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Libertas bubble bursts?

by Frank Schnittger Thu Apr 30th, 2009 at 02:18:02 AM EST


Libertas has suffered a triple whammy to its credibility as a force in Irish, never mind European politics, with the publication of a (PDF Alert) poll showing it gaining only 2% of first preference votes in the European Elections, losing 69 to 31% in a Lisbon referendum re-run, and with the remarks of its ex-director in favour of ratifying the Treaty

IRELAND DOES not have the luxury of a second No vote in the Lisbon Treaty referendum and voters should vote Yes, one of the architects of last year's Libertas campaign has said.

Naoise Nunn, who resigned as executive director of Libertas last September said: "The circumstances have changed: internationally, economically, financially and domestically.

"We don't have the luxury of doing anything else. I am glad that we had a referendum. We were the only member state to do so, to have a proper debate, or something like a proper debate," Mr Nunn told The Irish Times .

His public declaration will come as an embarrassment for Libertas founder, Declan Ganley, who is running for the organisation in the European Parliament elections in the North-West constituency.

Both sides were guilty, he said, of "scare-mongering and misinformation" during the referendum campaign. Mr Nunn, who was one of the central figures in Libertas's campaign last year, is understood to have written a detailed critique of Libertas's performance last year for Mr Ganley's attention before his departure last year.

From the diaries - afew

In Ireland's single transferable vote proportional representation system, Declan Ganley will have to achieve at least 15% of the first preference vote in order to be elected (plus c. another 10% of lower preference votes transferred from candidates with less votes on their elimination from the count).  Even allowing for the fact that this poll is very early in the campaign, and the fact that we might expect Ganley to do better in his home constituency, achieving those sorts of numbers from such a low base is a very tall order.

Libertas has attracted quite a lot of negative publicity in both print and television media since the last Referendum campaign chiefly focusing on Ganley's murky business dealings in Albania and eastern Europe, his close links with the US military industrial establishment, alleged ties to the US neo-conservative Heritage Foundation, and the lack of transparency surrounding Libertas' funding.

Getting people to vote against a Treaty they are not sure about is one thing, especially when the vote can be cast as a vote against a remote "European Elite" and an extremely unpopular Irish political establishment.  Getting people to vote for someone they are not sure about is quite another, and in a climate of distrust against entrepreneurial businessmen who are seen as the main authors of Ireland's boom to bust economy, this may be a particularly inopportune time for Ganley to run.

There are also increasing signs of a popular campaign in favour of Lisbon as evidenced by a recently launched Pro-Lisbon Youth Group called Generation Yes. Younger voters voted predominantly against the Lisbon Treaty the last time around.  

The Irish electorate also have a history of being quite discriminating in how they cast their votes, and may well exercise their animus against their Government in the European Parliament polls rather than through any re-run of the Lisbon Referendum.  The same (PDF Alert) poll shows Fianna Fail - the lead Government party - down from 42% in the 2007 general election to a projected 23% in the forthcoming European Parliament polls.  The chief beneficiary of their decline has been the opposition Labour Party which is up from 10% to 19% in the same poll leaving it in with a strong chance of increasing it's representation in the European Parliament from 1 to c. 3 seats.

The Government's cause was not helped by a recent re-shuffle when one of the sacked ministers, John McGuinness, hired Naoise Nunn to advise him on his caustic criticisms of the Tanaiste (deputy Prime Minister) and the Government in general:  Libertas spin doctor advised McGuinness

SACKED junior minister John McGuinness turned to a spindoctor who masterminded the Lisbon Treaty 'No' campaign for his public vote of no confidence in Tanaiste Mary Coughlan.

Dick Roche kept his portfolio as Minister for European Affairs and has promised me an interview for this blog.  If you have any questions you would particularly like me to ask him, please submit them in the comments below!

Cross posted from the Th!nkAboutit European Elections blog.  As usual any recommendations or ratings here, there, or anywhere welcome!

notes from no w here
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Apr 28th, 2009 at 10:16:10 AM EST
at times it has seemed that the only entity that was talked about in the context of the European elections was Libertas. That kind of publicity has to be helping them, if only via name recognition.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu Apr 30th, 2009 at 05:24:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There is a certain novelty value to being one of the first attempts to set up a pan-European political party, and there are a lot of Eurosceptic and disaffected individuals and small parties out there ready to be swept up under a common banner because that appears to give them some relevance and influence on an international scale.  

Most of the Irish media coverage has been pretty negative, but there is a huge disillusion with the current political establishment, and thus huge scope for a new entity, which can claim not to be part of creating the mess, to make significant political inroads.

Libertas are desperately trying to kill the Eurosceptic meme in Ireland because Ireland is still very pro-EU and Euroscepticism is associated with England and is thus inimical to the nationalist vein in their propaganda.

