap part 3

Here we go with the final instalment, covering Greece and the Eastern European countries that joined the EU in 2004 and 2007.

  • Bulgaria – The result was largely status quo. The six parties contesting the election ended up being ranked in the same order. The centre-right Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria gained a 2.7% swing and held their 5 seats. The centre-left Coalition for Bulgaria suffered a 2.9% swing and lost one of their five seats. The liberal Movement for Rights and Freedoms suffered most, falling from 20.3% to 14.1%, losing one of their four seats. The extreme racist National Union Attack dropped from 14.2% to 11.95%, losing one of their three seats. The liberal conservative National Movement for Stability and Progress gained 1.9% and a second seat. Two right-wing parties who missed out on seats in 2007 ran on a joint platform as the Blue Coalition. Despite a 1.1% swing against them, they won one seat.
  • Czech Republic – The 2004 election was a strange election, with the major centre-left party coming fifth. Normality was restored in 2009. The right-wing Civic Democratic Party held on to about 30% of the vote and maintained 9 seats. The Social Democratic Party recovered to 22% after getting less than 9% in 2004, and they won 7 seats, up from 2 in 2004. The Communist Party fell by 6% from their remarkable 2004 result, winning 14% and maintaining 4 of their 6 seats. The centre-right Christian Democratic Union fell from 9.6% to 7.6%, while maintaining their two seats. The European Democrats, who came third in 2004, fell from 11% to 2% and lost all their of their MEPs.
  • Estonia – The result was a disaster for the Social Democratic Party, who suffered a 24% swing and lost two of their three seats. One of these seats went to the Centre Party, who won two seats. The other went to independent candidate Indrek Tarand, who polled 25.8%. The Reform Party and Union of Res Publica and Pro Patria each held on to their one seat.
  • Greece – The election saw the centre-left Panhellenic Socialist Movement gain 2.6%, holding on to their 8 seats, while the centre-right New Democracy lost 10.7%, falling to 32.3% and losing 3 of their 11 seats. The Communist Party fell from 9.5% to 8.35%, losing 1 of their 3 seats. The far-right Popular Orthodox Rally performed well, gaining a swing of 3% and winning a second seat. In addition to the Coalition of the Radical Left holding their one seat, the Greens won a seat for the first time with 3.5% of the vote.
  • Hungary – The election was a decisive win for the cente-right Fidesz, who won 56.4%, up from 47.4% in 2004. This gave them 2 more seats on top of the 12 they won in 2004. The Hungarian Socialist Party’s vote halved from 34% to 17%, which saw them lose 5 of their 9 seats. The far-right Jobbik did well on their first campaign, winning 14.8% of the vote and 3 MEPs. The Hungarian Democratic Forum maintained their 5.3% of the vote and one seat, while the Alliance of Free Democrats were decimated, losing both their seats.
  • Latvia – The centre-right Civic Union topped the poll with 25%, while the centre-left Harmony Centre polled 20%. For Human Rights in United Latvia, which is part of the European Free Alliance, polled 9.7% and maintained their one seat. The two right-wing parties that won almost 50% between them in 2004 were reduced to about 14%, with each party only holding on to one seat.
  • Lithuania – The centre-right Homeland Union had  a strong result, going from 12% to 26%, winning two extra seats on top of the seats they won in 2004. The Social Democrats polled 18%, which gave them a third seat. The centrist Labour Party collapsed, falling from 30% to under 9%, which cost them all but one of their five seats.
  • Poland – In 2004 Poland’s major parties, Civic Platform and Law and Justice, only polled 36.8% between them. In 2009 they polled almost 72%. This result saw centre-right Civic Platform win 44% of the vote and 25 seats (up from 15) and far-right Law and Justice poll 27.4% and win 15 seats (up from 7). The left coalition also gained more votes, but this only brought them up to 12.3%, winning 2 more seats to add to their existing 5. The centre-right Polish People’s Party lost one of their four seats. The far-right League of Polish Families, which came second in 2004, did not contest the election, and the right-wing Self-Defence party was decimated, losing all six of their MEPs.
  • Romania – The election saw a swing away from the centre-right major party to the centre-left major party, with the Social Democratic Party gaining 8% and an 11th MEP. The Democratic Liberal Party polled 6.9% less than its two predecessor parties, losing 6 of their 16 seats. The centrist National Liberal Party came third, gaining 1.1% of the vote, but losing one of their 6 seats. The Democratic Union of Hungarians gained 3.4% to 8.92%, giving them a third seat, although their ticket included a formerly independent MEP, meaning they effectively held steady. The far-right Greater Romania Party doubled their vote from 4.15% to 8.65%, giving them 3 MEPs. A seat was also won by independent candidate Elena Băsescu, daughter of the President who was described as “Romania’s Paris Hilton”.
  • Slovenia – The result was good for the centre-right Democratic Party, that went from 17.7% to 26.9%, holding on to their 2 seats. The Social Democrats also polled 18.5%, up from 14.2%, which gave them a second seat. Centre-right New Slovenia fell from first place to third with a 7.2% swing, costing them one of their two seats. The Liberal Democrats polled 21.9% as part of a coalition with the Democratic Party of Retired People in 2004, giving them two MEPs. The two parties fell to 18.7%, with the Liberal Democrats holding one seat while the other party won no representation. The centre-left Zares party polled 9.8% and elected their first MEP.
  • Slovakia – The centre-left Smer came first, growing their vote from 17% to 32% and winning two extra seats in addition to their existing three. The centre-right Slovak Democratic and Christian Union remained steady on about 17%, losing one of their three seats. Other centre-right parties won 5 seats, with those parties collectively losing 3 seats. The far-right Slovak National Party elected its first MEP.

