Brexit: nov. ’18 Survation poll

Survation 2018 nov.png

Quick map I made with Channel 4 latest Survation poll, the data being available [here] found via @ElectionMapsUK.

Made via QGIS + some Inkscape post-production.

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The EU is quirky, but so are most European states

EU-Political Systems

The chart above is born out of the feedback that an earlier chart received on-line. I had made a Functional Chart of the EU, in which I tried to “bring home” the political setup of the European Union, by showing where each institution gets its mandate from, and what each institution would be called if instead of being a supra-national entity it was a nation-state. To this end I emphasized that, for example, the Council of the EU (i.e. ‘of Ministers’) is actually the “Upper House” of the EU Legislature.

What sometimes happened was that the complexity of the system was highlighted as proof that the EU is “difficult to understand” for the average Joe, contrary to the straightforward way national political systems function. Another angle of criticism was using some features of national systems as a sine qua non of a democratic system. To put it differently, the argument went: “My nation does X, and is democratic. If the EU does not have X, it is therefore undemocratic”, where X is a feature that is not actually present in all European democracies.

These two lines of criticism seemed to suggest that people don’t always realize how complex national political systems are and how diverse European nations are when it comes how they have evolved as political systems. I myself have learned that Romania’s way of confirming a government by a vote of both houses of Parliament in joint session is not, in fact, that common in our Union.

But there are wonderful details that I found throughout the Single Market states:

  • there is no explicit vote of confidence for the Danish PM
  • the Swedish PM is nominated by the Speaker of the Parliament, not by the King
  • Switzerland has a Collective Presidency
  • Cyprus has no PM
  • Sometimes ministers are nominated by the Head of State after consultations with the PM
  • The bigger European states tend to be complicated
  • Upper Houses are often very… original beats

So while the EU does have its quirks, there is plenty of diversity on the national levels as well.

On a side note, as I made the Functional Chart of the EU, I quickly became fixated with a particular type of chart one often sees on Wikipedia articles, mapping the way the electorate and the 3 powers of the state – executive, legislative and judicial – interact with each other.

There little information on-line on these types of charts. On a summary look, It seems to me that they are, in essence, a type of flowcharts, but I would welcome any further reading on the history of these types of charts.

And I also welcome any feedback in case of any mistake I might have slipped in.

Source: mainly Wikipedia. Tool: Inkscape

How much EU is there around Brussels?

Two years ago Andy Woodruff wrote a fun blog entry about land area plotted by latitude and longitude, where he proceeded to squish the continents’ area along the X and Y axes (just like Bill Rankin did with Earth’s population earlier).

land_by_andy_woodruff
Andy’s two images combined

His post was the catalyst for me to try mapping the next step: squishing an area towards a point.

In fact, there was an a question floating around my brain earlier about the EU: “If I sit in Brussels, the de facto capital, how much union is there in each direction?”

It might feel like the answer is : “Look at a map!”, but due to history and geography, the EU’s territory snakes around the Baltic Sea, the Western Balkans candidate countries, not to mention that big hole called Switzerland. On the other hand you have detached areas, such as the UK and Ireland, or Cyprus.

So I plotted the EU onto a an Lambert azimuthal equal-area projection where I took Brussels as the center, thus lines spreading out radially from the center wouldn’t be distorted, while the areas of the countries stayed constant no matter how far from the center. To add a bit of color, without making one for each of the 28 member state, I colored them by the year they joined the EU.EU Melt - Before

I then wrote a python script that in essence iterated along each line starting in the chosen center and ending on an outer pixels, and moved the colored pixels as much as possible towards the center. For finding the relevant pixels I used this adaptation of Xiaolin Wu’s algorithm, and it took some fine tuning before I got a good result.

So here it is: Brussels sucking the EU towards it…

EU Melt - After sq

And in .gif version (click to enlarge):Gif EU Melt

As one can see, I only used the main European territories of the EU plus the Macaronesian Outermost Regions (Azores, Madeira, Canary Islands), due to their geographical proximity to Europe, but I ignored the other OMRs such as French Guyana, Reunion or the ones in the Antilles.

In the end, the resulting shape is somewhat Rorschach-ish, and to me it kinda looks like a bat, or a sad bumblebee. I wonder what others see?

