Monthly Archives: August 2010

Australia 2010: Provisional Results

Full results of the 2010 federal election in Australia will likely take at very least a week to get, but a bit more than 24 hours after election day, the basic preliminary results are out. The basic patterns are known and a general picture of what happened can be painted. Here are the results – excluding postal votes and certain votes not yet counted. These results are not final.

House of Representatives

First Preference Count

Coalition 43.5% (+1.41%) winning 73 seats (+8)
Labor 38.51% (-4.87%) winning 73 seats (-10)
The Greens 11.42% (+3.63%) winning 1 seat (nc)
Family First 2.20% (+0.21%) winning 0 seats (nc)
Independents 2.57% (+0.35%) winning 3 seats (nc)
Others 1.8% winning 0 seats (nc)

2PP

Labor 50.67% (-2.03%) winning 73 seats (-10)
Coalition 49.33% (+2.03%) winning 73 seats (+8)

The above map shows the 2PP results as they currently stand in all divisions. Of course, these results may change, but it seems that the basic 2PP counts have been firmly established.

The pollsters were right, but nobody really gave much credence to the thought that no party would emerge with a majority. After all, such a thing hadn’t happened since the 1940 election. Unlike in the Queensland election in 2009 or even the South Australian election earlier in 2010, there was no late swing to the incumbent government, and instead there was a small (and insufficient) swing to the Coalition. As a result, the situation which has emerged is as confusing as ever. While the 2PP vote favours Labors – with roughly 50.5% – the seat count, as of now, favours the Coalition, albeit by only one seat. This result allows both Labor and the Coalition to play the card that they’re the first party and thus deserve an early start to the race for coalition allies. Furthermore, the all-important seat count between Labor and the Coalition can still change, and, as often happens in Australia, likely will. Here are the seven seats which I classify as ‘in doubt’, :

Boothby, SA (Liberal seat, 50.44% 2PP): Old, wealthy traditionally blue-ribbon seat in Adelaide. There has been a 2.37% swing to the ALP on the 2PP count since 2007. The Liberals should hold this seat narrowly.
Brisbane, QLD (ALP seat, 50.62% 2PP): Gentrifying, rather wealthy and professional inner-city seat covering Brisbane and some suburbs. Traditionally Labor, it has become marginal in recent years, despite Liberal loses in these type of seats since 1996. The LNP should gain this seat, based on the 5.28% swing to it since 2007. Labor would need a massive split in its favour in the postal votes to hold this seat, meaning that it could probably drop off this list.
Corangamite, VIC (ALP seat, 50.76% 2PP): A traditionally Liberal seat in south-west Victoria gained by Labor in 2007 (Labor’s first win since 1929), this seat was equally as marginal in 2007 and the swing against Labor was only 0.09%. Labor should hold this seat, though the Liberals have a fighting chance.
Denison, TAS (ALP seat, 50.64% 2PP): One of Labor’s safest seats in Tasmania in recent times, Denison covers central Hobart. Labor, despite a retiring member, was not supposed to have much trouble, but an independent, Andrew Wilkie, a former intelligence officer who resigned over the Iraq war and ran as a Green against Howard in Bennelong in 2004, could have won the seat easily on 2PP thanks to Liberal and Green preferences favouring him over the ALP. Yet, additional votes, which still confirm a Ind vs. ALP 2PP count, now have Labor back ahead of Wilkie on preferences, with 50.6% for the ALP on the latest 2PP count.
Dunkley, VIC (Liberal seat, 50.43% 2PP): A usually Liberal-leaning seat, albeit narrowly, since 1996, Dunkley is located in southern Melbourne, it seems like the Liberals have a tough fight to retain this seat after a 3.6% swing to the ALP which gives the Liberals only 50.4% on the latest 2PP count. The Liberals should retain this seat, but it will be close.
Hasluck, WA (ALP seat, 50.28% 2PP): Old marginal seat in Perth’s growing eastern suburbs, this seat is relatively middle-class but not a mortgage belt-type seat. Labor gained this seat from the Liberals in 2004, who had gained it from Labor that same year. Though Ken Wyatt (Lib) leads in his bid to be the first Aboriginal member of Parliament in Australia, postal votes could favour the ALP here, which means that a Liberal win is not a certainty.
Lindsay, NSW (ALP seat, 50.72% 2PP): A bellwether since its creation in 1984, Lindsay is the archetypal ‘Howard battlers’ and mortgage belt seat, an area of working-class roots but with high incomes and influenced by financial issues. It was a Liberal gain in 1996, but an internal war following the Liberal MP’s retirement in 2007 led to an unusually easy ALP gain in 2007 with 56.8% on the 2PP. The large 5.6% swing, though in line with large anti-ALP swings in Sydney, is also a correction of a ‘freak’ result in 2007. This seat seems to be going for Labor, so it could drop off this list.

    This is the first time since 1940 that neither the traditional left or the traditional right have a majority of seats. Given Australia’s voting system – AV is not proportional representation – and the resulting two-party system, it is rather unusual that such a situation happens and when it happens, like in 1940, it is caused by a flurry of independents or minor parties (in 1940, this was Lang’s NSW Labor outfit, in 2010, it’s the Greenies). However, this result reflects something quite sad about the state of politics in Australia. In the past, voters went to the polls and had a reason to vote in favour of somebody or vote against somebody: be it bad economic times, unpopular policy, a desire for change or a bad opposition being on offer. Julia Gillard led a poor campaign and didn’t provide a good reason of why to vote to return the government. Tony Abbott led a good campaign (or ran the least-worst campaign), but partly his ideology (quite right-wing) prevented ambivalent voters from swinging massively from the ALP to the Coalition unlike in 1996. The Coalition’s gain in primary votes is quite thin, which indicates that there was no massive direct swing from the ALP to the Coalition, again unlike 1996. Partly because of the nature of discontent with Labor’s record – a lot of more left-wing voters haven’t liked Labor’s shying away from tough climate change action or, to use Kevin Rudd’s words, lurk to the right on asylum seekers and the mining tax; and the fact that Abbott isn’t a man who can convince middle-of-the-road urban centrist liberal types from shifting their votes to him, the Greens did very well. They seem to have picked up two-thirds of Labor’s 2007 vote and they have won their best result ever (they are slightly lower than the Democrats’ 1990 record of 12.6%).

    The swings in this election have proved spotty, unusual and downright weird. Labor gained ground in three states, and lost ground in all others. The biggest swing against the ALP was in Queensland, where it suffered a 5.03% swing to the LNP in the 2PP reducing Labor’s 2PP in the state to 45.4%. Part of it is explainable by the unpopularity of the ALP state government, but Kevin Rudd, native son, played a huge role in helping Labor do so well in his home state in 2007. Now that he’s gone, and not extremely keen on helping the party which ousted him less than two months ago, it is obvious that conservative Queensland would swing to the right. A 4% swing to the Coalition in NSW is also explainable by the fact that the state government, led by Labor, is the most unpopular government in the country. Victoria swang 0.85% in Gillard’s way, the result of Gillard’s higher appeal in her home state – her biography is also responsible for a 1.13% swing to Labor in South Australia, a place where Gillard also has roots. The biggest swing to Labor, however, some inexplicably, came in Tasmania, where there was a 4.7% swing against the Coalition and resulted in Labor solidifying their narrow 2007 wins in Bass and Braddon. Western Australia’s small 1.71% swing away from Labor is surprisingly small, given the rumours that the mining tax would hurt Labor a lot in a state with an important mining industry which is raking up profits. That being said, the 6% swing against Labor in Durack (the new outback seat with some mines) does lend support to the idea that the mining tax did hurt Labor. In addition, Labor lost roughly 9% of first preference votes compared to 2007 in O’Connor, which includes some mining areas as well, though the unusual nature of the race muddies stuff up a bit. In the Northern Territory, there was a 4.83% swing to the Coalition (represented in the NT by the Country Liberals, CLP), which resulted in the ALP losing their narrow 2007 gain in Solomon, the Darwin-centered and military-driven seat.

    What is of interest, and of even more interest given who the kingmakers in the hung parliament are, are the swings within the states. According to the AEC’s classifications, there is a uniform pattern in the swings. Swings against Labor were highest in inner metropolitan areas (situated in capital cities and consisting of well-established built-up suburbs). In NSW, these areas saw a 6.6% swing against the ALP. As a result, certain ‘safe seats’ such as Banks – the 2PP count went from 60/39 for Labor to 51/49 for Labor – were unusually close. The swings in northern Sydney, the blue-ribbon posh areas of the city, were high – destroying Labor’s much talked about gains in seats such as Bennelong (John Howard’s seat, where he was defeated in 2007, turned back to the Liberals), North Sydney (a 8.6% swing in what was one the Liberal Party’s best areas), Warringah and Wentworth. That being said, aside from higher-than-average swings in North Sydney and Wentworth, the swing to the Coalition in Warringah, Bennelong, Bradfield, Mackellar were below the inner met average, indicating that Liberal loses in these blue-ribbon areas were not a fluke. Swings, however, were rather phenomenal in south and western Sydney, where the ‘average Joe’ usually lives. These areas, which have gotten wealthy in the past but retain some working-class roots and have a few immigrants, saw some big swings to the Coalition. Bank, as mentioned before, but also Fowler (13.2%), Barton (7.9%) and Werriwa (7.9%). In these inner – and outer – metro areas, Labor lost lots of support to the Greens as well – who did well in posh areas such as Wentworth or Bradfield. The swing against Labor in inner-metro areas was 3.7% nationally (against a 2% swing in all Australia). The issue of asylum seekers might have hurt Labor in these urban areas, especially the ‘average Joe’ area type suburbs. Swings, however, were lower in provincial and rural areas. Even in NSW, they were only 1.5% or so against Labor, which explains why Labor held on in marginals like Robertson (NSW) while they faced a tougher race in Banks. Labor’s support for rural broadband might explain these swings a bit.

    The Nationals haven’t done all that badly overall, their result might stop, for some time, the talk of a Liberal/National merger like in Queensland (where they formed the LNP). While the official seat count is 7 seats for the Nats against 10 in 2007, one must remember that the 2010 results for the Nationals exclude Queensland where the Nationals no longer exist. Counting Queensland, where the Nationals elected 4 of their own (including their leader), the Nationals have 11 seats, a gain of one against 2007. Their most shocking gain came in Western Australia, where Tony Crook knocked off very controversial Liberal MP Wilson Tuckey in O’Connor, which was massively redrawn since 2007. On Labor prefs, Crook beat Tuckey 54-46 on the 2PP count. Tony Crook and the WA Nationals are more independent from the Liberals than the national party is, meaning that within the Coalition’s likely 73 members, one is a major maverick figure who could be won over by Labor – after all, a National-Labor deal is actually not unheard of. That makes matters even more muddy.

