Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Not-A-Poll: Worst Opposition Leader Of The Last 45 Years: Grand Final!

Oh yes, there was actually a book about these two!
Latham 158 - Downer 141
Grand Final: Abbott vs Latham

Welcome back to the final round of our exciting but brief quest to find this site's pick for worst opposition leader of the last 45 years.  We started by splitting the field into two groups, those who at some stage had been PM and those who had not yet been PM.  Tony Abbott cleaned up the former with an outright majority in round 1, while the latter was a closer contest.

The Latham-Downer stoush showed why I run these things for a month.  Downer led out of the blocks by a surprisingly large margin given Latham's primary vote lead from the first round.  But after a while Latham started gradually catching up.  After 23 days Latham took the lead, and his lead continued to grow; in the end it was close but not super-close (52.8% to Latham, about what John Howard beat him by in 2004).

So it comes down to this.  I stated the case for (or should that be against) Latham last time.  Regarding Abbott, his credentials as a bad opposition leader are seriously dented by the fact that he won an election and won it big, but it's unclear how much credit we should give him for that.  In tactical terms, he did steer the Coalition back to competitiveness by opposing Labor on emissions trading, and it might be that everything Labor did from there was self-inflicted as a result of internal tensions between a factional system and a self-styled presidential leader.  Abbott opponents may also argue that it's not just about whether you win or lose but above all about how you play the game, and I'm not sure those who want to take that line need me to provide examples (or that I have time to list them all.)  As with Latham, I suspect Abbott's post-OL performance taints his legacy as Opposition Leader, though in my view he was actually a much more harmless PM than he could have been.

In comments, reader Carl adds another relevant criterion: that good or bad Opposition Leadership in a tactical sense is not only about whether you win, but also the extent to which your victory limits you. 

Voting is open in the sidebar now and continues til 6 pm 31 August.

Kevin Bonham Leaves Tasmanian Times (2012)

It has come to my attention that the Tasmanian Times website no longer includes my lengthy 2012 rant where I wrote about why I was leaving it as a regular writer and poster, and also the thread where the TT audience (plus one sad interloping chess troll from Melbourne) debated my departure.  (A very limited relationship persisted after that, which I completely ended earlier this year.)

The deletion of these articles, some time since January 2017, was never requested by me and I was never informed of it.  My request to TT, given that they were unwilling to publicly apologise for Ted Mead's garbage to my satisfaction (or publicly at all) was "remove the link to my site from the sidebar immediately and please cease linking to my site in future."  Even if it resulted from a misinterpretation of my request as a request to remove all existing links to my site, numerous other old articles linking to this site are still up.  

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Super Saturday By-Elections Live And Postcount

MAYO: CALLED Sharkie (CA) retain
PERTH: CALLED Gorman (ALP) is new MP, retaining seat

Braddon Swings

Here is a graph showing the relationship between the vote for the independent Craig Garland and the 2PP swing in Braddon:

You can see maps of the Garland vote and the 2PP swing over at The Tally Room.  The Liberals did very well on 2PP swing on the West Coast, were smashed on King Island and the west end of the coast (Wynyard - Stanley area where fishing is important) and got small swings in Ulverstone and Devonport-Latrobe.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Longman By-Election

Cause of by-election: Incumbent resignation (ineligible under Section 44)
Outlook: Your guess is probably as good as mine.

I've finally found the time to write a detailed post about the prospects for the Longman by-election.  This won't be anywhere near as long as my Braddon guide but I think it is worth explaining why we are seeing Labor struggling in the polls, the betting and in commentary perceptions in this seat. (That said quite a few people think Labor will win Longman but lose Braddon instead.)  When I first wrote about these by-elections, I thought national polling gave Labor enough advantage to probably just hold Longman, but since then Labor's national position has declined.  Labor may still win the seat, but their position is quite fragile.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Why Is Seat Polling So Inaccurate?

The accuracy of Australian seat polling has been an important topic lately, especially given the coming by-elections.  By-elections are very difficult to forecast.  Even after throwing whatever other data you like at them (national polling, government/opposition in power, personal vote effects, state party of government) they are less predictable than the same seats would be at a normal election.  So it would be nice if seat polling would tell us what is going to happen in them.

