Thursday, May 28, 2009

Delaying the Vote

The showdown in Moldova was slated for today. However, according to my imedia contact, the PCRM met briefly and claimed that on a religious holiday (Ascension) politicians "should not be fighting." The vote was rescheduled for June 3. Clearly, the PCRM has not been able to woo any opposition deputy, an impressive show of resolve by the opposition. My imedia contact noted that the opposition has barred its deputies from entering the voting booth, effectively "outing" any defector if one were to appear. While the PCRM promises to negotiate with the opposition, no clear lines of negotiation have emerged, nor have any compromise solutions. As was the case several days ago, the PCRM lacks only one vote to elect the president, and the opposition hopes to hold out for new elections (or at least a better deal).

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Mayoral Election in Yerevan

In ten days, Armenia's capital city will host an interesting race: the thwarted presidential candidate, and ex-president, Lev Ter-Petrossian, will face off against the government's preferred candidate, and incumbent mayor, Gagik Beglarian. Onnik Krikorian, at the Caucasian Knot, has an interesting post on the upcoming contest.

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

Moldova Update

Moldova's president is elected by parliament, and requires 61 votes to secure the seat. While the PCRM dominated the parliamentary vote, it only obtained 60 seats. Vladimir Voronin, the former president, gained the powerful post of parliamentary speaker after the most recent election.

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 in a contest with new candidates (the losing candidates in this round cannot run again) [CORRECTION - Losing candidates may contest again]. If no candidate wins, Voronin will be required to dissolve parliament and call a new election. The stakes will be high over the next eight days, and opposition deputies are likely to be tempted with an assortment of rewards for supporting the PCRM candidate.

Thanks to imedia for news and analysis used in this post.

Ukraine's Presidential Election Restored

Faction leaders have agreed to restore the January 17, 2010 date for Ukraine's presidential election. Barring unforeseen complications, never out of the realm of possibilities, President Yushchenko's preferred date is confirmed.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Results are In

Overnight, Lithuania's CEC completed the count of over 98% of the ballots. Turnout rose from just under 50% to 51.67%. Dalia Grybauskaite has claimed 68.17% of the ballots. Her closest rival, Algirdas Butkevicius, received 11.70%. If the results are finalized, and no court challenges emerge, she will be the first female president of Lithuania.

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.

Turnout in Lithuania

Lithuania's presidential election rules require a candidate to win a majority of votes to claim the post in the first round. However, if turnout falls below 50%, a second provision requires a winning candidate to claim at least 33% of all voters. Article 74 of the Law on Presidential Elections notes:

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

Election Eve in Vilnius

I arrived in Lithuania today, on the eve of the presidential election (early voting has begun, but the main day for casting ballots is tomorrow). Campaign advertisements have already been cleaned off bulletin boards around town, although a few strays remain. The streets of Vilnius are quiet, and the election is also expected to be a relatively quiet affair.

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

On Again Off Again

Ukraine's Constitutional Court overturned the Rada's decision to hold the next presidential election in October 2009. The date had been set for early 2010 initially, but parliament moved up the election date by passing a resolution. President Yushchenko challenged the decision in court, and the Constitutional Court's ruling adds to the already intense fighting among rivals in Kyiv. Discussions about simultaneous presidential and early parliamentary elections are again on the table.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Post-Soviet Elections at the Monkey Cage

The Monkey Cage, a blog that comments on a wide range of issues in political science, has added Joshua Tucker as a regular participant. Josh is well known for his excellent work on elections in the post-communist region, and he just posted a provocative entry on election fraud. In particular, it raises important questions about how fraud is coordinated, and why fraud is often massive. I am working on a project that will weigh in on this issue, and will post more about it in the future.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Several Updates

End of semester tasks have prevented me from posting lately. But, elections continue in the region. Updates include:

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.