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Major parties in a Zugzwang – Its easy being Green (for now)

By Skidbladnir - 21 October 2008 15

Zugzwang:(pronounced “zoogsvung”, German: “Compulsion to move”), most commonly used in chess to describe when a player has no option left but to move, even if it is into a state of disadvantage. The worst part about being stuck in a Zugzwang though, is that once your opponent realizes, It becomes almost impossible to escape of without making important sacrifices.

The outcome of the election should no longer be news.

The Greens hold the balance of power; everybody will pander to them until they are no longer useful.

Humble Stanhope has declared it as his personal victory based on the fact that he has the highest individual vote, and as a party Labor has the highest first-preference vote from the election to support his claim.

Zed Instead calls a Liberal victory, saying the Liberals are still in the race, and the experiment of Labor majority government has come to an end.

While they may have elements of truth in what they have to say, there are some small problems, and one big one.

    1) Majority Government turned a multi-party game into a one-party game, and any of the old guard who remember multi-party Assembly games either have blurry memories of how it worked properly, or are gone.

    2) With 9% voter swings away from Labor, 3% away from Liberal, and into Green and Other territory, the majors at a further disadvantage; the major parties have actually lost ground.

    3) Three Greens holding the balance of power after an election is another black swan as far as ACT politics goes.

    4) Hare-Clarke proportional voting, while it might help get some friends through the Assembly door, doesn’t care what personal political mandate candidates may have as votes in excess of quota, any extra votes spill on to preferences, and they still have as much power within the Assembly walls as the most popular.

The big problem for the majors should be familiar to anyone who has ever tried to play a challenge game of pool in a new drinking hole:

The rules change with the territory.

But three Green seats in the Assembly doesn’t just change the territory, it changes the game.

The Greens will be spending today listening to every offer that gets made their way, and while I’d encourage them to listen very closely, if I were in their advantaged position I’d not respond. I’d savour the privileged position until the final moment available, and force every other player to move first.

As long as every other player at the table is at a disadvantage and is forced to move instead of waiting to play their own best move, the Greens have the advantage.

So long as there is no compulsion to move, that advantage remains, and at any rate, the game of 2008 ACT Election isn’t over until we have a formal swearing in of an ACT Chief Minister.

So imagine the Greens, realising they have no definite need to move until nominations for Chief Minister are made, chooses to maintain their advantage and side with neither party until after the first nominations are made.

Come nominations, ACT Labor nominates Jon (Option A), Canberra Liberal nominates Zed instead (Option B).

Green support for Option A would mandate Jon to go about his days, doing what he intended as Chief Minister, and still not needing to account for his previous two terms, including the 2003 Bushfires and Rhodium. This loses the Greens some of the support they gained through voter dissatisfaction, and opens them to criticism come the next election.

Option B puts a young conservative leader in control of the ACT Government, despite having the lesser of the two mandates, as well as having no experience as Government, only in Opposition.

These last few days, both parties have been busy revealing their potential bargaining positions to the Greens.
But, still having no compulsion to move, the Greens are able to name their own terms.

Here most of the options available to the Greens’ privileged position shows up:

The Greens could support neither major party’s nomination as they were offered, instead nominating Shane Rattenbury for Chief Minister, unless they get their way and do not budge unless concessions are made.
I can’t see the Greens achieving a cabinet portfolio without being forced to sacrifice a down-the-line advantage of independent conscience in the name of Cabinet Unity with whoever they choose.

If the Greens wanted to go with a less popular “Both major parties have an equal number of seats, but the largest negative swing has been away from ACT Labor, the electorate wants change” position, the Greens could side with the Canberra Liberals.

Whatever deals they can make, they would be sacrificing most of their advantages to get into bed with those same people who will be their enemy come the next election.

At that kind of cost, one of those deals had better involve Shane Rattenbury as Deputy Chief Minister, and a solar power plant for every home.