Maps update

I’m still working on my map of UK House of  Commons constituencies for the next general election. I recently finished the East of England, for a total of 270 constituencies out of 650. As you can see below, this map now covers the southern half of England.


In addition, I’ve also gone through most of my electoral maps and improved the colouring for each map to make the colours brighter and easier to see. Hopefully these will be more useful for people. The maps I have updated include state and federal electoral maps for Australia, the Canadian House of Commons, the US House of Representatives and the New Zealand Parliament.


Europe 2009 – Results wrap part 2

Here we go again:

  • Austria – It was a bad result for both parties in the governing grand coalition, with the centre-right People’s Party suffering a 2.7% swing, and the Social Democratic Party suffering a 9.5% swing. The SPO lost 3 of their 7 MEPs and the People’s Party remained steady on 6 seats. The Greens also lost a quarter of their vote, although they maintained their two seats. The independent Hans-Peter Martin came third with a 3.7% swing, and won a third seat for his ticket. The far-right Freedom Party doubled their vote to over 12%, and won a second seat. Thenew far-right party Alliance for the Future of Austria also polled 4.6% but failed to win a seat.
  • Cyprus – Both major parties, Democratic Rally and Progressive Party of Working People, gained votes with swings of about 7% for each party, although they only maintained the 2 seats that each party held. The Democratic Party lost a quarter of its seat, holding on to its one seat. The Movement for Social Democracy lost 1% of the vote, but managed to win a seat for the first time, after the centrist European Party lost a majority of its vote, and its sole MEP.
  • Denmark – The result was bad for the centre-left Social Democrats, suffering an 11% swing and losing one of their five seats, although they remained in first place. The governing centre-right Venstre party gained 1%, polling 20% and maintaining 3 seats. Greens-affiliated Socialist People’s Party almost doubled their vote to 15.85%, winning a second seat. The right-wing Danish People’s Party went from 6.8% to 15.3%, winning a second seat. The June Movement collapsed from 9% to 2.4%.
  • Finland – Finnish results were bad for all three major parties, with them all suffering negative swings, varying from a 0.5% swing against the National Coalition Party to 4.4% against the Centre Party. The parties that benefited included the Green League and the Libertas-aligned True Finns. The three major parties each lost one seat, with the National Coalition Party and Centre Party holding 3 seats each, and the Social Democrats holding 2. The Green League gained a second seat, and True Finns and Christian Democrats each won a seat for the first time. The minority Swedish People’s Party maintained their one seat while Left Alliance lost their one seat.
  • Germany – The German result saw a small swing to the left, even though the centre-right still won a decisive victory. After a massive defeat in 2004, the Social Democratic Party maintained its 23 seats, while the CDU/CSU coalition won 42, down 7 from 49 in 2004. Those seven seats went to minor parties with the centrist (although right-leaning) Free Democratic  Party winning 5 extra seats, for a total of 12. The Greens also gained one extra seat, winning 14. The Left Party also won more votes than the previous Party of Democratic Socialism, winning an 8th MEP.
  • Italy – The result was major victory for Silvio Berlusconi’s new party the People of Freedom. The party won 29 seats, up from 27 seats for the party’s predecessors in 2004. The result was also strong for the right-wing regionalist Lega Nord, winning 5 extra seats to add to their existing 4. The liberal party Italy of Values increased their seats from 2 to 7. In contrast, a number of small party coalitions were excluded after failing to pass the 4% threshold, including the coalition of socialists and Greens and the communist coalition.
  • Malta – The result in Malta was a decisive victory for the Labour Party, who easily won three of the five seats, with the Nationalists maintaining their two seats. While the Greens came close to winning a seat in 2004, with almost 10% of the vote, their vote dropped back to their normal level of 2.3%.
  • Sweden – Results for the major parties remained largely steady, with the Social Democrats holding 5 seats and the Moderate Party 4 seats. The centrist People’s Party gained a third seat, and the Greens gained a second seat. The Left Party lost more than half of its vote and one of their two seats. The eurosceptic June List lost three-quarters of its vote and all three of their seats. The Pirate Party polled 7.1% in their first election and won a seat.