Rorschach test

European parties on the political compass

Found an interesting set of data via Alexandre Afonso’s blog, called the Chapel Hill Expert Survey which “estimate[s] party positioning on European integration, ideology and policy issues for national parties in a variety of European countries. Questions on parties’ general position on European integration, several EU policies, general left/right, economic left/right, and social left/right are common to all surveys.” It has data for various years in the 1999-2017 period, and below are the various political families* mapped on the political compass:

EU Party 99-17 annotated

Made with python / matplotlib and assembled in GIMP.

*) – According to the explanations, political family here is not the EP Group or the Europarty but: “classification is primarily based on Hix and Lord (1997), except that we place confessional and agrarian parties in separate categories. Family association for parties in Central/Eastern Europe is based primarily on Derksen classification (now incorporated in Wikipedia), triangulated by a) membership or affiliation with international and EU party associations, and b) self-identification”.

European President

The EU is often accused of being too complicated and difficult to understand by the European every-man.

One aspect of this critique is that every institution is headed by a President, and wouldn’t it be great if things were more like in a normal country, where the Parliament is headed by a Speaker, the government by a Prime-Minister, and the state – if it’s a republic – by a President?

Not all European countries have this neat linguistic differentiation of roles. Italy is just presidenti all around, and Croatia next door are just one predsjednik after another. Even in countries that do make distinctions, things can be complicated. The Third and Fourth French republics had a President of the Council (sounds familiar?) instead of a Prime-Minister, and the PM of Greece (Πρωθυπουργός) is also called the President (Πρόεδρος) of the Government, using the same word as the Head of State or the Speaker.

EU President.png

But I must concede that a re-branding of the main institutions could go a long way to making the European Union more intuitive to the average Joe, and thus less stressful. So here are some suggestions:

  • President of the European Parliament” should be called the “Speaker“. This is a no-brainer for English, but it could be problematic in other languages.
  • “President of the European Council” should become “Chairman of…” because his role is one of mediator more than a decider, and the Council itself is actually the Head of State of the Union, collectively. One problem that could arise is that in some language -like Romanian – there is only one word used for both president and chairman
  • President of the Commission”. While I like this as it is, given the position’s prominence, alternatives could include “Head-Commissioner”, “Chief-Commissioner” or “Commission Head” in situations where the above Council President cannot be referred to as “Chairman”.

All in all, I think the linguistic imperative should be to separate the titles, more than make them identical in all the Union’s languages. Having the EuroParl President be called “Speaker” in English and “Marszałek” in Polish might not be problematic, and it might give the listener a sense of familiarity.

Note: The aesthetics of the visualization were inspired by my recent trip to the British Museum. I have wanted for some time to make a more artsy viz. Feedback always appreciated.

Mapping the gender of Brexit

Expanding on the information gathered on Jon Worth’s blog via his twitter feed and on the info provided by the fine people of /r/AskEurope, here is a map of the grammatical gender assigned to the word ‘Brexit‘ in Europe’s various languages.

Brexit Gender

Some interesting points:

Sardinian seams to follow Italian in that it is feminine (‘sa Brexit‘), while Friulian doesn’t (‘il Brexit’ – see [pdf]), being masculine like most other Romance languages.

Corsican, although quite close to standard Italian, also uses the masculine (‘u Brexit‘)

Greece has two forms, a native calque (‘Βρέξοδος‘ – feminine), as well as the original English version (neuter), with the latter being more widespread.

Scottish-Gaelic also has a native word just like Irish (‘Brfhàgail‘ – feminine) but some articles on BBC’s Gaelic service seem to use the English form of the word, which I assumed is a masculin.

Latvian either uses Brexit as it is, and considers it non-gendered, or it Latvianizes it into ‘Breksits’, which is masculine. I’m not sure which is more prevalent.

Some leaps of faith:

Given that both Dutch and West Frisian have had their masculine and feminine merged into a common class, and that most nouns have the same gender in both languages, I assumed that the West Frisian ‘de Brexit’ is masculine, like its Dutch equivalent.

I assumed Aromanian mirrors Romanian, so it’s probably sg. ‘Brexitu, pl. Brexituri’.

Given that all Slavic languages are masculine, I extended the assumption to the Sorbian languages in Eastern Germany.

Out of experience, Faroese tends to follow Icelandic, and given that both have 3 genders, and both seem to assign neuter to nouns without ending. So Faroese Brexit is neuter.