If they wanted to work with a “ACT Labor got more votes than Canberra Liberals” popular stance, they could force ACT Labor into a “Katy for Chief Minister” position, as Stanhope was saying she would be anyway, but bring it into effect earlier than he expected.

Stanhope, having made his own quota, could keep his seat in the Assembly, but just as Hare-Clarke allows, his mandate spills over onto his running mates.

Another bonus would be making Stanhope sit out this round and eat humble pie for four years (I imagine it tastes saltier when made from the tears of the Labor faithful).

But wasn’t he going to step down and spend more time in Spain with his wife anyway?

What’s Your opinion?


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15 Responses to
Major parties in a Zugzwang – Its easy being Green (for now)
Jonathon Reynolds 10:34 pm 21 Oct 08

imhotep said :

Last time I looked, Zed had 16,521 individual votes, while Sonic scored 12,897 (ACT Electoral Commission).

hmmm… lies, damn lies and statistics..

Candidate Votes Percent Quotas
SESELJA, Zed 16521 19.0% 1.5
STANHOPE, Jon 12897 22.3% 1.3

As at 21/10/2008 at 3:12:11 PM

Depends on how you want to interpret the figures from two different electorates, with different total number of electors and different numbers of candidates to elect and thus quota levels.

Pandy 10:09 pm 21 Oct 08

I say Greens, veto if you wany respect.

imhotep 9:16 pm 21 Oct 08

“…Stanhope has declared it as his personal victory…that he has the highest individual vote… ”

Last time I looked, Zed had 16,521 individual votes, while Sonic scored 12,897 (ACT Electoral Commission).

Anyway, the Greens should not overplay their hand. In my view, they achieved their result largely by default (both major parties were on the nose).

I don’t think that 15.6% of the vote should not allow the Greens to be king-makers, nor have the power of veto over legislation. Stop this ridiculous pretense about possibly siding with the Libs, allow Stanhope to get on with it and let the cards fall where they may.

.

.

Aeek 8:31 pm 21 Oct 08

Last time I looked, in Gininderra, Meredith Hunter was only out first pref’ed by Stanhope.

peterh 1:36 pm 21 Oct 08

Jonathon Reynolds said :

Unfortunately the Liberals have not earned their right to hold government and Chief Minister’s role at this election. The Liberal campaign was most effective on one front in particular and that was minimising the haemorrhaging and damage to themselves as a party.

Whilst I get the general feeling that Stanhope was decidedly on the nose with the electorate, he still garnered the highest personal first preference vote and the even though the vote for the ALP declined significantly, it was greater (overall) than that of the vote for the Liberals (which also declined in terms of %-ages).

It gets interesting as in reality the Greens have no legal or ethical position to be able to dictate who will head up the parliamentary party within ALP through dictating who they will or will not allow to be the Chief Minister. Constitutionally and legally I’m not sure whether the situation is possible where the Chief Minister role is held by an individual that is not the governing Parliamentary party leader. (Any one up on the law able to check?)

Personally, I’d prefer to see Andrew Barr take the CM role, and given the factional alliances within the (not yet declared) elected ALP assembly members it could be a possible outcome.

I think that Katy Gallagher would be bad news for the Territory given her previous track record of chucking a tantrum and sulking every time she doesn’t like what as said about her, and her persistent position of being the Minister never responsible for outcomes and actions in her portfolios.

ah, yes jon, but as CM, katy would find the buck stops with her….

Jonathon Reynolds 1:01 pm 21 Oct 08

Unfortunately the Liberals have not earned their right to hold government and Chief Minister’s role at this election. The Liberal campaign was most effective on one front in particular and that was minimising the haemorrhaging and damage to themselves as a party.

Whilst I get the general feeling that Stanhope was decidedly on the nose with the electorate, he still garnered the highest personal first preference vote and the even though the vote for the ALP declined significantly, it was greater (overall) than that of the vote for the Liberals (which also declined in terms of %-ages).

