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  1. #1
    Senior Member lowtech redneck's Avatar
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    Default Obama and Electoral Reform in Europe

    There have been some articles in recent days about Europeans lamenting that candidates like Obama (i.e. candidates not intimately associated with the party leadership) could never run for political office in Europe, because all candidates are effectively appointed by the party bosses. What are the chances that the election of Obama will lead to bottom-up electoral reforms in European countries with single-member districts, reminiscent of the movements which led to political primaries and the direct election of Senators in the United States?

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    IRL is not real Cimarron's Avatar
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    An interesting question. I've felt for a while (in my biased opinion) that European governments are missing out on this more "personal" aspect of our system in the States. Of course there are arguments for it as well as against it. But you gave me something to think about, in regards to the 17th Amendment...
    Last edited by Cimarron; 11-08-2008 at 02:30 PM. Reason: two sides of debate
    You can't spell "justice" without ISTJ.

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    Senior Member wildcat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cimarron View Post
    An interesting question. I've felt for a while (in my biased opinion) that European governments are missing out on this more "personal" aspect of our system in the States. Of course there are arguments for it as well as against it. But you gave me something to think about, in regards to the 17th Amendment...
    The Latvian President was an American. The Finnish President was a Cosmopolite, an outsider who had lived his life abroad, in Africa and New York. Churchill was a life long outsider. Italian Berlusconi was not a politician. Some leaders are from the business world, some come from the academia.

    After WWII they had no politicians in Germany. Well, they had, but they were all Nazis.
    So they chose Adenauer. He had been the Burgmeister of Cologne. You can call him a politician, if you want.


    They have even kings and queens. I do not think they can be party members, though.

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    Senior Member Kora's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wildcat View Post
    They have even kings and queens. I do not think they can be party members, though.
    Of course they can't. That would mean working, lol.
    5w4 - Idiosyncratic/Leisurely/Dramatic
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    Reason vs Being ragashree's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lowtech redneck View Post
    There have been some articles in recent days about Europeans lamenting that candidates like Obama (i.e. candidates not intimately associated with the party leadership) could never run for political office in Europe, because all candidates are effectively appointed by the party bosses.

    Well, I don't know exactly which parts of Europe you were referring to, but in Britain we certainly don't have this issue. Candidates for the leadership of the major parties are selected by some kind of ballot of the party members (the details vary between parties, but nowadays every member of each of the major parties has the chance to cast their vote at some stage in the proceedings). I think this is somewhat similar in principle to US caucuses except that the ballot(s) take place at the national level. It's quite possible under the various guises of this system for a leader to be elected from outside the ruling heirarchy of the party by virtue of their popularity with the grassroots members. This doesn't necessarily translate into electoral sucess though, as the senior party members are generally more in tune with what the electorate as a whole wants than the rank and file members, who tend to be too caught up in their own prejudices to be able to take a wider perspective.

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    Reason vs Being ragashree's Avatar
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    A couple of leaders elected from the fringes of their respective parties in recent time by virtue of their popularity with ordinary members spring to mind: Michael Foot, left wing journalist and campaigner for nuclear disarmament, led the Labour party in the early 80's. Ian Duncan Smith, uncharismatic retired army officer and advocate of a very British brand of reactionary conservatism, led the Conservatives just a couple of years ago. The popularity of both men began and ended with their own grassroots party members (who I don't doubt identified with them pretty closely), which made their later electoral performances entirely predictable in their hopelessness.

    Don't be too surprised if you've never heard of either: They're all but forgotten even here.

  7. #7
    Senior Member lowtech redneck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ragashree View Post
    Well, I don't know exactly which parts of Europe you were referring to, but in Britain we certainly don't have this issue. Candidates for the leadership of the major parties are selected by some kind of ballot of the party members (the details vary between parties, but nowadays every member of each of the major parties has the chance to cast their vote at some stage in the proceedings). I think this is somewhat similar in principle to US caucuses except that the ballot(s) take place at the national level. It's quite possible under the various guises of this system for a leader to be elected from outside the ruling heirarchy of the party by virtue of their popularity with the grassroots members. This doesn't necessarily translate into electoral sucess though, as the senior party members are generally more in tune with what the electorate as a whole wants than the rank and file members, who tend to be too caught up in their own prejudices to be able to take a wider perspective.
    One of the articles was about the UK, the Labour party in particular. Another was about France. Caucasus involve few participants relative to primaries, so what percentage of the UK voting public participates in national party leadership elections (and do party members have to pay dues or involve themselves in party activities)? Who chooses the candidates for each district, and how much independence do such candidates have from the overall party platform? Do they have independent fund-raising capability, or are they dependent on party largesse?

