Thursday, February 25, 2010

Voter Apathy in Tajikistan

IFES has just published a summary of its recent public opinion poll addressing Tajikistan's upcoming parliamentary election. The poll notes a lack of interest and engagement on the part of respondents. The OSCE's preliminary report indicates that the campaign has been correspondingly "low key." While political observers note that the party-of-power, the People's Democratic Party, is expected to gain most seats, other parties might marginally improve their status. Notably, RFE/RL suggests that the Islamic Renaissance Party could improve its seat total from two to ten. Tajikistan uses a mixed electoral system, allocating 41 of its 63 total seats to constituencies with a majority-runoff rule and the remaining 22 to a party-list component.

It's Official

Viktor Yanukovych was inaugurated as president of Ukraine earlier today. The BBC's story follows.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentine for Yanukovych

Viktor Yanukovych was named the official winner of Ukraine's election today, a decision that Yuliya Tymoshenko says that she will appeal. Tymoshenko's appeal is an extreme long-shot, as no evidence of large-scale fraud has been offered, the Central Electoral Commission leans toward Yanukovych, and the courts are unlikely to render a judgment similar to the one that precipitated a repeat of the second round of the 2004 election. Yanukovych could also undermine Tymoshenko by reaching beyond the Party of Regions for appointments that he will control. Undoubtedly, the political elite in the Party of Regions are debating how to allocate positions after their victory as the Guardian article cited above suggests (and probably projecting what will happen if/when the PoR topples Tymoshenko from the prime minister's post). If the PoR thinks short-term, it will jealously guard the spoils. If it thinks long-term, the PoR may attempt to expand its coalition to undermine Tymoshenko's (or another opponent's) ability to form future alliances.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

What Comes Next?

The Central Electoral Commission has tallied the ballots and published the final results, moving toward a formalization of Viktor Yanukovych's victory. Yuliya Tymoshenko's team has suggested that it will challenge the results. Because the results are close - 887,928 votes separate the two - invalidation of results in some districts could raise questions about the final tally. International and domestic organizations found no evidence of large-scale fraud, undermining mobilization and rendering court decisions that would overturn the results extremely unlikely. As I have noted before, the issue of fraud is related to its scale rather than its presence; if one looks hard enough, it is likely that evidence of fraud will indeed be found. While I have not yet assembled polling-station level data for assessment, it is likely to be small scale and diffuse.

The election challenge gambit is layered on top of another drama in Kyiv: efforts to oust Tymoshenko as prime minister. Forming a new coalition would require strange bedfellows. The idea of a grand coalition between the Party of Regions and Our Ukraine has been floated before, but pairing Our Ukraine and the Communists is a tougher sell to members and constituents of both groups. If Yanukovych's team comes up with a coalition, it could avoid the potential perils of early elections. But, its coalition might be weak and fractious. Moreover, coalition partners would expect cabinet posts (it is likely Our Ukraine would demand the prime minister's portfolio, with someone like Yuriy Yekhanurov taking the post). Alternatively, Yanukovych's team could engineer a collapse of the current coalition which has barely held together, and set up early parliamentary elections. Parliamentary elections are a risk, however, as they may not yield a coalition to Yanukovych's liking.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Ukraine's Big Game

The vote is underway all over Ukraine, and polls will close at 8 p.m. local time (1 p.m. Eastern time in the US). You can follow the action on various twitter feeds, the National Exit Poll, and many news sites (I am partial to Ukrainska Pravda). I will post updates throughout the day as well.

UPDATE (4:15 p.m. local time): The CEC just released turnout data for the first two reporting periods. Eastern regions (Donetsk and Luhansk) lead the way with 57% of voters casting ballots by 3 p.m. Zakarpatska Oblast has reported lowest turnout (35%), and one oblast has not yet reported in (Chernivets). Turnout in many western regions where Tymoshenko is expected to be stronger is relatively low (L'viv Oblast reports 46%, Ivano-Frankivsk 41%). Regions where Tihipko performed the best in the first round did not generally report high turnout; Dnipropetrovsk was just about at the mean (49%) and Odesa was below the mean (42%). As I have noted before, Tymoshenko's areas of strength have lower populations than Yanukovych-leaning regions. Large-scale mobilization of core supporters is especially important for her to have a chance at victory. Volyn, Ternopil, and Rivne reported turnout above the mean, but lower than turnout in Yanukovych's core regions. While projecting outcomes from turnout data is problematic for several reasons, on their face the data suggest that Yanukovych is likely in a better position than Tymoshenko at this point in the day.

UPDATE (8:15 p.m. local time): All exit polls are giving the nod to Viktor Yanukovych. While results vary, Yanukovych is predicted to have around 49%, Tymoshenko 46%, and the remainder (5% or so) against all.

