Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Archive for the ‘elections’ Category

Non-Election Day

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 7th May, 2020

Election 2020Today was the day that voters in London, Scotland, Wales and many local authorities across the United Kingdom would have been going to the polls, but democracy has had to be put on hold as a result of COVID-19. The elections will take place on the first Thursday of May next year instead. Already the independent candidate for London Mayor, former Tory MP Rory Stewart, has dropped out. Without a party machine to back him he may have realised he couldn’t keep up the pace for another 12 months, or maybe he has a new job lined up. Good luck to him if he has. But for the rest of us, “politics as usual” is also suspended to a large degree. So far there has been a lot of cross-party unity in handling the coronavirus situation, for example with regard to social distancing and the need to support the NHS, but the government is likely soon to find itself the subject of increasingly searching questions and indeed open criticism. Why has Britain had more fatalities from COVID-19 than any other European countries? Why were care home staff not properly provisioned? But whereas in the past, Liberal Democrats in particular would get their messages across by putting it on a leaflet and sticking it through people’s letter-boxes (to paraphrase the late Cornish MP, David Penhaligon), that sort of activity has ceased. One wouldn’t want to run the risk of inadvertently infecting anyone via contaminated paper. Similarly, door-to-door campaigning has become an impossibility, at least for a while. So politics has increasingly moved online. Meetings, coffee mornings and even “pizza and politics” now mainly take place courtesy of Zoom and we get our news through our tablets and SmartPhones or computers as much if not more than via the television and the Press. So even if the elections do take place next May as planned, the nature of politics will have changed. The way the Houses of Parliament run will probably have to as well. Why not move to electronic voting, for example? So as we live through what we all hope will be the final weeks of lockdown, let us use the time constructively to consider what should be the “new normal” in politics as well as in our lives.

Posted in elections, Liberal Democrats, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Azerbaijan Goes to the Polls

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 9th February, 2020

E7EE3843-AB8B-47AD-B86E-131B745A4D4AToday voters in Azerbaijan are electing a new parliament in snap elections, brought forward from their scheduled date of November. The move was at the behest of the ruling New Azerbaijan Party (YAP) and approved by President Ilham Aliyev late last year. The idea, officially, is to bring new blood into the Milli Majlis (National Assembly) in order to further an ambitious programme of economic and political reforms in the oil and gas-rich republic. Around 1,300 candidates are in the running to be MPs for a total of 125 constituencies. Almost 20 political parties are fielding candidates, though YAP has far more than any other, but in fact a large majority of candidates are standing as independents. Polling stations — many in schools, as in the UK — are open from 8am to 7pm and part of my job as an international election observer is to see how orderly and transparent the voting process there is. There are over 800 of us observers from abroad, many representing organisations such as the OSCE, the CIS and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.

408AC44C-B093-4D6B-8427-10A1E73BEA0AThere are foreign parliamentarians, too, including one British Tory MP and a Labour peer. I’m part of the media corps. I have to say that compared with elections in Turkey, for example, the process here in Baku is extremely well-organised and calmly efficient. There has been a good steady trickle of voters this morning, despite the bitter wind (snow has so far held off). The polling clerks and presiding officers could not have been more welcoming and helpful, and unlike elections in my home borough of Tower Hamlets in London there was no need for a noticeable police presence outside the polling stations. One marked contrast with other election situations I have monitored, including in Kazakhstan, is that there are literally thousands of local election observers, some representing parties, others NGOs and so forth, quietly sitting in a line behind tables inside the polling stations, watching what is going on. The President of the Central Electoral Commission last night gave a detailed explanation of the proceedings to the assembled local and international media. Later tonight there will be a press conference to assess how the day has gone, though results will not be available for some hours. One detail from last night’s presser which tickled me was that, in keeping with the South Caucasus’s reputation for longevity, the oldest registered voter is a woman reportedly 126 years old. What extraordinary changes she will have witnessed during the course of a life straddling three centuries!

