Monthly Archives: September 2010
Venezuela held general legislative elections on September 26. Venezuela’s unicameral 165-seat National Assembly is elected through a sort of mixed-member proportional representation, with 70% or 110 seats elected in single or multi-member constituencies (of which there are 87) with the remaining 52 elected on a party list system in each state, with each state having either two or three representatives depending on population. The most confusing aspect of the electoral system is the FPTP constituency aspect, given that some of these seats are elected in single-member traditional FPTP constituencies while others are elected in two or three-member constituencies where each party usually nominates two or three candidates and where voters have the choice to split their votes or vote for both, but most often vote “straight ballot”. This system allows for parties with a strong machine to have a shot at winning all of the constituency’s seat with less than 50% of the vote. Such systems were used in the Deep South during the segregation era and in Venezuela forms exhibit one of Chavez’s toying around with the system. Second exhibit is more straightforward: gerrymandering. The new electoral redistricting for this election has given the countryside – which votes Chavist heavily – more weight than the cities – where the opposition does better. In addition, the actual districts drawn up often tend to pack opposition votes in one or two constituencies where they win 80% of the vote while the other districts elect Chavist members with much thinner majorities. The best examples of such seats are in and around Caracas.
After the highpoint of his 2009 referendum win which allowed him to stick around for a long time, Chavez has fallen quite a bit since then. The economic crisis has affected Venezuela more than one would expect. Inflation is riding at around 30%, public services are in ruins and criminality is rampant, claiming 20,000 lives a year. The government was hit by a series of scandals, and, earlier this year, power cuts.
The opposition had taken the ill-advised decision to boycott the 2005 parliamentary elections, which gave Chavez pull power to pass key legislation and constitutional amendments. Needless to say, the opposition did not repeat the same mistake this year and also took the intelligent step of allying with one another to form a broad opposition coalition against Chavez’ PSUV coalition. This opposition coalition, composed of the various outfits and old parties which broadly oppose Chavez (including the ancient COPEI and AD), is named ‘Coalition of Democratic Unity’ (MUD).
Here are the results:
PSUV-PCV (Chavismo) 48.13% winning 98 seats (71 direct, 25 list, 2 indigenous)
MUD (Opposition) 47.22% winning 65 seats (38 direct, 26 list, 1 indigenous)
PPT 3.14% winning 2 seats (1 direct, 1 list)
Despite the media claiming this as an important win for Chavez, in an election which was a referendum on Chavez, he did quite poorly. In a gerrymandered electoral system, the popular vote is the indicator which should be used for analysis. Not the seat count. Even on the seat count, the PSUV falls short of two major thresholds: the two-thirds needed to pass constitutional amendments and organic law or the three-fifths needed to pass enabling legislation (though it is only 3 seats or so short of that). Of course, in the seat count, which is what actually matters, Chavez’s PSUV has a comfortable majority, with nearly 60% of the seats. In addition, even though the law says that he should work with the opposition more than in the past, the lessons of the aftermath of the 2008 regionals show us that Chavez won’t be willing to play nice with the “imperialists” in Parliament. Following that election, in which the opposition won several key governorships, Chavez proceeded to cutting state and municipalities of good number of powers. Chavez’s government is also drawing up a plan for sham “communal assemblies” to be controlled from the Presidential Palace itself, something which would strip the legislature of its power. Chavez is a very good strategist and is able to manipulate the system in a lot of ways so that he doesn’t give up power – which he clearly doesn’t want to do.
The seat count numbers above should give a pretty good indication of the extent to which Chavez and the electoral commission (CNE, which is controlled by chavistas) were able to toy around with the electoral system to guarantee him a “48% landslide”. The dictionary entry for Chavist gerrymandering is undoubtedly Miranda, a suburban Caracas opposition stronghold. The opposition won 57% of the vote here, making this key state its second best state after Nueva Esparta. Yet, in the seat count, the result is a 6-6 split between the government and the opposition. Other example in Carabobo, where the opposition took roughly 54% of the vote, but lost on the seat count 4 to 6. In the capital district of Caracas, another fine example of gerrymandering a la Chavez, the opposition took 3 seats to the government’s 7 seats. But the opposition narrowly won the popular vote! In an entirely proportional election, the PSUV would have edged out the MUD by only two seats: 81 to the MUD’s 79 (the PPT would take 5).
The reason I insist on the popular vote count is the role it plays in the run-up to the 2012 presidential election, in which Chavez, of course, is a candidate. If the opposition managed to nearly tie Chavez (or, as some say, beat him when you include the PPT’s 3%) in an election which was a referendum on him, and this despite Chavez’s charismatic appeal and the quasi-full control of the media by chavistas, that is a good sign for their chances in the 2012 election. That being said, Chavez is a formidable campaigner and still has rabble-rousing charisma. He can also count on a rather solid electorate, which is convinced in every election to forget the present and look at the future, and thus keep voting for the government which promises a utopic future.
In Venezuelan elections, at least those under Chavez, there has been a rather stark urban-rural divide. As insinuated earlier, the cities are more favourable to the opposition. The reasons – higher levels of education, wealth and welfare – shouldn’t come as a surprise. The opposition polled some of its best results in the affluent middle-class areas of Caracas, of which a lot are in the state of Miranda. Miranda is one the opposition’s three main traditional strongholds in Venezuela. The second one, which is perhaps most famous in the minds of election nerds, is Zulia, which is also the most populous state and one with an important petroleum industry. Zulia is known to be a state more inclined to private enterprise and free trade than the rest of the region, and also remarks itself for a separate identity and culture than the rest of Venezuela. The relative isolation of the state – the city of Maracaibo has been united to the mainland by a bridge only since the 60s probably contributes to this. The third base of the opposition is Nueva Esparta, which is in fact the opposition’s best state this year. This is an insular state, composed primarily of the island of Margarita, which has become a major tourist resort. The tourism industry (which is private) has contributed in part to the state’s lean towards the opposition, as has the recession and rampant criminality.
To this base of states, the opposition has added the Andean border state of Táchira, which used to lean Chavez’ way but has since swung to the opposition rather heavily. The presence of FARC camps in this state has led to a huge crime rate, which hasn’t gone down to well with voters here. This election, the eastern state of Anzoátegui gave the opposition a surprisingly large victory. It is industrialized and heavily populated, but its governor is a key Chavist and the state in general has not been an opposition stronghold or anything similar. The heavy vote in favour of the opposition here may stem from the unpopularity of the governor, who doesn’t have a great reputation (at least on the internet).