(10:30 p.m. local time): Of course, as Tymoshenko herself noted, exit poll results are within the standard margin of error rendering a definitive prediction elusive. While the CEC site has not yet posted results, Ukrainska Pravda currently has information on about 1% of the votes and will be updating regularly.

UPDATE (1:00 a.m. (February 8) local time): With 25% of the votes counted, Viktor Yanukovych leads 51% to 43%. Based on the SOCIS exit poll, Ukrainska Pravda has published a "portrait" of the electorate for each candidate. In most demographic features, the candidates' supporters are essentially equivalent. While I do not have the raw data to run a quick test, I suspect that there would be a statistically significant difference in supporters based on residence - with rural regions favoring Tymoshenko and large urban areas favoring Yanukovych.

UPDATE (2:45 a.m. (February 8) local time): With just about 50% of the vote counted, the CEC reports that Yanukovych leads 49.52% to 44.85% with 4.49% of ballots cast against all and 1.12% invalid. Eleven regions have processed fewer than 50% of their protocols: Crimea (15%), Volyn (27%), Luhansk (31%), Ivano-Frankivsk (31%), L'viv (32%), Chernivets (35%), Kirovohrad (36%), Sumska (39%), Rivne (45%), Kyiv Oblast (47%), Zaporizka (47%). While many of these regions are in Tymoshenko's area of strength, other high-population areas of Yanukovych support still have many protocols to finalize.

Below is a table of turnout, with results sorted by oblast. The three results are reports from 11 a.m., 3 p.m., and 8 p.m.. Given the stakes, and the decisive status of round 2, higher turnout is not surprising (although it surpassed round 1 by just a few percentage points where turnout was 66.76%). Areas with core supporters for both candidates seem to have been mobilized, but regions where alternate candidates performed well in round 1 have lower turnout (e.g., Yatseniuk's core area in Chernivets, Tihipko's regions of strength in Dnipropetrovsk and Odesa).

Пo Україні 17.63 49.85 69.07
Тернопільська область (165 - 169) 12.91 49.22 77.76
Донецька область (41 - 62) 22.46 57.41 76.97
Волинська область (19 - 23) 13.89 48.75 75.52
Львівська область (117 - 128) 12.84 46.44 75.32
Івано-Франківська область (84 - 90) 11.74 45.77 74.65
Луганська область (105 - 116) 24.27 57.07 74.41
Рівненська область (154 - 158) 14.65 51.94 73.8
Хмельницька область (190 - 196) 18.56 52.33 71.63
Вінницька область (11 - 18) 17.9 52.18 70.89
Запорізька область (75 - 83) 20.04 52.81 68.88
Житомирська область (63 - 68) 16.92 46.05 67.71
Харківська область (170 - 183) 18.98 49.6 67.2
Автономна Республіка Крим (1 - 10) 18.43 50.53 67.1
Полтавська область (146 - 153) 18.82 50.83 66.79
Дніпропетровська область (24 - 40) 19.68 49.8 66.78
Сумська область (159 - 164) 19.39 51.29 66.77
Миколаївська область (129 - 134) 20.74 51.54 66.23
Черкаська область (197 - 203) 18.35 49.55 66.11
Київська область (91 - 99) 17.99 48.97 64.58
Одеська область (135 - 145) 15.49 45.89 63.37
Кіровоградська область (100 - 104) 19.32 47.54 63.27
Чернівецька область (204 - 207) 15.38 44.54 61.58
Херсонська область (184 - 189) 17.06 46.79 60.3
Закарпатська область (69 - 74) 9.33 35.22 56.37

UPDATE (3:00 p.m. (February 8) local time): With 98.26% of the protocols in, the CEC is reporting that Yanukovych has received 48.56% of the vote and Yuliya Tymoshenko 45.85% of the vote, with 4.39% voting against all. The against all vote - citizens who come to the polls to record a vote against both candidates - could have changed the outcome if they voted for a single candidate. The against all vote could also have vaulted either candidate above 50%. I'll comment on the implications of Yanukovych's apparent win later.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Richard Nixon, Al Gore, and Today's Ukraine

According to political lore, Richard Nixon and Al Gore ultimately assented to elections that they believed opponents won improperly. Both the 1960 and 2000 presidential elections in the US were close contests, and supporters of the ultimate losers argued that vote manipulation and/or biased administrative decisions determined the winner, rather than the proper translation of the "people's will." They did not mobilize street protests, or endlessly extend appeals. While elections can sometimes be too close to produce a definitive result that satisfies everyone, democracy requires good winners and good losers.

