Thursday, June 4, 2009

Election Fever - in a heatwave

The Irish electorate will vote on Friday June 5th in the local and European elections. The local elections will select Town, City and County Councillors all over the Republic of Ireland for the next five years, and the European elections will select our twelve European MEPs (Members of the European Parliament) also for the next five years. There are two bye-elections in the Dublin Central and Dublin South Constituency which are hotly contested and promise to be an exciting battle between the main parties.

We are in the middle of a heatwave (Irish-style) with glorious sunshine and warm sunny weather that has put the recession and our dwindling paypackets off the headlines for the past week. The June Bank Holiday weekend just gone was one of the best for years we are in a slightly hesitant state of national euphoria, afraid to jinx it in case it all vanishes but enjoying the moment for however long or short it lasts.

Our street in the lovely sunshine - that's our house on the right with the dormer windows.

I have to declare my interest at this stage, as most of you might know, hubby Jan is the current Mayor of Lismore, and he is running for the Town Council elections for the Labour Party. It is his first election, and it is a pretty exciting time, as the last day before polling dawns in a few hours. How can this be his first election if he is already a sitting councillor? The reason is that he was co-opted to the council when his predecessor, Mark, resigned in 2006. He had been a councillor for a number of years and was leaving the town so Jan was delighted to be chosen by the Labour Party's Waterford Constituency as the Lismore Branch candidate for the co-opted seat, which was uncontested.

He has been a high profile mayor as there have been a number of local issues that made headlines locally and some nationally, particularly the fire in the abandoned Recycling plant near the town, in the next road from our street. It has a long history going back a number of years and has been an eyesore for the past few years since the owner declared bankruptcy and now it has burnt to the ground and is an asbestos-contaminated site. He has been struggling to have the issue dealt with since he took office, and it is a key platform of his campaign.

Jan with John Pratt the County Council Labour Candidate and Brian O'Shea, TD (Labour) - that's MP for those of you outside Ireland not familiar with the Irish acronym!) canvassing in the town recently

We were in Dublin a couple of weekends ago and he was on national radio on a Newstalk programme called Global Village which highlights immigrant issues, and had been looking at candidates from the immigrant community running in the local elections. He was on a panel with two Nigerian candidates from other parties who are contesting seats in the same constituency, which made for a lively debate, and another Labour candidate from Moldova running in Limerick. It was my first time in a Radio Station, and it was an interesting experience. Jan had been a number of times on Waterford Local Radio (WLRFM) on various issues and events.

So we are all keeping our fingers crossed for his success on Friday. It is a fascinating campaign nationally as there is vehement anti-government sentiment about and it is a good time to be in opposition. Labour would relish the challenge of a General Election and there is much speculation that the ruling Fianna Fáil/Green party coalition is on the brink of collapse. So you never know what might happen, if they do badly in these local and European elections they might have to call it a day.
Jan outside the Newstalk Studio in Digges Lane, Dublin.

People are incredibly angry at the mismanagement of the various crises and the pandering to the banks has sickened everyone, as they are being bailed out by the taxpayers at huge expense and with little accountability coming from the recipients who seem to see it as their due, that the little people should prop them up. Sadly the government's obsequiousness is reinforcing their arrogance and they are not being penalised for their reckless financial gambling and squandering on developers and over inflated land prices that were all a bubble that has burst with devastating consequences for us "little people".

Perhaps that's what happens when a country has been ruled by the same party for most of the past 3 decades, complacency and arrogance sets in and a sense of entitlement prevails. Time for a change and if it won't happen in a general election then the local and European results on Friday will be a rallying cry for the government to feel the wrath of the country.


Jeannette StG said...

Wishing your hubby success on Friday!!
Yes, I agree - some people (not only in your country, but across the globe) need to get an idea the gravity of their irresponsible behavior and greediness.

Reader Wil said...

Dear Catherine, how exciting for you and your husband. For me it looks very complicated. Thanks for your comment. There is a part in it, which I don't understand. It is this sentence: "It is an elimination by transfers after first preference votes. Very exciting as someone can get less than quota first preference votes and still get elected on transfers after 2nd and 3rd preferences, right up to 6th or 7th count." So if you have time to explain this to me, I will be very grateful. I hope your party will win. I also vote either Labour or our green party. Anyway a left wing party.

Peggy said...

Hi Catherine, I hope Jan does well in the polls today and gets elected. I was reading the comment above and would like to see you trying to explain our voting system to an outsider! I enjoy the counts as it is never a 'sure' thing unless voted in on the first count.
Some of our FF candidates here are saying to vote local not national as they have always done a good job on the ground.I would have to admit some of them are terrific local politicians but unless FF get a hammering today Brian Cowan will see it as a vote of confidence in what they are doing.
Vote early,vote often!

Niamh Griffin said...

Good luck to Jan today! it is a complicated system but works somehow. In Australia, voting is complusory so people are fined for not voting - do you think that would work here?!

Catherine said...

Thanks for all the comments and I have passed on your support and good wishes to Jan! He is now waiting for the results by tomorrow (Saturday) afternoon we should know. The County Council results will be later and I think the European results won't be known till Sunday.

JEANNETTE - thanks for that- I hope there will be a message sent out that there is a palpable anger at the greed of certain sectors and that the banks are being bailed out by taxpayers at the expense of services to children, the elderly and the poor. At least that's what's happened here. I think the government party will do fairly well locally in the towns where the candidates are well known and may be liked. In the County Councils it may be different as the candidates won't be personally known by many of the electorate, so there may well be a backlash protest vote at the government ineptness at times of crisis.
We will know all by this time tomorrow!

