Thursday, December 31, 2009
Final results should be certified and published after the second round. While parties have challenged each other in the campaign, they all support President Karimov.
Friday, December 18, 2009
Morozov argues the following about the use of webcams:
I don't know how it would hurt, but I don't see how it would help either: unless there are enough cameras to cover the entire voting/counting areas, rigging the results would still not be too hard. If anything, the presence of a Web cam would probably give yet another excuse to validate the results...
His note focuses on the installation of webcams for upcoming municipal elections. However, webcams were in place for the last presidential election and referendum. I have analyzed turnout and outcome data, differentiating among polling stations that installed webcams and those that did not. Officially reported turnout was consistently lower in polling stations that had webcams. The presence of webcams had a less consistent effect on pro-regime outcomes.
What could produce these results? I speculate that election administrators have a reduced incentive to inflate outcomes - especially turnout - when they are being monitored. Some officials were punished for election violations in Azerbaijan's 2000 and 2005 elections. While these officials were likely scapegoated, their punishment potentially sends a message to administrators that they could share the same fate. Placement of a webcam in a polling station raises the possibility of being punished if the footage shows clear evidence of inappropriate behavior. With static cameras that show one view of the polling station, viewers could identify egregious inflation of turnout if the footage were observed consistently over time.
I address other possibilities, and present the statistical analysis, in a research paper available to anyone who is interested. Please contact me at: eherron at ku.edu and I will forward a copy.
Thursday, July 30, 2009
|Moldova||704876 (45.07%)||29812 (1.91%)||115288 (7.37%)||224527 (14.36%)||256570 (16.4%)||197206 (12.61%)||29322 (1.87%)||6440 (0.41%)|
The PCRM received 49.5% of the vote in the April election, falling off about 5% (or 55,263 votes). Perhaps the most striking difference is the drop in wasted votes. Around 15.2% of all votes cast were allocated to parties that did not pass the threshold in April, compared to 4.2% yesterday. Wasted votes magnified the PCRM's seat acquisition in April.
While the lower threshold in yesterday's election may have influenced the behavior of voters and parties, the number of contestants and distribution of votes tightened rather than increased. Indeed, institutional changes are less likely to have influenced the number of competitive parties than the unusual circumstances of this election and the consequences of the April protests.
If the preliminary results are certified, opposition parties should have 53 seats (and the PCRM 48). This would allow the opposition - if it could work as a cohesive group - to elect a speaker. The PCRM's opponents have a history of discord and strife, however. In my recent book, I sketched a portrait of the Moldovan opposition, noting that it behaved like its kin in many post-Soviet countries. While the opposition is united by a desire to challenge the party-of-power, it is divided on strategy and tactics. This disunity is manifested in a proliferation of parties, often headed by strong personalities, who cannot coordinate long-term cooperation. In cases where the opposition successfully ousts an entrenched government, as in Ukraine, the opposition quickly dissolves into warring factions.
With these results in place, Moldova's opposition coalition would fall well short of the 61 votes needed to select the president. While another early election cannot be held for a year, it is likely that partisan rancor rather than reconciliation is ahead. Victory celebrations may be held in Chisinau today, but the (metaphorical) knives are likely to come out soon as each opposition group tries to carve out its share of the spoils.
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
The CEC has reported 30% turnout at 12:45 p.m., about 5% higher than turnout was at the same point in the previous election. See Moldpress, Moldova Azi, and Imedia for coverage of election day activities.
Update (7/29 at 10:30 and 4:00): Thanks again to my colleagues at imedia, here is a breakdown of turnout by reporting periods:
April 2009: 6.6% (0945); 27.1% (1245); 43.0% (1545); 52.1% (1845); 59.1 (2145)
July 2009: 10.7% (0945); 30.0% (1245); 40.0% (1545); 49.3% (1845); 58.8 (2145)
Imedia is live-blogging the results in Moldovan and English. Preliminary results give the PCRM the lead. Votes for four other parties currently exceed the 5% threshold.
