Archive | March, 2008

>Blog tracks Czech anti-Islamic ‘ultraconservatives’

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A Czech political blog, seemingly written by a student of Middle Eastern studies, contains quite a short paper (in Czech) on the activities of the small Young Right (Mladá pravice) grouping, which occupies an odd kind of no man’s land between the Czech far right proper and the fringe of the Czech centre-right proper, especially Václav Klaus’s CEP thinktank, rather cockamammy attempts to fuse ‘anti-Jihadism’and anti-immigrant positions drawn from Western Europe and North America with traditional Czech nationalism at outlined in a previous poste. Leaving aside the rather ponderous attempts at theory building, the paper is quite an interesting read, although I am little galled to find myself described (unreferenced) as an ‘American political scientist’ – despite the vogue for all things ‘Czeltic’, some Czechs seem automatically to assume that anyone called Seán is American – who thinks the Czech right is as a Central European national-liberal mutuation of Anglo-American models. Clearly, the library of the West Bohemian University haven’t forked out for a copy of my book.

>Spanish Greys enter the fray

> Another polarized election, another slew of minor parties born and wiped out – this time not in Croatia or Poland, but in Spain. The new Spain does, however, boast a small pensioners’ party running for the first time – the Partido de los Pensionistas en Acción (PDLPEA) which polls 2953 votes or 0.01% of the poll. A interview in Spanish with a representative of the party can be found here

>Romanian electoral reform: from pillar to (first-past-the) post?

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The Romanian parliament has, as expected, finally passed a new electoral law changing the country’s voting system from list proportional representation to what the Romanian are referring to as a ‘uninominal’ system – a single member district (SMD) first past the post system to be used for both Senate and National Assembly – oddly, the Romanian constitutional doctrine seems to be that to enjoy equal legitimacy both upper and lower house of parliament must be elected in the same way (exactly the opposite of how the Czech see things – the Czech constitution insists on different voting systems). The new ‘uninominal’ set up supersedes the mixed system previously legislated for but not signed into law by the President. Presumably, this one will meet with his approval.

Things are not, however, as straightforward as they seem – the new system seems to have some distinctly odd features. For example there are electoral thresholds (5% of the national vote or six members elected in SMDs for parties) and a mechanism for redistributing seats involving a list, which seems to suggest that there will be some ‘floating’ seat. Does this mean that if a party wins 1-5 SMDs its candidates will be debarred? Will the second place candidate ‘win’? Unfortunately, it’s hard, however, to find any coherent English language account of the exact workings of the new system. The clearest one I could find was offer by Radio Romania International and that still leaves me confused. As it correctly notes, whatever its finer points the new more majoritarian system is likely to be less a political ‘flat tax’ solution sweeping out party corruption, as many commentators and most of the Romanian public seem to believe, than a measure empowering local political bosses at the expense of higher level party and state structures.

A more detailed but still more baffling account of the new system is carried by SEEurope.net. Romania’s own electoral commission has a flashily designed website with an English version that boasts of its ‘young, dynamic and active team’ and even has a section on ‘electoral deontology’ (presumably a post-modern interpretation of elections?) but nothing in any language on the new system. Its most recent press release in Romanian is from 22 February.

The premier electoral systems blog, Matthew Shugart’s Fruits and Votes is currently obsessed with the US presidential race and has nothing on Romania’s very interesting moves toward majoritarianism.