Catherine said...

WIL - thanks for your query which I had to run by Jan to make sure I got it right, maths never being my strongest point! Sadly (and I guess you aren't happy about it either)I see that the Dutch electorate returned 4 far right candidates (PVV) and it would make my blood run cold to see fascistic extremists gain power. Libertas was out nemesis in that sphere, but they won't get a hope of a seat. They are anti-Lisbon but they scaremongered with lies and inciting fear last year and have been exposed as such, and as Ireland wouldn't survive any time outside the mainstream of Europe and it has been very good to us, people aren't fools and see this point.

WHat I meant about the transfers that wasn't made very clear is the system of voting here - you vote for the candidate of your choice from 1 to whatever number you wish, you can vote for all in order of preference or just your favourite candidate.There is a quota which is the voters/electorate divided by the number of seats. e.g. 1000 /10 seats = quota of 100. Let's assume 14 candidated for 10 seats.
The votes are counted and all first preferences are noted. Then those candidates who get over 100 are in on the first count. Their surplus is then distributed/transferred to the remaining candidates, according to the percentage of number 2s on the first candidates surplus. Then if another candidate reaches the 100 quota after the 2nd count, that candidates surplus is distributed among the remaining candidates, again in order of the % of number 2s for those candidates. Then this goes on until e.g. the 10 candidates reach their quota of 100. The 4 who are eliminated may not be eliminated until quite far down the count. Perhaps you get all this already, if so - sorry for the long-windedness!

You asked specifically about the first preferences and transfers.
This is actually what happened in 2004 here in the County Council elections - candidate A got 601 first preferences and candidate B got 573. The quota was 1041.
Candidate A got transfers right up to the 6th count when all the surplus votes were transferred, and totalled 728 - below quota. Candidate B got 983 votes on the 6th and final count - also below quota but as there were no votes left to distribute, he was duly elected as the last in the poll. Our democratic system in action! a bit Orwellian - there is a quota but you can get in even if you don't reach the quota!
In the last general election in 2007 there was war in one Dublin Constituency (where one of today's Bye-elections is being held) as it was the Taoiseach's constituency. (our Prime Minister at the time Bertie Ahern). Joe Higgins the Socialist Worker's Party was extremely popular in a largely working class constituency of Dublin Central, and he polled over 7000 first preferences. The quota was around 8000. However,the unknown Cyprian Brady, a party colleague of Bertie Ahern, was elected despite only getting 900 first preferences, as he got most of Bertie's transfers which brought him to the quota. So there you have the downside of it all. A lot hangs on transfers so the 2nd and 3rd preferences matter a lot and that's why it ain't over till the fat lady (or politician!) sings!
If you haven't lost the will to live after all this I hope I have answered your query - I bet you're sorry you asked!!!.

Catherine said...

PEGGY - how did I do on the answer to Wil's query - like I said she's sorry she asked! I probably complicated a relatively simple question. Yes it's all over insofar as we can do nowt but wait! There has been a good turnout I think though we'll have to wait for the anoraks to start the number crunching to tell us the stats. That's why I am so glad those damn voting machines didn't get in - Nora Owen lost her seat famously when they were used in North Dublin - she was told in a heartbeat after the count opened that she was gone and burst into tears. I kinda know her through Concern, and she can laugh at it now as she got into the Senate afterwards, but it was so boring to miss the excitement of the count and the tensions. I will be a nervous wreck tomorrow!
It will be interesting to see how it pans out tomorrow with FF. Vote of no confidence in Biffo at the County level is my feeling, town not so sure as it's smaller and everyone knows everyone else. FIngers crossed!

Jeannette StG said...

I am sorry I read your answer to Reader Wil - my head is spinning! Do the Irish understand it?? Don't have to answer - 't is a retorical question LOL

Reader Wil said...

Well thank you Catherine! You have done your utmost to answer my query, but it's still beyond my comprehension. Never mind. The Dutch voting system is one of proportional representation, but I really don't know how the counting is done.
It was a bit of a shock to see that Geert Wilders won 4 seats. His party won 15 % of the votes, that means that 85 % didn't vote for him. He represents a minority and what's more: nobody wants to work with him, so he cannot come into power. The majority doesn't agree with him. It's the same in the European Parliament. All our other parties have joined their partners in the other European Countries. Our Labour Party, for instance, joined British Labour and French Socialists. Together they are stronger.

Catherine said...

Jan got elected! So that is great news - more later!

Niamh Griffin said...

Congrats! It's definitely been an interesting election, north and south of the border some serious shake-ups going on...

Peggy said...

Congratulations to Jan on winning his seat! Labour seems to have picked up most of the FF vote here in the city also. I watched all the news over the weekend to see if Waterford was mentioned but it looked as if there was only an election in Dublin from the news coverage. The counting of the votes in the PR system is a spectator sport!

The Cherry Tree Farm said...

Hurrah! Congratulations to your husband! Does this have anything to do with his great necklace? :) No -- I think that's his mayoral job, right? Or am I confused, and that IS part of the position he was just officially elected to? (I'm sorry to sound so awfully dumb about this.) Elections are usually such a drab affair and very boring -- until people finally get mad, and then suddenly it's a reminder of how fortunate we are to be able to speak our minds, isn't it? Your husband must be representing his electorate well and doing an honorable job to be re-elected in a year where there is so much anger with the incumbents. Congratulations to him.

I haven't been online very much at all lately -- what a busy May it was. But I'm giving my students their final exam today, and my children are out of school, and everything should slow down a bit ... I hope to be around more; I have missed hearing the news from Ireland, and knowing what's going on at Catherine's house! kristin