Friday, July 24, 2009
The Central Electoral Commission website is currently non-responsive. I have encountered problems with this site in the past; it is possible that the relatively high volume of traffic has temporarily shut it down. If data become available, I will post additional observations.
Friday, July 17, 2009
Monday, July 13, 2009
- In Azerbaijan, two young pro-democracy activists were beaten and detained. Harassment of the opposition is not unprecedented, but this attack occurred publicly in a popular restaurant. The official version of events has changed, while the attackers have been released and the activists were tried and convicted on the charge of hooliganism. Several youth movements have used the Internet to challenge - and poke fun at - the government. Open challenges to government authority have been met with repression in the past, but expressions of dissent seem to be tolerated to a greater extent than in several other post-Soviet societies.
This provocation raises the possibility that opposition to authority will be met with harsher responses. A direct link to events in Iran is unlikely, but the capacity of the opposition to mobilize protesters in Azerbaijan's southern neighbor may have raised alarms in Baku and encouraged authorities to send a strong message to potential opponents.
- While Kyrgyzstan's incumbent president Kurmanbek Bakiyev faces a legitimate challenger in the Social Democratic Party's Almaz Altanbayev, he is nevertheless expected to win. Opposition editors (1, 2) and journalists (1, 2) have been targeted in attacks that may be politically motivated. In addition, while Bakiyev has been courting religious voters, but some have allegedly been targeted as dissenters.
- My imedia contact in Moldova has identified many important developments as the snap parliamentary election approaches. First, the election law has been modified, lowering the threshold from 6% to 5%, and lowering the turnout requirement from 50% (+1) to 33%. Second, the election is scheduled to take place on a work day (Wednesday, July 29). Moldovan elections are typically held on Sundays. Third, no more than nine parties (and no independents running) will contest. Actiunea Europeana just withdrew, and other parties could also drop out. None of this is disturbing news, and some of it - such as the reduction in the threshold - could be beneficial to pluralism.
However, the campaign atmosphere has been stacked against the opposition, with state TV supporting the PCRM. My contact notes that the"...narrative is that [the opposition] tried to stage a coup with Romanian support and that if people don't vote for the Party of Communists, Moldova as a country will disappear." The opposition has failed to coordinate its challenge to the PCRM once again, rendering it at least partially culpable in its likely defeat. Some polling is due to be released, and I will comment more on Moldova's election as information becomes available.
Monday, June 8, 2009
Thursday, May 28, 2009
Thursday, May 21, 2009
UPDATE (5/22/09): The analysis connecting local elections to disputes among coalition partners on Eurasianet.org is worth a read.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
The opposition has thus far held firm and denied the PCRM's presidential candidates (the PCRM nominated two in the first round because the rules require a contested race). Not one deputy has defected or been bought out. The real showdown will be on May 28
Thanks to imedia for news and analysis used in this post.
Sunday, May 17, 2009
At the election night event I attended, the commentary and analysis of the candidates suggested that Grybauskaite is viewed as "above" some of the local squabbles and is a skilled manager, especially due to her experience as EU budget commissioner. However, the most vexing problems for Lithuania - the economic crisis and the impending power problems with the closure of the Ignalina nuclear power plant - are matters that the president has less authority to manage. While the president can affect domestic policies, her portfolio is more strongly oriented toward foreign affairs.
6. A candidate to the office of President of the Republic shall be considered elected if during voting for the first time in which at least half of all voters participate, he receives more than half of the votes of all voters participating in the elections. If less than half of all voters participated in the elections, a candidate to the office of President of the Republic shall be considered elected when he receives the most, but no less than one-third of votes of all voters.
As of 2pm, turnout was 26.57% nationally. In a polling station I visited today in Vilnius, turnout was around one-third at 3pm. The prospect of exceeding 50%, with polls closing at 7pm, seems grim. If turnout is low, the likelihood of a second round increases substantially.