It gets interesting as in reality the Greens have no legal or ethical position to be able to dictate who will head up the parliamentary party within ALP through dictating who they will or will not allow to be the Chief Minister. Constitutionally and legally I’m not sure whether the situation is possible where the Chief Minister role is held by an individual that is not the governing Parliamentary party leader. (Any one up on the law able to check?)

Personally, I’d prefer to see Andrew Barr take the CM role, and given the factional alliances within the (not yet declared) elected ALP assembly members it could be a possible outcome.

I think that Katy Gallagher would be bad news for the Territory given her previous track record of chucking a tantrum and sulking every time she doesn’t like what as said about her, and her persistent position of being the Minister never responsible for outcomes and actions in her portfolios.

peterh 12:27 pm 21 Oct 08

Skidbladnir said :

caf said :

I disagree that “Three Greens holding the balance of power after an election” is a “Black Swan event”. It was neither hard-to-predict (there were many predicitions of exactly this prior to the election) nor is it likely to be rare.

And yet, nobody listened, so ran ads along the lines of “Any vote that isn’t for Labor is a vote for the Liberals”.
Negative campaigning on every front.
A solid part of being able to accurately predict something would be reacting to the predictions of model.

So either internal party modeling was faulty (Black Swan), or they were using something like Cassandra Polling Services.

Black Swans are easiest to detect with 20/20 hindsight.

have to watch out for black swans. nasty buggers from time to time…

Skidbladnir 11:56 am 21 Oct 08

caf said :

I disagree that “Three Greens holding the balance of power after an election” is a “Black Swan event”. It was neither hard-to-predict (there were many predicitions of exactly this prior to the election) nor is it likely to be rare.

And yet, nobody listened, so ran ads along the lines of “Any vote that isn’t for Labor is a vote for the Liberals”.
Negative campaigning on every front.
A solid part of being able to accurately predict something would be reacting to the predictions of model.

So either internal party modeling was faulty (Black Swan), or they were using something like Cassandra Polling Services.

Black Swans are easiest to detect with 20/20 hindsight.

caf 11:47 am 21 Oct 08

The internal divisions were obviously a big part of it, with the parliamentary party and ordinary members having drifted ideologically apart. But I remember at the time a lot of voters expressing feelings of betrayl – particularly among those natural Labor voters who had voted Democrat in the Senate (as many do Greens now) – and a lot of anger, expressed in “I will never again vote Democrat” terms. Perhaps that was just the circles I moved in, though.

johnboy 11:31 am 21 Oct 08

caf said :

verbalkint also has a point – see the demise of the Dems after they supported the GST for an instructional example.

But the demise of the dems wasn’t the public reaction to GST acceptance, it was the internal party mechanisms failing to manage party members reactions to that decision.

In effect the GST decisions simply exposed the deeper divisions in the party, applied pressure to them, and the party lacked the internal structures to cope.

Granny 11:28 am 21 Oct 08

You are so smart, Skid. I love your stuff. You rock!

: )

caf 11:04 am 21 Oct 08

I disagree that “Three Greens holding the balance of power after an election” is a “Black Swan event”. It was neither hard-to-predict (there were many predicitions of exactly this prior to the election) nor is it likely to be rare.

verbalkint also has a point – see the demise of the Dems after they supported the GST for an instructional example.

verbalkint 10:43 am 21 Oct 08

The number of green voters who would never vote green again if they did a deal with the Libs to form government would be huge.

most of the green base is from dissaffected labor voters who want the party to be more left, they do have some support from liberal voters who care about the environment, and other fringe voters who hate the major parties (see ex-dems) but the main boost to their numbers are from former labor voters who wanted to send a message to the party.

A coalition government between the greens and the libs would be a huge mistake for the greens and both labor and the greens know this.

p1 10:27 am 21 Oct 08

I like the option that gets me my own household solar plant…

sambom 10:18 am 21 Oct 08

This seems like a fair assessment.

For the Greens to get the most out of this, i think they either need to side with the Libs (and get a cabinet portfolio) or insist on Katy Gallagher being the Chief Minister.

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