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.
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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?