Chavez still has the backing of a big machine, largely composed of unionized workers, the urban poor and the rural poor. These groups are particularly dominant in the llanos of western Venezuela, where Chavez is from. The llano states gave the PSUV some of its best result, and this is no oddity. Furthermore, in a lot of sparsely populated jungle areas out here, the army and various unsavoury paramilitary groups of sort hold much sway. They also control politics.
One oddity this election was Amazonas, the large sparsely populated state in the southern tip of the country. Being isolated, poor and having a large native population, it is one of chavismo’s best states along with the Delta Amacuro (which is similar in demographics to Amazonas). However, this election, you had the PPT, a left-leaning party which broke with Chavez but whose main base is in Lara, win 41.6% of the vote and take 2 of the state’s total 3 seats. While it only won 28.4% in its traditional home base of Lara. Some things don’t change, however, because Amazonas was by far the opposition’s worst state with a mere 14.7% of the vote there.
More ample information on the various states, these elections and their results can be found on two excellent English-language local blogs, the first one being the Venezuela News and Views and the other being the Caracas Chronicles. Both of these come from a very anti-Chavist view, but the analysis is excellent, insightful and also extremely honest.
A general election for New Brunswick’s 55 provincial legislature was held on September 27, the first fixed-date election in the province. In the 2006 election, Shawn Graham’s Liberals had defeated Bernard Lord’s two-term Progressive Conservative government in a narrow election which saw the PCs win the popular vote but lose the seat count to the Liberals 26 to 29.
New Brunswick politics have remained remarkably stable, with the Liberals and Conservatives alternating in power since Confederation. With the exception of the 1991 election in which a third party, the Confederations of Regions (CoR) enjoyed a brief success, third parties have been largely unsuccessful in New Brunswick, with the NDP holding only one seat at its height and being shut out since 2005. Shawn Graham, who had succeeded his father in the riding of Kent in 1998, had come close to throwing out Bernard Lord after only one term in 2003, but the PCs narrowly held on with 28 seats to the Liberals’ 26 and 1 New Democrat.
Shawn Graham enjoyed a rather long honeymoon, lasting into the spring of 2009, but fell apart in October 2009 when he announced that his government had signed a back-room deal with Quebec to sell NB Power to Hydro-Quebec. The deal was extremely unpopular and was finally scrapped, but it remained a potent issue due to the fashion in which the government handled the deal – negotiating behind closed-doors (and breaking an electoral promise in doing so) and then announcing it in pomp. The government’s decisions in matters such as post-secondary education, French immersion were also controversial. Lastly, New Brunswick is doing very badly economically, with the government having announced a $749-million deficit.
The Progressive Conservative opposition was not all that spectacular, and its leader elected in 2008, David Alward, is not extremely charismatic. Tellingly, in ‘best PM’ polls, Alward or Graham rarely broke 30%. Late last year, this situation of little love for both main parties and their leaders briefly contributed a NDP boost which went up to 22% in polls (at a time where most Atlantic Province NDPs saw their numbers go up, right after the NDP win in Nova Scotia). The NDP, indeed, after having had an inept leader in 2006, turned to a well-liked and amiable former priest, Roger Duguay, who was also a Francophone. It was also during this time that the People’s Alliance of New Brunswick (PANB) was formed by Kris Austin, who had lost the PC nomination in Grand Lake-Gagetown. The PANB took a populist platform which some compared to that of the CoR in 1991, though the PANB is not anti-bilingualism as the CoR was.
The PCs entered the campaign tied with the Liberals, and despite not performing extremely well in debates, built up a comfortable lead over the Liberals, leading the incumbent by around 1o points overall. The Tories, knowing that promising too much is never a good idea, went down the easy road of promising things which will be hard, very hard, to do: balancing the books without cutting spending, for example. The Liberals promised to create 20,000 new jobs to balance the budget, which is also another good example of a promise which is unlikely to be kept. The Tories also played a lot on the unpopular botched NB Power fiasco, something which probably really hurt the Liberals even if some downplay the potency of the issue. In fact, only the NDP and the Greens came up with serious and realistic plans to balance the budget, including, for the Greens, tolls on roads.
Here are the results, with seat counts compared to the 2006 election (seat count at dissolution was PC 21, Liberal 32, vacant 2):
Progressive Conservative 48.92% (+1.44%) winning 42 seats (+16)
Liberal 34.39% (-12.74%) winning 13 seats (-16)
NDP 10.35% (+5.22%) winning 0 seats (nc)
Green 4.53% (new) winning 0 seats (new)
PANB 1.18% (new) winning 0 seats (new)
Independents 0.62% (+0.37%) winning 0 seats (nc)
The PC victory, while predictable, was much larger than anybody had predicted. In fact, even though the PCs had a large lead in polls and trends all pointed towards a PC majority, the high proportion of undecideds even in the last days out led some to predict that the election could be closer than predicted. On the contrary, undecided voters and late deciders broke heavily for the PC and gave them a landslide larger than any serious prediction had given them. Even though the PCs, in terms of votes, barely gained vis-a-vis 2006, the huge margin which now separated them from the Liberals allowed them, thanks to the workings of FPTP, to win a landslide in terms of seats. This huge margin also prevented the NDP from winning any seats despite winning its best popular vote result since 1991. The Liberals were reduced to a rump of seats, largely concentrated in Francophone areas of the province, which is, traditionally, the Liberals’ strongest areas though their strength in Francophone New Brunswick is not universal nor is it set in stone. While Shawn Graham held on in traditionally Liberal Kent, nearly a dozen cabinet ministers were defeated, most notably Energy Minister Jack Keir (of the NB Power fiasco) who went down in flames in Fundy River-Valley, winning just 29% to the PC’s 57.5%. Kelly Lamrock, the former Education Minister (of French immersion fiasco fame), also went down in flames 47-36 to the Tories in Fredericton-Fort Nashwaak. Ironically, the Liberals picked up Dieppe-Center-Lewisville from a retiring PC incumbent, and won the vacant seat of Rogersville-Kouchibouguac, which was Tory in 2006. It also held on in Moncton East, Bernard Lord’s old seat, which they had won in a by-election. PC-to-Liberal floorcrossers in Moncton West and Petitcodiac, however, lost their seats to their former party. In my mind, one of the biggest defeats of the night was the defeat of a six-term Liberal incumbent in Victoria-Tobique – who had won over 70% of the vote in 2006. He lost to the Tories by a 12.5% margin, though the seat isn’t historically a Liberal stronghold.