Unfortunately single-seat polling is very inaccurate.  I discussed this in a recent piece called Is Seat Polling Utterly Useless?, where I showed that at the 2016 federal election, seat polling was a worse predictor of 2PP outcomes than even a naive model based on national polling and assumed uniform swing.  The excellent article by Jackman and Mansillo showed that seat polling for primary votes was so bad that it was as if the polls had one sixth of their actual sample size.  It doesn't seem that seat polls are useless predictively, but we certainly can't weight them very highly.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Submission To Tasmanian Electoral Act Review

Initial submissions to the review of the Tasmanian Electoral Act close today.  The review was mainly prompted by issues raised (mostly during the state election, but also during previous state elections) concerning:

* authorisations for social media posts
* restrictions preventing naming candidates without their permission in certain kinds of material
* restrictions preventing newspaper coverage on election day
* lack of state-specific donation requirements
* issues with involvement of non-party actors in the electoral process (the call for submissions singles out unions, though in 2018 there was far more concern about gambling interests)

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Poll Roundup: National Narrowing As Super Saturday Approaches

2PP Aggregate (2016 Preferences): 51.7% to ALP (-0.5 since last week, -1 in six weeks)
With One Nation preference adjustment 51.1% to ALP
Closest position since October 2016
Labor would probably still win election "held now" but it would be close

Even psephologists have trouble with counting to big numbers sometimes. Like two.  Normally I release a new post in this series every second Newspoll week, but two weeks ago on Newspoll Monday I had an inconvenient distraction.  By the time I'd got through that and a couple of days of work my mind was so much elsewhere that I had forgotten it was time for another Poll Roundup.

Anyway, another Newspoll week has come and gone and all the current streaks noted on my Newspoll records page have continued.  These streaks are: the Coalition for most 2PP losses in a row (now at 36), Malcolm Turnbull for most Better PM wins in a row (now 56), Bill Shorten for most negative netsats in a row for an Opposition Leader (now 69) and Malcolm Turnbull for the third-most negative netsats in a row for a PM (now 47, and he has overtaken Julia Gillard for second place for longest stay in negativeland by time.)

Monday, July 16, 2018

The Importance Of Keeping #politas On Topic

This is a piece concerning Twitter I've been meaning to write for some time, mainly so I can link to it and so others can link to it when explaining the concept of topicality to people determined to ignore it or else new to Twitter.  Or who just don't know what "#politas" means.

On Twitter, hashtags are used to to help people find material that is relevant to them.  If a person is interested in something, they can use TweetDeck or other programs to set up a search for all tweets with a particular hashtag (a # followed by the subject matter), and thereby "follow" that hashtag.

Friday, July 13, 2018

2018 World Chess Federation Elections

The perfect politician?
This site mainly covers Australian elections, especially Tasmanian, but now and then I write about a curious area where two of my lives intersect, namely global chess politics. 

The world chess federation (FIDE) is gearing up for its 2018 presidential election, to be held in Batumi, Georgia (the country, not the state) in early October.  When I last picked up the story here, long-time incumbent, the somewhat eccentric Russian businessman and former Kalmykian President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, was on his way to yet another landslide win in Norway in 2014.  While naive western media wrote up the contest with Garry Kasparov as likely to be a close-run thing, Ilyumzhinov won a frequently grubby contest much as expected and a little bit more, with 64% of the vote.  This more or less repeated other lopsided wins for him in 1996, 2006 and 2014.  

There were some sequels to the election, with Kasparov and Ignatius Leong being found guilty of a serious electoral breach (regarding an arrangement in which Kasparov agreed to pay Leong to deliver him votes) by the FIDE Ethics Commission and banned for two years.   However, a rival complaint against Ilyumzhinov was dismissed

Another sequel of note concerns Ilyumzhinov's promises to pay twenty million dollars into FIDE's bank account if re-elected, and establish an African chess foundation with Nigel Short at its head.  Neither of these things ever occurred.  These promises were excused by Ilyumzhinov's supporters at the time as theatrical "bullshit" in response to similar promises by Kasparov.  No evidence that Kasparov's promises were in fact "bullshit" has ever been presented, though they were certainly premised on something (him winning) that was never going to occur.

But finally after 23 years at the helm, Ilyumzhinov's reign is over, as he has not nominated for re-election.  After crushing all previous opponents, he has finally met his match in the unlikely shape of the US Department of Treasury.  In late 2015 Treasury designated him for allegedly "materially assisting and acting for or on behalf of the Government of Syria, Central Bank of Syria, Adib Mayaleh, and Batoul Rida." Ilyumzhinov tried to have the sanction overturned, including attempting to fly to the US to sort matters out (he was refused permission to board) but nothing worked.

Within weeks of being designated, Ilyumzhinov effectively stood down from the regular business of the FIDE presidency until the sanctions could be overturned (which never happened), continuing as a figurehead president but with all effective power delegated to his deputy Georgios Makropoulos.