    The Greens have performed strongly, as usual, in densely populated CBDs (central business districts) and inner-suburban neighborhoods. They easily gained their top target of Melbourne from the ALP, after winning roughly 46% of the 2PP vote there in 2007. In two of the ALP’s ultra safe seats – the old working-class divisions of Batman (Melbourne) and Grayndler (Sydney), they outpaced the Liberals to face the ALP on second preferences, highlighting the changing nature of these seats. That being said, the ALP still won Batman 58/42 on 2PP, but in ultra-safe Grayndler, the Greens managed roughly 45% on 2PP. In Sydney (the division), the ALP was very lucky the Liberals outpaced the Greens for the 2PP count, allowing Labor to hold the seat by a huge margin, because they could very well have lost the seat to the Greenies if the Greens had gotten on the 2PP count. However, the Greens also did relatively well in the ‘bush’, probably highlighting a new environmental conscience in these areas hit in recent years by droughts and bush fires. Their real success, however, came in the Senate.

    Senate

    incomplete provisional results – subject to change

    Coalition winning 18 seats (-3) for a total of 34 seats (-3)
    Labor winning 15 seats (-1) for a total of 31 seats (-1)
    The Greens winning 6 seats (+4) for a total of 9 seats (+4)
    Family First winning 0 seats (-1) for a total of 0 seats (-1)
    Democratic Labor Party winning 1 seat (+1) for a total of 1 seat (+1)
    No Pokies – Nick Xenophon winning 0 seats for a total of 1 seat (nc)

    The Coalition lost ground, comparatively, in the Senate because these seats were last up in 2004, where Howard had managed to win a majority for the Coalition in the Senate. It was only obvious that the Liberals would lose seats from their 2004 sowing, how many being the main question. A loss of only three seats is quite good, given how good the 2004 series was for the Coalition. That being said, as in 2007, the balance of power still rests with the Greens, who almost doubled their seats. A look at the results by state are instructive (all parties breaking 1% are included):

    NSW: Coalition 39.14% (3), ALP 37.09% (2), GRN 10.43% (1), Shooters 2.29%, LDP 2.04%, CDP 1.97%, Sex 1.73%
    Victoria: ALP 38.67% (2), Coalition 34.3% (2), GRN 14.36% (1), FFP 2.69%, DLP 2.23% (1), Sex 2.23%, LDP 1.65%, Shooters 1.33%
    QLD: LNP 41.41% (3), ALP 29.77% (2), GRN 12.83% (1), FFP 3.5%, Sex 2.54%, LDP 2.05%, Fishing and Lifestyle 1.95%, Shooters 1.66%
    WA: Liberal 43.84% (3), ALP 29.76% (2), GRN 14.01% (1), Nationals 2.7%, Sex 2.14%, CDP 1.82%, LDP 1.21%, FFP 1.09%
    SA: ALP 39% (2), Liberal 36.89% (3), GRN 13.31% (1), FFP 4.07%, Sex 1.65%, Shooters 1.1%
    Tasmania: ALP 42.13% (3), Liberal 32.73% (2), GRN 20.26% (1), Shooters 1.93%, FFP 1.22%
    ACT: ALP 41.71% (1), Liberal 33.41% (1), GRN 23.22%, DEM 1.66%
    NT: CLP 41.24% (1), ALP 34.59% (1), GRN 13.96%, Shooters 4.93%, Sex 4.46%

    The major highlight of the Senate results was the success of the Greens, taking a Senate seat in each state. Albeit in 2004 they came agonizingly close to taking a seat in Victoria, they were beaten out on preferences by Family First’s Steve Fielding. Now, based on their strong showing nationally and their strength in all main states, it was only normal that they would manage to do so well. In the ACT, they missed out on a seat partly because of the Liberals’ natural ground in the ACT (they’re guaranteed roughly 30% of the vote there) and apparently because preferences from the Democrats didn’t favour them enough. Ironically, the ACT was the party’s strongest showing of all states and their result there is up there with the best ever results for a green party in the world.

    In a massive blast from the past, it seems like the Democratic Labor Party (DLP) is on track to win the last seat in Victoria. This DLP is not legally the same as the old Catholic anti-communist one from the 60s, but it is ancestrally the same and is just as socially conservative and economically left-wing as the old DLP. It has a seat in the Victorian Legislative Council since 2006, and has usually managed to poll 1-2% in Victoria in the past, but nobody cared about it. Now, thanks to one of the freak results that mandatory preferencing in STV produced, similar to the fluke which Steve Fielding’s 2004 win for Family First in Victoria was. It remains to be seen if postal votes can keep the DLP up or if the last seat will go to the ALP or maybe Family First, but it would be very funny and a massive blast from the past if the DLP won a Senator. It would be the first DLPer elected federally since 1974.

    The Future

    And thus, the political future of a G20 country now depends on the decisions of five men. One Green and three Independents who hold the balance of power. Unlike in other countries where a party with a caucus has the balance of power and is easier to deal with because they actually have a program of their own, in Australia the outcome hinges on the decisions of five men who, though they might be good friends and might have some common roots, are different persons who represent different types of electorates.

    On one hand, you have the first Green elected in a general election – Adam Bandt in Melbourne. Helped by the retirement of high-profile Labor incumbent Lindsay Tanner, the Greens seized on their 2007 showing – they had beat the Liberals to come second in the 2PP count – the result of a sociological shift from being a working-class inner-city district to a gentrifying, young professional urbane seat. Bandt polled 36.1% on first prefs, behind Labor but far ahead of the Liberals; and won with Liberal preferences over Labor in the 2PP with 55.7%. Bandt already said that he favours Labor in case of a hung parliament, hardly surprising given that Tony Abbott’s Liberals are continents away from the Greens on policy issues such as the environment or gay rights.

    Andrew Wilkie, mentioned above, if he wins – is counted as a left-wing independent. A former intelligence analyst who split with the government over Iraq in 2003, he was a Green until recently and it’s extremely hard to see him back a Liberal government, both because of his ideological differences with them and the nature of his seat.

    Therefore, the fate of Australia really depends on three entrenched independents from Queensland and NSW. Bob Katter, originally a National, has represented the huge rural seat of Kennedy in Queensland since 1993, and has won re-election since then, even after becoming an independent in 2001. He won 68.7% of the 2PP vote in Kennedy this year. A maverick within the Nats, where he was known as ‘mad Bob’ because of his penchant for being crazy, he is a protectionist and favours a 10% duty on all goods entering Australia. Although he’s a right-winger, he is far from being a guaranteed ally of the Coalition, with whom he’s had his share of problems.

    Tony Windsor, a former state MP, has held the rural NSW electorate of New England since 2001. He hasn’t been a member of the Nationals since 1991, the year where he became a state MP as an independent. He won re-election this year with 71.6% against the Nats on 2PP and over 62% on first prefs. Described as a social progressive and economic conservative, he has even less ties with the Nats than Katter and is also not a guaranteed vote for the right.

    The most recent Independent MP is Rob Oakshott, who has held the rural seat of Lyne (NSW) since a 2008 by-election. A former state MP, he easily defeated the Nats, defending the seat, winning over 60% of 2PP votes. He won 62.4% of the 2PP vote this year. A close friend and ally of Tony Windsor, he’s similar to him politically and the same rule about him not being a guaranteed vote for the right applies.

    Thus, the three main Independents will likely be ‘bought’ by one side or the other with material arguments, such as goodies for their areas and advantages for rural Australia. Labor’s support for rural broadband access – opposed by Abbott – may come into play here, but the Coalition might have an advantage with them on basis of their centre-right ideological leanings as well as the (now outdated) argument that since they have more seats than Labor they deserved to form government. The Coalition’s chances of winning the 3 main indies to their side depends on them winning more seats than Labor. If they don’t, their chances decline dramatically.

    Though minority governments are not common in Australia, they aren’t unheard of and the parliaments of Tasmania and the ACT currently are minority governments, the ACT has been one since 2008 although Tasmania has only had a minority since the March election. In several states, minority administrations backed by independents have not been that unstable, which could mean that a new federal election this year or early next year isn’t as likely as some make it to be. That being said, given the Labor/Green Senate numbers, it is arguable that a Labor government would be most stable because a Liberal government in the House could see a lot of its legislation blocked by a more left-leaning Senate, resulting, perhaps, in an early double dissolution election. A Labor government in the House would certainly have less trouble in the Senate than a Liberal one.

    As results become finalized, new posts will be made with correct information and results, as well as more analysis and maps of the results. For now, this is just a basic overview of the main outlines of the results thus far and a look at what the future holds.

    Election Preview: Australia 2010

    Australia will go to the polls on Saturday August 21 in an early federal election. All 150 seats in the House of Representatives as well as 40 of the Senate’s 76 seats will be up for re-election. This is a traditional half-Senate and full-House election, which come about normally unlike double dissolution elections where the entire Senate is up for re-election, which can happen if the Senate blocks House legislation twice in three months.

    Voting System

    All 150 seats in the House of Representatives are elected in single-member electorates or electoral divisions through preferential voting. Preferential voting, also known as IRV or AV, is fairly unusual in countries using single-member districts, most of which use Westminster-style FPTP voting. In the House, voters must number all candidates on the ballot in order of their preference. If no candidate has a majority of first preference votes, the lowest-placed candidates are eliminated and their votes are distributed based on the second preferences of their voters. This means that in the end, the winner of the seat will have a majority of the votes and is thus the ‘most preferred’ candidate. While preferential voting allows smaller parties to exist and sometimes win seats, the preferential voting system is not intended to be a proportional system and has thus maintained a two-party/coalition system in Australia. Furthermore, mandatory preferential voting can be hassle for voters who don’t know all the candidates standing and can lead to informal (invalid) votes or donkey voting. However, parties often hand out how to vote cards to potential voters outside booths, instructing voters intending to vote for party X on how to number their preferences to ensure either the victory of party X or the victory of the major candidate most preferred by party X. The two-party preferred result, or 2PP, indicates the results where preferences have been distributed to the major sides of politics. Nationally, the numbers are a Labor vs. Coalition matchup, though in some electorates, Independents or Greens can get into the 2PP count.