NDP leader Roger Duguay had set his hopes in Tracadie-Sheila, a coastal Acadian seat held by the Tories, a seat which the NDP hadn’t even contested back in 2006. He put up a tough fight, but won just 32.3% to the Tory incumbent’s 48.8%. In Saint John Harbour, traditionally the NDP’s best seat in the province, the NDP’s Wayne Dryer finished a narrow third with 27.6% while the Tories won 30.7%. Though the NDP did well in the Acadie-Bathurst area (which they hold federally, with Yvon Godin), an area where they barely even contested in 2006 (Yvon Godin had bad relations with former NDP leader Allison Brewer), their failure to win a seat this time around is bad news for the party – though it did double its vote share. While it is doubtful that it will happen, certain pundits even called the NDP’s existence into question last night, questioning the viability of a party shut out of the legislature for two straight terms. Yet, arguably, Duguay is the best the NDP have and they’d be fools not to stick with him even if he didn’t win them any seats.
Green leader Jack MacDougall won 9.46% in Fredericton-Nashwaaksis, while PANB leader Kris Austin won 19.63% in Grand Lake-Gagetown. Both parties did surprisingly well for new third parties, but it is likely explainable by the fact that both leaders participated in the leaders’ debates (Kris Austin, who speaks only English, did not participate in the French debates),which gave them a chance to shine a bit.
Shawn Graham will go to the dustbin of history as New Brunswick’s first Premier to lose after only one-term. Not too surprisingly, he won’t stay on as leader and the Liberals have a much reduced caucus from which to choose their next leader. While David Alward has a huge majority, he has tough work on his hands, especially if he intends to stay with his promises. The Tories have promised to balance the budget, which boasts a $749-million deficit, in four years, but while freezing property tax assessments for seniors and freezing NB Power rates for three years. The Tories also campaigned heavily on increasing citizens involvement in government.
Sweden held general and local elections on September 19 (last Sunday), which resulted in yet another indecisive election following the trend set a month ago by Australia and the United Kingdom in early May. In terms of overall results, the governing centre-right coalition has recorded a small swing towards it but the entrance of the far-right Sweden Democrats in Parliament has entailed that the government has lost its majority. It has also seen the worst result for Swedish social democracy since 1914.
S – Social Democrats 30.66% (-4.33%) winning 112 seats (-18)
M – Moderate Party 30.06% (+3.83%) winning 107 seats (+10)
MP – Green Party 7.34% (+2.09%) winning 25 seats (+6)
FP – Liberal People’s Party 7.06% (-0.48%) winning 24 seats (-4)
C – Centre Party 6.56% (-1.32%) winning 23 seats (-6)
SD – Sweden Democrats 5.70% (+2.77%) winning 20 seats (+20)
V – Left Party 5.60% (-0.24%) winning 19 seats (-3)
KD – Christian Democrats 5.60% (-0.99%) winning 19 seats (-5)
ÖVR - Others 1.43% (-1.32%) winning 0 seats (nc)
turnout 84.63% (+2.64%)
Alliance 49.27% (+1.03) winning 173 seats (-5)
Red-Greens 43.60% (-2.48%) winning 156 seats (-15)
As expected, the government saw a swing to it, albeit a small one overall, a swing which was quasi-entirely to the profit of the Moderates, the leading party of the four-party Alliance. On the other hand, the Red-Greens did quite poorly, and, in the case of the Social Democrats, extremely poorly especially when placed in historical context. Finally, the far-right Sweden Democrats won their best result ever, which allowed them to enter Parliament and act, on paper at least, as kingmakers.
The results indicate that although the government doesn’t have the majority it needs to govern comfortably outright, it remains rather popular, and, for the Swedish right, extremely popular. The Moderate Party (and its conservative ancestors) have never won as high a percentage in an election since 1914, and this government is the first right-wing government which has managed to win re-election in decades (although there aren’t many examples of right-wing governments in Sweden since the 1930s). This reflects the popularity of the government, undoubtedly buoyed by the fact that Sweden is one of the best EU countries in terms of economic numbers right now and is experiencing rather important growth (one of the highest, if not the highest in the OECD) when few other European governments can say the same. Sweden’s budget could even boast a surplus next year, something few countries in Europe and the west as a whole can boast of right now (quite the contrary). The government’s numbers suffered a bit right when the markets crashed in the United States in 2008, but now, when people are asked who they prefer to be steering the economy, they give the right a pretty big advantage on that – as these elections have showed. In addition, the government’s popularity also has a lot to do with the competence of its amiable leader, Fredrik Reinfeldt, who has managed to keep the government together and avoid the four parties from falling out with each other and feuding amongst themselves as they had done in the 1970s and in the early 90s. The last right-wing government in Sweden, the 1991-1994 Carl Bildt cabinet, had been dogged not only by infighting but also an economic crisis which gave food to the idea that the Swedish right wrecked the economy and that the Social Democrats were the only competent managers (which isn’t entirely true). Arguably, the division of the right and the Social Democrat’s strong reputation as economic managers allowed them to stay strong in the late 90s and the first years of the 2000s, but that has since been hindered by the new united right invented by Reinfeldt and since then by the right’s strong economic management. The left, of course, has also hurt itself by having Mona Sahlin as its top leader, a rather incompetent one at that, and also by divisions between its three components, especially with the ex-communist Left. The success of the Greens within the left, which has propelled it to become the third largest party, should not be too surprising considering that the party’s leadership is rather competent and is a perfect party for loyal Red-Greens who are nonetheless not too keen on Mona Sahlin.
This isn’t the death of Swedish social democracy, however. Aside from the fact that these pronouncements are often quite stupid, an analysis of the results and of the Swedish right shows that Swedes haven’t become teabaggers or Thatcherites. Much emphasis must be put on the fact that a lot of the changes in Swedish politics since 2006 or so are caused more by the transformation of the right rather than the transformation of voters. Similarly to what David Cameron has done in the United Kingdom, the Swedish right has accepted the modern welfare model and has understood that any talk of abolishing it or radically altering it is not a vote-getting strategy. The right has just placed more emphasis on jobs and finances, introducing popular and rather successful tax policies to encourage work. It must also be noted, however, that in Sweden and other places, people are now less concerned with defending the welfare model than they are by jobs or immigrations. It was widely believed that the economic crisis would provide a quasi-universal boost for social democrats, on the other hand, it has provided no such noticeable effect and has instead bred an anti-incumbent in a lot of countries.
