Thursday, November 13, 2008

American elections - not over yet!

A friend asked me last night why the US President does not take up office for 2.5 months, when a British PM takes over within about 12 hours of the election result. The historical answer seems to be down to the size of the country - it used to take weeks if not months to be clear about the result, (and they use an electoral college not direct counting of votes).

Even today some results can take a long time coming. I've just noticed that three seats in the Senate are still not declared. The website 538 has all the details, with links to a website of electoral maps including this amusing Australian one. There's also Electoral Vote.

The relevance to us of the Senate elections is that the Senate has a big role in foreign policy, including ratifying Treaties with other countries. We (that is, the rest of the world!) need their backing to do something about climate change. Let's hope Obama does make a difference on this front.

2 Comments:

At 14 November, 2008 15:49, Blogger Richard Gadsden said...

The real reason is that the British PM is not changed by the election, but by the House of Commons. Until 1867, the tradition was that the PM waited for the new House to meet, which would take a few days as the returns came in and the new MPs travelled from around the country.

Then he would see if he could still command a majority in the new House.

In 1867, telegrams with results and greater party discipline made it obvious to Disraeli that he had lost, so he resigned without waiting for the formalities.

 
At 15 November, 2008 11:13, Blogger Joe Taylor said...

Actually, the Presidential transition used to be even longer: until the 22nd Amendment the Inauguration used to be on March 3rd - the reason being that it could take months for the newly-elected President to put his affairs in order and travel the length of the country to Washington, DC. So, for example, FDR had to wait 22 weeks after the election for Herbert Hoover to vacate his office!

A key difference in the modern day process is that in the UK the key people who actually run the country (Permanent Secretaries and senior civil servants) remain in post under the new administration.

In the US, a new President will bring a lot more of his own staff: senior White House advisers, the national security adviser, cabinet secretaries, under-secretaries, political directors, the head of the Office of Management and budget...

Recruiting all those people takes a lot of time, hence the need for the 8 week transition even in this era of modern transportation. ;-)

 

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