That’s the way… That’s the way it oughtta be

December 9, 2010 § 4 Comments

We have, coming up, a spate (well two – but that is 20% of all of them) of elections in nations that are yet to obtain – or at any rate are yet to be recognised by the UN. Sadly enough, they seem rather better at it than the established countries – hence the rather tenuous titles of my last two posts (that and I want to appear in the search results for people googling Led Zepplin – you have to get new readers somehow)

Kosovo will go to the polls on the 12th of December in what could prove to be the most important election held this year. It is Kosovo’s first election since they unilaterally declared independence in 2008 and people I know who work there say it is absolutely key in determining whether the country will succeed or fail. One thing people will watch with interest is how many ethnic Serbs vote – at the last election, despite ethnic Serbs being guaranteed 10 seats, only 1% voted.

100 members are generally elected by PR (I assume D’hondt) whilst 10 are elected by PR amongst the Serbian minority, 4 by the joint Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian minorities (Askalis and Egyptians in this context refer to groups of Kosovan Roma who identify as such based upon their community legend that they originally came from Turkey and Egypt respectively), 3 by the Bosnian minority, 2 by the Turkish minority, and one by the Gorani minority (a distinct and very rare ethnic group – these days mostly identifiable by their Muslim religion).

Kosovo had been ruled by a coalition between the centre left PDK (formed out of the ashed of the Kosovan Liberation Army) and the centre right LDK. Elections were called after the LDK pulled out of the coalition following the resignation of the PDK president over allegations that he had acted unconstitutionally by simultaneously holding the offices of President and head of a political party.

The result is a very open election. As well as the PDK and the LDK, there is a powerful LDK splinter group running formed by several former government ministers and called “LDK – Ibrahim Rugova” in honour of Kosovo’s first president (now dead). His son is the leader of the party. Then there is a New Kosovo Alliance, a centrist liberal party who have signed coalition agreements with an umbrella of smaller moderate parties on the left and right. Then there is the Democratic League of of Dardania  (a PDK offshoot)  Vetëvendosje!  (a party who oppose the involvement of the international community in Kosovan affairs), and various Serbian Parties.

Last but certainly not least is the New Spirit Party or PDAK 23 (or FER 25). They are very very new and not a huge amount is known about them but some people are getting very excited. They are centrist liberals who are determined to turn Kosovo into a modern nation – “a new generation political state” in their own words. They have  been running on a platform of pan-ethnic appeal and – as far as anyone can tell – they are doing very well. The international community is certainly very excited about them and several political parties have sent staff to Kosovo to help train them up. The effect of this can be seen by comparing one of their earliest election broadcasts:

with one of their most recent:

Transnistria isn’t officially recognised either (although apparently my Father did sign a treaty with it on behalf of the Archaeologists of Britain – I’m not sure that will hold in in international court). It consists of a long thin strip of land either side of the Dnister – in other words on the border between Moldova and the Ukraine. It is an odd sort of place: the national sport is underwater hockey and they refuse to accept the end of the Soviet Union. They also produced these people (although they left):

Transnistria was created by the breakup of the Soviet Union. As communism collapsed, it became clear that Moldova was going to become an independent nation where the majority of the population would be ethnically Romanian (Moldova was a nation created by the Soviets from the ethnically Romanian parts of the Soviet Union). Many ethnic Russians and ethnic Ukrainians were worried about how they would fare as minorities in this new nation. They joined forces with those who did not want to see communism end and declared independence. They in turn were joined by various lost and disbanded elements of the former Soviet Army and possibly also received direct help from the Russian government.

Finally after Russia intervention the conflict was frozen, and has remained so ever since: Transnistria self governs as a soviet republic but is recognised by no one. They refuse to participate in Moldovan elections, but do have elections of their own. The President is the most powerful figure and since the collapse of the Soviet Union the president has been Igor Smirnov. It is highly contested how fair presidential elections are in Transnistria, but they certainly aren’t close. Anyway on the 12th we have parliamentary elections, and they are felt to be fair – albeit parliament has very little power.

Smirnov’s communist Republic party normally do well, but it is the pro-business centre-right Renewal party that has a majority at the moment, and may well do so again. Cynics say Renewal merely represents a different form of support for Smirnov – that of the oligarchs and the members of his family who have got rich. Anyway 43 seats, first past the post, could be interesting.

Some “real” countries are having elections too. St Vincent and the Grenadines has parliamentary elections on the 13th. The country consists of the island of St Vincent and the northern two-thirds of the Grenadine island chain – the southern two thirds form the nation of Grenada. The unicameral parliament consists of  15 members elected directly by first past the post and  appointed by the governor general: 4 on the advice of the Prime Minister and 2 on the advice of the leader of the opposition.

There is a strong two party system with the centre-left ULP and the centre-right NDP dominating. Both have very good websites.

Nauru is the world’s smallest island nation and is miles away, its nearest neighbour is over 300km away. A provisional date (of many) for its presidential election was given as December 10th. In fact the Presidential election was already held (on November 1st) but since we missed it I’ll talk about it now.

Parliament is elected by first past the post, there are 18 seats. They then indirectly elect the President. This happens in two phases: first a speaker is elected from amongst the MPs, then the speaker tables a vote for the Presidency. So if one were to wish to delay the election of the president they have two options: vote against the nomination for speaker, or vote against the nomination for President.

Elections are non partisan but Nauruan politics is sharply divided between supporters and opponents of President Marcus Stephen. President Stephen is a controversial figure as he allowed Australia to build an immigration detention centre on the island. The current elections were called after Stephen lost his majority in parliament by sacking three of his ministers (including Aloysius Amwano, of whom more later) who promptly joined the opposition.

Parliamentary elections were held in April: 9 supporters of President Marcus Stephen were elected and 9 opponents. After a lengthy impasse, elections were held again in June. This time 9 supporters of Stephen were elected, 8 opponents and 1 independent. Two further attempts to elect Stephen took place in June, and failed. He then allowed the opposition MP Aloysius Amwano to become Speaker, as part of a compromise with the opposition. However Amwano refused to hold any elections for the presidency at all and was eventually sacked by Stephen under his emergency interim powers. In September an opposition MP came over to the Governments side, giving Stephen a theoretical majority, but for whatever reason parliament was still unable to agree on a speaker or to hold a vote for President. In the end, former President Ludwig Scotty broke the deadlock by offering to become speaker – which he duly did – and holding a secret ballot Presidential election which Stephen won 11-6 (with 1 abstention) on November 1st.

By the way Switzerland had Presidential elections on December the 8th. It was not that big a deal as I will explain. The president is indirectly elected by parliament. Under the terms of the “magic formula” – the arrangement between Switzerland’s four largest parties – the presidency rotates every year on December 8th between the seven members of the cabinet. The presidential candidate is almost always unopposed, and even if they are, the magic formula ensures that any other candidate will be defeated. However the number of votes the presidential candidate receives is seen as a test of popularity. Traditionally 200+ was a good result, but these days the Swiss parliament is a tougher place and so 180+ is considered good.

The magic formula remained unchanged between 1959 and 2007. However in 2007, in response to the unprecedented success of the far right SVP, the formula was slightly tweaked: the SVP went from 1 seat  in cabinet to 2, the centre-right CVP went down from 2 to 1, and the liberal FDP and centre-left SPS stayed on two.

In this election the CVP’s Doris Leuthard was standing down and the SPS’s Micheline Calmy-Rey was taking up the reins. Her result – 106 votes – was the worst a president has ever received, and even she said she hoped her election would be forgotten as soon as possible.

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