    Australia’s Senate is an oddity in the Westminster system in that it is far closer to the American Senate than to the Canadian Senate. Australia’s Senate ensures the equal representation of all states (12 seats per state and 2 seats per territory) and, since 1948, also ensures proportional representation of parties within a state. This is done through use of STV, single-transferable vote, which is also used in Ireland and Malta. Parties nominate a slate of candidate (not necessarily six) which form a party list. On the ballot paper, voters have the option of voting above the line or below the line. 95% choose the simpler first option, which consists of placing a ‘1’ in the box next to the party of their choice. When voting below the line, voters must indicate their preference order for all candidates, often numbering up to 50-60, which explains why only 5% of voters vote below the line. The widespread use of above the line voting often leads independents to group themselves and form a slate, though same candidates remain ungrouped, and thus can only receive primary votes from the few below the line voters.

    Senators facing re-election in 2010 are those elected in October 2004 and whose terms expires on June 30, 2011.

    Voting in Australia, of course, is mandatory.

    Political History

    Australia has always had a two-party system of sorts, rarely challenged by outsiders, some of whom were integrated into the two party or two coalition system.

    In 1901, in the first election following Federation, two main blocs opposed each other. On one side, Edmund Barton’s ‘governing’ Protectionists, who advocated high tariffs on imported good, and George Reid’s Free Traders, who, obviously, advocated dismantling the tariff system. The Protectionists, who were the de-facto governing party and whose ranks including high-profile colonial political leaders, won 31 seats to the Free Traders’ 28 seats, meaning that they were dependent on support from 14 Labor MPs, who allied with Barton’s Protectionists in return for legislative concessions. Protectionists found most of their support in Victoria, whose economy was more dependent on mining and farming, while Free Traders largely dominated urban New South Wales with its large trade-dependent economy.

    Legislative concessions granted to Labor in the first government included the 1901 White Australia policy. In the 1850s, the Gold Rush in Victoria had led to an influx of Chinese immigrants, which later led to social tensions when gold became scarcer. The labour movement was also wary of Asian immigration, fearing that Chinese and Japanese immigrants would take jobs away from white workers. In 1901, a White Australia policy enjoyed widespread quasi-unanimous support.

    Stepping down to join the High Court in September 1903, Barton was succeeded by Alfred Deakin, a Protectionist, who led the party into the December 1903 elections in which the Labor Party made significant gains at the expense of the Protectionists. Labor became a thorn in the side of the Protectionists who found themselves unwilling to support Labour’s more radical legislative demands. Unable to pass legislation, Deakin resigned and was followed by Chris Watson, the first Labor PM in the world, who was also tied down by lack of support in the House. The rejection of a compulsory arbitration act in 1904 and Watson’s failure to get a double dissolution let George Reid form a minority government which was largely a caretaker government which waited on the Protectionists and Labor to patch up and re-form government, which they did in July 1905 under the leadership of Deakin.

    Deakin’s second government was largely successful, passing extensive legislation including compulsory arbitration of labour disputes, expanding the High Court to 5, arranging Australian control of Papua, passing the first protective tariff and taking the first steps in the creation of an independent Australian navy. Despite Deakin’s successes, the Protectionists further lost ground in the 1906 elections, losing 10 seats to independents, Labour and the Free Traders – now known as the Anti-Socialists. Deakin was forced from office by Labor’s Andrew Fisher. Fisher’s first government established Canberra to be the new capital and laid the blueprints for the new Australian navy and sought to extend federal power over labour, wages and pensions.

    The rise of Labor and the subsequent disappearance of the middle-ground in Australian politics moved the Protectionists and Free Traders, who shared the same outlook on most realms except tariffs, further to the right. In 1906, the Free Traders became the Anti-Socialist Party, showing the switch in the party’s outlook from defense of liberal values such as trade to conservative values such as opposition to rising socialism. While George Reid was more lukewarm towards the change in the party’s orientation, his successor as party leader in 1908, Joseph Cook, was not, and acquiesced in 1909 to Deakin’s proposal to ‘fuse’ the two parties into the Commonwealth Liberal Party. As a result, Fisher was ousted from the premiership in 1909 by Deakin, who led the new party into the 1910 election.

    1910 saw the first majority government in Australia, and it was formed by Fisher’s Labor who had soundly defeated Deakin’s Liberals, with 42 seats to Deakin’s 36 seats. Fisher’s government, which held a majority in both houses, passed 113 acts, a high point of parliamentary activity and the Labor Party’s legislative action. His government’s reforms included new old-age and disability pensions,  maternity allowance, workers’ compensation, Australia’s first paper currency and founding the Royal Australian Navy among others. However, 1911 and 1913 attempts at nationalisation of monopolies were voted down in referendums and Fisher finally lost the 1913 election to Cook’s Liberals by a mere seat (37 to 38) but Labor retained control of the Senate.

    Cook argued that Senate control was necessary for him to govern and intentionally introduced legislation which the Labor-held Senate in order to force a double dissolution election in September 1914. However, Fisher reminded voters, in the midst of the first shots of World War I, that Labor had supported an independent defense force, something which the Liberals had opposed. As a result, Fisher’s Labor won him a third non-consecutive term.

    Following Australia’s rout in the Dardanelles Operation in 1915, Fisher, finding the war taxing on his health, stepped down ceded his spot to a veteran Labor MP, Billy Hughes. Following massive loses in 1915 and 1916, Hughes became a supporter of conscription, something advocated by the army and conservatives but opposed by Labor’s Catholic and union base. A plebiscite on conscription was voted down in October 1916, but Hughes was unwavering in his support of conscription. The debate over conscription highlighted a split between Australians who were keen British Imperialists and ready to stand by the mother country, and other more nationalist Australians who were not so keen on steadfast allegiance to the old mother country. Labor’s base being made of Irish Catholics, socialists and trade unionists; Hughes found himself in a tough spot and his abrasive personality didn’t help his case. In September 1916, he was expelled from the party and founded the National Labor Party, a name which reflects the nationalist (meaning British Imperialist-nationalist, of course) nature of the party. Hughes concluded a confidence and supply deal with the Liberals to stay in power, but this deal quickly turned into a new party, the Nationalist Party, in 1917. The new party won the confidence of Australian voters who handed Hughes a large victory in the 1917 election, when he won 53 seats to Labor’s paltry 22.

    Big and small farmers, especially wheat farmers, a traditionally conservative electorate, grew dissatisfied with Hughes’ economic policies, which reflected his left-wing past. For example, he retained a high tariff protection and supported price controls on rural produce. Between 1918 and 1920, they participated in the foundation of the Country Party, a party dedicated to the defense of farmers’ interests and the representation of ‘regional Australia’. The emergence of a new force on the right in a FPTP system threatened the conservative control of government, and would allow Labor to win seats on the basis of right-wing vote splitting, as happened in the 1918 Swan by-election. The results in Swan led Hughes’ government to pass an electoral reform establishing Australia’s current preferential voting system which would prevent a Labor win on sole basis of split in the right-wing vote.

    In Versailles in 1919, where Hughes signed the Treaty of Versailles for Australia, he engaged in bickering with Wilson, whom he hated, and made sure Japan’s racial equality proposal (an attack on the White Australia policy) was struck down. An opponent of the League, which he viewed as flawed idealism, he also was a key supporter of demanding tough reparations on Germany and was wary of Japanese expansionism in Germany’s former Pacific colonial holdings.

    Re-elected in 1919, Hughes faced increasing opposition from the Nationalist Party’s old liberal base, who were wary of Hughes’ support for continued government ownership of various companies. Yet, they stuck with him (save for a few dissidents), mostly in the interests of keeping Labor out of power. The Nationalists lost their majority in 1922, where they won 26 seats to Labor’s 29 and the Country Party’s 14, a result which gave Country leader Earle Page the balance of power. Page formed a coalition with the Nationalists, but indicated that they wouldn’t work with Hughes. The conservative faction of the Nationalist Party were all too happy to get rid of Hughes and they forced him out of the job in favour of his Treasurer, Stanley Bruce, who formed a coalition with the Country Party, conceding key posts (5/11) to his junior ally. An aristocratic ‘Tory’, who was also the first to preside over an entirely Australian-born cabinet, Stanley Bruce maintained a conservative policy which was anti-communist, pro-British and a key supporter of the White Australia policy, which he used as a campaign issue in 1925, when his coalition won an even larger majority over a demoralized Labor Party. During Stanley Bruce’s tenure, Australia returned to minding its home affairs, inciting British immigration, exporting its mineral and agricultural products, strengthening and protecting its economy. Stanley Bruce’s majority was reduced in 1928, but he managed to hold on.

    His 1929 demise was brought upon first by a series of strikes, to which he responded by proposing the abolition of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. Billy Hughes and other Nationalist backbenchers got their revenge on Bruce and defeated his government, sending voters to the polls again in 1929 (a House-only election). James Scullin’s Labor Party won 46 seats to the coalition’s 24.

    Scullin took office two days before the Wall Street Crash of 1929, which heavily impacted Australia’s economy, heavily tributary to international markets and British banks. Unemployment soared while profits from exports (notably wool) dwindled. Scullin’s new government and his party was split into three camps over the government response to the Depression. Scullin, guided by orthodox advice, was resigned to supporting orthodox salary and spending cuts (in which he was supported by Joe Lyons). His first Treasurer, Ted Theodore, was a Keynesian and advocated deficit financing to get out of the recession. Further on the left, NSW’s radical Premier, Jack Lang, advocated repudiating his state and the country’s debt towards Britain. Theodore was forced out in 1930 over a scandal, which led Joe Lyons to become acting Treasurer while Scullin spent most of 1930 in London. However, in January 1931, he re-instated Theodore as Treasurer, which led Lyons and his orthodox allies to join up with the Nationalists to form the United Australia Party (UAP) while Lang’s supporters founded a dissident Lang Labor group which finally allied with the UAP to pass a motion of no-confidence in Scullin in November 1931, forcing a snap election.

