The Future of Referendums: What Role Should They Play and How Should They Be Conducted?

Referendums are now established as part of the UK’s political landscape.  They are widely seen as necessary before some fundamental constitutional changes are made.  Politicians will continue from time to time to find it useful to manage conflicts by proposing to put certain decisions to the people. Yet, despite their importance, there has been little concerted thinking recently about how referendums should be conducted.  Two inquiries conducted in the 1990s – by the Nairne Commission and the Committee on Standards … Read more

Time to bring Northern Irish Elections under international standards…

I was an observer in only one polling station last Thursday, but anecdotal evidence from candidates and activists at the Belfast count suggest that some of the abuses mentioned below were widespread. Furthermore, election results confirm that which should be an antithesis of democracy: “vote management was good,” to quote the words of one teller. May I therefore call, again, for all parties to come to a voluntary agreement on the conduct of elections, so that future contests do comply … Read more

South Africa: An Electoral Tremor, Not An Earthquake

In few countries would a governing political party in the throes of internal crisis consider 54% of the vote in mid-term elections to local councils a disappointing result. In South Africa, however, this represents a significant shot across the bows of the ANC 22 years after it took power, a decline of 8% from the equivalent elections in 2011, and almost 16% from its all-time best result in the 2004 general election. (Official results service here.) The shock is amplified … Read more

McGuinness: “Work on the programme for government has been going on prior to the election for some months.”

With only two weeks set aside to allow the new Northern Ireland Executive’s Programme for Government to be thrashed out, and agreed between the parties, you might think that time was of the essence.  But apparently not… The BBC are reporting that there will be a delay to the start of those negotiations. That may be a surprise to the new Sinn Féin MLA for Foyle, Martin McGuinness.  On Sunday he told the BBC that “On Monday, we will be entering discussions … Read more

Soapbox: Crowdsourcing the #ae16 elections … can you help ElectionsNI

We think it’s important for democracy that everyone is able to find accessible information and data on their elections. What’s more, we think they should have this as soon as possible, so they can follow the results as they happen. Elections NI is a collaborative project led by ODI Belfast at NICVA and the Open Government Network NI. We’re not integrated with the Electoral Office’s work but we aim to report on everything they produce as the results for each … Read more

A new election would favour no one but Fianna Fáil…

Sarah Bardon in the Irish Times quotes Willie O’Dea…  ’ Limerick City TD Willie O’Dea said the people of this country voted to get rid of the outgoing government and the party could not accept any partnership or coalition. He said: “The people who are supporting me and who are asking about my views . . . certainly didn’t contemplate that I would be part of this arrangement which would ultimately involve putting Enda Kenny back as taoiseach and sharing … Read more

Former Sinn Féin Cllr Sorcha McAnespy: “There’s too much nepotism and misogyny present in the party locally. It’s jobs for the boys. It is not open and transparent.”

Omagh Councillor Sorcha McAnespy launched a broadside against Sinn Féin in West Tyrone after her sudden resignation from the party on Thursday, and announced her intention to stand as an independent candidate in the forthcoming Northern Ireland Assembly election. The Ulster Herald appears to have broken the story on Thursday. The former vice-chair of Omagh District Council said she made the shock decision because she was “left in an untenable position at local level” by Sinn Féin councillors and other members … Read more

“The report’s Canadian authors made their numbers add up by using a ‘Tory island’ model of small government, low taxes, free markets and no debt…”

In the Irish News, Newton Emerson has fun with the recent Sinn Féin re-launch [and re-re-launch! – Ed] of the report they commissioned, under cover of the “Knights of the Red Branch Inc”,  of the benefits of an economically right-wing united Ireland. From the Irish News An academic study showing Northern Ireland would be better off in a united Ireland, commissioned last year by Friends of Sinn Féin in San Francisco, has been re-launched in Dublin and Belfast to immediate denunciations … Read more

“All the time, journalists were missing out on what was actually happening.”