In 2017 conflicts developed between Ilyumzhinov and his former supporters headed by Makropoulos after Ilyumzhinov made verbal statements at a meeting that were widely taken as saying he was resigning. The President was also accused of using meeting time to pursue his difficulties with Agon, the commercial rights holder for the World Championships and the culprit for some of the worst event websites in chess history.  Ilyumzhinov however denied he was resigning, and the FIDE rules stated that resignations were only binding in writing.  Therefore Ilyumzhinov remained as President technically, although the image of him on the FIDE website was eventually removed.   Moreover, the FIDE President was reported to the FIDE Ethics Commission for spreading groundless conspiracy theories about the motivations of his former supporters and now opponents on the Presidential Board.  (Update: he's been banned.)

Matters became much more serious when FIDE's bank drew a line in the sand over FIDE's retention of Ilyumzhinov as President in view of the US sanctions issue.  FIDE was eventually forced to make alternative arrangements.

Rejecting various motions calling on him to resign, Ilyumzhinov showed many signs that he might contest re-election.  This brings me to the matter of tickets.  Each FIDE Presidential candidate runs on a ticket with five other candidates for the offices of Deputy President, General Secretary, Treasurer and two Vice-Presidents.  At least one ticket member must be female. The election is winner-take-all, though further Vice-Presidents are then appointed from the floor and by the winning President.

Ilyumzhinov's announced ticket consisted largely of nobodies in the chess world and included one person who was in fact a nobody in any world.  Yes, Ilyumzhinov's announced candidate for FIDE Treasurer, "Glen Stark" (picture at top of article) proved to be a fake candidate whose photo was a stock image.  (For those with too much time on their hands I can thoroughly recommend Googling the Glen Stark story.  It's extremely weird.)

Ilyumzhinov tried running for the presidency of the Russian Chess Federation but pulled out as he did not have the numbers.  Finally the end of a long, winding and very silly road arrived when the Russian Chess Federation overwhelmingly endorsed a different FIDE Presidential candidate (see below). With that Ilyumzhinov, having given the chess world one final dose of bizarre entertainment, threw in the towel.  

The comical end of the long-serving President's reign has led to widespread support for an eight-year term limit for future Presidents, especially as the previous long-serving President, Campomanes, also had a controversial exit.  I am generally opposed to term limits in politics (I am not even sure the Presidency of the United States really needs them) and I think this call is especially missing the point.  Controversial long-serving FIDE Presidents become such because Federations vote for them.  Ilyumzhinov was always controversial.  He didn't become a problem because he had been there too long.  He became a problem because an accident that had always been waiting to happen finally did.  Take a look at almost all the arguments for why US Presidents should be term-limited, and I give you how Trump carries on after less than two years in the job.

Candidates For The Post-Kirsan Era

For the time being there is a three-way contest, and this is something FIDE hasn't seen for President under its current electoral rules, so if it stays that way it will be interesting to see how it pans out.

The current "establishment" candidate is the Deputy President, and effective acting President since Ilyumzhinov's troubles began, Georgios Makropoulos.  Makropoulos, known widely in the FIDE world as "Makro", is a Greek International Master and seven-times Greek Champion.  As is fairly common for chess officials, he is no longer active as a player in major tournaments, with his last FIDE-rated game being played in 2009.  Makropoulos is or was a newspaper journalist in Athens by profession and is currently chairman of FIDE's recently formed Commission of Chess Journalists.

As Deputy President, Makropoulos has been the chairman of the business part of many of the General Assembly meetings I have attended.  In my observation, Makropoulos is a forceful, no-nonsense chairman who has a well developed ability to read the room and determine just how much pointless grandstanding needs to be allowed before an issue can be knocked on the head.  At this point he will frequently announce a proposed resolution and say something like "This is my proposal.  Any objections?"  The result in most cases is silence.  It's actually quite interesting to observe.

The establishment forces (those core FIDE officials who supported Ilyumzhinov against his string of challengers but have now been forced to ditch him) have had some difficulties settling on a preferred Presidential candidate who was willing to run.  The popular Asian Chess Federation President, Sheikh Sultan bin Khalifah Al Nahyan of the United Arab Emirates, was rumoured to be the likely candidate but didn't run.  Makropoulos seems to have stepped forward because nobody else satisfactory could be found and intends to serve only one four-year term if elected.