Posted in elections, Uncategorized | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Make Votes Matter

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 30th June, 2018

Make Votes MatterBritain’s democracy is at a crisis point, with the Prime Minister shackled by the need to appease about 60 hardline Brexiteers in her parliamentary party as well as the whims of the 10 right-wing DUP members from Northern Ireland, whose support she bought with a bung of a billion pounds. Meanwhile, the Opposition Labour Party, which should be on the crest of a wave given the government’s incompetence and distress, is actually behind in the opinion polls, thanks to Jeremy Corbyn’s endorsement of Hard Brexit and fears among the middle ground of UK voters that the party wants to turn Britain into a kind of socialist utopia. The voices of the Liberal Democrats and Greens, meanwhile, are muted by the fact that their parliamentary representation is disproportionately small — just one MP in the Greens’ case. This is a direct result of the country’s antiquated first-past-the-post electoral system, which means that many electors vote not for the party whose policies they agree with, but for the lesser of two evils — or who don’t bother voting at all, “because my vote won’t make any difference”. Some people might argue that the current system obliges both the Conservatives and Labour to be “broad churches”, to be able to have a chance of forming a working majority, but the Brexit situation has underlined the fact that there are deep splits within both parties, making it difficult for either of them to hold a coherent line. For these and other reasons, pressure is building for a reform of the electoral system to some form of proportional representation — which already exists in Scotland and Northern Ireland and was used in the European elections nationwide. The Single Transferable Vote (STV) system used in Ireland is probably the most effective in producing results that largely reflect the electorate’s wishes, and which give the voter the opportunity to differentiate between their feelings about different candidates or parties. So today, when  there is a national day of action in favour of fairer votes — proportional representation — don’t be surprised to see or hear a lot about STV. No electoral system is perfect, but STV gives more power to the voter, and would avoid the most grotesque distortion as of the current system, in which sometimes a party can win fewer votes but more seats.

Posted in elections, UK politics, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Europe Coalesces as Britain Falls Apart

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 10th November, 2017

D1AF3920-7B78-406C-A1FD-FA42B713BF62In last year’s European Referendum, UKIP and other arch-Brexiteers argued that the European Union is sinking and is bound to break up, whereas the developments of the past few months have shown that, on the contrary, the EU is pulling together while Britain, mismanaged by a Brexit-drunk Tory Party, is steering the country straight for the rocks. A year ago, the UK was one of the fastest growing countries in the OECD, whereas now it has sunk to the bottom. In contrast, even the previously afflicted nations of Southern Europe are picking up. Moreover, since Emmanuel Macron became President of France, there is a new spring in the EU’s step; “Mutti” Merkel is no longer the sole voice of EU strength. The Franco-German alliance is back with force. The great tragedy is that Britain ought to be one of a troika helping direct the EU, at a moment when China and other emerging economies are in the ascendant. Instead, craven to Little Englander nationalists and the running dogs of global capitalism, Theresa May and her unholy crew are deliberately destroying Britain in order the try to satisfy the most extreme Btexiteers. Britain can have a golden future, as a leading member of the European Union. Cast adrift, alone, it’s bones will be picked over by the carrion crows who unfortunately own the worst parts of the British media, and to whose insistent tune Mrs May dances along with Mad Hatter Boris Johnson and the rest of that unsavoury crew.

Posted in Brexit, David Owen, Diplomacy, education, elections, Estonia, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Online Voting Is Probably the Future

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 28th August, 2015

online votingThis morning I voted for the Liberal Democrats’ London Assembly list candidates electronically, a process that took less than five minutes in toto. That’s partly because I know all but one of the candidates personally and had given the matter some consideration once I knew who was on the shortlist. But the main reason it was so speedy was because the online voting system, which one accessed via a link sent in an email (which was security coded) was totally straightforward, easy to understand and to operate. Although I used to rather enjoy filling in the different coloured ballot papers for internal party elections it was a much more cumbersome process and costly for the party. If next month’s Bournemouth conference approves the recommendation that the LibDems should move to One Man One Vote (OMOV) for all relevant committees, rather than using a much smaller electorate made up of conference reps chosen by their local parties,  as well as for candidate selections. then online voting is going to have to be a must. Otherwise the postage alone would be astronomical. Some provision would need to be made for the minority of members who do not have access to a computer or who are Internet-averse, but I suspect even some current diehards will change their minds when they discover just how quick and simple it is.

government identity verificationSimilarly, the possibility of online voting in mainstream elections, for councils, MPs, etc, should be examined more thoroughly with a view to making this an option; after all, there already is an option for postal voting, rather than having physically to go to the polling station on election day. Some other EU countries — most notably Estonia, which promotes itself as an e-demoracy — have made big advances in this field and our own government has devised ways of verifying people’s online identity, even though we Brits do not have identity cards as such. So basically I do believe that online voting will become the predominant model here in the future.

Posted in elections, Estonia, Internet voting, Liberal Democrats, online voting | 1 Comment »