The other marking fact of this election, if not the marking fact itself, is the entry of the Swedish Democrats (SD) into Parliament. They have picked up on some growing distaste for immigration from traditionally low-income or old working-class white voters. This isn’t, however, the first far-right protest movement in Sweden. The last such movement, the ephemeral NyD (1991-1994) died out as soon as it won 24 seats in the 1991. Such trends allow us to think that there has been underlying anti-immigration sentiment in (southern) Sweden for at least a decade or so, though not necessarily one that entails a consistent far-right vote. SD’s transformation from a fringe neo-Nazi skinhead party to a slightly more educated and less barbarian party has undoubtedly played an important role in its success, past (2006) and present. Excluding Iceland, this now means that all Scandinavian countries (and Finland) have far-right representation in Parliament, though Sweden is nowhere near the levels of the Danish People’s Party. The Danish experience, where DF has practically steered the government’s immigration policy since 2001, has scared some observers into worrying that SD could take up DF’s role in Sweden.
The results leave the Alliance only two seats short of an overall majority, something which would, only on paper though, make SD the kingmakers. There seems to be consensus between the two coalitions to isolate SD and to ensure that it does not gain important leverage in Parliament. Reinfeldt has time and time again denounced SD, and the left has obviously no affection for SD. Because Swedish law says that a government can continue to govern until it has lost a parliamentary vote, the most likely outcome is a Reinfeldt minority government. Though Reinfeldt has publicly said that he’d like to win the Greens over to his government, the Greens have categorically refused these overtures and has said that it would not work with the Alliance (while also stating they would never work with SD). He could still depend on vote-by-vote support from the Greens (or SD) depending on the circumstances, but it is likely that the Alliance will find its second term a lot harder than its first term. There is little precedent in Sweden for snap elections after a government has lost the support of the majority of MPs, but a lot of that comes from the fact that, with a few exceptions, the governing coalition had a majority and party discipline usually ensured that there would be no chance of a government collapsing thanks to backbenchers or rebels. It isn’t however impossible that this government could face the voters earlier than 2014.
Swedish voting patterns have historically been easily explainable by class distinctions, and truth be told, this election isn’t much different. The right found most of its largest base of support in the affluent suburbs of major cities (places such as Danderyd and Lidingö near Stockholm or Vellinge and Båstad near Malmö – all of which were some of the right’s strongest areas) or in the less industrial rural areas of southern Sweden. With a 26.2% margin in its favour, Stockholm County (which in this case excludes Stockholm proper) was the Alliance’s strongest area. The left’s vote gradually decreased the further south you got, with Norrbotten, the northernmost county in Sweden, giving the Red-Greens a 37.8% margin over the Alliance. The Swedish left – S in particular – historically finds most of its strength in small towns and industrial centres in central and northern Sweden, as well as in some cities such as Malmö; a trend which correlates with the pattern of Swedish industrialization being based in small towns rather than large towns or urban conglomerations.
Apart from Gotland, which isn’t on the mainland anyway, the right won all the constituencies in southern Sweden aside from Blekinge, whose small population is more working-class than the rest of the region. The left, S in particular, did particularly badly in Skåne and in Malmö. Malmö, which had backed the Red-Greens by a 3.1% margin not only backed the Alliance narrowly but placed M ahead of S in the town, a major blow to the Social Democrats in one of their old strongholds. Outside Malmö, the left was demolished, losing the three electoral constituencies which make up Skåne by margins ranging from 12.8% to 24.4%. Immigration is a particularly big issue in Skåne, and, to add to that, a lot of the left’s strength in Skåne comes from declining small industrial centres with high unemployment, which is the breeding ground for SD (and the European far-right in general). It shouldn’t be surprising that some of SD’s strongest showings in Skåne – in towns such as Bjuv (14.9%) and Bromölla (15.4%) – are in old industrial centres. That being said, SD also did very well in rural Skåne, which explains why some have described SD’s voter as rural unemployed youth.
Looking at the results by party, quickly, one notices the close correlation between M and FP – nowadays these parties largely fish in the same pool – but a weak correlation between C and M or even between M and KD. C’s base continues to be in rural areas, including some traditionally left-wing rural areas, and it remains disproportionately weak in urban centres – winning just 2.8% in Malmö and 3.8% in Göteborg. However, C won 6.3% in Stockholm city, a result which is somewhat unusual for a farmer’s party in a major urban centre. That factoid – and the related factoid that C’s vote increased in both the Riksdag and municipal elections in Stockholm – is possibly a sign of the successful transformation of the party into a modern centrist green party. As for KD, the party clearly remains rather confined to Sweden’s Bible Belt and its heart in Jönköping County, where KD won 12.9% of the vote, which is nearly double its second best result. More amusingly, remnants of free churches-voting-FP in Västerbotten (where KD also did well while M did really poorly) is also quite amusing.
An interesting pattern in the results here is that the senior government party – M – picked up votes based on the popularity of its leader with the swing voter, but it didn’t squash the smaller parties. Many had thought that, as sometimes/usually happens with junior coalition partners, the largest party would pick up votes from the smaller parties. That may say a lot about the remarkably stable (overall) bases of party support in Sweden, but it also does say something about the competence of the smaller parties’ leaderships and their ability to find a voice in government. That being said, none of the smaller parties in the Alliance performed spectacularly and in fact M was the only party not to lose percentage wise (FP picked up 2,129 votes but lost 0.48% – higher turnout is the main culprit).
It shouldn’t be surprising that MP did best in urban areas, with a high of 12.2% in Stockholm and second-best in Göteborg (with 10.7%). It also did well in other rather middle-class urban areas (often those with a university), such as Uppsala but also Visby (on the island of Gotland, a place I know little about). Gotland is also the only county which voted for the right in 2006 but went to the left this time, albeit only by a tiny 0.4% margin.
On a final note on the other parties in this election, they did very poorly overall. The Pirates won only 0.65%, up a mere 0.02%, while the two other “big” small parties – Feminist Initiative (a rather insane radical fringe feminist party) and the Pensioners did worse than in 2006, losing 0.28% and 0.33% respectively. Junilistan, the Eurosceptic party which had done well in the 2004 EU elections (but got decimated in 2009) won a mere ten votes though the elections site says they weren’t on an ordered ballot, whatever that means.