What this survey seems to show is that Libertas has not escaped the generally cynical attitude towards politicians in Ireland and will find it hard to make much progress.  What I am surprised at is how seriously they seem to be taken abroad - almost as if they were single-handedly responsible for the NO Lisbon vote, when n reality, they were but a small part of a very disparate NO coalition.

Without a lot of ongoing funding and media exposure, they will likely just go away again.  The question is still - where is all that funding coming from?

notes from no w here

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Apr 30th, 2009 at 07:33:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Just to be clear - I would not be surprised to see Declan Ganley get 5% or even 10% of the first preference vote in the North West Constituency and, if he did really well with lower preference transfers from other candidates on their elimination from the count, it is possible to be elected in a 3 seat constituency from such a base*.  

The last seat in North West is wide open, and so anything is possible, but I would not see a win for Ganley necessarilly being much more significant than Marian Harkin's (IND) win there the last time around.  Of course the media would treat such a win as very significant indeed - especially the Murdock Press which is increasing its market share in Ireland.

* Just to explain - suppose  Ganley gets 10%, and Harkin, Labour, Sinn Fein and other independents get 5% each - that's 30% of the vote up for grabs.  Provided these votes transfer efficiently (i.e. voters have continued their preferences 1,2,3,4,5 down the list of candidates) then the last man/women standing of that lot gets elected - and with his starting position of 10%, Ganley would be favourite to be the one.  However it is difficult to see why Sinn Fein or Labour voters would transfer to him - except as a very angry anti-Government vote.

notes from no w here

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Apr 30th, 2009 at 08:43:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
For the past couple of weeks I've been pestered by Libertas (ISP-located) online ads in Finnish in widely diverse news commentary sites including (if I recall correctly) Raw Story.

It's not that expensive to advertise online at marginal sites, but Raw Story has a lot of users and I bet the click-thrus cost much more there.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Tue Apr 28th, 2009 at 12:05:03 PM EST
Declan Ganley - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Libertas announced its intention to extend its party's representation to all 27 EU member states. The British Libertas party was launched on 10 March 2009 under the leadership of Lieutenant Colonel Robin Matthews[27] while the French campaign was announced by Philippe de Villiers on 11 March 2009.[28]

On 14 March 2009, Ganley announced he would stand as a candidate in the Irish North-West constituency.[29]

On 21 March 2009, Ganley launched Libertas Malta with Mary Gauci as leader announcing she will be contesting the European Parliament elections on its behalf.[30]

On 28 March 2009, Ganley launched Libertas Latvia with Guntars Krasts, a former prime minister and currently an MEP, heading a list of eight candidates covering all nine seats allocated to Latvia in the European Parliament elections.[31]

On 31 March 2009, Ganley announced that Eugenija Sutkiene, a lawyer, would head the Lithuanian list. Lauras Bielinis, a political analyst and advisor to the Lithuanian President, would also stand for Libertas. In addition, Arunas Valinkas, chair of the Lithuanian Parliament and head of the Resurrection Party said his party would cooperate with Libertas.[32]

On 16 April 2009, Ganley launched the Libertas campaign in the Netherlands, headed by political scientist Eline van den Broek.[33]

notes from no w here
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Apr 28th, 2009 at 12:25:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Are there any requirements that will reveal the sources of financial, intellectual and organizational support for this large expansion of this party.  It seems rather non trivial.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Tue Apr 28th, 2009 at 02:04:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Irish electoral law:

Electoral law and procedures for June 2009 elections.

Funding: There are legal limits on electoral expenditure, which include the candidate's own expenditure as well as any expenditure on his or her behalf by his or her party and/or any other organisation or person.

The 2004 limit was set at €230,000 and will be updated for 2009. If qualified, a candidate is entitled to apply for reimbursement of their European election expenses. A statement in writing must be submitted to the Standards in Public Life Commission within 56 days of polling day.

In order to qualify for a reimbursement, a candidate must either: be elected, or if not elected, have exceeded one quarter of the quota in the constituency at any stage of the counting of votes. The maximum amount which may be reimbursed was the lesser of €38,092.14 or the actual amount of the election expenses incurred on the candidate.

In addition, each candidate is entitled to send one election letter free of postage charge to each elector in the constituency.

A final related point concerns donations to a campaign, a matter which is regulated by the Standard in Public Life Commission. Candidates may not accept a donation which exceeds €2539.48 in any year from the same donor, and acceptance of anonymous donations exceeding €126.97is prohibited.

Donations from individuals other than Irish citizens who are not resident in Ireland, or from bodies which do not keep an office in Ireland from which one or more of its principal activities is directed, are also prohibited.

