Saturday, January 31, 2015

Queensland Live

For those awake this early Saturday, you will likely know my calculations in the previous post about time zones mixed up AM and PM.

However, the good news is that this means those of you who like getting up before the sun can watch the election live!

Here is a screengrab I made from earlier

One thing the keen eyed readers might notice is how little blue there is in Brisbane compared to my earlier predictions. Labor has done very well. Currently there are 3 Independents leading, and the LNP and Labor are tied at 39, with 8 seats too close to call.

Labor might win this, or, we might end up with a hung parliament (minority government)
One thing that is fairly clear is that Campbell Newman has indeed lost his seat, as predicted.

If you like watching close elections, I encourage you to watch! I for one always enjoy seeing how other countries cover their elections.

Keep in mind this is Australia's summer. It was 36C in Brisbane today, and 38 in Cairns. This is before any Humidex is calculated.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

A proposal for Newfoundland

The province still seems set on reducing the number of MHAs. I therefore present to the province my own proposal to help them achieve this without resulting in nearly as many problems as are possible under the current plan.

Step One: Labrador
Of the current 48 seats, they have 4. Of the proposed 38, they will still have 4. There seems general consensus that Labrador should retain 4 seats so long as the number of total seats does not drop too drastically. I'd say even with only 34 province-wide seats, Labrador having 4 seats would not be out of the question.

Step Two: Use what you got
Rather than re-drawing the entire Island-wide boundaries for Newfoundland, use what you already have. Federal ridings. There are 6 to play with. One of the simplest things you can do to help protect the process from gerrymandering, make it quicker and easier to accomplish, and allow for more focused public debate, is to begin with the 6 federal ridings.

You can then divide each of them into 5 or 6 provincial ridings, depending on weather you want a grand total of 34 or 40 seats provincially. Since 38 is closer to 40, I will proceed with that, however, 34 is fine and dandy as well.

Step Three: Decentralize. 
Now that you have 6 chunks to cut into smaller chunks, you don't need a single province-wide committee to decide all the boundaries. Thus the most logical step is to create 6 committees, one for each federal riding. This means the area they are working with is far more limited, and, in effect, you can do things 6 times as fast. It's not as simplistic as that, but it will speed up the process significantly.

Step Four: Optional
This step can be skipped; but it is possible to use this opportunity to introduce electoral reform. This could work even better with 5 seats per district. You could introduce a form of multi-member STV, similar to that used in Ireland for House elections, or Australia for Senate elections. The key benefit of this is that the entire process stops here. You are done. You have all your ridings and can call the election tomorrow. These are also ridings that have already gone though the process of public consultation and approval.

Step Five: Do the work
If electoral reform is not on the table; and there is absolutely no sign it is, the next step is to delineate the ridings. With 6 independent committees doing the work, you can schedule 6 public meetings on the same day, get 6 times the feedback, and 6 times the analysis. Given how easy it is to divide something into 6 - first divide it in half, then each half into thirds - you could have basic prospective ridings ready to go within 12 hours of appointing the committees, and more thought out refined ridings within a week. This would allow plenty of time for public feedback.

Step Six: Redo if needed
Since the rush is to get all of this done in time for a spring election, there is no need to permanently keep the new ridings. They can be used for the coming election, and then the planned 2016 boundary review can go ahead as scheduled using the old process. Nothing about this proposal prevents that.

To prove how easy this is, I've done, myself, the above. You'll likely see some problems, ridings with 1.25X as many people as it's neighbour, ridings that cut some well-connected areas in half, but these are things that can be easily refined with time.

I found many of the ridings in Avalon particularly difficult to do, and their populations may be off. The same is true for the northern half (3) ridings of Long Range Mountains, and the bottom 2 ridings of Coast of Bays Central Notre Dame.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Upcoming Queensland Election

Queensland, the North-East state of Australia, is holding it's state-level election. The two main parties are the Labor party, and the Liberal National Party, a coalition of the two parties in Australia's Coalition. The difference between the LNP and other Liberal and National parties is an official merger between the two within the state. There is a long history in Queensland, which I will go in to shortly, but the most important thing to keep in mind at this time is to note what happened in the most recent election.

Of the 89 seats, the LNP took 78. Labor was reduced from 51 to 7. This is the worst defeat at the state level of a sitting government in Australian history, only coming close to the defeat in the last New South Wales election - something we'll be covering before their state elections in a few months. Labor, clearly, is expected to gain seats.

Australian elections are held under the preferential ballot. Voters rank the parties 1, 2, 3, and so forth. As a result, in Australia, beyond asking voters who their first preference are, also ask who they are preferencing higher, Labor, or the LNP/Coalition. This is called the 2PP, or Two Party Prefered. 2PP polls are averaging about 51.5% for the LNP and 48.5% for Labor. This would suggest a very very narrow majority for the LNP.

