Tuesday, October 13, 2009

I don't care, just vote against the incumbent.

It's less than a week until the election. I've already voted online; ended up choosing Mihhail Lotman on the IRL list, for no better reason than the fact that my parents were students of his father, the famous semiotician. Lotman is a university person, and while certifiable intelligence in no way precludes one from making really bad decisions, it's as good a differentiator as I'm going to get in this municipal election. IRL's list also includes Ene Ergma, not that there is any chance she'll actually stick around to serve on the city council. The candidate list regulations for Estonian elections are disappointing.

I haven't had that much cause to be unhappy with the existing Tartu city government, but they've done nothing to impress me, either. Reform's problem these days is an utter lack of vision. They've always gotten by quite well on being the quietly competent party, but that will not be enough to overcome the bad will accumulated by the government in a crisis. IRL doesn't have anything particularly interesting to say either (they promise to fix the appalling public bus system in Tartu, but I don't think they can), but they're inoffensive to me, and just nose ahead on the respect gained from the candidates' willingness to hang out near Kaarsild at 8am on a weekday, handing out coffee.

The Social Democrats are desperate enough to resort to spamming, on the one hand, and extremely dubious political statements on the other. Having gotten kicked out of the coalition for not playing nice, they are still under the delusion that they matter, and have now suddenly remembered that they are supposed to be a left-wing party. So they came out in support of the latest Keskerakond bright idea: making mortgage loans non-actionable. The idea being that a loan is secured only by the real estate; if the owner is underwater, he can just walk away from it. (Nevermind that Estonia already has a personal bankruptcy law, which can be applied to people who are genuinely in trouble.) It's pandering to an irresponsible, infantile mass. I'd long since stopped expecting anything better of Savisaar, but SDE should be ashamed.

Of course, the election is mostly about Tallinn, and the vast majority of the campaigning is focused on it. Knowing he's lost the reasonable vote, and completely devoid of any actual ideas on how to improve things, Savisaar's defaulted back to "Ansip sucks dicks" and "vote for me, I'll give you potatoes". The opinion polls seem to suggest that there is a chance of a coalition keeping the centrists out of power in Tallinn this time around. That would be nice.

Who else is left? Rahvaliit? Very funny. The Greens? They're a bunch of utter morons, opposing anything they can if it brings them some semblance of street cred among the hippies.

Somebody in my blog feed suggested we reintroduce a property test for voting rights, and while that's undemocratic, I can't help but go "hmm". Freeloaders who refuse to take responsibility for their choices, and then expect the state to bail them out, are not the sort of people who should be allowed to have a say in the way a country is run. Most of the serious social stimulants in this country are already in the form of income tax breaks. If you've been actually receiving cash from the state for more than 2 years (to account for maternity and temporary unemployment insurance), you have a conflict of interest, and are not allowed to affect the political process. Ah, I can only dream...

Something called Uus Laine in Paldiski actually paid Tallinn's nightgame host to do a free-to-play session in the port city on election day, noon to 6pm. The only condition is that all cars need to be carrying flags with the party's logo. I don't think there was much interest.

Here's a parting thought. It might be a downer, but go and vote. If you have no good motivation to vote for any particular party (much less a candidate), then just vote against whoever was in power last time. As usual: if you don't vote, you don't get to bitch.

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posted by Flasher T at


Blogger Giustino said...

So you vote for IRL because they give you free coffee, but snub Keskerakond because they hand out free potatoes?

6:03 PM  
Blogger Flasher T said...

I vote IRL because they buy me coffee. I snub Keskerakond because they force me to buy someone else a meal.

6:37 PM  
Blogger tank said...

In agreement with your parting thought.
Lack of choice is not an excuse for not voting. The only excuse for not voting is the willingness to live under a dictatorship.
I don't have that willingness, thus I am going to vote.

9:39 PM  
Blogger Kristopher said...