UPDATE (11:oo pm Vilnius Time): Apparently, Lithuanians prefer to vote in the afternoon. The final preliminary turnout is just a hair under 50% - 49.69%. If these results are certified, a second round is almost a certainty. If the final turnout creeps above 50%, Grybauskaite will win in round 1. ANOTHER UPDATE: My interpretation of the turnout data was slightly errant. The precincts reported one hour before closing.
Saturday, May 16, 2009
Several candidates planned to run for president, but only seven gained ballot access. The leader in reported polling is Dalia Grybauskaite, an EU Commissioner. While the sample selection in the most widely reported poll could be biased (as it seems small and focuses on urban areas), Grybauskaite's lead is substantial. While she has faced some challenges to her eligibility, this election campaign is less charged than the 2004 election that followed Rolandas Paksas' impeachment. Barring a Literary Digest-style fiasco, she is likely to win the most votes tomorrow. If she does not win outright, the second round will be held on June 7 along with European parliamentary elections.
Thursday, May 14, 2009
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
Saturday, May 2, 2009
1) In Georgia, protesters continue to demonstrate against President Saakashvili, calling for early elections. See stories from Reuters, Eurasianet (here and here), Georgian Times, and Svobodnaya Gruziya.
2) In Russia, United Russia's candidate won the contested race for mayor of Sochi amid allegations of fraud. However, Garri Kasparov cleverly stole the spotlight. See stories from Lenta.ru, New York Times, and RFE/RL.
3) In Moldova, the recount confirmed the final results, with some minor changes in votes. The opposition continues to challenge the validity of voter lists. The amended results are available here.
4) In Kyrgyzstan, the party-of-power (Ak Zhol) has nominated Kurmanbek Bakiyev for a new term in the early presidential election scheduled for July 2009.
The Lithuanian presidential election approaches, along with the mayoral election in Yerevan. I plan to be in-country on election day, and will post from Vilnius.
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
When I evaluate precinct-level election data, I pay close attention to the performance of pro-regime parties, turnout, invalid ballots, and if available, other features like mobile ballot box use. In addition, I compare the distribution of digits to a Benford-type distribution. Several decades ago, Frank Benford re-discovered an interesting property of digits in naturally occurring datasets: ones are the most common first digit, with the probability of a digit being first declining logarithmically. His work has informed the accounting literature, as well as political science. Unfortunately, some properties of election data undermine the application of Benford's Law, such as the presence of zeros (Benford does not account for a zero as the first and only digit), and precinct size (precinct size varies, and it determines the "available" digits). Despite these complications, I have compared data from other post-Soviet states to the Benford distribution and found interesting results, especially in Ukraine.
While I have not performed a full and systematic analysis of the data (having only acquired it last night), the initial scan of data suggests that there is no "smoking gun." The first and second digit Benford test on the results for the PCRM reveals no major issues. While the number of ones is low (significantly lower than anticipated by Benford), the distribution of PCRM first and second digits is not statistically different from the Benford-type distribution. The PCRM performs exceptionally well in several precincts: it received above 90% in eleven precincts. But, no precincts report 100% for the PCRM (in many questionable elections, I have found precincts with regime support at 100%). Some precincts report extremely high turnout, based largely on voters added through a supplemental list (some of these are polling places outside of the country in embassies or consulates). In these precincts, the average vote for the PCRM was 35% - below what it received nationally. The rate of invalid ballots is not high (the mean is just above 1%). The highest invalidation rate was 9%; the PCRM received 43% of the vote in that precinct.
Tomorrow's recount will be an interesting, and unprecedented, exercise in the post-Soviet world. The opposition has decided to boycott the recount, instead hoping to have voter lists re-evaluated. The opposition claims that "dead souls" and other illegitimate persons were on the voter lists, allowing the PCRM to inflate its results. Based on the precinct-level data that has been released, evidence of large-scale ballot box stuffing is not strong.