    A divided Labor Party was swept out of office by Joe Lyon’s UAP, which won 34 seats (+16 Country) to Labor’s mere 14, joined by 4 Langites. Joe Lyon’s new government, formed only by the UAP, continued orthodox policies, and benefited from the gradual recovery which allowed Australia, by 1934, to resume its pre-Depression lifestyle. On the foreign stage, Lyons also supported the League and the British government’s appeasement of Germany though Lyons did build up the army. He was re-elected in 1934 and 1937, though in both those elections the UAP needed to form a coalition with the Country Party, which won its best result (15.6%) in 1937. The gathering war clouds depressed Lyons the pacifist, who was suffering from opposition within his party, coming from the young talented Robert Menzies. Lyons died in April 1939, and was replaced by Robert Menzies, who defeated Billy Hughes for the leadership of the UAP, although the Country Party refused to serve under Menzies until Page resigned the Country Party’s leadership in 1940. Presiding over Australia as a war-time Prime Minister after September 1939, Menzies’ leadership was judged to be uninspiring and voters had memories of the pro-appeasement Menzies who visited Germany in 1938. The UAP very nearly lost the 1940 election to Labor, winning 36 seats to Labor’s 32, and even lost the two-party preferred tally. Menzies’ government, which now included Archie Cameron’s Country Party, governed with the support of two independents). While he was in Britain conferring with Churchill (some say Menzies had his eyes on Churchill’s job in London) in early 1941, Menzies lost party support back home and was forced to resign in August 1941. The UAP, bereft of leadership, allowed the Country Party’s Arthur Fadden to form government, also reliant on the support of two independents, who in October 1941 voted his budget and allowed Labor’s John Curtin to become Prime Minister, with the strong backing of the two independents guaranteeing stability.

    Threatened in its own backyard, Curtin shifted the country’s war policy towards the Pacific, where Japan’s unstoppable advances threatened Australia itself. In December 1941, Curtin pleaded to the United States for support in the Pacific, signaling a shift in Australian foreign policy from a close alliance with London to a close alliance with Washington. While Roosevelt was not fond of Curtin’s appeal, which he judged desperate, Curtin found a key ally in General MacArthur, who would be Curtin’s voice in Washington.

    Even after the fall of Singapore in 1942 and the rising fear of a Japanese attack on Australia, Curtin was able to rally his country behind the war effort with success. It won him and his party a landslide in the 1943 election, in which the UAP was so bereft of leadership (its nominal leader was Billy Hughes) that the Country Party’s Arthur Fadden led the Coalition. The Coalition came out with only 19 seats and 42% of the 2PP, against 49 seats and 58% of the 2PP for Labor. Yet, a 1944 attempt by Curtin to give the government temporary control over resources and the economy was struck down in a referendum that same year.

    Curtin died in office in July 1945 and was succeded by Ben Chifley, his Treasurer, who defeated Curtin’s deputy, Frank Forde. With the strain of the war effort over, Chifley’s government focused on the Labor Party’s democratic socialist ideals at home. This included a system of subsidised medicine for Australians, the foundation of Qantas and TAA, a social security scheme for the unemployed, the creation of Australian citizenship and finally laying the groundwork for an ambitious hydroelectric station in the Snowy Mountains. In 1948, the preferential block voting in the Senate was replaced by STV, an attempt to make the Senate more representative – block voting had allowed massive landslides for one party, most recently for the ALP in 1943. Chifley’s Labor Party won the 1946 elections easily, with 43 seats to the Coalition’s 26. The Coalition was now led by Robert Menzies, who had returned following Billy Hughes’ 1943 creaming. He found a moribond UAP whose branches lacked activity. Menzies was convinced that conservative opposition to the ALP needed to be re-organized, which he did in 1945 with the Liberal Party. Yet, Menzies still lost the 1946 election and criticism of his leadership abounded within the new party.

    However, rising anti-communism in the Cold War context and domestic events provided for a conservative comeback. In 1947, Chifley announced a plan to nationalize the banks, something which was violently opposed by the press and the middle-class (the plan was struck down as unconstitutional). In 1949, a long strike in the coal industry allowed Menzies to play on an image that the ALP was soft on communism (the Communist Party of Australia never was a major party at any time). That same year, the Coalition swept Chifley out of office, with Menzies’ Coalition winning 74 seats to Labor’s 47. However, Labor retained the Senate.

    Labor control of the Senate made life miserable for Menzies’ first government and his government attempted throughout 1951 to win a double-dissolution election. Menzies proposed a bill banning the Communist Party, hoping that Labor would reject it. But they accepted it. It was only after Labor rejected a banking bill that Menzies got a double dissolution. In a tight election, the Coalition won 69 seats to Labor’s 52, losing 5 seats overall, but did gain control of the Senate. Economic conditions deteriorated, which gave the ALP, and its new leader, H.V. Evatt, a boost ahead of the 1954 ballot. However, Menzies announced that a Soviet spy had defected and revealed the existence of a large spy ring in Australia. The Liberals jumped on this chance to play with Cold War scare and ‘won’ the 1954 election although the ALP actually won the 2PP. Evatt’s jumbled response to the spy ring case led to a 1955 split in the ALP, in which the party’s largely Catholic (and thus stringently anti-communist) Victorian base walked out following a letter in which Evatt blamed anti-communist Catholic Industrial Groups within trade unions for the party’s electoral defeat the previous year. Influenced by Catholic social teaching, the anti-communist ALP which later became the Democratic Labor Party (DLP), was a largely sectarian Catholic party supported by Irish Catholics and the Archbishop of Melbourne. Though the DLP never performed exceptionally well in elections, their preferences, which flowed to the Liberals, helped Menzies’ Coalition to win elections.

    By this time, Australia’s post-war economy was booming. Australian agricultural exports were being sold at high price, immigration (white, of course) was booming, and income, fueled by the agricultural exports, were on the rise. Menzies’ Liberals, which won by wide margins in 1955 and 1958, well represented a prudent, conformist Australia, a stronghold of the white race in the Pacific, attached to material values and high incomes. On the foreign stage, Menzies was a close ally of the United States: the ANZUS pact was signed in 1951, Australia participated in the Korean and Vietnam conflicts. At the same time, Menzies was also a keen monarchist and was proud of Australia’s British heritage.

    Though Menzies’ majority declined to a mere 2 seats in 1961 following an ill-advised squeeze on credit, the Menzies years were a high-point for the Liberals and their junior ally, the Country Party, which dominated Queensland politics between 1957 and 1989 (notably under Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen). Menzies retired in 1966, which, for some, marks the beginning of the Liberal downfall (it certainly does mark the beginning of the Country Party’s decline). The Country Party started losing support, a trend which came as a result of declining influence in rural Australia but also the modernization and urbanization of Australia which reduced the weight of rural Australia. In 1975, they became the National Party, which was a failed move to appeal to more urban voters.

    He was succeeded by Harold Holt, his Treasurer. Although a reformist who relaxed the White Australia policy during his tenure as Menzies’ Immigration Minister, Holt’s main claim to fame in his short stay in office is his unwavering support of Australia’s commitment to the Vietnam War. He famously pledged to go “all the way with LBJ”. As in the US, the popularity of Australia’s role in Vietnam quickly declined and gave Holt a bad name in history books, although in 1966, the Liberals won an increased majority – 82 to 41 over the ALP.

    In December 1967, Holt drowned, or disappeared, and was presumed dead two days later. The Liberal leadership was supposed to go to Holt’s Treasurer, William McMahon, but Country leader McEwen vetoed the nomination. John Gorton was elected Liberal leader and started out as relatively popular a Prime Minister, cultivating a ‘down-to-earth’ style which contrasted with Menzies’ aloofness. Yet, he proved to be a poor public speaker and media performer, especially against Labor’s new leader, Gough Whitlam. Whitlam’s party made large gains in 1969, reducing Gorton’s majority to only seven and even won a majority of the 2PP vote. The Whitlam-led ALP had reformed itself from an old factionalized machine to a modern, progressive party which was an electable alternative. Labor’s long-standing support of a White Australia policy was dropped and Labor appealed more to Catholic voters as well as a new, young generation of Australians unhappy with the conservative conformism of the Menzies years.

    The close call in 1969 weakened Gorton’s control over his party, and opposition from Defense Minister Malcolm Fraser was particularly harsh. In 1971, he called a leadership ballot which ended up tied. Considering this support insufficient, Gorton stepped down and William McMahon won the party’s leadership. McEwen’s 1971 retirement and his replacement by a new leader who didn’t continue the Country Party’s veto of McMahon. He proved to be a poor leader, hurt by the unpopularity of conscription and Vietnam as well as rising inflation. He was outperformed by Whitlam, whose party was proposing popular policies such as universal health care.

    In the 1972 election, Whitlam’s ALP defeated the Coalition, and finally won more seats than the Coalition: 67 against 58. However, the Senate, which had been elected in 1970 for a term lasting till 1974, remained in the opposition’s hands. Whitlam’s government quickly set out to work, notably ending conscription, getting all remaining troops out of Vietnam, voting in favour of sanctions on Rhodesia and South Africa, abolishing tertiary university fees, and abolished the death penalty for federal crimes. The government also finally got rid of the White Australia policy and started encouraging immigration from Asia. Whitlam had a hard time with the Liberal-dominated Senate, where the opposition sought make use of its power to block legislation. Whitlam also fought with state premiers, especially the Coalition-led governments of Queensland, NSW and Victoria as he attempted to reduce state power (a 1973 referendum transferring control of wages to the feds was voted down). Whitlam sought, desperately, to wrestle control of the Senate (a half-Senate election was due in 1974) from the opposition but his attempt at getting six seats up for election in Queensland instead of the usual five with the upcoming resignation of a DLP Senator was destroyed by Sir Joh. Instead, playing on the Senate’s rejection of his bills twice in a three-month period, he got a double-dissolution election. Whitlam’s House majority was reduced to five, while the Senate was deadlocked 29-29 with two crossbenchers holding balance of power. It would take Australia’s first and only joint sitting of Parliament for Whitlam’s universal health care bill, along with other bills including extending representation to the territories, to pass.

    The 1973 oil crisis and the high cost of new social programs led to increased inflation and a boost in Australia’s trade deficit in 1974. Yet, the 1974 budget did not include spending cuts. Over 1974 and 1975, the crisis deepened and the ALP sank deeper into the water. Meanwhile, the opposition, now led by Malcolm Fraser, was determined to block supply while Whitlam did not want to call new elections (a 1975 by-election in Bass had been extremely bad for the party). Two principles of British parliamentarianism came to clash. On one hand, the idea that a government that did not have supply could not govern and the other idea that a government that had confidence of the House could continue to govern. Whitlam did not have supply, but he still had confidence from the lower house. Finally, in November 1975, Governor General Sir John Kerr dismissed Whitlam on basis that he lacked supply, and had him replaced by Malcolm Fraser. An election was called the same day, and in December, Fraser’s Coalition won a landslide win, taking 91 seats to the ALP’s 36. This came despite large protests opposing Kerr’s dismissal of Whitlam by Labor supporters earlier in November. Yet, a Coalition campaign focused on economic issues, notably scandals in Whitlam’s economic management, contributed to the large victory, as did the support of the press, led in part by Australian press magnate Rupert Murdoch.