"Disagree strongly" with the last couple remarks and the closing part. First of all, I will bitch anytime I want, whether I voted or not, because that is my constitutional and, more importantly, international human right. The far bigger danger to liberty is when voting every couple of years becomes understood as the only or primary option.

I am not voting for a very good reason that doesn't have to do with willingness to live under a dictatorship but UNwillingness to live under a crypto-republic. I want to live under a direct democracy.

The current system is a charade, and a wasteful one. We support some amorphous party mass every 3-4 years, then go through the same process of gradual disillusionment over and over again. That's idiocracy.

Voting should take place every evening. With the Internet, the population can be divided into 5 pools and each pool can spend a 30 minutes each weekday night on voting -- on the issues. Just a little bit less FB time :). I'll bet you participation would be much higher -- it would be the most interesting, least intrusive community service you could imagine -- and there wouldn't have to be all these calls by politicians to get out the vote, because people would have the (accurate) impression that they actually do matter. In effect, the politicians would asking the people what they thought on every issue. There would also be huge financial savings, even if you consider the costs of setting up such a system. Right now the system in so many countries is based on whipping up artificial energy between two or three essentially corporate structures while the same middle road is followed. Direct democracy would not solve this problem overnight, but over time the population would become more educated, active and politically intelligent.

I'm not voting again for a candidate or party unless it's for a transition to the system I described. As the song goes, "I'm not the only one."

1:18 PM  
Blogger Flasher T said...

OK. Enjoy your irrelevance, while the rest of us actually make some tiny effort to change things for the better, or at least limit entropy.

1:21 PM  
Blogger Giustino said...

The list of candidates in different cities varies. In Tartu, I'd also probably wind up supporting IRL. But in Tallinn, I'd support SDE. And, hate to say it, but Centre probably has good candidates in Ida Viru who know the issues. The other parties don't waste their best candidates out there.

4:16 PM  
Blogger Flasher T said...

I just did the policy test on the Postimees website, it's Tallinn-centered; came up IRL.

SDE is the party of the proverbial left that will grow up and become the right. They're a lesser evil, but still fairly useless, now that they've lost key figures like Ilves or Padar (or, FWIW, both Tarands).

I've seen people in Ida-Virumaa talk about their candidate lists. No, the KERA candidates there aren't very competent. Take the heavy-goods traffic in Narva as an example.

4:23 PM  
Blogger Kristopher said...

"Enjoy your irrelevance, while the rest of us actually make some tiny effort to change things for the better, or at least limit entropy"

Entropy? Getting an accurate reflection of the will of the people and binding representatives to vote accordingly is entropy? I write about direct democracy and I'm irrelevant, but everyone else who punches in their ID card data and votes is doing their part? This is not going to make me want to vote. :)

4:51 PM  
Blogger Giustino said...

This post has been removed by the author.

6:06 PM  
Blogger Giustino said...

The Postimees quiz said I should vote for the Greens (!)

Anyway, SDE has good candidates in Tallinn. Jüri Pihl, Katrin Saks, Sven Mikser, Peeter Kreitzberg, Mart Meri, Barbi Pilvre, Eiki Nestor, Jaak Juske, Hannes Rumm -- That's a pretty good list.

Rumm was the first Estonian politician I met. He's shockingly normal. Most of their candidates are. That's why it's hard for them to be competitive -- they're so boring. Who wants normal, when you can have more gratuitous spats with Russia or free potatoes?

6:30 PM  
Blogger Kristopher said...

I actually voted for Rumm last general election. I remember him from when he was a journalist. I'm satisfied with his record.

8:03 AM  
Blogger Flasher T said...

Getting an accurate reflection of the will of the people and binding representatives to vote accordingly is entropy?

Sitting around waiting for a viable candidate whose policies completely match your visions is entropy.

If you're so committed to direct democracy, run yourself. Set up a website that uses ID card authentication, and put up polls about upcoming issues, then vote as the poll tells you.

(Me? I'm not convinced that the masses always know what's good for them.)

The Postimees quiz said I should vote for the Greens (!)