Monday, April 13, 2009
Saturday, April 11, 2009
In addition, the use of Twitter and other methods to mobilize protesters has been undermined by spamming and contradictory messages. Further complicating matters, imedia also indicates that reporters from several international media agencies such as the BBC, Associated Press, and Reuters, as well as Romanian news outlets, have been denied entry into Moldova. Some reporters in Moldova have been detained.
Nicu Popescu's blog provides ongoing discussion of events.
[Thanks to imedia for several reports on events in Moldova.]
Friday, April 10, 2009
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
Monday, April 6, 2009
[The graphic is posted on the CEC site.]
Sunday, April 5, 2009
UPDATE (4/5/09, 2:45 pm Central Time (US)): The CEC server seems to be down. A BBC report on exit polls indicates that the Party of Communists should enjoy a substantial win (46%).
UPDATE (4/5/09, 7:00 pm Central Time (US)): The CEC server is up and is reporting some preliminary results as well as updated turnout data.
Friday, April 3, 2009
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
[Thanks to Imedia for information on the polling]
Monday, March 23, 2009
UPDATE (3/23/09, 8:00 p.m.): Additional coverage from Eurasianet, RFE/RL, and lenta.ru.
Sunday, March 22, 2009
Several weeks ago, many Russian regions held local elections, and United Russia performed well in these votes amid allegations of fraud. Some commentaries suggested that the party-of-power's strength might be waning in some areas, however. Yesterday, President Medvedev replaced the governor of Murmansk; although the governor is a member of United Russia, he supported an independent candidate for mayor. In the south, the mayoral election in Sochi has received attention due to the identity of the participants and the importance of the city as host to the upcoming Olympic Games.
In Armenia, defeated presidential candidate (and former president) Levon Ter-Petrossian plans to run for mayor of Yerevan (also see Eurasianet's story). The mayoral post in the capital city is important symbolically and substantively. Because Ter-Petrossian's presidential loss was accompanied by protests and violence, the May 31 showdown is likely to produce high drama.
Saturday, March 21, 2009
Friday, March 20, 2009
Azerbaijan's referendum has received praise and criticism, and you may review some of these voices here, here, here, and here. The final turnout was 71.08%, and all 29 questions received at least 87% support nationally according to the CEC.
This post does not review general conclusions about the quality of the voting process, but rather focuses on some of the data coming from Azerbaijan's CEC. The CEC deserves credit for transparency in publishing precinct-level turnout data and results quickly and efficiently. Moreover, just as in the presidential election in October 2008, the CEC installed web cameras in many precincts which allowed anyone to watch the proceedings.
I combined the turnout data with the electronically recorded results protocols for all precincts (as I noted earlier, some precincts report incomplete data). Let's take a deeper look at results for question 21, the question receiving the strongest support according to official results:
101-ci maddənin V hissəsi aşağıdakı redaksiyada verilsin: «V. Müharibə şəraitində hərbi əməliyyatların aparılması Azərbaycan Respublikası Prezidenti seçkilərinin keçirilməsini mümkün etmədikdə Azərbaycan Respublikası Prezidentinin səlahiyyət müddəti hərbi əməliyyatların sonunadək uzadılır. Bu barədə qərar seçkilərin (referendumun) keçirilməsini təmin edən dövlət orqanının müraciətinə əsasən Azərbaycan Respublikasının Konstitusiya Məhkəməsi tərəfindən qəbul edilir.»
Indeed, many voters cast invalid votes on the question. Invalid votes could reflect mistakes, or intentional efforts to show dissent without recording a no vote. In
 While Internet video monitoring increases openness, it also could influence less sophisticated or older voters who may believe that their presence at the polls will be recorded (inducing them to turn out and vote). But, this is a subject for another post.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
The graphic to the left shows a simple box plot of the precinct-level turnout data published by the CEC. The CEC posted turnout data from 5,367 precincts, although some precinct-level data are incomplete (e.g., TEC 29 has three precincts with no results reported). As a visual representation of simple descriptive statistics, the box plot does not provide rigorous analysis. However, it shows some interesting results and suggests that some cases might be outliers. The 50th percentile is represented by the line in the rectangle; the 25 and 75th percentiles by the upper and lower bounds of the box. Observations outside the "whiskers" are outlying cases worthy of further investigation.