    Fraser’s government dismantled some of Labor’s programs and implemented some tough budget cuts, which reined in inflation, but his budget was relatively moderate, much to the chagrin of neoliberals in his party, notably his Thatcherite treasurer, John Howard. Fraser also represented a moderate wing of the Liberal Party in foreign policy, opposing apartheid in South Africa and playing a vital role in negotiations which led to black-majority rule in Rhodesia and Robert Mugabe’s 1980 election. He also surprised a few with his liberal immigration policy and his support for multiculturalism, a break from the Liberal Party’s conservative ‘British Imperialist’ type policy in regards to immigration. Ironically, despite his contemporary reputation as a moderate, the opposition of certain centrist Liberals, notably Don Chipp, led to the creation of the Australian Democrats in 1977. The Democrats were a centrist, socially liberal and environmentalist party which opposed neoliberal economics. The Democrats managed 11% in the 1977 Senate election. Though Fraser kept a strong majority in 1978, in 1980, the Coalition saw its majority sharply reduced, likely the result of high unemployment and tough budgets. His leadership was becoming weaker and he was faced with a new ALP leader, popular trade union leader Bob Hawke. Hoping to catch a swing to the Coalition seen in a early by-election, Fraser called a double-dissolution for 1983. He couldn’t stop Hawke and lost heavily, winning 50 seats to Labor’s 75.

    Hawke’s government was a consensus-driven one in which he played only the role of a superior leader, while his close ally and Treasurer Paul Keating did the economic work. Economic work included the floating of the Australian dollar, deregulation of the financial system, dismantlement of the tariff system, and privatizations. Hawke was helped by the divided opposition, with the Liberals divided between economically and socially conservative John Howard and the more moderate Andrew Peacock; while the Nationals hurt the Coalition with a 1987 attempt by Queensland’s Sir Joh to go into federal politics. Hawke easily won in 1984 and 1987. Ironically, it was within the party that he faced more opposition. The ALP, a very factionalized party, was not universal in its backing of Bob Hawke. The Socialist Left saw Hawke’s good ties with big business, especially Murdoch, in a bad eye. Yet, Hawke was re-elected, albeit with a smaller majority, in 1990.

    A late 80s recession and high interest rates hurt the government and Keating slowly broke with Hawke. He challenged Hawke for the leadership, but lost. However, a new Coalition leader – John Hewson – who proposed a detailed plan for economic change, was proving popular, something which led worried ALP powerbrokers to turn back to Keating, who finally beat Hawke 56-51 in late 1991.

    Keating’s claim to fame is his ability to win the unwinnable 1993 election for Labor, giving the ALP yet another win after 10 years in power and despite the recession. He was able to turn some of Hewson’s proposals, such as the GST, against him. Keating’s government aimed to turn Australia into a republic, start reconciliation with indigenous Australians, but also to implement a tough and unpopular austerity program to fight the recession.

    Keating couldn’t do his magic in 1996, and he lost the election to John Howard’s Coalition, which won 94 seats to Labor’s 49. John Howard, a senior Liberal and a well-known Liberal right-winger, came into office with a wide neoliberal reformist agenda. Howard’s first term was tough, with deep budget cuts being unpopular and tougher laws on gun ownership proving unpopular with Coalition supporters. In 1997, Howard also led the push to introduce the GST, turning the 1998 election into a referendum on the issue. He narrowly won a second term, winning 80 seats to Labor’s 67 but losing out to the ALP on the actual 2PP count. The election was also notable by the strong 8% showing made by Pauline Hanson’s far-right anti-immigration One Nation.

    Under Howard, Australia led the UN’s INTERFET mission in East Timor and played a major role in pressuring Indonesia to hold a referendum on the issue. The INTERFET mission was popular, but by early 2001, Howard was struggling with high petrol prices, higher inflation, voter enmity over the implementation of the GST and an economic slowdown. It took external events, namely 9/11 and the Tampa issue, to get the Coalition back in the game. Howard’s exploitation of his government’s refusal to allow asylum seekers on the MV Tampa from seeking refuge in Australia played well with voters. The fact that the country avoided recession also played well. In November 2001, the Coalition won the 2PP and got 82 seats to the ALP’s 65. One Nation also saw its vote share dwindle, leaving Pauline Hanson’s party with only half the votes that it had won in 1998.

    In his third term, Howard became a close ally of the US’s war on terror and became known around the world as being one of George W. Bush’s key supporters, especially in the 2003 run-up to the Iraq war, in which Howard’s government committed 2,000 Australian troops. In 2004, with support for the war on terror strong and a good economy, Howard went into campaign mode against Labor’s Mark Latham, claiming credit for low interest rates and noting that interest rates always got higher when Labor was in power. Howard defied polls showing a close race and won a fourth term, and a major victory, at the polls. The Coalition increased its seat share by 5, reaching 87 seats while the ALP won just 60. For the first time since Fraser, Howard also won a Senate majority. The 2004 election also saw the Greens reach 7% of the vote, mainly at the expense of the Democrats, who won their worst result to date.

    The Howard-Costello record of economic management was strong, especially after 2001, with the government paying off the nation’s debt, low unemployment, low interest rates, high economic growth and higher incomes. Yet, Howard’s government showed signs of ageing in its fourth term and the election of Kevin Rudd as Labor leader allowed the ALP to finally get a competent leader. Some encouraged Peter Costello to challenge Howard for the Liberal leadership and lead the party into the 2007 election, but he did not do so. The unpopular industrial relations program, WorkChoices, which changed employer-employee relations significantly, were also unpopular.

    On a platform of change and also a very ‘green’ platform, Kevin Rudd’s Labor Party swept into power in late 2007, with 53% of the 2PP vote and 83 seats to the Coalition’s 65 seats. Howard was defeated in his own seat of Bennelong, the second Prime Minister after Stanley Bruce to lose his own seat. The Coalition lost their Senate majority, but the Coalition still had the upper hand there, because their 2004 seats were not up.

    In his first moves, Rudd signed the Kyoto Protocol and finally said ‘sorry’ to the Stolen Generations of aboriginals. His government proved very popular throughout 2008, and was helped by a weak opposition. Costello declined to run for the Liberal leadership, which was won by former Defense Minister Brendan Nelson, who then lost it in late 2008 to Malcolm Turnbull. Following a deal between Turnbull and Rudd aimed towards getting Senate approval for Rudd’s Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. This move angered the party’s right and led to another leadership challenge in which right-wing Tony Abbott narrowly and surprisingly won the party’s leadership. He moved the party to the right, refusing compromise with Labor on climate change legislation. This led Rudd to announce plans to put his emissions-trading scheme (ETS) on the backburner until 2013, and he also announced plans for a Resource Super Profits Tax, which would increase taxes on highly profitable mining operations. These decisions hurt Rudd’s credibility and allowed the Coalition – and the Greens – to eat up Labor’s advantage in polls. In late June, Labor’s powerbrokers switched their support from Rudd to his more popular deputy, Julia Gillard, who was elected unopposed as leader of the ALP, and therefore Prime Minister, on June 24, 2010. More coverage of this leadership coup can be found in this previous blog post.

    Parties, Issues and Campaign

    Gillard, seeing the ALP’s numbers bounce back with her, called an election on July 17 for August 21. Many thought that she could be able to gain back Green voters, which she did early on, and easily defeat Tony Abbott. Abbott, whose nickname is “the mad monk”, is a devoutly Catholic right-winger who is conservative on social issues, climate change and economic issues. Unlike the more moderate Turnbull, his leadership has polarized voters and pushed the Liberal Party to the right. Yet, Gillard jumbled her early campaign, letting voters forget about Abbott and think about how much they disliked Labor – thus leading Abbott’s Coalition to make up ground fast. He even took a lead in 2PP in early August, before Gillard took back the offensive and people didn’t like the sound of Tony Abbott as Prime Minister. This allowed her to take back the lead in 2PP, but Labor still trails on preferences, meaning that a win for Labor will likely come off Green preferences – the Greens are polling well above their 2007 level and could break the 10% line. Green preferences to Labor will likely be large, given Abbott’s climate change policies.

    The last Newspoll has Labor ahead of the Coalition 50.2-49.8 on 2PP, though trailing the Coalition by 4 or so in the primary vote, where the Greens are getting about 13-14%. Other polls have Labor tied or ahead, but no final poll gives the Coalition a lead on 2PP, and Abbott’s leadership numbers remain very weak when stacked up against Gillard’s numbers, although her numbers aren’t phenomenal either. These numbers make a close race pretty certain, and make a hung parliament a real possibility. In such a case, the 3 Independents and other crossbenchers who could win (a Green win in Melbourne is a big possibility) would be the main power-brokers. Unfortunately, perhaps, for Labor, these 3 Independents are all former members of the Nationals and hold traditionally National-leaning seats in Queensland and NSW.

    Consider for a moment the results of 2007 on redistributed boundaries – boundary changes have occurred in NSW, QLD, WA, Tasmania and the Northern Territory. NSW lost one seat to Queensland, while the massive outback seat of Kalgoorlie in WA has been significantly re-designed. The new results give the ALP 88, the Coalition 59 (50 Liberals and 9 Nationals) with 3 Independents (factoring in the Independent gain from National in the Lyne by-election).

    The pundits are saying that Labor should get between 75 and 80, the Coalition between 65 and 70, with 1 Green winning Melbourne and none of the three Independents losing their seats. Polling indicates that that while swings to the Coalition in Queensland (Kevin Rudd’s homestate, where he hasn’t proved too eager to help out), NSW and Western Australia are likely; the ALP could see a swing in its favour in Victoria, Gillard’s home turf. The Coalition needs a major swing in Queensland, NSW and WA to ward off a likely swing to the ALP in Victoria. As of now, swings in QLD, NSW and WA do not look like they’ll be large enough to carry the Coalition over the top.

    Anthony Green’s guide, useful as ever, includes a good list of seats to watch, Australia’s classic pendulum, and information on the Senate. For those watching from the Americas, keep in mind Australia’s time difference and how that plays into election results coming out.

    Rwanda 2010 and the African Elections Game

    Rwanda held a much overrated presidential election on August 9, the second since the end of the Rwandan Genocide and the Tutsi victory in the 1994 civil war.