Counting for local elections is far from over – they’re still in the early stages of re-canvassing results from the County Council elections, but, as in 2006, S did better in the local elections than in the national elections. The left had usually done worse in local elections – where local single-issue parties often do very well – than in national elections, but this is the second time in a row that the opposite has happened. Based on election night results, S has 33.1% against 27.3% for M, with FP in third (7.5%) ahead of the Greens (6.7%). C has 6.2%, V has 5.7%, KD has 5.1%, SD has 4.6% and others have 3.8%. That gives the left 45.5% against 46.1% for the left. If anything, it’s good proof for the theory that Mona Sahlin herself cost S a good bit of support, some of which switched over to the Greens. Without Sahlin as a major player, S did better in the local elections and the Greens did more poorly. SD has also done well on the local level, which is of some interest in that it shows that the party may not be (for now), a protest party confined exclusively to one level of government (as happens with a lot of those protest outfits, eg, the Pirates). In another trend of municipal elections, M lost votes – sometimes a lot – in its strongholds such as Vellinge (-17.7%), Danderyd (-8.4%) and even Stockholm (-2.7%) – to the benefit of FP, SD and in Vellinge, a local party. Most of the places where M lost ground are very wealthy, and nobody really knows why they lost votes, apart from local factors and potentially unpopular local administrations.
SD first blipped on the radar in the town of Landskrona in Skåne, a multi cultural working-class town hurt by the decline of shipbuilding. In the 2006 local elections, they had won 22% of the vote. I don’t know which role they played in the council, but the results after four years of a significant SD presence in legislature could be interesting if only to see what the future holds for SD and national Swedish politics. If Landskrona is any indication, SD could possibly not cheer for long. Indeed, the party’s vote receded by 6.5% to reach 15.8%, a trend which has – in Landskrona at least – benefited FP whose vote grew by 7.6% and won 30.1% of the vote overall. S also picked up steam a bit, winning back 2.1% of the vote, but M’s vote fell.
The second term of the Reinfeldt government will be interesting to watch, as it will likely provide answers as to the fate of far-right politics in Sweden (down the Danish road or down the NyD road), the fate of Swedish social democracy (and the Scandinavian model) and the Swedish right.
Sweden votes on September 19, 2010 for a general election to its unicameral legislature, the Riksdag as well as 20 County Councils (Landsting) and 289 municipal councils.
The Riksdag has 349 seats, 31o of which are elected in 27 constituencies (a majority coincide with counties, but the largest counties are split into two or more constituencies) and the last 39 are at-large ‘evening out’ seats which are used to correct the deviations from proportional national distribution that may arise when allocating the fixed constituency seats. The constituency seats are allocated using the corrected odd-number method, a variation of d’Hondt. Firstly, all vote totals for the parties in a given constituency are divided by 1.4. The party with the largest number of votes after division is then awarded the first seat and has its original vote total divided by 3. The numbers are again compared and the party with the largest number gets the next seat. When a party gets its second seat its number is divided by 5, then 7, 9, etc. In order to take part in the distribution of seats you must either have recieved 4% or more of the total national vote (the Riksdag-threshold) or at least 12% of the vote in the constituency.
Instead of giving a political history of the country, which will likely be too long, this preview post will introduce the parties and their electoral bases before moving on to look at the issues and leaders in this campaign.
After the 2006 elections, 7 parties were represented in the Riksdag. Here are the 2006 results:
S – Social Democrats 34.99% (-4.86%) winning 130 seats (-14)
M – Moderate Party 26.23% (+10.97%) winning 97 seats (+42)
C – Centre Party 7.88% (+1.69%) winning 29 seats (+7)
FP – Liberal People’s Party 7.54% (-5.85%) winning 28 seats (-20)
KD – Christian Democrats 6.59% (-2.56%) winning 24 seats (-9)
V – Left Party 5.85% (+2.54%) winning 22 seats (-8)
MP – Green Party 5.24% (+0.59%) winning 19 seats (+2)
Since 2006 at least, however, people have often classified these seven parties into one of two coalitions. In 2006, the Alliance for Sweden (also known as the “blues”) was formed between M, C, FP and KD. While the Social Democrats, V and Greens have cooperated in the past, they had no official electoral coalition until 2008, when they formed an Alliance-like coalition, the Red-Greens. In 2006, the Alliance won 48.24% and 178 seats to the Red-Greens’ 46.08% and 171 seats.
Though this division into formal coalitions is a recent occurrence, Swedish politics have often been polarized between two heterogeneous blocks formed by parties who disagreed by one another. For example, the current Alliance has long been referred to as the “bourgeois” parties, a term which has managed to stick to this day. This appellation is a fine reflection of the role class plays in Swedish voting patterns.
When one thinks of Sweden, a thought concerning the well-known Swedish welfare state or the so-called “Scandinavian model” is likely to come up. The Social Democrats (S or SAP), long Sweden’s hegemonic party and once a well-oiled electoral machine, have been central to building that Swedish model and they have been Sweden’s natural governing party, topping the poll in all elections since 1917 and governing for the vast majority of the twentieth century (since 1932 with the exception of a few months in 1936, 1976-1982, 1991-1994 and since 2006). The Social Democrats emerged in 1889 and gained strength throughout the first two decades of the twentieth century, eventually displacing Sweden’s two historical ideological families, the liberals and conservatives. The Social Democrats were instrumental in passing universal suffrage for males and females in 1921, but for most of the latter 1920s, the Social Democrats were out of power. In 1932, the first election after the Depression, the Social Democrats started their near-uninterrupted 44-year rule. Under people such as Per Albin Hansson and Tage Erlander, the Social Democrats developed Sweden’s famous model of a strong interventionist state playing a major role in the development of the economy and using state revenue to ensure the welfare of the general population. The so-called Swedish model, still in state today, proved to be vastly successful and lifted Sweden’s income up rather dramatically. Although Sweden’s export-dominated economy relied heavily on the United States and the west, Sweden became one of the leaders of the neutral non-aligned movement and allowed itself to be a vocal critic of American policies in Vietnam and other communist and socialist-bloc countries. In line with this tradition of neutrality, Sweden has also played a major role in international development efforts and remains of the top countries in terms of foreign aid spending. Despite the harsh criticism of American foreign policy in the 1970s offered by Olof Palme, probably the most emblematic Swedish prime minister (if only because of his assassination), the Social Democrats cannot be described as deeply left-wing in line with communist-bloc countries. While the Social Democrats, who rarely won outright majorities, relied on passive Communist support, the party in fact shunned and spied on the Communists and the Social Democrats have been noted for their historical pragmatism when it comes to accepting the market economy or a capitalist society. Even in the early twentieth century, the Social Democrats were reticent Marxists and embraced reformist socialism over revolutionary socialism rather early in their history. The lack of notable working-class repression in Sweden as well as the historical connection with religious (Lutheran) folk movements likely explains the apparent moderate nature of the Social Democrats.