Official campaign date: None. Period from date of order of polling day up to polling day (inclusive) with campaign moratorium 24 hours before polling.

Media access: RTE (the state broadcaster) strictly ensures equitable access for all candidates and parties.

Opinion polls: Permitted up to polling day.

Libertas got around funding disclosure laws for the Lisbon Referendum by accepting a €200,000 donation from Declan Ganley.  I understand the law will be tightened up on this and that is one of the questions I plan to ask Dick Roche.

notes from no w here

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Apr 28th, 2009 at 02:49:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
€200,000 "loan", not donation.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Apr 29th, 2009 at 02:48:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Quite right - what a Freudian slip - however could I have confused the two!  No doubt the loan was repaid pronto after the campaign.  How long can a loan remain a loan before it becomes an, er, gift?

notes from no w here
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Apr 29th, 2009 at 06:24:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm seeing a lot of banner ads too... Although their IP targeter seems to be a bit off - half the time, I see them in Dutch.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Apr 28th, 2009 at 02:33:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
To illustrate my point about Ganley'schances of election, these are the results of the 2004 election.
2004 European Elecion: North-West[2]
Party     Candidate     1st Pref      %     Seat     Count
    Fianna Fáil     *Seán Ó Neachtain     62,085     14.73     1     5
    Independent     Marian Harkin     66,664     15.82     2     5
    Fine Gael     Jim Higgins     56,396     14.09     3     5
    Sinn Féin     Pearse Doherty     65,321     15.50     Not elected     5
    Independent     Dana Rosemary Scallon     56,992     13.52     Excluded     4
    Fianna Fáil     Jim McDaid     52,139    
12.37     Excluded     3
    Fine Gael     Madeleine Taylor-Quinn     41,570     9.86     Excluded     2
    Labour Party     Hughie Baxter     13,948     3.31     Excluded     1
    Independent     Mary Hainsworth     3,308     0.78     Excluded     1
Electorate: 688,804   Valid: 421,423   Spoilt: 14,487   Quota: 105,356   Turnout: 63.29%

(Sorry, can't do tables)

Note that Pearse Doherty (Sinn Fein) did not get elected despite receiving 15.5% of the first preference vote (and slightly more than two of the successful candidates) because Sinn Fein did very badly on lower preference vote transfers from other (lower polling) candidates when they were eliminated from the count.

It is difficult to see where Ganley's lower preference votes would come from even if he did get a 15% first preference vote as other candidates are more likely to transfer to party colleagues or similarly minded candidates.

You need c. 25% of the total votes (first and lower preferences) to be elected in a 3 seat constituency because only 3 candidates can get 25% +1 of the votes and there are always some non-transferable votes (where a voter plumps for only one or two candidates and doesn't continue their preferences 1,2,3,4,5,6... down the list of candidates in order of their choice).

notes from no w here

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Apr 28th, 2009 at 12:39:02 PM EST
TH!NK ABOUT IT - european blogging competition 2009 » Blog Archive » Libertas bubble bursts?
  1. Al Kennedy says: April 29, 2009 at 17:00

    Firstly the poll included the paragraph:

    "Libertas were also included in today's poll for the European Elections, and given that they have had little coverage as yet, they do
    relatively well to take 2% of the first preference vote, with most support evident in the East and South constituencies. They will however
    need to gain a lot more support to come anywhere close to taking a seat."

    The sample used was also much to small to give an accurate reflection on the political feeling at the moment.

    Naoise Nunn was hired to do a job, he has since left and owing to him working in the PR arena is, unsurprisingly, making hay when the opportunity presents itself.
    But Libertas is more than just one man, it's more than the Lisbon treaty and as the party convention in Rome will reveal it's not going to be stopped by just one man and and article in the Irish times.

    With regard to the funding of Libertas, all documents requested by SIPO were submitted and all outstanding issues were dealt with to the satisfaction of the Standards In Public Office commission. There is no issue, no dark cloud of no questions hanging over Libertas' funding. Libertas was fully compliant with the laws as it always said it was.

  2. Frank Schnittger says: April 29, 2009 at 17:50

    Hi Al, Welcome to th!nkaboutit!

    I presume you have a connection with Libertas. Would you like to declare an interest? To answer you point by point:

    1. The fact that Libertas' 2% support is concentrated in the east and south is even worse news for Ganley's candidacy in the North West.

    2. All Irish opinion polls tend to have a sample size of c. 1000 which yields a 3% margin of error Many opinion polls in the US only have a sample size c. 500 with a MOE of 4%. So it is a perfectly respectable opinion poll - although obviously the MOE for sub samples - e.g. for each individual constituency - will have a higher MOE which is presumably why those figures aren't published.