At 10 a.m., two precincts reported over 75% turnout (TEC 96, PEC 45 and TEC 98 PEC 27). These precincts are small, and could be located in special precincts where turnout can be managed. Turnout management could be benign (i.e., hospital patients may be transported to the precinct and may vote early) or questionable. At the closing of the polls, 60 precincts reported 100% turnout. These precincts also report questionable results. In TEC 41, PECs 37 and 38 both had 1,500 registered voters and all registered voters reportedly cast ballots. According to the published protocols, all of the voters in both precincts cast affirmative ballots for each of the 29 questions on the ballot. While not impossible, these results are highly improbable. Indeed, one would expect that among 3,000 voters, at least one voter might have made an error on a ballot with 29 questions, invalidating it.
This commentary begs the question: what is the normal pace of turnout? In my earlier post, I suggested that 30% could be a "reasonable" upper bound for turnout figures at 10 a.m. The figure of 30% was purely hypothetical; my main point was that a reasonable upper bound at 10 a.m. is lower than a reasonable upper bound at 5 p.m. (while the lower bound could always, in principle, be zero). As the day progresses, increasing variance in turnout reports is not necessarily surprising. No research, to my knowledge, has identified a pace of turnout that conforms with free and fair practices. Indeed, the pace of turnout is likely to be affected by many factors: the perceived closeness of the race, the level of citizen interest, and if election day is on a work day or holiday, among other factors. A forthcoming article by Pacek, Pop-Eleches, and Tucker in the Journal of Politics shows that the perceived importance of an election can strongly affect turnout in post-communist societies (my own research concurs with their finding). The referendum was portrayed as important enough for citizens to be motivated to show regime support. Yet, the preliminary data also raise some red flags about manipulation. I will post additional analysis as I look more deeply at the data.
The CEC is also reporting precinct level data. In the district with the highest turnout at 10 a.m. (TEC 118), some precincts are reporting around 80% turnout at 5:00 p.m. I will look at the turnout data in more detail as the final results come in.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
- The Central Electoral Commission has made available voting lists and other administrative information. AzerTAg, the state information agency, notes that President Aliyev met with the "Ad Hoc Committee" that will observe the referendum and that the CEC Director met with the CIS observation mission. In total, around 170 international observers and 47,000 domestic observers are expected to participate.
- Day.az has an interview with a presidential advisor who promises that the referendum will meet international standards.
- Trend News has several articles about the referendum, including stories about the New Azerbaijan Party's confidence in high turnout and high levels of support and opposition plans to observe the voting process.
- The BBC has a video covering the basics of Azerbaijan's politics.
Sunday, March 8, 2009
"If the nation wants to scrap limits on presidential terms, then this is democratic... I monitored the elections in Azerbaijan and they took place very normally... I do not blame the government, but rather the opposition in this case because they are not playing an active role in the elections. There were some problems during the elections in my country, as well." (Quotes from the March 6, 2009 Trend News article.)
The newly re-opened Day.az (for different treatments of the closure of Day.az see APA and Eurasianet) presented the comments in a slightly different manner, noting that Hancock called constitutional changes "normal and logical." Specifically, Hancock is quoted as stating:
«После распада Советского Союза в бывших союзных республиках были приняты новые Конституции, которые, несомненно, носили временный характер. Поэтому внесение изменений в эти законодательные акты нормально и логично» ["After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, new constitutions were ratified in the former Soviet republics that, undoubtedly, were temporary. Therefore, carrying out changes in these legislative acts is normal and logical."]
Azadliq has raised questions about the Western voices supporting the referendum. Without parsing every word that Hancock reportedly said, or possible reasons for his comments, it is worth assessing the issue of "democratic" constitutional change through referendums.
