The election cycle for the seventh Council of Stellar Management, EVE’s democratically-elected player advocacy group, is about to begin. A brief history of the CSM: CSMs 1-4 were essentially powerless, but laid the groundwork for CSM5 to have the power to act as a player advocacy group; CSM5 had power, but the only people who noticed and envied that power when the CSM6 election cycle began were the nullsec blocs - the common EVE player was not yet alert to the fact that the CSM was now more than a toothless PR stunt.
During the Incarna riots and the run-up to Crucible, it was the CSM who articulated the playerbase’s strangled cries for spaceship content into a call to action. CSM5 reacted to the aftermath of Tyrranis with an insistence that CCP fix the long-neglected areas of spaceship gameplay, channeling a ‘Summer of Rage’ and releasing an open letter criticizing CCP’s lack of planning and gameplay for Incarna.
CSM6 took office and, despite a radically different in demographic makeup from the prior administration, continued CSM5’s battle for spaceships and against microtransactions through Monoclegate, the Jita Riots, and an unsuccessful attempt by CCP to sanitize the June Emergency Summit minutes. With the release of Hilmar’s apology blog and the Crucible expansion, the CSM and the playerbase have finally, after years of strife, returned CCP’s full focus to ‘Flying in Space’.
CSM6 proved the influence of the council to the playerbase at large, so the upcoming election for CSM7 should be a slugfest between the entities hoping to maintain their positions as well as newcomers seeking to get a seat at the table. The intense focus on the CSM during a year of crisis will increase turnout for the CSM7 election, and thus a higher number of votes will be required to win a position. Further adding to the selection pressure is CCP’s decision to cut the number of primary CSM members from nine to seven.
This election cycle, running between February and its denouement at Fanfest in March, will result in entertaining drama and fascinating political maneuvers. I am, of course, biased - I’m running for the Chairmanship again. But before the race begins, let’s analyze this year’s competition in detail.
Structural Changes: CCP implemented three major structural changes to the CSM and the election process. First, the distinction between ‘alts’ (the lowest-scoring 5) and ‘mains’ (the top 9) was erased; the new CSM just has ‘members’, which is a fairly trivial distinction. The most significant change is the fact that only the top seven CSM members will go to Iceland for summits now, instead of the top nine. Additionally, there will be a nomination phase added to this election where candidates need to get a minimum of 100 of ‘likes’ on their candidacy threads to be added to the ballot.
What does all of this mean? In the era of the 24/7 Skype-wired CSM, the distinction between alts and mains is a relic, so its abandonment is merely a recognition of the status quo. The new like-based nomination process will weed out many hopeless candidates, which is significant; past elections had a number of players throw their hats into the ring with no hope of actually getting elected, creating a long and cumbersome ballot. However, there is a substantial risk that an organized bloc will mass-vote weaker candidates past the 100-like-mark to clog the ballot; even a single well-organized corp could do this on a lark and nominate every hopeful. Future elections will almost certainly require a more strict nomination process to be effective.
The fact that only the top seven candidates will attend summits directly increases the power of the most organized player entities, namely the nullsec blocs and Eve University. Only these groups have the power to reliably get more than 2240 votes, the minimum needed to get the seventh slot in the CSM6 contest. A tidier ballot means less wasted votes, further raising the bar to reach the top seven, not to mention the greater expected overall turnout after the performance of CSM6. Grassroots candidates and niche constituencies (wormholers, faction warfare, roleplayers, etc) are likely to fill out the bottom seven slots, but the critical lobbying opportunities of visiting Reykjavik in the flesh will likely be held by the nullsec barons, something that Trebor Daehdoow of CSM6 noted in a recent blog.
Primaries for Paranoids: One of the most entertaining aspects of CSM season is that - like in real-world elections - something about the process brings the crazies out of the woodwork. The sheer number of asinine conspiracy theories thrown around during a CSM election is breathtaking, even for a game which fosters paranoia as a prerequisite to survival. The most common refrain encountered in prior elections: “The CSM is a powerless PR stunt, and everything they have ‘accomplished’ was going to happen anyway.” This used to be a widespread view, but is now relegated to the fringe. The modern replacement: “The CSM has too much power; they’re literally rewriting the game to suit themselves.” I confess to feeling somewhat smug that the flavor of the raving has shifted from flat assertions of CSM impotence to lunatic terror during my august reign as Chairman.
Another common theory is that a candidate who wins - one that you don’t like - couldn’t possibly have actual support among the players: their votes must come from hacking, abuse of the Buddy Account system, or using isk to create new accounts via PLEX - a particularly expensive act of ballot-stuffing in the era of the 450m+ isk PLEX. Expect this complaint to erupt right after the election results are announced, much like the accusations of voter fraud in the aftermath of every Presidential election in the US.
Unapologetic Political Speculation Zone: The classic Capitol Hill parlor game now comes to internet spaceships: who’s going to make it onto CSM7, who will be Chair, and where will the most heated contests be? Due to the anticipated higher turnout and the new top-seven rule, I expect that most of the nullsec blocs will only run one candidate for CSM7, where three (GSF, the Northern Coalition, and XIX) managed to get two seats each under CSM6.
This marks the first CSM election since the demise of the Northern Coalition, which has had a presence on the CSM almost since the beginning of the institution. The dissolution of that bloc - which held two main slots in CSM6 - has left its former representatives, Killer2 and Draco Llasa, without much hope of a return.
Incumbents have a natural advantage in any real world election, and UAxDeath, Meissa, Trebor, Two Step, Prometheus Exenthal, Seleene, Elise Randolph and myself have already announced returning candidacies. Vile Rat, White Tree are likely to sit out. Unless I screw up and my readers stop voting for me en masse, Chair is likely to be mine.
Kelduum Revaan of Eve University is planning a run and may manage to get a top seven slot, as Eve Uni is the closest thing hisec has to a bloc - though some reports indicate that he may have already overplayed his hand. The actual bloc candidates will be secure unless they make grievous errors. GSF will put forth me (again), XIX has UAxDeath, PL will back Seleene or Elise Randolph. Against All Authorities and TEST are both expected to put new candidates on the council. The sensible wormhole voters will rally around Two Step for an alt slot, as will the Failheap crowd for Prometheus Exenthal.
Meanwhile, there are a number of unaligned candidates vying for the remaining hisec and lowsec vote. Trebor Deahdoow and Meissa Anunthiel are the CSM6 incumbents, facing off against Issler Dainze and T’Amber, both former CSM representatives. T’Amber’s candidacy is unexpected given that in a CSM term he rage-resigned from the council, quit EVE, and deleted all his characters. This level of competition for this voter pool will be uncompromising and vicious, as only the candidate with the sharpest elbows has a hope of a top seven slot, and each new challenger dilutes the possibility of success by siphoning votes away from the frontrunner. Non-bloc candidates typically collect votes through a method called ‘vote grinding’, involving mass emails and arduous in-game conversations with individual players. The viability of vote-grinding will be sorely tested this election.
It’s too early in the cycle to make exact predictions about how the CSM7 situation will shake out; there are a lot of unknown variables and potential dark horse candidates. My personal goal is to increase the size of my vote pool far beyond the 5365 from last year, in order to demonstrate an ever-increasing mandate for the views of my constituents. Game on!
I won this one pretty handily, netting 10,058 votes, and promptly pissed it away by making an inappropriate joke while on live TV. Whoops! Because of that, I'm going to refrain from commenting on how well/not well CSM7 is doing/not doing; as I learned in CSM6, it's a huge pain in the ass to have former CSMs taking potshots at you from the unaccountable safety of retirement.