The Makropoulos ticket is called "FIDE Forward". (As with Julia Gillard's "moving forward" from the 2010 Australian election, the word "forward" also seems to imply a moving away from the past.) On the whole, FIDE Forward is running on a unitarian program of fiscal consolidation and avoidance of (further) controversy in order to restore the reputation of FIDE.  Makropolous has put forward some proposals for change including an end to proxy voting in FIDE elections (a proposal also supported by Nigel Short).     The argument for Makropoulos will be that he will be a steady hand who, with his supporters, has saved FIDE from being completely run into the ground (not only in reputation terms but also financially, with a severe squeeze a few years ago attributed to wasteful spending, that has since been resolved).  The argument against pretty much any of the senior incumbents is that had Ilyumzhinov not been propped up for so long despite being an obvious liability and reputation risk, FIDE would not have needed saving.

The "anti-establishment" challenger is Grandmaster Nigel Short.  Short is a former World Championship challenger (defeated by Garry Kasparov in 1993) and an evergreen tournament veteran who is now the oldest player in the world's top 100 by three years.  He's also seen plenty of passport stamps in his time as a travelling chess player, having visited about as many countries as the Queen.  Short is an accomplished and amusing commentator on live internet broadcasts, an often outspoken writer and not averse to a spot of light trolling now and then.  In 2015 he attracted a large social media backlash (mostly from people who didn't read the article) after wading into a heated nature-nurture debate by arguing that the massive imbalance between male and female participation rates in top-level chess resulted from differences in brain physiology.  (For anyone interested in the detail of that debate for its own sake, Australian GM David Smerdon had some good posts on all this. I'm personally somewhat on the nurture side actually, but I think we need a lot more trials of the Polgar experiment to really know.)

Short's address to federations pushes some similar ideas to, but has a more energetic feeling than, the programs argued for by previous challengers Karpov and Kasparov.  In particular, Short wants FIDE to turn its financial model inside out, start attracting better sponsors and to stop raising so much revenue from "taxing" players, arbiters, trainers, organisers and federations.  As one of the officials who handles a lot of Australia's transactions at FIDE level I can vouch for some of the issues that the profusion of FIDE fees can cause.  I quite often email chess players to tell them that if they want to change their FIDE federation listing that will be 250 Euro (if they're lucky) - explained by one senior official as a price signal to discourage players from creating work for FIDE by having their federation listed accurately.  Most put up grumpily with being listed under the "wrong" federation rather than pay.

The third and somewhat mysterious candidate is Arkady Vladimirovich Dvorkovich. Dvorkovich is a very experienced Russian politician, Deputy Prime Minister under Medvedev from 2012-2018, and also recently chairman of the soccer World Cup organising committee.  He is also an economist and billionaire.  The candidate's father was a dedicated arbiter, and Dvorkovich is a former Russian Chess Federation President (2010-2014).  Dvorkovich is widely viewed as the "Kremlin candidate" and his endorsement by the Russian chess federation was widely seen as intended to force Ilyumzhinov out of the race, but it is unclear what more is intended beyond that.  Information in English on Dvorkovich's intentions is, at this stage, somewhat elusive, but here's one translation of his comments at a press conference. If he's not all that serious about winning and just wants to use his bid to develop chess, is this a foot in the door for an expected vacancy in 2022?  As yet we don't know.

No particular controversies are known to be attached to Dvorkovich.  However, in January 2018 the US released a list of potential sanctions targets (basically, people who are Russian politicians or are very rich Russians, of which Dvorkovich is obviously both.)  That seemed to be a shot across the bows though, so I don't know if there's a risk of a repeat of the Makropoulos situation.

OMG Actual Electoral Ethics!

As I finally get this article nearly finished comes a remarkable development with FIDE issuing a decree against the kind of behaviour that has been par, bogey and double bogey for the course by all sides in recent previous elections.  A remarkably strict declaration on "anti-corruption" measures targets the sort of stuff I mentioned in my previous article: the flying of delegates here and there for meetings, the strange letters from embassies to chess federations (sometimes bearing offers of lunch), hopefully even the giveaway pens inscribed with the names of candidates for office and so on.  It's a relief to look forward to all the free space in my rubbish bin at the end of the Congress, but I'm not sure this overdue culture change has been entirely thought out:

No Federation Presidents, delegates or officials in FIDE of any national chess federation should accept any gifts, subsidy, inducements, financial or otherwise, or accept any hospitality from a Presidential or Continental electoral candidate, member, adviser or supporter of a Presidential ticket or electoral candidate. All Presidents, officials, delegates or candidates should immediately report any such offer to the Electoral Integrity Committee. 

