Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Garbage Fallout 2010: Sarah Thomson Edition

For a blog called All Politics is Local I do a piss poor job covering municipal politics. My life has gotten in the way of blogging the last few months anyway, but Toronto's mayor race is starting to head into the home stretch. In a lot of ways, the campaign starts next week. That's when lawn signs will start dotting the streets of Toronto. The ban on signs is lifted Monday October 4th at 12:01 so expect some hammering in your neighbourhood Sunday night/Monday morning. The mayor's race got a lot more interesting when Sarah Thomson dropped out and gave the semi-conscious George Smitherman campaign a needed jolt. Smtitherman is the guy that is supposed to win this thing by all logic and reason. Thomson's endorsement may be enough to solidify him as the only guy capable of avoiding the Fordcalypse.

I've been skeptical of Ford's numbers to begin with. I think part of it is I admittedly don't want them to be true. However, I think there is some reason in my thinking. Municipal politics don't generate a lot of attention from the public and those that do pay attention tend to be those who are the most pissed off. Thus, early on in a race (and we're still almost a month to E-day) the people most willing to commit in any poll are those who are angriest in this case Ford supporters. Another thing to consider is that people are much more likely to say they'll vote for a third, fourth or fifth place candidate in a poll a month out then they are on election day. Municipal polls are also terrible because nobody actually knows who to poll. There's no way for a pollster or analysts to look at the results of a poll and say "that's not right". There's just not enough data to compare it to. Miller was, according to one poll, at 70% the week before the vote in 2006 but ended up with 55%. I think we're in for a tight race. I honestly don't have a clue who wins.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Far-Right Kingmakers Following Swedish Election

For proponents of proportional representation all over the globe, Sweden has always been held up as a paragon of virtue. Stable majority coalition has followed stable majority coalition. The fact that Sweden has become a de facto two party system (with The Alliance and the Red-Green Coalition being the only choices) is largely ignored by PR's advocates. Yes, there are seven different ways of choosing one or the other but at the end of the day only two people could become prime minister after yesterday's vote: the incumbent New Moderate Fredrik Reinfeldt or Social Democrat Mona Sahlin. The winner last night was Reinfeldt's alliance which won government with fewer votes than the Social Democrats, because he is part of a larger coalition. However, Reinfeldt has a major headache in the form of the upstart Sweden Democrats. The far-right party broke through the low 4% threshold which kept them out of parliament in 2006 and look to hold 20 seats in the Riksdag. With The Alliance 3 votes short of a majority, the Sweden Democrats hold the balance of power in their xenophobic hands. While they are apparently vowing "not to cause trouble," what Reinfeldt will need to do to either get their support or the opposition's support will be interesting to say the least.

The Sweden Democrats earned no more than 11.2% in any region of the country. Their largest support came from areas in southern Sweden with high levels of immigration from Muslim countries like Somalia and Iraq. Still, with such low levels of support, they would never have won election in a single member plurality (or what is dismissively known as first-past-the-post) system. A proportional system, like the version of MMP used in Sweden, encourages the growth and continued success of these small fringe parties. Once elected, you can never guarantee that the electoral calculus won't break down like it has in Sweden: with the radical fringe holding the country's future in its hands.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Sweden Votes 2010

This Sunday Swedes will head to the polls to elect a government. Swedish politics are a fairly static business, or at least they used to be. Until 2006, the Social Democrats and their allies had held power for all but seven of the proceeding seventy years. So when Fredrik Reinfeldt and his New Moderate led Alliance won in 2006, it was a major victory. Like the previous centre-right government it looked like Reinfeldt was going to be doomed by a terrible economy. However, Reinfeldt has proved more resilient and a week out the opinion polls show that he and his allies have opened up a significant lead. Of course, this is all academic depending on what happens on election day. All the drama will revolve around the 4% threshold to hold seats in the Riksdag, the Swedish parliament, under Sweden's PR-based MMP system. Three parties seem to be hovering around that number and how many of those parties reach the threshold will likely determine the stability of the Riksdag.

Sweden has traditionally been a seven party system with two stable coalitions. The Social Democrats currently led by Mona Sahlin are supported by the Left Party (Communist) and the Green Party. The New Moderates led by Reinfeldt are supported by the Liberal Party, the Centre Party (a farmers' party reminiscent of the old Canadian Progressives) and the Christian Democrats. The Centre Party and the Christian Democrats have fallen on hard times, in spite of being in government, and are perilously close to political oblivion. Should either party fail to reach that threshold, the Alliance may fall short of a majority in the Riksdag if the Swedish Democrats are able to break the threshold and crash the party. The xenophobic, nationalist Swedish Democrats are politically radioactive for the mainstream parties but should they win seats, they have a very good chance of holding the balance of power. If that happens on Sunday, the normally consensus-driven Riksdag may find itself at an unprecedented impasse.
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