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    Reason vs Being ragashree's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lowtech redneck View Post
    One of the articles was about the UK, the Labour party in particular. Another was about France. Caucasus involve few participants relative to primaries, so what percentage of the UK voting public participates in national party leadership elections (and do party members have to pay dues or involve themselves in party activities)? Who chooses the candidates for each district, and how much independence do such candidates have from the overall party platform? Do they have independent fund-raising capability, or are they dependent on party largesse?
    Quote Originally Posted by lowtech redneck View Post
    One of the articles was about the UK, the Labour party in particular. Another was about France. Caucasus involve few participants relative to primaries, so what percentage of the UK voting public participates in national party leadership elections (and do party members have to pay dues or involve themselves in party activities)? Who chooses the candidates for each district, and how much independence do such candidates have from the overall party platform? Do they have independent fund-raising capability, or are they dependent on party largesse?
    Hmm.. I'm not an expert by any means, but I shall nevertheless do my best to answer!

    The main two parties had a couple of hundred thousand each last time I heard (it's a bit difficult to be exact when the Conservatives don't keep national membership statistics and Labour membership has been fluctuating wildly); the others substantially fewer. I would say that it would be somewhat less than 1% of the total population of nearly 60 million at current membership levels. This is not the whole story though, as any member of one of the major trade unions with historical links to the Labour party can also vote in the party's leadership contest. This would bring the number of potential voters for the Labour leader up into the millions - a much larger franchise than the other parties by an order of magnitude, BUT one union member vote < one Party member vote. I don't know the exact convoluted manner in which the calculation is worked out, however. I presume this strange system is a compromise between keeping the unions (historically their major supporters) sweet and containing the influence those who are not even party members can have over the leadership outcome.

    Candidates for each seat are chosen by a ballot of the localparty members, but I get the impression that there can be a lot of behind the scenes manoevering going on there, some of it definitely dirty. The Labour party is very centralised compared to the other two main parties and has been known to do things such as imposing a shortlist consisting only of nationally approved candidates for the local party members to "choose" from, particularly in "safe" seats where they wish to impose a stooge of the governing heirarchy, reward someone for services rendered, or further an objective such as getting more women/minorities into Parlaiment. They've had a lot of negative publicity over this patently antidemocratic tactic recently though, so I wouldn't be surprised if they gave it up for the next election. So far as I know the other main parties - the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, choose their candidates without central interference, although I'm sure that the national leadership has ways of putting pressure on local associations over anyone they particularly dislike. (I believe all the national parties do actually have a veto on candidates, but using it would be percieved as an attack on the autonomy of local associations, and therefore extremely politically risky.)

    The Conservatives and Liberals in general appear to tolerate dissent and free speech among elected representatives better than the present Labour party. All parties, however, employ individuals known as "whips" to control the parlimentary party - these are members loyal to the governing heirarchy whose task it is to persuade, threaten, or cajole individual members into line and tell them which way to vote on key issues. They don't have any way of forcing them to vote one way or the other, but I believe regularly defying the party whip is a particularly good way of sabotaging one's future climb up the career ladder, unless of course there is a change of leadership and attitudes at the top.

    Funding in British elections is very different to the US so far as I can see. The parties rely entirely on private donations (which can also come from companies or unions), of which the national party distributes a portion to the local candidates and spends the rest on national campaigning. I don't think it would help a candidate that much to be independently wealthy or do their own campaign fundrasing as there is a spending cap per candidate's campaign (around the equivalent of $20000). This is actually enforced and candidates who are caught overspending are penalised, along with probably damaging their reputation, so there isn't much incentive to do so.

    Well, that was a rather longer response than I intended; I hope it answered your question at any rate!

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    Senior Member wildcat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kora View Post
    Of course they can't. That would mean working, lol.
    True.

    The aristocrats breed the birds.
    They pamper them before they kill them in their home territory.

    Hunting is not work any more.
    It is not even hunting.

  10. #10
    Senior Member lowtech redneck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ragashree View Post
    Well, that was a rather longer response than I intended; I hope it answered your question at any rate!
    For the most part, yes. Thank you.

    Now how about France?

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