    Rwanda, the country of a thousand hills, is known in the world for the infamous genocide of 1994 and for the ethnic clashes between the Hutu majority and the Tutsi minority (the Twas have been conveniently forgotten about). The pastoral Tutsi aristocracy dominated the Kingdom of Rwanda, with German and then Belgian support, until the Hutus took power in 1959 and declared a republic in 1962. Many Tutsis fled the dictatorial Hutu-dominated regimes of Grégoire Kayibanda and General Juvénal Habyarimana, fleeing mostly to Uganda. Encouraged by the harsh refugee laws and the anti-Rwandan policies of Milton Obote, many of these Tutsis participated in the civil war which brought Yoweri Museveni to power in Kampala in 1986. These Tutsi refugees, grouped in the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF-FPR) invaded Rwanda in 1990 and threatened Hutu power in Kigali. The civil war was actually almost over when the genocide started, sparked by the death of Habyarimana in a plane crash when he was returning from Arusha, Tanzania, where a power-sharing agreement and some sort of deal to return to democratic politics had been reached between the RPF and the government. The plane crash, whose perpetrators were never found, led to a radical Hutu backlash against Tutsis and moderate Hutus, leading some to believe that Habyarimana’s assassination was organized by the radical Hutus and backed by France, which at that time was a key supporter of the Hutu-led Habyarimana government. The genocide of summer 1994, which killed 800,000, led the RPF to seize control of the country by fall 1994 and establish a national unity government of its own, led by President Pasteur Bizimungu (a moderate Hutu), largely known to be the facade puppet of Paul Kagame, the Tutsi RPF rebel leader. Kagame assumed the presidency in 2000 and quickly sidelined Bizimungu and other moderate Hutu supporters of the RPF.

    Under Paul Kagame, the government has sought to break the ethnic cleavages by downplaying the importance of the main ethnicities in Rwanda and forging some sort of national unity sentiment, one which came with tough laws on genocide denial, laws which allow the Tutsi-led government to claim the mantle of victimization and persecute Hutu opponents of the regime by branding them as racists and genocide-deniers. Born into a Tutsi aristocratic family and supported by a party whose members are largely well-educated, Kagame has been a successful president for Rwanda’s economy. His liberal policies have led to important economic growth in the country, which likes to use its new image as a peaceful multi-ethnic society in its bid to become the “Singapore of east Africa”. This economic growth comes at a high price, that of flagrant human rights violations. NGOs report routine torture, extrajudicial killings, violence and arbitrary arrests of suspected opponents. Press freedom is unheard of, and The Economist wrote that Kagame allowed his citizens less freedom than Mugabe does in Zimbabwe. The government, however, remains keen on feeding the world its image of a democratic united society, thus the need for this election. For the majority of Rwandans, however, Kagame got them out of civil war, brought peace and ‘justice’ and most certainly brought much longed for economic prosperity. It’s not wrong to say that Kagame is vastly popular with the electorate as a whole.

    The RPF’s main opponents, be they Hutus like Victoire Ingabire or Tutsi rivals, were dealt with quickly. Ingabire was conveniently branded a radical genocide-denier, and throw in jail (now released on bail), while many Tutsi rivals of the RPF were found dead at various points this year. Therefore, the only opponents to Kagame’s re-election for seven-year term came from hand-picked “opponents” of the FPR, three of them in fact. Three tools which had supported Kagame in 2003 and who still didn’t oppose him in the correct sense of the word this year. Kagame, who won 95% in 2003, has seen his popularity dwindle since then, since he won “only” 93.08% of the votes this year, against 5.15% for Jean Damascene Ntawukuriryayo (a former cabinet minister and vice-president of the Chamber of Deputies), Prosper Higiro (a former cabinet minister and vice-president of the Senate) followed with 1.37% while Senator Alvera Mukabaramba got 0.4%. Turnout out of the country’s 5.1 million voters was heavy, reaching 4.9 million.

    There were no reports of vote rigging in this election. We might be tempted to scoff at such reports, but it’s not necessarily a lie. As of late, there has been a trend in Africa to see more elections and people demanding a chance to vote. Most of sub-Saharan Africa is voting this year in whatever type of elections. Part of this comes from people demanding to lash out at corrupt archaic politicians, but a lot of it comes from western insistence that countries step it up on the democratic front if they want precious aid money. The end of the Cold War means that dictator’s can’t hold on without making fake gestures towards democratic institutions. Though Guinea’s ongoing election, Kenya’s recent referendum and even Somaliland’s election (Somaliland is an unrecognized state) are encouraging, there being elections doesn’t stop ruling dictators from rigging the vote. However, they’ve learned how to avoid blatant rigging – that looks bad for the country (see: Iran), and instead they favour pre-poll rigging, which consists of eliminating potential opponents and playing games with the electoral register which often discourage the opposition into boycotting the elections. That is what happened in Burundi’s recent election (President Nkurunziza won 92%, unopposed), Ethiopia’s parliamentary election (with the opposition winning 2/547 seats) as well as Sudan’s spring election (al-Bashir was easily re-elected with token opposition). Observers are holding out hope that long overdue elections in Côte d’Ivoire in October and a big election in Nigeria next year will bring a semblance of democracy.

    CO, CT, GA, MN, TN Primaries (USA) 2010

    On May 5, a primary was held in Tennessee and on May 10, primaries or primary runoffs were held in Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia and Minnesota ahead of the American mid-term elections on November 4. In continuing coverage, here’s a rundown of the main primary battles in these five states.

    Colorado

    Colorado, a traditionally ‘purple’ state, has turned heavily Democratic at almost all levels of government since 2006-2008, but Obama’s unpopularity in this traditionally ‘libertarian’ state and a shift to the right in the country, Colorado’s Democrats find themselves in tough races to retain a Senate seat and the Governor’s mansion. In their quest to retain these big prizes, they find themselves helped by the far-right and the Colorado Republicans.

    The Democrats picked up an open Republican-held Senate seat in 2004 with Ken Salazar, who stepped down to become Obama’s Secretary of the Interior. Governor Bill Ritter, a Democrat, appointed a young little-known Superintendent of Denver Public Schools, Michael Bennet, to the Senate seat. Bennet’s very low name recognition hurt him in polls against Republican contenders earlier this year and also won him a primary challenge from former state house speaker Andrew Romanoff, who ran on a liberal grassroots-based campaign. The primary battle was also seen by some as a showdown between Obama – represented by Bennet, who supported him in 2008 and Hillary/Bill Clinton – represented by Romanoff, who supported Hillary’s 2008 campaign. Romanoff gained ground rapidly in polls though struggled a bit later on, which led him to sell his own house to finance his campaign.

    On the Republican side, the two contenders were Weld County district attorney Ken Buck and former Lt. Governor Jane Norton. Norton, the Republican establishment candidate, was seen by the party’s activist base as a establishment stalwart and a party hack, leading the Tea Partier and activists to get behind Ken Buck, a more ‘libertarian’/GOP grassroots figure, though the Tea Partiers were not so happy with Buck when he called them, on the record, stupid. Latest polling indicated a neck-and-neck race.

    In the gubernatorial race, Democrat Governor Bill Ritter, performing poorly in polls, read the writing on the wall and retired, leaving the spot open for popular Denver Mayor John Hickelooper. The GOP cast was far from top-notch, featuring former Rep. Scott McInnis, who got in trouble over a plagiarism case, and Dan Maes. Neither of them got much affection from the conservative base and the Tea Party, a fact which led former Rep. Tom Tancredo, a famous tough ‘secure the border’ anti-immigration congressman, to jump into the race – for the Constitution Party. The Democrats should be quite happy with Tancredo’s decision, given that polling since he jumped him gave him 24% or so and allowed Hickelooper to lead the polls by a wide margin over the divided right. Here are the results:

    Senate (Dem and Rep)

    Michael Bennet (D) 54.2%
    Andrew Romanoff (D) 45.8%

    Ken Buck (R) 51.6%
    Jane Norton (R) 48.4%

    Governor (Rep)

    Dan Maes (R) 50.7%
    Scott McInnis (R) 49.3%

    On the Democratic side, voters backed the establishment candidate, but Republicans went with the underdog and maverick-type candidates in both races. In terms of electability, both parties likely made the right choices: a late poll by PPP showed Bennet beating both Republican contenders, while Romanoff was statistically tied with both of them. Furthermore, Norton, widely seen as an establishment party hack, would have done more poorly than Buck will manage to do. Bennet beat Buck by 3% in yesterday’s poll, but the race is still wide open. On the gubernatorial side, Dan Maes’ victory gives the Republican a slightly less steep hill to climb, but he’ll still have to contend with Tancredo, although Tancredo’s high support of 24% should evaporate as Republicans return to the party’s candidate, though Hickenlooper should be counted with an advantage in this race. But November, in both cases, is still a long way away.

    In House races on the GOP side, State Rep. establishment candidate Scott Tipton won the primary in CO-03 to face Democrat John Salazar. He beat the rugged tea party challenger Bob McConnell 56-44. The other main race is in the suburban 7th, held by Democrat Ed Perlmutter. He’ll face a black Republican, Ryan Frazier, who beat attorney Lang Sias 64-36. Both races will be tight in November.

    Connecticut

    Democratic Senator Chris Dodd and Republican Governor Jodi Rell will be retiring this year, leaving both main seats up for grabs. Dodd’s retirement came as a blessing for Democrats, who were badly trailing Republicans because Dodd had been involved in some shaky financial dealings on his side. They got the popular Attorney General Richard Blumenthal to run, but Blumenthal’s gaffe concerning his non-service in Vietnam has made the race in November a bit less of a safe Dem contest. The Republican contest gained notoriety as a showdown between former WWE magnate Linda McMahon, who has lots of money, and former Rep. Rob Simmons, a moderate Republican. Peter Schiff, a Tea Party-endorsed Paulite, was the third man in the race, with the backing of Ron Paul’s internet fanboy base. McMahon beat Simmons 52-44 in an earlier convention, which allowed both of them to be placed on the primary ballot (party rules required a candidate to win at least 15% at the convention to get on the ballot, or gather 10,000 signatures – which is what Schiff did). Simmons then suspended his campaign, but in late July got back in, but to no avail since McMahon had already owned the field with her ad frenzy and putting millions into her campaign. Money buys Republican contenders lots of stuff.