Ukraine may be faced with a similar scenario on Monday morning. While conventional wisdom holds that it is Tymoshenko who will come up short in the vote count, it may be quite close depending on how effectively both campaigns have mobilized their supporters. Tymoshenko has promised to take demonstrators to the streets if democratic practices are not followed; both campaigns have requested permission to hold rallies in Kyiv.

The election, and its aftermath, may have important implications for Ukraine's democracy. Both the winner and loser - as well as supporters - need to accept the results and occupy their positions as leader of the executive, and leader of the opposition. The winner should resist the temptation to overreach in the assertion of his/her mandate. Moreover, constant change to political institutions undermines the development of stable competitive politics. The loser should resist the temptation to endlessly appeal the decision and disrupt governance practices. Power changes hands in democratic societies; if the loser learns lessons from failure and applies them to the next campaign, the outcome may be different.

Yanukovych himself may, perhaps ironically, serve as an example. If he wins tomorrow's election, his narrative turns into the tale of a political phoenix. He lost the 2004 election and suffered political humiliation. Recognizing that he needed to change his image, he hired consultants and followed their advice. His tone softened a bit, and he followed a set of talking points. His party's victory in the 2006 parliamentary election [1] marked his return as a viable electoral force. While he failed to extend his victory in the 2007 parliamentary election, the winning coalition had a bare majority, experienced infighting, and faced the economic crisis as the standing government. His team's actions, as well as some "luck," may take him from embarrassing defeat to victory.

1. Technically, the Party of Regions obtained the most votes, but did not "win" the election. However, Yanukovych's allies were able to cobble together a coalition that briefly ruled until early parliamentary elections tipped the balance to Tymoshenko's team in 2007.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Quality of Election Administration, Part 7

Left Bank has published an analysis of first round results, pointing out some anomalies in the distribution of data. The authors use Benford's Law to assess returns, much like I did in Elections and Democracy after Communism. They point to unusual results associated with both Yanukovych and Tymoshenko. The article implies that falsification took place and the tests identify fraud. But, results from the analysis of data using Benford's principles must be assessed with care. First, they point only to anomalous results and do not demonstrate causation. Second, the distribution of election data differs from the kind of data that Benford assessed (especially because polling station sizes are constrained and vary from one to another). Third, forensic accountants who use Benford's Law to assess financial data often use a battery of "data interrogation tests" to assess quality; one test is not enough. Other issues associated with the analysis of election data underscore the need for a circumspect interpretation of results. However, in past elections, analysis using Benford's Law has identified anomalies in areas where other evidence of falsification emerged.

On a related note, controversy has erupted over administrative practices for the second round. The Verkhovna Rada was convened for its 6th session this week, and amended aspects of the presidential election law which the president quickly signed. Changing the law days ahead of an election, and between rounds, is an unusual practice. But, Ukrainian politicians have amended election rules regularly ahead of the vote. The changes focused on minor administrative procedures, but may have serious implications for the vote count. The quorum rule for commissions was altered, allowing for decisions to be made without the previously mandated 2/3 attendance (instead, quorum is now a majority). Commission members may be replaced, and the rules do not require that they represent the same presidential candidate (only that they have approval of local government and the higher-level electoral commission).

Tymoshenko issued a statement about the rule changes, asserting that they were improper and undermine the electoral process. The Party of Regions countered that Tymoshenko's supporters were planning to undermine vote counting in areas where Yanukovych is strong by not showing up and preventing results from being counted and certified. Tymoshenko was lying about the effect of the new rules, according to the Party of Regions. Both parties have been willing to disrupt government activities in the Verkhovna Rada by blocking the Speaker's access to the dais, and creating noise that prevents deliberation and decision-making. In that context, the Party of Regions' allegations that BYuT might disrupt electoral practices are not out of the question. Also, a majority quorum rule is standard for bodies to convene (see Robert's Rules of Order). Nevertheless, last minute rule changes are generally inadvisable as they may lead to a perception of impropriety and may be difficult to implement.

[Hat tip to Maksym Palamarenko for the Left Bank citation and Mark Nigrini for the "data interrogation tests" phrase.]

Monday, February 1, 2010

Two Viktors?

Viktor Yanukovych skipped the only scheduled debate with rival Yuliya Tymoshenko. His failure to show up gave Tymoshenko the opportunity to tear into him, and she did so with gusto. Tymoshenko called him a "banal coward" and suggested that there are two versions of Yanukovych: one is a PR product, and the other is hidden from view by his campaign team. While enduring such a tongue-lashing on national television is not generally in the best interests of a candidate less than one week before an election, Yanukovych may have been better served by avoiding the confrontation. He entered the second round in the strongest position, and given his relatively weak performance on the Shuster program prior to round 1, his more profitable approach is to stay on message and in venues that allow for purely scripted appearances.