The requirements for changing constitutions vary cross-nationally; holding a national referendum is not unreasonable. In Hancock's own country, changes to the basic laws (the UK has no formal constitution) are within the purview of parliament. In other countries, constitutional changes must obtain legislative approval and pass another barrier (e.g., in the United States, barring a constitutional convention, national legislative approval (2/3 votes in both houses) is accompanied by approval in state legislatures (in 3/4 of states)). Azerbaijan's parliament approved the referendum, and it is scheduled to take place in ten days. In terms of formal institutional procedures, the process falls within democratic norms.
Hancock's comments about the opposition's failure to engage ignores important contextual issues. While Azerbaijan's opposition is fragmented and was disengaged from the last presidential election in October, past repression of protests undermines mobilization efforts (see the BBC documentary: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5). Opposition groups have challenged the referendum, but most referendums in the post-Soviet region (including those in Azerbaijan) tend to favor the sitting regime and tend to succeed.
Election day procedures in Azerbaijan may also appear to be normal. On election day in October, I observed a dozen polling sites in Baku and in most cases, the procedure was straightforward and orderly. However, government influence over the media, the dominant position of pro-government forces in electoral commissions and other critical choke points, and the lack of political diversity in formal political institutions renders the process suspect. Most of the problems with elections are not manifested on election day, but rather in the process that undermines competition long before ballots are cast.
The general principle of a legislature initiating a nationwide referendum for constitutional change falls within democratic norms. Codifying constitutions during the transition may confer a temporary character on them; it is not unreasonable to modify basic laws. But, for the constitutional change to be democratic, the institutions initiating change should be selected via free and fair processes, procedures should be open and transparent, and citizens (and political actors) should have access to alternate sources of information.
UPDATE (3/09/09): I neglected to note in yesterday's post that the Council of Europe has recommended a delay to the referendum. The CoE indicated that an upcoming Venice Commission report (due on March 13) will address questions about changes to local government authority. Some elements of the constitutional reform may contradict the European Charter for Local Self-Government.
Saturday, February 21, 2009
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
- The election timetable may be accelerated due to current relations with Russia. The recent decision to accept aid from Russia and end US access to a key airbase near Bishkek could help secure fickle Kremlin support. Moreover, Bakiyev could benefit from the Russian-backed construction of a hydroelectric power station that was a part of the aid package and is scheduled to move forward after 2009.
- Bakiyev's strategies are similar to those of the ousted Askar Akayev who also used manipulated referendums and elections to his advantage. Unlike Akayev, Bakiyev may have stronger control over security forces, but also faces more challenging economic conditions.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Monday, February 16, 2009
The active campaign period has begun in Moldova, with the CEC beginning party registration. Unlike the CEC in Azerbaijan, Moldova's CEC has not updated its page with information about the 2009 contest. More than two dozen parties are registered with the Ministry of Justice, but it is unlikely that all of these groups will contest seats independently. RFE/RL has posted a brief summary of the issues facing Moldova's voters.
I will follow both votes and post regular updates.
Saturday, January 31, 2009
In Russia, demonstrations and counter-demonstrations about the government's response to the economic crisis were held on Saturday in several cities. Anti-government protesters called for the ouster of Prime Minister Putin; pro-government protesters expressed support for the government's efforts to combat the economic crisis. Unlike the opposition in Georgia, Russia's opposition does not appear to have a unified, charismatic leadership. Moreover, the main government institutions and media continue to support the president and prime minister. Mobilization is undermined by government repression and limited access to the national media. However, economic crisis could be used as a pretense to hold early elections, providing an opportunity for the prime minister to return to the presidency (with extended term limits). For various interpretations of the events in Russia, see: BBC, Lenta.ru, RIA Novosti, RFE/RL, and the New York Times.