I will look in to the history of Queensland.

Queensland is normally thought of as the most right-wing state in Australia. While there is some evidence to suggest it, in fact, has a underlying base of support from Labor (something I will address further in later posts) the recent history has been right-wing.

In 1957, due to a split within the Labor party, The Liberal-National coalition was able to win a majority government. While the Liberals won 20,000 more votes, the Nationals (then called the Country Party) won 6 more seats. This trend, of the Nationals winning more seats but the Liberals winning more votes would continue for some time. It was only in 1977 that the National Party was able to win more votes than the Liberals, but with the two remaining in coalition government this entire time. This continued until 1983.

In that year, a number of Liberals voted against the government and for a motion to create a committee to review spending. This resulted in a split in the coalition between the two parties. In the election that followed, the National party greatly increased it's popular vote, coming nearly neck and neck with Labor, while the Liberals dropped nearly half of their vote. The Nationals won exactly 50% of the seats, and with the defection of two Liberals to the National party shortly after the election, was able to govern with a majority. This would be the first time the National Party, alone, would win a majority government in Australian history. Normally the smaller partner of the coalition, and normally the more right-wing and more conservative party, the Nationals had established themselves as the more dominant of the two parties in the former Coalition.

The government would be re-elected in 1986, until finally falling in the 1989 election, after the retirement of (very) long-time premier, Joh Bjelke-Petersen, who first took that office back in 1968. He would later be remembered for corruption in his government, and it was those kinds of accusations that lead to the Labor victory in that year. Labor managed a majority not only of seats but of first-preference votes. After being re-elected in 1992, the National and Liberal oppositions decided their best chance of winning was to re-create the coalition. They did very well, winning the 2PP, but lost out very narrowly on government. This was due, in part, to some of the very large majorities the Nationals were able to win in seats on the edge of the Brisbane commutershed; comparable to places like Barrie Ontario, Granby Quebec, or Chilliwack BC.

Many expected the coalition to win in 1998, but their chances were spoiled by One Nation, a rather right-wing and anti-immigration party. They managed to win a whopping 22.7% of the vote, the largest share of any non-main party (IE not Labor or the Coalition) in Australian history. This would only further cement the idea that Queensland is right-wing.  Labor would win the following election in 2001 by a huge majority, taking 66 of the 89 seats. Two further failures to defeat Labor would finally lead, in 2008, to the creation of the Liberal National Party, an official merger between the two Coalition partners. Officially, the LNP is considered a state branch of the National Party of Australia, but in practise, it serves as a model for a possible future merger between the two parties nationwide.

The Coalition had last won an election in 1989; though they did manage a short government in 1996-1998 due to Labor's loss of seats. The 2009 election was a real attempt to win for them, but they came up short, if only just. The party was simply unable to break in to the Brisbane area. This changed when the LNP elected Campbell Newman as their leader, a former Mayor of Brisbane. This would prove successful as Newman managed a near sweep of Brisbane, and took 78 of the 89 seats.

That brings us to this election.

Sadly, my knowledge on the specific issues in this campaign is next to none. What I do know, however, is two things. First, Campbell Newman has won more support than ever before from Urban areas in South East Queensland and Brisbane. Secondly, the stronger opposition to the LNP (IE the most dis-satisfaction) comes not from the urban corner of the state, but from the regional 'rural' and 'outback' areas. The LNP could become a more urban party, for the first time in it's history, while Labor ends up with a majority of it's caucus hailing from Rural areas.

I have prepared a crude map showing possible results.

I am not making a prediction, due to my limited time following this election with the other elections going on, but do have a gut feeling the LNP will retain it's majority, but the Premier will lose his seat.

Unlike Canada, there is no tradition of a fellow party member standing aside if the Premier were to lose their seat, thus the LNP will have to elect a new Premier. Worst case scenario is a 2-way race between Lawrence Springborg, the former National leader, and Jean Paul Langbroek, the former Liberal leader; especially if it gets nasty. However, these two have already served as LNP leader for various lengths of time and were unappealing to voters, suggesting a new face would take over. One possibility, is Jeff Seeney, who served as Parliamentary leader of the party until Newman won a seat at election. This could all be moot, however, if Labor wins, and would be one of the greatest comebacks in Australian history.

Queensland has a population very similar to British Columbia, and a number of seats also similar to British Columbia. This may help you understand better the size of each electoral division. The election occurs this Saturday (Australian time) meaning we should get results coming in around suppertime on Friday in Canada.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Greek election results

Earlier I had predicted the following would be the result of the election:

83 ND
16 XA
14 KKE

The final results are in, and I was fairly close.