The party’s current leader is Mona Sahlin, a fairly inept and not particularly charismatic one at that. She is something of a maverick within the party and the party – and the Red-Greens as a whole – have struggled to find a voice under her leadership.
Closely linked to the trade union movement, whose leadership often goes hand-in-hand with the party’s leadership, the Social Democrats have a strong base with the working-class, which in Sweden is spread out throughout the country in small and medium-sized industrial towns largely in central and northern Sweden. While the party has been forced to expand its base, the class-dominated nature of Swedish politics means that the party remains largely a working-class party, though it has also garnered in recent years the bulk of the immigrant vote. The Social Democrats won over 40% of the vote in all elections between 1932 and 1988, but has since broken that line only once, in 1994. It’s 2006 35% showing was its worst showing since 1914, and its 2009 European election result of 24.7% was its worst result in its existence.
Heir to the conservative tradition, the Moderates (M) find their roots in the conservative parties which have existed under various names since 1886. Originally, the conservatives were the party of the wealthy aristocracy and those tied to the Lutheran State Church. Originally protectionist, like most conservative parties, the right gradually moved to Keynesian policies and, since the 1970s, have de-emphasized traditionalist conservative rhetoric in favour of a traditional liberal rhetoric on economic issues, supporting tax and spending cuts, privatization and pro-business regulations. The party became known as the Moderates in 1969, as part of the party’s attempt to move it out of the electoral gutter by portraying it as a more modern liberal party. Under its leader, Gösta Bohman, M participated in the centre-right coalition government of Thorbjörn Fälldin between 1976 and 1982 but the Moderates’ opposition to Fälldin’s more centrist tax policy led to the breakup of that government in 1982. Later, under Carl Bildt, the Moderates were the largest party in the right’s unsuccessful 1991-1994 government, which started drastic liberal reforms of the economy including deregulation, privatizations and tax cuts. An economic downturn which had started in 1992 effectively doomed the government, which lost re-election in 1994. After a disastrous 2002 election under a rather right-wing incompetent leader, Fredrik Reinfeldt became the party’s leader in 2003 and effectively transformed the party. Under Reinfeldt, the Moderates have de-emphasized core liberal policies such as tax cuts and pro-business regulations, adopting instead a policy which accepted the welfare model and a new “work policy” including tax cuts for those who work while cutting unemployment and sick leave benefits. Reinfeldt’s shift towards the centre has often been compared to David Cameron’s similar shift in the United Kingdom, though Reinfeldt preceded Cameron in making that move. The Moderates remain pro-American and pro-European, though the pro-EU message has recently been toned down and the party’s earlier support for NATO membership all but forgotten.
The party’s base remains the wealthy, a fact which has often been a negative for the party because it associated a mistrust of the party with poorer voters, who saw M as being closely linked to the values and attitudes of the very wealthy. Their main areas of strength lie in the big cities, which in Sweden are very wealthy, as well in the suburbs of these cities. Stockholm, for example, is a Moderate stronghold. While it has gained strength in recent years in rural southern Sweden, it remains weak in rural areas, especially in the north.
In the mold of traditional Scandinavian farmers’ parties, the Centre Party (C) is historically linked to the agrarian rural farmers’ organizations which emerged in most of Scandinavia early in the twentieth century. They were in some ways very conservative, being, for example, the most pro-Nazi party (outside actual Nazi parties) in the 1930s, but they were also largely pragmatic and not inherently linked to either socialist or conservative ideology. It cooperated with the left in the 1930s and again between 1951 and 1957, but has since been largely allied with the right. As mentioned above, the Centre Party’s Torbjörn Fälldin was the leader of the 1976-1982 centre-right government, winning that right after the party emerged as the second-largest party after S in 1973 and again in 1976. However, after 1976, the Centre Party entered into a period of constant electoral decline which lasted until 1998, when the party was reduced to a mere 5%. Since then, the party’s fortunes have perked up, largely a result of a new liberal direction under Maud Olofsson. The party dropped its old Euroscepticism in favour of a policy of “Europe as a federal state” and notably became vocally socially liberal and also adopted an environmentalist-green shift, while also shifting more towards the right on economic issues, with the party railing against Sweden’s labour laws.
Despite this shift, which did not please the party’s old more leftist rural base, it has retained an old base in rural areas, which still make up the bulk of the party’s electorate. Though it has somewhat broken into more urban areas and gained representation in some town councils in the major cities, C remains extremely weak in major urban areas, holding, for example, only one seat out of Stockholm’s 101-seat municipal council.
The Liberal People’s Party (FP) is the heir to the old liberal tradition, which was historically supported by the urban professional middle-class but also members of evangelical “free churches” separate from the conservative Lutheran State Church. This rather awkward base led to a 1923 split in the liberals over the issue of prohibition, which the evangelicals supported but which the urban professionals opposed. This split was reconciled in 1934 with the creation of the People’s Party, which added the name “Liberal” in 1990. FP has long been a key supporter of liberal economic measures, but has also voiced support for a strong welfare state and public healthcare. Most notably though, it is the most vocally pro-American and pro-Israel party, supporting, for example, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is also vocally pro-Israel, something which has a lot to do with the fact that FP has often been the “party of Jews”. It has also taken liberal stands on social issues such as lesbian insemination and gay rights, but also on immigration, with FP traditionally being the most pro-immigration party. For example, the party’s leader walked out of a 1991 debate which included the leader of the xenophobic New Democracy (NyD) party. Yet, a paltry 4.7% in 1998 led the party to contradict its past support for immigration by taking a tougher populist line, favouring language tests for immigrants and taking up electorally fruitful law-and-order rhetoric. Though the party’s social liberal base may feel betrayed by these new positions, it did heavily pay off in 2002, when the party won 13.3% of the vote.
Similarly to M, FP is very much a urban party, and has traditionally been known as the party of academics, teachers and professionals (as well as Jews, as noted above); even more so with the slow erosion of the old rural base in the southern Bible Belt and the evangelical communities in Västerbotten.