Thursday, January 29, 2009
The death of the Russian Orthodox Church's Patriarch, Alexey II, prompted an election of his successor. Similar to the election of the Roman Catholic Pope, the voting procedure involves a limited selectorate primarily consisting of high-ranking Church officials (in this case, the 702-member Local Council that includes "bishops, priests, monks, and laymen"). In contrast to papal elections, the election featured a campaign that turned negative. In addition, the Local Council cast secret ballots with journalists present (only the deliberations were closed). Three candidates contested the position (although one withdrew before the final vote), and Metropolitan Kirill won 508 votes (72%). While elections of religious figures provide limited opportunities for analysis, especially because most of the data are not publicly available, some interesting work has been done (e.g., Colomer and McLean (1998), an article that applies social choice theory to early papal elections).
Some of Russia's regions are also holding local elections, including Kostroma and Bryansk. Svobodanews.ru has posted interesting commentary.
Sources for the Patriarch elections:
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
Photo courtesy of Reuters, Alexander Natruskin, January 25, 2009.
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
These potential reforms are similar to recent changes proposed in Kazakhstan; minor tinkering that may expand competition, but only on the margins.
Thanks to Johnson's Russia List for the story.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
These exchanges are the opening salvos in the presidential race. The timing could affect turnout, with BYuT's proposed date falling before the major winter holidays and the president's proposed date falling just after them (Старый Новый год will be on January 13, 2010). But, this debate is minor compared to the battles yet to come.
Monday, January 19, 2009
Whereas the timing and outcome of Latvia's (potential) early election are unknown, Azerbaijan's referendum increasingly looks like a foregone conclusion. Azerireport cites an interview in Bizim Yol in which a Ministry of Education official reportedly notes that a new textbook on the constitution includes changes that have not yet been approved by the March 2009 referendum. If confirmed, this report suggests that Azerbaijan's government is dispensing with the pretense of a competitive vote this spring.
Thursday, January 15, 2009
The primary audience for these reforms is external. By making changes that President Nazarbayev promised in the summer, Kazakhstan demonstrates that it is eager to claim the chairmanship of the OSCE and is willing to make modest institutional changes to mollify critics. Once signed by President Nazarbayev, these changes will have a limited effect on politics in Kazakhstan. The most likely outcome is for a second pro-government party to gain a modest number of seats in the next parliamentary election.
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
UPDATE (1/14/09): The New York Times reports that President Valdis Zatlers may call a referendum on dissolving parliament and holding early elections.
Thursday, January 1, 2009
- All three states in the South Caucasus held elections of dubious quality (Presidential elections took place in Georgia (January 2008), Armenia (February 2008), and Azerbaijan (October 2008). Georgia held a parliamentary election in May 2008 and a placed two referendum questions on the ballot during the January presidential election). In Azerbaijan, major opposition parties boycotted the presidential election and did not stage post-election protests. Next year's referendum to eliminate term limits will create conditions for a "hereditary dictatorship" (as a commenter on a previous post designated it).
- Central Asia's electoral calendar was relatively quiet in 2008, save for the one-party "contest" in Turkmenistan (December 2008). Proposals for election rule tinkering in Kazakhstan and Tajikistan will not fundamentally alter the environment for political competition if/when they are enacted in 2009.
- Three European post-Soviet states held elections in 2008. Russia's March presidential election and Belarus' September parliamentary election provided little drama. Next door, Lithuania's October parliamentary election and referendum were hotly contested. Several political maneuvers set the stage for decreased competition in the region. Last week, the proposal to extend presidential term limits in Russia moved forward as the Federation Council approved the bill following its endorsement by regional legislatures. On December 30, 2008, President Medvedev signed the bill which also extended the term of parliamentary deputies from four to five years. The regime's success in co-opting Nikita Belykh, the former leader of the defunct Union of Right Forces and (former) regime critic, underscores the lack of political space for the opposition in contemporary Russia. Moldova's rejection of a reduction in the electoral threshold, and addition of a vetting requirement for candidates via security services, undermines open contestation. While Ukraine has not yet moved away from competitive electoral politics, chaotic political machinations in the capital city, including the threat of an early parliamentary election and inability of the government to respond to financial, energy, and infrastructure crises, test the limits of the public's patience for democratic politics.