    Democrats would like to pick up the GOP-held Governor’s mansion (they’d like to have control of all 6 New England gubernatorial mansions this year, with CT, RI and VT being held by retiring Republicans). Their two main candidates were Ned Lamont, the liberal grassroots favourite who beat Joe Lieberman in the 06 Senate primary but lost to Lieberman (Ind) in November; and ’06 Governor candidate and former Stamford mayor Dan Malloy. On the Republican side, it was an unequal contest between Bush fundraiser and former ambassador to Ireland Tom Foley and Lt. Governor Michael Fedele, with Oz Griebel being the third man in the race. Here are the results:

    Senate (Rep)

    Linda McMahon (R) 49.1%
    Rob Simmons (R) 28.1%
    Peter Schiff (R) 22.7%

    Governor (Dem + Rep)

    Dan Malloy (D) 57.8%
    Ned Lamont (D) 42.2%

    Tom Foley (R) 42.3%
    Michael Fedele (R) 39%
    Oz Griebel (R) 18.6%

    The main shock of the night is Ned Lamont’s defeat, yet again, but this time in a primary in which he was the favourite. It’s hard to see what went wrong for Lamont this time, but he definitely lost his base of support with anti-Iraq War liberal Democrats this time around. Or perhaps being a super-wealthy person running in a Democratic primary isn’t an asset in a year where people aren’t all that fond of rich people and Wall Street-type businessmen. In other races, predictable things happened: McMahon, with loads of cash, trounced on-and-off candidate Simmons, who only won his old CD in eastern Connecticut, but Schiff did surprisingly well, performing best in suburban areas close to the NYC metro. Blumenthal and Malloy are the favourites in their respective races as of now, but McMahon and Foley shouldn’t be counted out early.

    Did I say that money buys everything for Republicans? Not so. In the GOP primary in the 4th district, the guy with the least cash, State Sen. Sam Caligiuri, came first with 39.7% against Justin Bernier (32%) but most importantly wealthy real estate magnate Mark Greenberg who won 28.3%.

    Georgia – Runoff

    A primary election runoff was held in Georgia as well on May 10, featuring a gubernatorial showdown on the Republican side between Georgia SoS Karen Handel and former Rep. Nathan Deal. Handel got 34% in the first round against Deal’s 22.9%, and, with the support of the Tea Party and Sarah Palin, she was the big favourite, especially against Deal who got desperate in the last days with tough attack ads on Handel – who attacked Deal on the ethical front. The results go against the big narrative of establishment defeats and gives a black eye to Palin-Tea Party folks.

    Nathan Deal (R) 50.2%
    Karen Handel (R) 49.8%

    The difference between Handel and Deal was roughly 2,400 votes, but Handel has already conceded the election and thrown her support behind Deal.

    The map is revealing of the electorate of the Tea Party. Handel dominated the Atlanta urban and suburban region, where the Republican electorate is both white and generally upper-middle-class, thus very keen on the low taxes message. She also did well in most Black Belt counties and surrounding white flight areas, areas where the GOP electorate is obviously majority white. At risk of being overly controversial, I won’t delve into the details about Black Belt white voters.

    Though polling disagrees, many feel that Deal is the weakest candidate in November against a top-tier Democratic nominee, former Governor Roy Barnes, who lost to Governor Sonny Perdue in the Confederate flag-dominated 2003 election, but who stands a real chance at picking this seat up in November.

    Minnesota

    Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty, who has his eyes set on 2012 already, is term-limited, leaving Democrats (in Minnesota, known as the DFL) with good chances at winning back this traditionally Democratic state in November.

    At a DFL convention earlier this year, Minneapolis Mayor R. T. Rybak won the straw poll against State House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, but Rybak later dropped out to endorse Kelliher. The straw poll was useless because the big name in the race, former Senator Mark Dayton, wasn’t in it. Dayton, who was a rather poor Senator known for his erratic behaviour, came back into politics as some kind of populist candidate whose message is centered a lot around the idea of defending the common man. Matt Entenza, a former state house minority leader, was the third and distant candidate in the contest. Here are the results:

    Mark Dayton (D) 41.3%
    Margaret Anderson Kelliher (D) 39.8%
    Matt Entenza (D) 18.2%
    Peter Idusogie (D) 0.7%

    Dayton faced a surprisingly close race and only came ahead of Kelliher very late in the night. Perhaps Democrats rallied around Kelliher, who was more the establishment candidate, later in the race? However, Democrats should be pleased that Dayton won, because he has a higher name recognition and his primary electorate reflects a much wider base, demographically, than Kelliher’s very urban support, big in Minneapolis-Saint Paul but rather weak outside of those places. Dayton is the favourite in a two-and-a-half man race against Republican Tom Emmer (who trounced token joke challengers), who is very far to the right and a poor fit for the state and Independence Party candidate Tom Horner, who could draw nearly 10% support in a field where the top two contenders are very much establishment-type party stalwarts.

    Tennessee

    Republicans will win back Tennessee’s gubernatorial mansion in November with the retirement of term-limited Democratic incumbent Phil Bredesen, who was a popular conservative Democrat. The big names in the Republican race for Governor held on May 5 were Knoxville mayor Bill Haslam, not too extreme for the party and the establishment favourite; as well as Rep. Zach Wamp and Tea Party-supported Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey. Wamp and Ramsey, trailing in polls, got desperate and got out the usual ‘God card’ by playing up their supposed Christian values. Wamp went off the deep end when he said that if Republicans didn’t win and health care wasn’t repealed, states would secede; while Ramsey said weird things about Islam. There was, of course, YouTube favourite Basil Marceaux, an old lunatic, who got popular by saying that he’d kill Lindsay Lohan if she committed a crime or granting his voters immunity from prosecution.

    Bill Haslam (R) 47.4%
    Zach Wamp (R) 29.2%
    Ron Ramsey (R) 22%
    Joe Kirkpatrick (R) 0.9%
    Basil Marceaux (R) 0.5%

    Haslam is, of course, the overwhelming favourite going into November against Democratic nominee Mike McWherter (nominated unopposed), a businessman-son of former Governor typical Blue Dog Democrat. Neither of those two candidates will appeal much to liberal Democrats.

    The primary results were favourable for Democrats, since their best candidates for November won and the Obama camp didn’t get a black eye after Obama-backed Michael Bennet defeated liberal insurgent Clintonite Romanoff in Colorado. On the Republican side, bad blood between Nathan Deal and Karen Handel in Georgia could hurt the party there in its attempts to hold onto the state in November. In Connecticut, picking Malloy over Lamont prevents attacks on Lamont as being too liberal to win while Linda McMahon’s victory will allow Blumenthal to take out the anti-Washington populistic anti-big business message that could carry lots of weight in a year like 2010. Meanwhile, in the establishment vs. anti-establishment battle which has dominated primaries this year, the results from last night indicate that Democrats are more keen on backing the establishment candidates – a relief for Obama who faces discontent from the party’s more liberal base, but Republicans are more angry in this climate and back anti-establishment candidates. Yet, Handel’s surprise defeat in Georgia did give a black eye of sorts to Sarah Palin, though Handel wouldn’t have gone that far if it wasn’t for Palin.

    Kenya Referendum 2010

    Kenya held a constitutional referendum on August 4 pertaining to the ratification of a new constitution to replace the much-amended but outdated constitution in practice, not without much amendments, since 1991. Kenya, usually noted by analysts of African politics as a rare stable semi-democratic regime without civil wars or coups like in French West Africa, defied these traditional standards following the 2007 election. The allegedly rigged results of the 2007 election led to bloody ethnic violence between Kenya’s two dominant ethnic groups, the Luos and Kikuyus – who were usually political allies of convenience in the past. The conflict was resolved when President Mwai Kibaki, a Kikuyu, who had been re-elected in the controversial 2007 election, accepted to form a national unity government with his rival, the Luo Raila Odinga as Prime Minister. While cohabitation between the two has been shaky, Kenya seems to have returned to a facade of political stability.

    Kibaki’s first government, between 2002 and 2007, promised constitutional reform and held a referendum in 2005 on a draft of a new constitution, though it was defeated in a 2005 referendum. The results of the 2005 referendum should have served as a warning to the world of the division of the country along ethnic-tribal lines following the 2007 election, because the constitution proposed in 2005 was widely opposed by the Luos and led to the formation of a wide opposition coalition around, notably, Raila Odinga.

    The new constitution, drafted despite fights between Kibaki and Odinga, has the advantage of being acceptable to both sides of the equation. It will remove the temporary office of Prime Minister created in 2008 to accommodate Odinga, ushering in a return to a normal presidential system. Some sort of devolution and de-centralization with the creation of 47 new counties each with an elected governor and assembly is also included in the draft. In addition, an upper house, the Senate, will be created and seats allocated to the counties. Some sort of redistricting for the existing lower house, which has 210 seats today, will be done which will likely augment the number of seats to 290 including 47 seats reserved for women (1 women per county, basically). Some sort of land reform is also included in the text. More controversially, an article concerning abortion is made slightly vaguer though in practice the status of abortion is not changed. Furthermore, the constitution provides for the establishment of Muslim Kadhi Courts with jurisdiction over marriage, divorce and inheritance within the country’s small Muslim minority. The Muslim minority is also exempted from broad sections of the Bill of Rights based on their religion.

    The constitution was backed by Odinga and Kibaki, but the opposition included incumbent cabinet ministers but most notably the Church which was opposed to the vague language of the abortion clause and the Kadhi Courts’ entrenchment into the new constitution. Former President Daniel Arap Moi (a Luo, I think) also opposed the constitution. Yet, all polling has shown a wide majority in favour of the constitution.

    Turnout was heavy at 72.1% and Raila Odinga’s prediction of 70% in favour was close to the final count:

    Do you approve the proposed new constitution?

    Yes 66.9%
    No 33.1%

    The constitution passed by rather wide margins in all but one of the country’s provinces, and the results showed wide multi-ethnic support for the constitution. Nyanza, on the shore of Lake Victoria, Odinga’s best province in 2007 (82%) gave the YES over 90%, while at the same time, the Central Province, Kibaki’s best province in 2007 (97%) gave the YES over 80%. In the North Eastern Province, which has a large Muslim population, due to its proximity to Somalia, support for the constitution peaked at 96%. It failed only in the Rift Valley, former President Daniel Arap Moi’s home turf and a strongly (65%) Odinga province in 2007. The wide multi-ethnic support is likely a good sign for the country, but remains to be seen if such a rosy situation will hold when the presidency is at stake again in 2012.

    Kansas, Michigan and Missouri (USA) Primaries 2010

    After an unfortunate hiatus in coverage of American primary elections in the run-up to the November midterm elections, primary coverage returns with three primaries held yesterday, August 3, in Kansas, Michigan and Missouri.