    3. When I had some dealings with Naoise Nunn at Libertas he seemed to be virtually a one man band - the website had very little content and membership figures were unavailable. I appreciate that Libertas has grown since and is no longer reliant on success only in Ireland.

    4. As understand it, Ganley's "loan" of €200,000 to Libertas circumvented the need for greater reported donations and will no longer be possible under electoral reforms currently under consideration. I'm sure you will agree that politics shouldn't become the plaything of rich individuals who can afford to make such loans.

notes from no w here
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Apr 29th, 2009 at 01:53:18 PM EST
Zing! You can almost smell the ozone and burn hair :-P

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Apr 29th, 2009 at 06:59:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Libertas got a headline or two in Sweden when they recruited some washed up ex-parlamentarian partyshifter. They still have failed to register or order any ballots in Sweden. Relevant part of the list:

Valsedlar - Val 2009

It is still technically possible get a seat without ordering ballots, if you can get 100k+ voters to write-in your party-name (correctly spelled) and get enough of them to also write your name as candidate (also correctly spelled). But it is much harder then just ordering ballots...

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Thu Apr 30th, 2009 at 04:13:47 AM EST
Apparently the FRP is blissfully unaware that Lisbon is typically spelled "Lissabon" in Swedish (men va fasen, inte är det sååå viktigt att kunna stava...).

"The basis of optimism is sheer terror" - Oscar Wilde
by NordicStorm (m<-at->sturmbaum.net) on Thu Apr 30th, 2009 at 06:39:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
FRP had 147 votes in 2004. Somehow I am not all that surprised. They are however nowhere near the wackiest party to register ballots. That price still goes to:

Valsedlar - Val 2009

666 för en EU:s Super-state med frihet, jämlikhet, rättvisa, fred, kärlek och lyckan

They also have a homepage. General warning issued though, no responsibility is taken for damage to brain sustained:
666 the 666 project 666 the666 project666

The 666 have come to make a Paradise on Earth! -
Now it is your duty to help and support The 666!

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Thu Apr 30th, 2009 at 03:21:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I added the  EUROPEAN ELECTIONS  logo, hope that's OK.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Apr 30th, 2009 at 07:10:17 AM EST
No problem.  Many thanks.

notes from no w here
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Apr 30th, 2009 at 07:39:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
FT.com / UK - Ireland's No vote dissenter spreads horizons

Libertas is particularly optimistic about its prospects in the Czech Republic. It recently recruited two members of the ODS (Civic Democratic) party who voted to bring down the Czech government in the midst of its first EU presidency. Opinion polls beg to differ.

"They don't register at all," said Simon Hix, professor of European politics at the London School of Econ-omics, who predicted that Libertas would not win a single seat in June. It is still early in the campaign, however, and Mr Ganley has already demonstrated the dangers of underestimating him.

Libertas is spicing up an election that has typically suffered from voter apathy. A recent debate between Mr Ganley and Daniel Cohn-Bendit, the Green party MEP and student hero of 1968, filled a Brussels hotel ballroom to overflowing.

Mr Ganley tried to use the encounter to cast himself as the reluctant politician - the businessman thrust into public service to rescue a foundering democracy. He also insisted he was "enthusiastic for the European idea"; he just wanted the EU to work better.

But any hopes for a substantive debate were dashed when Mr Ganley revived allegations of paedophilia based on episodes described in Mr Cohn-Bendit's memoirs, Le grand bazar . Mr CohnBendit has always rejected the claims as ridiculous.

Mr Ganley was forced to defend himself against allegations that Libertas had consorted with racists. There were also questions about his business dealings: he made a fortune in aluminium in the former Soviet Union before moving on to US defence contracting.

Yet perhaps the biggest problem facing Libertas is that, in the midst of a deep economic crisis, voters are more worried about job security than institutional reform in Brussels.

notes from no w here
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Apr 30th, 2009 at 09:30:43 AM EST
Ganley acts like a typical US Republican...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Apr 30th, 2009 at 02:14:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Politics is a business, you need capital to spend on marketing to capture market share and take over some under performing businesses in other markets.  There are economies of scale, benefits from brand recognition across markets, free publicity to be had for outrageous statements (ask Michael O'Leary of Ryanair), and opportunities for cross selling (people come because they are pissed off with bureaucratic controls - you can sell them to joys of participation in a winning brand).  Rich donors are happy to contribute to celebrities and think tanks.  Everybody wins.  So what's your problem?

notes from no w here
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Apr 30th, 2009 at 03:04:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Proof once more that you cannot satirise contemporary politics...

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Apr 30th, 2009 at 04:04:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Politics is a self-satirising enterprise...it doesn't take a blasphemer to see the feet of clay...

notes from no w here
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Apr 30th, 2009 at 06:29:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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