Every artificial intelligence in the country has a Green filter set up for the last name "Petrone". :P

Anyway, SDE has good candidates in Tallinn.

I cannot abide SDE's policies. Their support of the liability limitation proposal is deplorable. If Laar or Ilves came out in favour of it, I'd be calling for their heads.

10:14 AM  
Blogger Giustino said...

Every artificial intelligence in the country has a Green filter set up for the last name "Petrone". :P

I hope the Greens stick around. Estonia needs a Green party. Can you imagine how boring politics would be if it was just the conservative-liberals (IRL), the liberal-conservatives (Reform), and the kohuke party (Kesk)?

I cannot abide SDE's policies. Their support of the liability limitation proposal is deplorable. If Laar or Ilves came out in favour of it, I'd be calling for their heads.

I'm sure Laar would manage to sway you to his side. He's a clever man.

6:54 PM  
Blogger Kristopher said...

50% match with Greens, followed by alternative and SDE, most divergence with KE.

10:45 PM  
Blogger Flasher T said...

I'll tentatively agree that Estonia needs a Green party, but not the Green party it has today. For the first year of its inclusion in the parliament, nothing was heard from it except for the gloating SLÕL piece about Strandberg using taxpayer cash to lease a big BMW. Now its figureheads appear to oppose things, like the nuclear plant (which is a hilarious position for an environmentalist group when the alternative is open shale mining).

The Greens rode in on Strandberg's popularity, but they don't have vision, so they won't last.

9:05 AM  
Blogger Giustino said...

The Greens rode in on Strandberg's popularity, but they don't have vision, so they won't last.

The Greens consistently poll ahead of Rahvaliit, and Rahvaliit is still in business and has even less of a vision.

Did Res Publica last? They got gobbled up by Isamaa, which also looked rather dead prior to the reverse acquisition - and Isamaa only had six MPs elected in 2003, the same number of MPs that the Greens have now.

So that means either the Greens get acquired by another party (a Red-Green alliance, anyone?) or they last.

Of course, they need to move beyond the cult of Strandberg, and yes, there's lots of crazy people in the party, but this is Estonia, and there are a lot of crazy voters.

I also think you overestimate the strength of IRL. IRL is the third largest party in parliament, they have 19 seats, but they've been losing voters to Reform and other parties, like SDE or the Greens.

They do seem more powerful than they actually are, because they know how to throw their weighta round. It's that joke that goes back to the formation of the old coalition in 2007 -- that it's another Laar government with Ansip as the prime minister.

These days, IRL polls at the same level or just ahead of SDE, and has done so for months. It will be interesting to see how well/poorly they do today. Then we'll get some measure on how popular they really are.

1:41 PM  
Blogger Flasher T said...

Rahvaliit polls below the Greens because they are still suffering from the Villu Reiljan scandal. Without Rüütel or Reiljan they are left with a bunch of second fiddles, new blood that would normally rejuvenate a party, except Rahvaliit's power base is country farmers. Rahvaliit has a pretty good representation in municipalities, which is how Rüütel got manouvered into the presidency, and how their alliance with KERA started.

I'm not overestimating IRL's power, but it has a chance to do quite well in this election because it is the destination of right-wing voters who want to make Reform wake the fuck up. The same voters who left Isamaa to vote for the squeaky-clean Res Publica in '03. The same voters who sent Tarand to Brussels.

And I voted for them because their policies are the closest to mine.

1:55 PM  
Blogger Colm said...

I voted yesterday in the local Rahvamaja. It was an interesting experience, only because it was my first time voting in a foreign country, not because I understood the issues or knew the people. I just ran with who mu naine voted so I guess that means her vote was double.

6:34 PM  
Blogger Kristopher said...

I, too, accompanied my wife. I intended not to vote but the whole thing happened so fast that I ended up voting - only half-joking. We both voted for a terminally ill Green candidate. She is a relative. Arrived at decision independently.

4:46 PM  

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