The Christian Democrats (KD) are the youngest of the bourgeois parties, having been founded in 1964 and having entered parliament independently only in 1991 (it had won seats in 1985 through an electoral deal with C). Originally founded as a deeply socially conservative party based in the evangelical free churches, the fringe party moderated starting with the 1973 accession of Alf Svensson to the party’s leadership. It has dropped its opposition to abortion and homosexuality, changed sides in the nuclear debate (from opposition to support) and in the EU membership debate in 1994 (also from opposition to support). As mentioned above, Svensson himself got in in 1985 thanks to a deal with C, but got in on its own accord only in 1991 and won a record high 12% in 1998. However, the party has been struggling as of late, hindered by the departure of vastly popular Alf Svensson. While the KD’s 6.6% showing in 2006 was a fine showing, some of that may be attributed to the party’s populist liberal rhetoric displayed that year, with positions including cutting the gas tax and abolishing property taxes. Despite that apparently liberal rhetoric, KD has traditionally been an advocate of so-called “compassionate conservatism”, something which makes it, along with FP and C, pro-immigration.
Contrarily to FP and M, the KDs are weak in urban areas and their base is largely in rural southern Sweden, especially the Bible Belt of evangelical traditions. They are especially strong in Jönköping, which is the epicenter of the evangelical movement. Its other bases are largely small evangelical communities further north and west.
The Left Party (V), also referred to as the “communists”, are the successors to the Swedish Communist Party, originally founded in 1917 (though they only became known as the Communists in 1921) by a split in the Social Democrats between the reformist majority and the revolutionary minority. There were later splits within the party, first in 1921 with the formation of the anti-Comintern SSV and in 1929 with the formation of the anti-Stalinist Kilbom-Flyg faction, which later became Nazi. The party experienced a boost in support in 1944 and slightly less so in 1948, but the Cold War forced it into decline while it remained pro-Soviet until the mid 60s. While the Communists were shunned by the Social Democrats, who security apparatus spied on them and whose leaders publicly denounced communism, the party in parliament supported the “workers’ governments”, knowing that its voters would never forgive it for having brought down a government of the proletariat. Starting in 1964, the Communists moved towards eurocommunism (not without a few splits by hardliners) and changed its name to Left Party (V) in 1990, finally abandoning communism. While largely stagnant in the 1970s and 1980s, the party’s fortunes rebounded in 1994 and particularly in 1998, when it won a record 12%. The party has done poorly since it formally started supporting Social Democratic government, albeit from the outside, and fell to 5.8% support in 2006. The fact that V’s current leader, Lars Ohly (who is slightly bizarre), is an alleged communist, has often led more centrist and right-leaning observers to dislike V rather strongly and deride it as communist.
Though the stereotype is that V is the party of poor academics, which is true, the party also has genuine working-class support, especially true in old mining areas in the far north, where it still polls rather strongly.
The Green Party (MP) emerged in 1981 and entered Parliament in 1988 (and reentered in 1994 after failing in 1991) and has since been largely integrated into the left despite earlier claims of being neither left nor right. Its program is not worth much description, though the party’s traditional Euroscepticism (much more so in the past) does distinguish it somewhat from traditionally pro-European greens in continental Europe (such as the French or German Greens, though admittedly greens in the UK, Iberia and Italy are more eurosceptic). Until recently, the Greens were opposed to EU membership entirely. While it has not done especially well in Riksdag elections (averaging 5% or so), it did win a record 17% in the 1995 EU elections, largely out of being the anti-EU list that time. Though the Greens are the Social Democrats’ most acceptable coalition partner (V carrying around the unfashionable communist tag), they have cooperated locally with the right.
The party’s electorate is, as is to expected, urban and educated, in addition to being largely young and female.
On a final note of a party which is not in Parliament but may well be in a few days, the Sweden Democrats (SD). The SD is, basically put, the Swedish far-right (and the most ‘acceptable’ one, it isn’t Nazi for example) and is, as would be obvious, anti-immigration and favours stricter regulations on immigration. It received 2.93% in the 2006 election and did especially well in Skåne, where they are represented in the County Council. Its electorate is largely an old working-class or small shopkeepers one, though it isn’t especially poor but it probably also wins support from racist wealthy whites, of which there are quite a few in Skåne. The similarly far-right New Democracy (NyD) party had won 6.7% in 1991 and won representation, and later supported, from the outside, the Bildt cabinet (which unenthusiastically accepted their support), but internal squabbles and the like destroyed it and it fell to 1% or so in 1994.
Though one will probably complain about the exclusion of the Pirates (PP), who hold two Europarl seats, they are unlikely to do well this time. The fact that the debate has shifted to serious issues and the furor over the Pirate Bay shutdown in 2009 ended, PP lacks an issue to play on. Higher turnout, much higher turnout, in this election also hurts the Pirates in that most of its voters are extremely committed activists, the type who bother to vote when nobody else does.
After the 2006 election, the government slipped well-behind the Red-Greens in poll, falling to a paltry 38.8% overall in Feb. 2008. A number of scandals concerning the personal behaviour of certain ministers and some infighting led to this drastic and marked decline in support for the Alliance, as well as a short-lived boost for Mona Sahlin, one of Sweden’s first female major party leaders. The government rebounded somewhat with the financial crisis, where Sweden has managed to do fairly well, thanks in part to Reinfeldt’s “work policy” described earlier. Furthermore, as soon as the opposition unveiled its proposals, the government retook the lead in polls. Mona Sahlin has never been vastly popular and the Red-Greens have struggled to find a pragmatic, reasonable voice in their opposition. Furthermore, a recent pronouncement by the government that it would not campaign on tax cuts but instead on increased spending for social welfare programs caught the left off-guard, and effectively derailed badly the left’s proposal to spend 12 billion more than whatever the government would pledge to spend on welfare. The bottom line is that a campaign on the economy is good for the right, and bad for the left (if only because it hasn’t come up with a reasonable platform on that line). Efforts by the left to shift the debate to welfare, where the left is still somewhat stronger, hasn’t worked. As for the underlying debate on immigration, it is largely assume that only SD will benefit from it given that there seems to be a general distrust of all parties, even traditionally ‘immigration-skeptic’ parties like M and S, by the anti-immigration voter.
Under coalition lines on the right, M is doing well while C and KD are struggling and FP doing decently (meaning staying at 2006 levels); meaning that the historic division of the right (a major aspect of Swedish politics) is slowly fading as Reinfeldt manages to make M a centre-right party with a vaster appeal. On the other hand, the Greens are doing especially well on the left, reaching 8-9%, while V is also doing slightly better (or stagnating) than they did in 2006 – all a reflection on the low appeal that Mona Sahlin or her party have, even with left-wing voters. There is also the possibility that M might in fact overtake S as the largest party, something which would be a major symbolic blow to the Social Democrats, for whom being the “biggest party” is a defining part of the party’s identity.