Officials include but are not limited to: 

• Officers or any person with influence over the decision or voting processes of FIDE or any national chess federation/s including but not limited to Presidents or Delegates of such federations. 
• Candidates for election to any FIDE or Continental positions 
• Employees, administrators, managers, employed by FIDE or national chess federations 

So I guess that means the tickets won't be throwing any parties for their supporters in Batumi, because that's "hospitality", and as it's written even buying a coffee for a delegate could be a prohibited gift.  (Electoral jurisdictions that have policed this stuff for more than five minutes tend to have a codified value floor, about the cost of a coffee or beer, below which a gift cannot be considered as a bribe.) There's also the question of what constitutes an "adviser or supporter" - does a delegate whose federation has publicly declared support become a "supporter" for the purposes of this rule?  If I chat with Nigel Short about the above restriction on Twitter, does that make me an "adviser"?

Another sign of a sea change was the rapid dumping by the FIDE Forward ticket of Aguinaldo Jaime, one of Ilyumzhinov's 2014 Vice-Presidential candidates. Jaime was on the Makropoulos ticket until Short raised corruption allegations from a US Senate report (old stuff that has been online since at least 2010!).  Almost immediately Jaime had to withdraw for personal reasons.


The first available (though not necessarily reliable) data on support from particular candidates came from the release of the list of countries nominating each ticket.  A ticket requires a minimum of five nominators but tickets are often keen to show off their strength by being supported by more.  The process of declaring support in this way is public, and countries can also publicly declare their support in other ways, but the actual voting is done by delegates in a secret ballot.  So there is no guarantee a country will vote the way it says it will.  Nonetheless, lopsided nomination tallies have tended in the past to lead to lopsided elections.

The Makropoulos ticket was submitted with a massive 64 nominations (they say they had a few more, but ran out of room to list them) to 13 (notably including France) for Dvorkovich and six for Short.  This is an even more lopsided balance than the 52-20 rollcall in 2014.  With many federations yet to show their hands there's still a long way to go but if this really stays a three-way contest and if all these federations do vote for Makropoulos then he only needs a handful more to fall his way to win in the first round, which he has been openly predicting will happen.  Some churn between nominations is also of interest - while most of the federations nominating Short didn't nominate anyone in the opening announcement last time, three of those that nominated Kasparov have declared for other tickets.

There are two lines of "it's not that simple" theory that I have seen around the traps.  The first, and I am unsure if its factual premise is even correct, is that the nominations might have been mostly collected prior to Ilyumzhinov's withdrawal and Dvorkovich's entry, and that while none of the federations nominating Makropoulos are remotely likely to vote for Short, they might yet be open to voting for Dvorkovich, especially if his bid is well-resourced.

The other is that there is some sort of plan for the two non-Short tickets to merge with Dvorkovich becoming some kind of shiny new Ilyumzhinov.  The problem with this theory so far is that it is not clear why this would not have been organised in advance if it was ever going to happen at all. 

For all the talk of last-minute dramas and deals, exotic ticket splicing, balances of power and other such scenarios my early suspicion is that the election itself is shaping up to be another fizzer, which is why I'm writing now while it's still interesting!  If it does go to a three-way contest, then the FIDE Electoral Regulations come into play:

3.7 For all elections a majority of the votes cast, not counting abstentions, shall be required. If there is a tie, the voting is repeated until the tie is broken. 
If three or more persons are nominated for the same offices or office, the candidates that receive 50% plus one of the votes cast, are elected on the first ballot. Thereafter, the candidates receiving most votes on the second ballot are elected to the vacant number of offices. If there is a tie, the voting is repeated until the tie is broken. 

One would think that the candidate in third place drops out after the first round (if there is no outright majority) but the regulations don't explicitly require them to.  Oh for those still pushing ticket-merge theories, here's the regulation on that sort of thing:

1.7 In case one member of a Presidential ticket becomes incapable to run for the election (death, illness or similar serious reasons), he/she can be replaced on the Presidential ticket within 20 days after the unexpected event, but at the latest until the day before the election. All other conditions concerning the nominations are applicable. In case of doubt, the ELE shall make a decision.

The ELE is the Electoral Commission (itself a fairly recent development) and consists of a chair (of the Constitutional Commission) elected by the General Assembly of federations and one member elected by each of the four Continents.  The "scrutineers" (effectively the election vote-counters; what this site knows as "scrutineers" are in FIDE parlance called "observers") are also elected by the General Assembly. And here is an aspect of Short's platform that I personally support: FIDE should ideally find some way for all of its electoral organs to be independent. It is the only way, especially when so many FIDE regulations are so imprecisely written.


Disclaimer: This article represents my own views only and not those of the Australian Chess Federation, any other chess organisation or any candidate or election ticket. The ACF has not as yet made any decision regarding who (if anyone) to support, and nor have I. 

Warning: All feedback arising from this article will be taken to be on the public record, especially if stated otherwise.