Post the 2016 Irish General Election, RTÉ’s Science & Technology Correspondent, Will Goodbody, was quick off the mark to assess whether, as billed, #ge16 really was “the first truly social media election in Ireland”. In the coming weeks, when the dust has settled, the candidates and parties will be reflecting on what went right, and in many cases wrong, with their campaigns. As part of that post mortem they will no doubt ponder what role was played by social media, who used … Read more

#GE16 is shaping up to be a three (and 4/3) horse race…

ELECTION 2016 (I): A grand coalition is unlikely. FF’s messages may be fuzzy and narrative unclear, but the machine is in working order with good candidates coming through. FG may have to patch up Labour, Renua, the Soc Dems and/or the rag bag independent rest. Or, they might just have do it all on their own.

Alban Maginness to step down at the next election

The long serving SDLP MLA for North Belfast, Alban Maginness will step down at the next election. A new candidate will be selected on 14th January. I would assume that the former Lord Mayor and Cllr for Oldpark, Nichola Mallon will be the strong favourite to take the baton for the party. Others like former Lord Mayor and Cllr for Castle, Pat Convery are waiting in the wings as well. Few things to remember; Sinn Fein are only running two … Read more

Election Rule #2: Don’t get backed into a corner

DEFENSIVE POLITICS: Politicians find themselves forced to take a course of action and then can regret it later. It happens on policy, resignations, constituency matters. It’s now a long way until Spring and there is a danger that if people are giving credit for the budget now, it will be but a memory in the new year.

When will the Irish government bank its budget largesse?

With sentiment hardening in favour of the government parties in the south, we’re seeing a return of auction politics says Noel Whelan… …instead of offering to allocate additional resources that become available during the recovery firstly to those in greatest need the Government and the opposition parties are offering them to those sectors of the electorate most likely to vote and most able to make loud demands for attention. And… The spindoctors have been particularly busy with the weekend press. … Read more

Why Enda must aim for a 2016 Election Date

Predicting elections is a tricky business. The pressure of government sees events overtake plans very quickly. Deciding when to go to the country has always been a holy grail of strategy for serving Taoisigh. There are many examples of getting it wrong and still many more of where a government collapse takes the decision away from a Taoiseach. Enda Kenny will have to try plan things though. All things going well the ultimate decision lies with him. There is one … Read more

Confused who to vote for? Ask the app…

Are you confused? Don’t worry, it’s a natural state of affairs. Particularly so at election time. You are faced with as many versions of reality as there are political parties. In deciphering the various stories told by the parties, and figuring out which story you like best, it would be handy to have a little machine to help you. Rest easy:  researchers at Queen’s University have come up with a user-friendly ‘app’ to help members of the public decide who … Read more

The Bloody Weather, Meerkats and Schnauzers: A Short Introduction to Canvassing.

It rained on and off throughout Sunday. Not as bad as Saturday, but not weather for putting up election posters. Yet I found myself quite excited about it. I’m forty-one, so I have long since got over the joy of being allowed to stay up late; so why exactly was I getting excited about driving round east Belfast with a step ladder, plastic sheeting and a bucket load of cable ties? It has been a few years since I was … Read more

A Good Week for Democracy Globally

There was something discomfiting about the funeral of Lee Kuan Yew. Singapore’s achievements under his rule were extraordinary, but the story presented on his death was a sanitised fable. World leaders queued up to subscribe to the cult of wise old Harry, father of the nation. Lee wasn’t so benevolent when challenged. Opposition politicians were sued for libel and bankrupted for criticising government policies during election campaigns. When the opposition had the temerity to actually win some seats, the state … Read more

Your Guide to Israel’s General Election

Israel goes to the polls on St Patrick’s Day to elect a new parliament, which in turn will either confirm incumbent Binyamin Netanyahu in office or oust him in favour of the centre-left. The St Patrick’s Day connection? If Netanyahu loses, he will be replaced by a man whose father was born in Belfast’s Clifton Park Avenue and whose grandfather was Chief Rabbi of Ireland. Polls indicate that it will be a close run thing, with 11 lists, many covering … Read more