Disclaimers:

The base map is a modified version of Andrei Nacu’s map from Wikimedia Commons.

Language maps such as these might overemphasize minority languages.

Made in Inkscape.

Members of the European Parliament: The linguistic origin of their names

A fun little dataviz idea that came up while researching my previous project on the Average Face of MEPs. Are Germanic names common among Germany’s MEPs, or are they seen as too nationalistic? How widespread are Jewish names due to Christianity? Are there any common names of interesting origin?

Disclaimer for my French readers: I know two names joined by a dash are considered a single name, but given that they are made up of two distinct elements, for the purpose of this dataviz, I handled them as two names. Désolé!

Names of MEPs

The Average Face of the European Parliament

Inspired by similar works, such as Giuseppe Sollazzo’s “I calculated the average face of the UK Member of Parliament” and redditor /u/ everest4ever’s “Average face of the Chinese Bureaucracy“, I decided to calculate the average face for the Members of the European Parliament, and see what our average representative in Brussels/Strasbourg looks like. The following results are valid for the EP as it was on 1 November 2017.

The average MEP

Average MEP
As expected by the 2-to-1 male to female ratio, the average face looks like a somewhat feminine middle aged man. White, but not too pale, light hazel eyes, light brown hair. Men tend to have greying hair and hazel eyes and a more reserved smile than women. Female MEPs have lighter eyes, but darker hair, probably because dying to hide greying hair is more frequent among women.

If I had to guess where they are from, I would probably say somewhere in the Alpine region/Central Europe – southern Germany, Austria, maybe northernmost Italy, Slovenia or Czechia.

By Political Group

First of all, if you are not familiar with the Political Groups of the European Parliament, click here for a quick rundown of the basics.

All MEPs
Average faces, when broken down by political group, tend to highlight the gender (in)balance in each group. For example, the small Non-Inscrit group obviously has the lowest female-to-male ratio in the EP (under 20%) while the leftist GUE-NGL – quite androginous here – has the highest (50%).

By Gender

Female MEPs
The Female MEP photos tend to show a lot of diferences among themselves. The Conservatives – dominated by UK and Polish MEPs – and the Nationalist ENF – dominated by France’s Front National – are the blondest, with the latter appearing to have a higher average age.

Due to only having 3 female MEPs in the Non-Inscrit group, the result came out pretty creepy. I therefore averaged it with its own mirror image to smooth out the “lizard overlord” vibe of the original.

Male MEPs.png

Male MEP photos tend to resemble each other more. Even so there is some variation, probably influenced by its national composition, just like in the female version. One additional variation tends to be facial hair: the average GUE-NGL tends to have a full “five o’clock shadow”, the NI representative is more of a grey mustache type, while the average EFDD member has more of a thin goatee king of person. The EPP and ECR on the other hand tend to be the most clean-shaven.

The Data

The photos were downloaded from the European Parliament’s Audiovisual Service for Media. While I’m glad the MEPs have official portraits available for the public, the site could use an upgrade to a more user-friendly way of doing things. The download procedure is cumbersome to say the least, there is no updated folder of all the current MEPs. Therefore I had to download all the photos, crosscheck with a table of current acting MEPs (because some of the original MEPs elected in 2014 quit, in order to take up either positions in their national governments or in the European Commission), see which photos are not needed, which ones are missing, which ones are duplicates and so forth. Two MEPs (Jadwiga Wiśniewska and Jiří Payne) didn’t even have official portraits, so I had to look elsewhere.

The Code

I used the code from learnopencv.com, which I tweaked to my needs. I had just two recurring problems: the fact that above a certain number of photos, I could’t calculate the average due to not enough memory, so I had to split the photos into smaller groups (for example the 475 EPP MEPs were split into 19 groups of 25 photos each, which were averaged, and then those 19 averages were averaged again into one).

My second problem was that sometimes the facial landmark detection part of the code recognized buttons and certain textures as faces, and I realized it pretty late, so I had to redo some of the work.

On a side note, I cannot thank Satya Mallick enough for the clear way he writes his tutorials. They were easy to follow and almost everything worked from the first try (when it didn’t it was usually my fault). Some of the best “how to install and run” articles I’ve ever used.

Made with OpenCV/dlib in Python (Anacond/Spyder as per linked tutorial). Final arrangements in Inkscape.