What Sarah Palin means for the Romanian election

Earlier this week, The Atlantic‘s David Graham pointed us to the fact that former Alaska governor and one-time Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin fell behind just U.S. president Barack Obama and 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in popularity, at least in terms of most searched politicians.

Graham notes:

I’m going to let you in on a little journalism secret. Time was, political reporters knew that any post about Sarah from Alaska was any easy way to get eyeballs. (In one week in May 2010, I wrote three separate items under the rubric “Sarah Palin Real-Estate Watch.” All were well-read.)

You want to know who doesn’t turn eyeballs?

Victor Ponta.

Indeed, if you look at a Google Trends analysis comparing Victor Ponta and Sarah Palin, you’ll see quite clearly just how much more often ‘Sarah Palin’ is searched than ‘Victor Ponta.’

Yet for all the attention to Palin, it’s not her, but Ponta, Romania’s prime minister, who arguably holds the greater role in influencing not only European affairs, but U.S. foreign policy as well.

His party is set to win an overwhelming majority on Sunday in Romania’s parliamentary elections — the latest polls show his party/alliance, the Uniunea Social Liberală (USL, Social Liberal Union), with 62% of the vote and just barely one-fourth that support for the nearest opponent.  It’s important because Ponta has increasingly been viewed as bending the rule of law in order to benefit himself and his party.  He initiated a constitutionally suspect referendum against Romania’s president, Traian Băsescu, and the two are likely to lock Romania in political paralysis for the foreseeable future.  Continue reading What Sarah Palin means for the Romanian election

Simultaneous parliamentary elections could lead to split Ghanaian government

Although much of the international (and national) attention has been on Ghana’s presidential election tomorrow, it’s important to note that Ghana will also conduct its parliamentary elections as well.

The elections are conducted, rather straightforwardly, in 275 separate single-member constituencies — it’s a first-past-the-post system, so the winner of a plurality of support is elected as a member of parliament.

With the presidential race still incredibly competitive (some polls show incumbent president John Mahama leading, and others show challenger Nana Akufo-Addo with a lead), it’s likely that the parliamentary result will likewise be tight as well, though if no presidential candidate wins over 50% of the vote, the race will go to a runoff on December 28, which would mean that Ghanaians will know which party will control the parliament when they decide who will go to Jubilee House as Ghana’s president.  That could strongly influence whether Mahama or Akufo-Addo win a potential runoff.

Currently, Mahama’s National Democratic Congress (NDC) controls 114 seats in Ghana’s unicameral parliament, while Akufo-Addo’s New Patriotic Party controls 107, with seven additional parliamentarians who are either independents or represent smaller parties.  The NDC won control of the parliament in the 2008 elections that saw the NDC’s presidential candidate, John Atta Mills, triumph over Akufo-Addo in an incredibly tight presidential race.  Previously, the NPP held 128 seats and the NDC just 94 seats.

So whatever happens tomorrow, it seems unlikely that either the NPP or the NDC will sweep to a lopsided victory in the parliamentary elections.

That’s especially true given Ghanaian voting patterns over the past decade — the NPP’s traditional support comes from the south of the country, the heartland of the Akan ethnicity group that’s the largest ethnic group in Ghana (nearly 11 million out of a population of over 24 million people).  In fact, the maps of where the NPP led in 2008 in both the presidential and parliamentary election, and the map of the Akan heartland within Ghana, are nearly interchangeable.  The NDC has traditionally won its greatest support in the more Muslim north and along all of Ghana’s eastern border — namely, those areas that are not dominated by the Akan.

Indeed, if either Mahama or Akufo-Addo narrowly emerge with a lead of over 50% tomorrow, it’s even possible that Ghana could elect one party to control the Ghanaian presidency and another party to control the parliament.

The election will also feature a 45-member increase in the number of seats in Ghana’s parliament (from 230 to 275) in order to balance population growth, which could also create additional variability with respect to the ultimate result.  Continue reading Simultaneous parliamentary elections could lead to split Ghanaian government