76 ND
17 XA
15 KKE

SYRIZA, the Coalition for the Radical Left, will form the new government. They formed a very quick and somewhat surprising coalition with ANEL, a right-wing party. The one big thing the two parties have in common, however, is their opposition to austerity. 

Tsipras was sworn in as PM yesterday. He says he does not want Greece to leave the Euro or the EU, but also demands the country's debt by cut by as much as half. I for one do not see this as possible or realistic.

The 'ball' is now in the court of the European Union. They can do one or two things. One, is to stand firm and say no; this will almost certainly lead to a Grexit. Two, is to bend over and take it, cancel half the debt as Greece demands, and do whatever needed to keep Greece in the EU. 

Once the EU decides which of these two paths they plan to take, I will let you know. 

Friday, January 23, 2015

Israeli Election update; and update on Greece and Newfoundland.

Starting from the smallest updates to the biggest.


All signs point to a victory by the left-wing and anti-austerity SYRIZA party.

My current prediction is as follows:

83 ND
16 XA
14 KKE


The province of Newfoundland and Labrador is set to lose 10 seats in the legislature. After a marathon debate, the house of assembly agreed to the bill to cut the number of seats prior to the next election.

This is a terrible idea for a few reasons.

1 - The listed reason is cost cutting. Reducing the number of MHAs from 48 to 38 is indeed a cut of about 20%, however it also reduces the number of democratically elected province-wide officials by 20%. Rather than cutting democracy by 20%, if the MHAs were serious about cost savings, they could have simply cut all their budgets, from wages to staffing, by 20% and achieved the same result without the cut in democratic choice.

2 - They plan to rush the new boundaries. The commission will have between 120 and 90 days to finish it's work, depending on which news article you read. They can extend it by 10 days, but this is a short time frame no matter how you look at it. In addition, they plan to have this done 2 months before the election, which means a very short time frame for not only voters to figure out what riding they are in, but for candidates to decide to run and get nominated.

3 - Perhaps most importantly, this opens up the process to Gerrymandering.

4 - Politically, this is a stupid move by the PC Party. The more smaller ridings you have the more seats the "losing party" can realistically win. With only 38, 34 on the Island, it becomes more likely the Liberals could sweep every riding.


There are a number of stories developing.

A - Polls have shown the lead of the two main parties; Likud and Labour-Livni, is growing beyond the others. Where a few weeks ago they were averaging 23-24 seats, now they are averaging 25-26 seats, each. With 7 weeks to go before the election there is time for this trend to continue.

B - Shas has rebounded after it's scandal. In addition, the Shas offshoot parties are doing worse in the polls, and I expect none of them will elect a candidate by the time the election day comes.

C -  Parties have mostly finalized their lists. Israel operates on Proportional Representation, and each party prepares a list - usually though internal election of all members - of which candidates and in which order it is presenting to the electorate. If a party wins 10 seats, it's first 10 listed candidates get those seats. The law requires all lists to be finished at around this time, and as such, the lists are being prepared and finished.

D - Yisrael Beitenu keeps falling in the polls. Hit hard by scandal, the party has fallen from an average of around 9 seats a month ago, to closer to 5 now.

E - Meretz and Jewish Home have both lost about a seat each in polls in the past week or two; these parties are considered more extreme than the more centrist Likud and Labour parties; and it might indicate the beginning of a two horse race in this election.

F - For the first time, all major Israeli-Arab parties have agreed to run on the same list.

It is important to remember that up to 1977, only Labour had formed Israeli governments; time has changed Israeli politics greatly. Until the late 70's Labour ran it's own Arab satellite lists; In fact, it has only been since the late 80's that Arab parties have started to run in Israel, but since then, this is the first time all the pro-Arab parties have run on a single list.

Polls have put the individual parties, combined, at around 11 or 12 seats. The loss of additional seats due to vote splitting could push this up to a solid 12. There are some, however, who expect that the simple union and the offering of a unique choice could push that number up to 14, if not 16.

If the latter comes true, it would almost certainly place the party in 3rd place nationally, and could potentially position the party as a kingmaker in the next government of Israel.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Greek Election preview

I've broken this post down into sub-sections to help organize it.

Why now?

As mentioned in an earlier post, this was triggered by instability. Greece attempted to elect a President, but could not find the needed votes in Parliament. Rather than keep trying, the sitting government called snap elections, believing it could win.

Now is also important in the big scheme of things. Additional elections this year include, but are not limited to Finland, the UK, Denmark, Portugal, Poland and Spain. Results of this election could have knock-on effects on each of these countries.


