Tag Archives: Turkey

Reckless Incompetence

For the past two weeks, almost every day has produced a stunning revelation about the current Administration.  By this point, it is crystal clear that the Liar-in-Chief is completely clueless about the many responsibilities of his job and simply does not care.  He is going to proceed full speed ahead — hoping that determination and arrogance will make up for any deficiencies in his knowledge about policy issues or protocol.

Most democracies have some institutional procedures that keep individuals from rising to the top of the government without sufficient experience in politics and government to assure a basic knowledge of how things work.   In a parliamentary system, the leaders of the major parties tend to have served several terms before becoming leader of their party.  Additionally, the leaders tend to have served on the leadership teams of their parties (having responsibility for several different policy areas including at least one major area) before running for and winning their party’s top spots.  In addition, there are procedures in place that allow a party to remove (albeit with some difficulty) a leader who is not doing a good job as prime minister.

Unfortunately for the U.S., our Constitution predates the modern era of parliamentary democracy.  Our framers did have the same type of concerns that have animated modern parliamentary government, but the development of national politics have undermined the procedures created by the framers.  The electoral college was supposed to assure a minimum level of competence in the presidency.  The thought behind the original language in Article II (two votes per elector, no more than one of which could be from the elector’s state) was that each elector would cast one vote for one of the leading politicians in that state and one vote for a politician with a  national reputation.  Barring a clearly obvious national candidate, no candidate would get a national majority and the House would pick between the top candidates.  This scheme depended upon the framers’ belief that politics would stay state-based and that the different state parties would not get together with similar groups from other states to from a national party that would be able to get electors in multiple states to support a national ticket.  That has left the burden on the parties to devise systems of choosing leaders that ensures competence in their presidential candidates, and — as the current incumbent shows — the Republican Party rules have failed in that regards.

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A Look Abroad — Upcoming Elections

From time to time, I like to take a look at upcoming elections in our allies.  As the recent market fluctuations in response to problem with the Chinese economy show, the U.S. is not immune to feeling the effects of problems in the rest of the word.  Between now and November, there will be elections in Greece, Canada, Portugal, and Turkey.  For now, I want to focus on Greece, Canada, and Turkey.

Greece will hold its second election of 2015 next Sunday, September 20.  This election was almost inevitable after the results of the January election.  The Greek economy has been on shaky ground since the 2008 global recession, and Greece has needed multiple bailouts from its economic partners to avoid defaulting on its loans.  In January 2015, the Greeks voted for a new party (Syrizia) that opposed the concessions made in past bailout deals and promised to be a tough negotiator in the next round.  The problem was that Greece needed a new bailout more than its partners needed to keep Greece afloat.  So the government eventually had to accept a worse deal than its supporters wanted.  Several members of the governing party voted against the deal, costing the government its majority and leading to this second election.

Greece uses a proportional representation system to elect 250 members of parliament.  To reduce the likelihood (endemic to proportional representative systems) of an inconclusive result in which tiny parties hold the balance of power, Greece gives the party that finishes first an additional 50 seats.  As a result, it only takes around 35-40% of the vote  rather than 48-50% to get a majority of the seats.  The question for next week’s election is whether Syrizia will keep their supporters (with voters recognizing the limitations that the Greek government faces) or whether Greek voters will look for some other party promising the impossible.

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