In which Eric learns a new bit of UK-ish academic jargon

"Lecture kebab" signifies a course for which you have general oversight, but in which most of the actual lecturing is done by a series of visitors.

Fun with DSS and SRS

Lose an election, get a mayor.

Update: Looks like that was either a false alarm or a report that came before its time.


A formula that adds up to 126

According to Blic, it is DS + the Hungarian Coalition + SPS. Blic is close to DS and may have inside information, and they promise more detail in tomorrow's edition (NB: Blic does not always make good on promises of this type). The article claims the deal will be announced when the final results are announced, which should be Thursday night at the latest.

Do I have an opinion on this possibility? I do indeed have several. They vary between two extremes -- the first of which is that it would be a shame to see criminals back in power again (moderating factor: they never left), and the second is that if SPS were ever to become a real political party with a programme that bears some resemblance to its name, this would be good for everyone.

Update: Tihomir Loza has some reflections on the subject too.

Un hombre sincero de donde crece la palma

More fun with electoral math: all eyes are on SPS seeking to set a juicy high price for itself. But probably three or four parliamentary seats will go to Koštunjavi's coalition partner Dragan Marković Palma. Any mother would love the fellow, who is well versed in the classical music canon and once used the podium of the parliament (when he was a deputy for Arkan's party) to ask the police to carry out a coup. But now as the mayor of an increasingly prosperous small city, he wants to attract investment, and that means Europe, and that means no room for Radicals. DS has already shown repeatedly how willing it is to swallow its pride and sacrifice its supporters' beliefs. Would they rather do it with the devil who never held a monopoly of power than the one that did?

Why were the polls wrong?

This is not the first time in Serbia, and is not likely to be the last, in which the election results differ fairly widely from the results of preelection surveys. What are some of the reasons this might be happening?
  1. There are too few survey agencies. Not that I am wishing for more survey agencies (however convenient they might be in providing short-term employment for graduate students). But as a rule, one survey does not necessarily tell you much. It becomes possible to figure things out when you are able to make comparisons over time, or when you can compare surveys done by different agencies on the basis of their samples or methods of analysis. Patterns mean more than individual results mean.
  2. The experience is not long enough. More elections means that pollsters have more familiarity with sources of error, in particular the patterns in the tendencies of people to misreport their own preferences or likelihood of voting. Although elections have been fairly frequent in the past few years, the experience of free elections only dates to December 2000. Patterns are not yet well established.
  3. The political environment is volatile. In established democracies, most votes can be accounted for by regular patterns. Regions and populations have fairly consistent tendencies, and the factor that accounts for most voting behaviour is family tradition. This does not happen in environments where parties appear and disappear with some regularity and where the population changes.
  4. Something is at stake. People do lie, and they lie more often about things that matter. Surveys on the brand of toothpaste people prefer will always get more accurate results than surveys on people's sexual or religious practices. In many established democracies where major parties converge toward the centre, political preference is more like toothpaste. In polarised societies it is more like religion and sex.
  5. Things really do change. Survey agencies had a guess about how much the stabilisation agreement with the EU, signed two weeks before the election, might help DS. But the deal between Zastava and Fiat, and the visa concessions made by European governments, came in the final week. There wasn't time to account for them.
  6. The media and communications landscape is not unified. Not everbody has a telephone. Younger people are likely to bypass the phone companies entirely and rely on mobiles. This has the effect of skewing samples. Also, not everybody has access to the same information media. Independent sources of information reach the urban entres more regularly than they reach the smaller towns and villages.
Having said all that, the surveys have not been so terribly far off, and in hindsight it may be possible to say that Strategic and Medium did catch a growth of support for DS in the final week. And anyone who has been following the primary contests in the US Democratic party knows that the pollsters have a fairly uneven record in those elections, too, so some lack of predictive power is not necessarily a unique characteristic of newer democracies. And after all, the fact that the world is not entirely predictable is probably on balance a good thing.


I suppose it beats "Keep on truckin'"

Your insightful BBC blogger ponders, "I wonder if a portrait of Tomislav Nikolic will ever stare down on my slumbering form when I visit Belgrade." Hey man, it's your business, put up any poster you want.

If at first you sort of succeed

The first projections from CeSID look fairly surprising: although the DS-led coalition and SRS appeared to be running about even in the preelection surveys, CeSID projects an advantage of over 10% for DS -- 103 seats to 76 for SRS. However, it will get more complicated. It takes 126 seats to form a government. DS can probably count on the 7 seats that minority parties are expected to get. LDP will have another 13, but DS wants to avoid dealing with them. So the coalition of DS + LDP + minorities gets at most 123 seats, three short of where they need to be.

That leaves two potential coalition partners who are at best undesirable: DSS with 30 seats and SPS with 21. SRS could form a weak government with their fellow recipients of DB largesse in SPS and DSS with 127 seats. Or DS could try to pick off one of them, at the cost of their capacity to govern.

Look for a lot of things that will be euphemistically called incentives that will be used to encourage individual deputies from SPS and DSS to switch their loyalties.

And in the meantime, be pleased that it will at least not be easy for SRS to return to power.

Results tonight, turnout high

As you no doubt know, voters in Serbia are electing a new parliament today. As in the presidential elections in January and February, CeSiD is reporting that turnout is very high and will perhaps be higher than ever. Follow their site for updates and for returns after the polling places close. Things to watch for:
  1. Most of the preelection surveys show the DS-led coalition and SRS running about even. One of them will be the largest group in the new parliament but neither one will have a majority. This means that smaller parties will decide who forms the next government.
  2. The biggest of the small parties is DSS (in coalition with NS). Surveys show them running somewhere between 12 and 14 percent, but I am tempted to think that this is overestimated, considering that in the last parliamentary election they got around 16 percent and in the meantime they have alienated many of their supporters. This may very well be wishful thinking on my part, however, and I could be carried away by the thought that the cold dead hand of Vojislav Koštunica might have no influence at all on upcoming events.
  3. LDP may well be gaining in influence, although they undoubtedly have a fairly restricted base and hence an upper limit. A strong showing on their part would limit the capacity of Mr Tadić to form another coalition with parties who are fundamentally opposed to the wishes of most DS supporters.
  4. The strange creature that uses the word "Socialist" in its name will probably get some meaningful number of seats in the parliament. Neither of the larger parties has the guts (and probably not the room to maneuvre either) to avoid a coalition with them. They are thieves, so will go with whoever offers them the most lucrative patronage.
  5. Turnout in Vojvodina and Sandžak will determine whether the minority parties remain marginal or decide who forms the next government. Although it could be argued that their strongest interest is in supporting DS, they may have a stronger interest in being represented at all, and so could easily decide to give a margin of victory to SRS rather than sitting on the sidelines for an indeterminate period.
By law a government does not have to be formed quickly, so we could once again see a situation in which even when we know the results, we still do not know who won. But pleasant and unpleasant surprises are both always possible.

Update: Estimating again around 5PM, the turnout looks as though it might not be so high after all. Low turnout is a reason to be worried about the result.

Update2: If history is a guide, when turnout is low then fascinating things happen during the final hour of voting.