The main Left-Wing party is SYRIZA, the Radicals. They are lead by Alex Tsipras, who has become a Europe-wide symbol of anti-austerity. They are a new party, only a few years old, and exactly who they are is still being established.

Originally running on rhetoric that they would take a hard line against Austerity, even if that means a default, the party now is running on a more 'moderate' platform, saying they want to re-negotiate the terms of the bailout, rather than pull out of it altogether.

New Democracy

The current government, and the Conservative party, is ND. ND is one of the traditional 2 parties of the Greek 2 party system. The current ND government has been the one to administer the bailouts and the after effects of the recession. They are unpopular due to the Austerity measures.

For this reason, they are, in effect, the "Non-SYRIZA Party" and the "Pro-Austerity Party" For this reason, there is not much to say about ND beyond that if they are re-elected, we can expect things to continue as they have been.

Other Parties

There are many other parties. The Communists (KKE) are openly Stalinist, while Golden Dawn (XA) are openly Fascist. Perhaps most notable however is PASOK, the former lead left-wing party. PASOK is in coalition with ND.

Other parties that could win seats include ANEL and Potami. The former is a right-wing anti-austerity party and could possibly sit with SYRIZA in a government.

There are concerns about XA. Polls currently show they will likely lose seats, and this is uniformly a good thing for everyone who is not racist.

European Reaction

The entire election, in terms of it's importance to the world, is how Europe reacts. Early in the election, all the sounds made by Europe (IE Statements from people like Merkel) were that there would be no change to the deals negotiated with Greece. That, however, has changed. More recent statements indicate that European nations may be willing to talk to Greece. Nothing is solid, some countries like Finland, which had it's own debt crisis, will only help on certain conditions.

Things will get complex if SYRIZA wins, and there will be many things to say, from many people, about many issues. If they do not win, there won't be much of anything going on.

If things go wrong

Greece could leave the Euro. As outlined earlier, this could also lead to Greece leaving the EU, something that Tsipras does not want. Depending on how far in to a corner Tsipras gets backed, he may have no choice.

It's important to remember that no country has left the EU, nor is there any official method to do so. One country suddenly leaving may encourage others to do so as well, and this could lead to additional problems in the EU.

If things go right

This could kick off anti-austerity politics around the world. Given the possible fall out of a "Grexit" Europe may weigh the options and decide that it is better to give them what they want. This could spark changes in Spain, where a party like SYRIZA currently leads the polls. Should Spain follow suit it would send a message that opposition to austerity is possible, and it could send a message to other parties and countries in Europe that they too can renegotiate their debts. This could even spread to elsewhere in the world, and have impacts at home. While it's a bit of a stretch to say "If SYRIZA wins, the NDP will win here" this is within the realm of possibility, depending on the circumstances.

SYRIZA has a real chance to make things better for the average Greek, and if successful, could prove to be a model for use around the world, and perhaps, something to finally use to solve income inequality problems.

What to expect

I fully expect SYRIZA to win. All the polls show them ahead. Remember too that we saw the NDP leading in BC before voters, worried about what they would do the economy, switched back to the incumbents. It is still possible for ND to win out of fear of what a SYRIZA government would do.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Greek election, and the end of the world

As mentioned in a prior post, Greece goes to the polls in 10 days.

This is perhaps the most important election in the history of that country. Why?

It has the potential to kick off a Grexit, or, Greece leaving the Eurozone.

Why does that matter?
Not only could it damage the Euro, it could damage the EU. It could force Greece to leave the EU altogether.

And why does that matter?
For starters, damage to the EU could be huge. Take for example Poland, where 40% of mortgages are in Swiss Francs. If the Euro falls too much, we could see another housing bubble burst. In addition, there are other countries that might leave the EU should the opportunity arise, such as the United Kingdom.

Could the EU survive all this?
Probably, but maybe not. The entire European Union could come crashing down, not to mention the economic fallout. Being so tied to Europe as we are, this would have knock on effects here in North America, and could spark a second recession, worse than the first.

In short, the election might just result in a second great depression for the entire developed world.

So, if it is so important, why have I yet to post about it?

At the risk of saying "It's all Greek to me" the political situation in Greece is very very complicated, and very very nuanced. I am still trying to figure out where all the players stand and how they might act based on certain possible results.

The election will take place next Sunday (not the Sunday that comes in a few days, but the one after that) and I plan to make a rather large post about the Greek election on the Sunday prior (the 18th) based on what I know.

Any and all feedback from those who are following this issue is welcome, and I may include comments in the blogpost if I find they fit with what I plan to say.