    Kansas

    The general election for Senate and Governor in the Midwestern state of Kansas won’t provide much excitement, so the primary ballot was the big happening in Kansas.

    A rare species was elected Governor of Kansas in 2002 – a Democrat, Kathleen Sebelius, who won easy re-election in 2006 but was named to President Obama’s cabinet in 2009 and was replaced by her Lt. Governor, Mark Parkinson, also a Democrat. However, Parkinson isn’t running for re-election and the top contender is Republican Senator Sam Brownback, a strong social conservative. Brownback, the overwhelming favourite come November, easily trounced a challenge from the far-right nutjobs, trouncing scary lady Joan Heffington with 82.2% to 17.8% yesterday. Democratic State Senator Tom Holland was unopposed for the Democratic sacrificial lamb nomination. The last poll showed Senator Brownback leading Tom Holland 59-31.

    The big contest last night was a closely-watched Republican Senate primary, the winner of which will most certainly become Senator in November. In a four-person field, the top two contenders were Representative Jerry Moran (KS-01) and Representative Todd Tiahrt (KS-04). Moran, who has enjoyed a large lead in polls since the race kicked off, is the establishment’s favourite and somewhat wrongly considered the most ‘moderate’ contender. Indeed, he’s been endorsed by John McCain but also hardcore conservatives like Jim DeMint, Tom Coburn or John Thune. Tiahrt, who is even more right-wing than Moran, especially on social issues, is the “maverick” choice chosen by Sarah Palin, Karl Rove and James Inhofe. Tiahrt, maybe as a result of Palin’s endorsement, catched up with Moran in polls in the last few days and gave Moran a close race.

    On the Democratic side, there was a surprisingly large field of people contending to lose by a landslide in November. The top one was Lisa Johnston, a university administrator, followed by Charles Schollenberger, retired communications exec and David Haley, a State Senator from Kansas City. Here are the results:

    Jerry Moran (R) 49.7%
    Todd Tiahrt (R) 44.6%
    Tom Little (R) 3.1%
    Bob Londerholm (R) 2.5%

    Lisa Johnston (D) 31%
    Charles Schollenberger (D) 23.5%
    David Haley (D) 19.4%
    Patrick Wiesner (D) 16.3%
    Robert Conroy (D) 9.8%

    Tiahrt did surprisingly well given how large his deficit in polls was prior to the vote, and played especially well in his congressional district, the 4th, covering southeastern Kansas but also played surprisingly well in and around Kansas City. Moran, on the other hand, owned in his old district, the 1st, covering sparsely populated western Kansas. I can’t make heads or tails about the result in Decatur County.

    In House races, State Senator Tim Huelskamp will replace Jerry Moran in Kansas’ 1st, after narrowly beating fellow State Senator Jim Barnett. The Democrats are facing a tough race to retain their sole remaining seat in Kansas, the small urban 3rd, covering Kansas City and its inner suburbs, especially after the retirement of incumbent Dennis Moore. However, they may be helped in their attempts at holding the seat by Moore’s wife, Stephene Moore, who defeated token primary opposition for the Democratic nomination. She’ll face State Rep Kevin Yoder, who won a divided Republican primary. In Tiahrt’s old seat, Mike Pompeo rather easily won the Republican nomination and he enters as the favourite over a surprisingly strong fundraiser, Democrat State Rep. Raj Goyle (a rare non-white guy in rural Kansas). Goyle has raised over a million bucks so far, but the Republicans should ward off the challenge easily come November.

    Michigan

    An economically troubled state known for its struggling auto industry, Michigan’s big race is a gubernatorial contest where incumbent Democratic Governor Jennifer Granholm is term-limited. Local Democrats seem to be in bad terms with voters who hold them accountable for the state’s economic mess, giving the Republicans an edge in a traditionally safe Democratic state.

    After Lt. Governor John Cherry, likely too associated with unpopular Governor Granholm to be a good candidate, bowed out; the centrist Democratic Speaker of the state House Andy Dillon became the favourite, but his anti-union rhetoric and conservative positions on issues such as abortion have made him unpopular with liberals and union backers, who have rallied behind young populist Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero. Bernero caught up with Dillon late in the campaign and got the crucial last-days momentum.

    On the Republican side, there was an heavy primary. Rick Snyder, a businessman, got the momentum late in the race as the earlier favourite, Representative Pete Hoekstra saw his momentum slip away in Snyder’s favour. Hoekstra, who represents the heavily conservative Dutch-populated parts of western Michigan in the House, was a tough social conservative but that didn’t preclude a challenge to his right by Attorney General Mike Cox, who saw his late advantage disappear after allegations that he attended a house party hosted by former embattled Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. The 2006 Republican Senatorial nominee Mike Bouchard, a sheriff, was trailing in a distant fourth place. Here are the results:

    Rick Snyder (R) 36.4%
    Pete Hoekstra (R) 26.8%
    Mike Cox (R) 23%
    Mike Bouchard (R) 12.2%
    Tom George (R) 1.6%

    Virg Bernero (D) 58.6%
    Andy Dillon (D) 41.4%

    On the Democratic side, Bernero won a large victory, helped by big margins in and around emblematic struggling towns like Flint. He did more poorly in Detroit and the Upper Peninsula, but his margin remained surprisingly large over former favourite Andy Dillon. Another establishment favourite defeated?

    On the Republican side, Snyder also won by a surprisingly large margin and dominated throughout most of the state. Hoekstra did well in his district – the heavily Dutch and conservative parts of the state, while Cox did well in the Upper Peninsula and other random counties in the Lower Peninsula.

    Snyder is the early favourite in the race, with a June 10 Rasmussen poll showing him 12 points ahead of Bernero, but that’s an old poll and the race has probably tightened up since then.

    In big House races, the major primary was a Republican primary in the 1st district, held by retiring Democrat Bart Stupak, of health care legislation fame. The district, which covers the UP and the northern Lower Peninsula, is socially conservative but pro-union, and a top GOP target. On early results, Tea Party favourite Dan Benishek has edged out establishment candidate State Sen. Jason Allen by a mere 14 votes in a primary which will go to a recount – but not to a runoff (Michigan has no runoffs). Only time will tell if the likely nomination of the tea party’s candidate will help or hurt State Rep. Gary McDowell (D), who, like Stupak, is conservative on social issues. In the 2nd’s Republican Dutch-American contest, it seems like State Rep. Bill Huizenga, with a mere 25.4%, has edged out second-place former football player Jay Riemersma who got 24.8%. State Sen. Wayne Kuipers trailed in third with 21.8%. Huizenga will easily defeat 2008 Democratic nominee Fred Johnson, who won again, in November. In a Republican primary battle in the GOP-held 6th, incumbent Rep. Fred Upton defeated another Dutchman (and also a big conservative-libertarian), former Rep. Jack Hoodgendyk but garnered a relatively paltry 57.1% against the 2008 Senate nominee’s 42.9%. In the 7th, held by freshman Democrat Mark Schauer, ex-Rep. Tim Walberg (R), defeated by Schauer in 2008, has won the right to a rematch by beating conservative attorney Brian Rooney 58-32. Another Democratic freshman, Gary Peters in the suburban 9th, probably faces an easier race in November against a former State Rep, Rocky Raczkowski, another failed Senate nominee back in 2002. The other big race was, ironically, in inner city Detroit, on the Democratic side, between incumbent Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, mother of embattled former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and State Sen. Hansen Clarke. Clarke won 47-41 over the incumbent, who becomes the fourth incumbent Rep to lose re-nomination. Needless to say, Clarke will trounce opposition in November.

    Missouri

    The old bellwether swing state of Missouri has gotten more Republican in recent years, most notably by breaking its decades-long streak of choosing presidential winners in 2008 by narrowly placing McCain ahead of Obama. Yet, Democrats are hopeful that they can go against the tide in Missouri and pickup retiring Republican Kit Bond’s Senate seat. The Democratic nominee for Senate is Robin Carnahan, incumbent Sec. of State but whose main claim to fame is being the daughter of Jean Carnahan, who served in the Senate between 2001 and 2002 replacing her late husband, Mel Carnahan, also a former Governor, who was elected – posthumously – to the Senate in 2000 defeating Republican incumbent John Ashcroft. She easily trounced token opposition.

    Her Republican rival will be Representative Roy Blunt, father of former Governor Matt Blunt, who also defeated token opposition, notably from State Sen. Chuck Purgason who pulled only 13.1% to Blunt’s 71%.

    Polls indicate that while Carnahan had the edge in 2009, Blunt is now the light favourite, leading by 6 points in the last poll by Rasmussen. Remains to be seen if Democrats will pull closer once Carnahan kicks off her campaign.

    The only House race which isn’t a slam dunk for either side in November is the 4th, where Republicans are hoping to knock off centrist Democrat Ike Skelton, who has held this conservative seat since 1977. Though he votes with the Democrat’s liberal line on a lot of issues, Ike Skelton’s low-key demeanor has helped him survive in this seat which gave McCain 61% of the vote in 2008 – while at the same time giving Ike Skelton 66%. Skelton defeated a hopeless challenger, and will face Republican State Sen. Bill Stouffer, who beat social conservative State Rep. Vicky Hartzler 41-30 last night.

    In Roy Blunt’s open seat deep in the Republican Ozarks, cowboy hat-wearing auctioneer/realtor Billy Long defeated State Sen. Jack Goodman with 36.5% to Goodman’s 29%.

    Tennessee will vote tomorrow, August 5. The big race is for Governor, where Democratic incumbent Phil Bredesen is ineligible for re-election. On the Republican side, Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam is the frontrunner while Representative Zach Wamp and Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey are fighting it out for what will likely be second place for either. Also noteworthy in this race, of course, is internet star Basil Marceaux, who would notably force people to carry guns and who said he’d need to kill Lindsay Lohan if she murdered someone.

    After watching Basil Marceaux’s electoral outing on the 5th, August 10th promises to be a big day with much-watched contests in Colorado, Minnesota and Connecticut. In Colorado, we’ll see if incumbent Democratic Senator Michael Bennet will fall to Andrew Romanoff and which one of Ken Buck or Jane Norton will take on the Democratic nominee. In Minnesota, we’ll see how former Senator Mark Dayton (D) performs in his bid to become Governor. In Connecticut, it’s a big battle on the Republican side between former WWE executive Linda McMahon, the Tea Party’s Peter Schiff and also former Rep. Rob Simmons, a moderate Republican who recently re-entered the race after leaving it in May.

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