So here’s a bit of what I said at the top of the podcast a little over a year ago.
Yeah, so I guess that MBS is getting a bit more name recognition now than he was a year or so ago.
There are a couple of things to remember about Saudi Arabia. It’s not a country in the normal sense. It is the only place on earth without a constitution or basic law of any type. The will of the prince, literally, is law. Its name, ludicrously, is that of the al-Saud ruling family. It is literally a personal fiefdom.
And they make extensive use of capital punishment, beheading people whenever the mood strikes them, and they’re not too picky about due process. So it’s not too much of a stretch to think that a troublesome journalist, who would be dispatched without a second thought while in the country, would be a target while outside the country.
So, yes, I still think that Mohammad Bin Salman will be much more of an influence on Saudi Arabia than his recent predecessors. Exactly how that will work out, I really don’t know, but he was high-fiving and bear-hugging Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit in Buenos Aires last week, so I’m not holding my breath for liberal democracy any time soon.
And speaking of democracy, in July, I talked about an electoral system that the state of Maine confirmed by popular ballot, and I gave a brief explanation of how it would work in a piece that I recorded outdoors on holidays.
So this system was tested in the elections in November, particularly in Maine’s second district. Maine has two House members. The race was very close, Bruce Poliquin the incumbent Republican member, in the first round polled very slightly more than Jared Golden, the Democratic challenger. But, as I said it was very close, there was less than a one per cent margin, both got around 46 per cent of the vote. The rest of the votes went to two minor independents.
Because nobody got more than 50 per cent of the vote, those two minor candidates were eliminated, and counters went to look at the votes of those minor candidates. There were about 23,000 of them, and of those 23,000 voters over 10,000 had given their second-preference vote to Golden, and less than 5,000 to Poliquin. This put Golden about one percentage point ahead of Poliquin on the final count, with about 50.5 per cent of the vote.
The bottom line is that more voters preferred Golden, and so he won. Poliquin made threats of court action against the count, saying that only the first-preference votes should be counted, but that doesn’t seem to be happening, which isn’t so surprising, I’m not really sure how he would like to explain to a judge how the electoral system should be changed after the votes have been cast, and the votes should be counted in a different way to the one that the voters expected.
But in all the other Maine races, and almost always with Ranked Choice Voting, the candidate who wins the first count goes on to win the election, even if they have to wait for the lower preference votes of minor candidates to be distributed.
The point of the system isn’t to change who gets elected, it is to change how they get elected. It requires the winning candidate to get at least 50 per cent of the vote, so riling up a small base with negative campaigning is less successful. As Jared Golden – congressman elect Jared Golden – discovered, it’s important to appeal beyond your base, and that’s something important these days.