The high likelihood that SD will win seats (if not by clearing 4% then by clearing 12% in Skåne) means that there is also the possibility of the right losing its majority while remaining the largest bloc. There are a number of scenarios which emerge, including a small party from one coalition switching to the other (like the Greens switching over to the right), a centrist government of sorts, a Grand Coalition and finally a right-wing (or left-wing, if they’re the biggest party) minority government relying on intermittent support from SD. The first scenarios all have a bunch of flaws in them, meaning that the last scenario is the most likely one to emerge in case of a minority Parliament. It must be noted though that SD hates Mona Sahlin, so the idea of a left-SD deal of sorts is to be excluded right off the bat. A formal Alliance-SD deal of sorts is also extremely unlikely, of course.
Below is the latest Sifo poll, the last before tomorrow’s vote:
Rarely has a midterm primary season in the US generated so much press coverage, especially abroad. It isn’t a stretch to say that the Tea Party movement and the enthusiasm it has generated in the United States is one of the main causes for this exceptional interest in what is usually a boring thing which interests only the most passionate American psephologist. In the story of these primaries, we had the defeat of two sitting Republican Senators, Bob Bennett (R-UT) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) by candidates running to their right. The latest incident in the Tea Party’s wild ride is the recent primary in Delaware.
Delaware has a special election for the US Senate seat vacated in January 2009 by Joe Biden, and, up until recently, it hadn’t generated much interest. Mike Castle, the state’s sole Representative in the House and a rather senior moderate Republican figure in Washington circles, announced his intention to run for Senate, likely as a nice way to seal off a long career including two terms as Governor and nearly eighteen years as the state’s Representative. Because politics in Delaware have historically been based on a gentlemen’s agreement between the main Democratic and Republican officials in the small state, Joe Biden’s son, Beau, the state’s AG, declined to run against Castle and instead that job went to former New Castle County executive Chris Coons, who was the sacrificial lamb against Mike Castle, whose senior moderate stature would most likely have carried him easily to the Senate.
Lisa Murkowsi’s defeat by the Tea Partier Joe Miller, who had Palin’s endorsement, was not all that surprising. Murkowski, whose corrupt father was defeated by Palin in the 2006 GOP gubernatorial primary, did not have a blank slate in terms of corruption and shady dealings. She was a major pork-barrel spender and a key Washington insider (and one open to working with Democrats), something which isn’t an asset in Republican primaries. On these conditions, it seemed unlikely that Mike Castle could lose. He was an honest man, moderate and well-respected. He also didn’t have a history of personal rivalry and family feud with Sarah Palin, like Murkowski had. On top of that, his opponent to his right, Christine O’Donnell (who had run against Joe Biden for Senate in 2008 and lost badly), wasn’t as intelligent and able as Joe Miller and her outings on conservative talk radio weren’t crowned with success. She said she had won two counties against Biden in 2008 (she won none), then backtracked to say she had tied in both and then said she had tied in one (she had come close in Sussex County, but lost by 272 votes there). She got press saying she was anti-masturbation. Furthermore, historically, O’Donnell, who had run in a GOP primary in 2007 and came third with a paltry 17%, has historically played the role of every party’s inoffensive crazy oddball. Normally, these type of candidates don’t cause much pain to old respected politicos. But in this climate of Republican anger at Obama’s policies and his big-government or ‘socialist’ agenda, O’Donnell managed to portray Mike Castle as a fake Republican who would be another vote for Obama and who did not have good conservative credentials. In doing so, in the context of a month, she managed to turn opinion against Mike Castle. What O’Donnell, not a strong candidate at any rate, managed to do, is quite impressive and speaks volumes about the radicalization of the Republican Party.
O’Donnell, strong from a Palin endorsement, defeated Mike Castle 53-47, a six-point margin, not predicted by any poll (PPP’s shock poll on Monday had her up 3). Mike Castle showed some strength in New Castle County, which he won 58-42, but O’Donnell beat him by massive margins in Delaware’s two other more southern and conservative counties.
However, O’Donnell is now more than likely to lose rather badly, likely by double digits, to Chris Coons. If one Democrat is unhappy, it must be Beau Biden, who declined to run in order to maintain the Delaware gentlemen’s agreement and to give Mike Castle his shot in the Senate. But now that O’Donnell has upset this longtime gentlemen’s agreement, Beau Biden is left all alone without any major political openings unless Senator Carper retires in 2012.
In other primaries on Tuesday, teabagger Carl Paladino won the New York, soundly defeating 62-38 Rick Lazio, the NY GOP’s perennial fail candidate, though Rick Lazio will be running on the Conservative line, splitting the vote of an already weak Republican Party in New York and increasing Andrew Cuomo’s chances to win from 95% to 99%. In New Hampshire, Kelly Ayotte narrowly survived her Senate primary against Tea Party-backed businessman Ovide Lamontagne, winning 38% to Lamontagne’s 37%, even though Ayotte’s conservative credentials were far more firmly established than Mike Castle’s. Ayotte’s win is good for Republican odds to hold on to Judd Gregg’s seat.
A provincial by-election in the Quebec provincial constituency of Saint-Laurent was held on September 13, 2010 following the resignation of Liberal MNA and former Public Security Minister Jacques Dupuis. Premier Jean Charest was very quick in scheduling this election, most likely because it is a safe seat for the Liberal Party where he didn’t risk anything calling it quickly.
Covering Ville Saint-Laurent, a lower middle-class heavily immigrant neighborhood of central northwestern Montreal. Though it was historically far more Francophone, immigration in recent years has made this seat one of Quebec’s most multicultural ridings, with 41.5% of visible minorities, 48.4% immigrants and 51.4% of the voters having a mother tongue other than French or English. Arabs, especially Lebanese, are the most important minority in Saint-Laurent. Predictably, Saint-Laurent is one of the Liberal Party’s safest seats in the province (though obviously not the safest, if you know the other seats in the West Island), and has been held by the Liberals its 1966 creation, and always by rather crushing margins. Indeed, the party’s vote fell under 70% only in 2007, 1989 (when the Equality Party pulled 24%), 1976 (when the UN polled 23.1%, in the UN’s year of appeal to Anglophones) and 1966. It is quite telling that Saint-Laurent is where Premier Robert Bourassa ran in 1986 after losing his seat in the 1985 election. Recent immigration has only tightened the Liberal grip on this seat, and also led to a constant decline of the PQ’s vote since the 1980s. In 2008, Dupuis polled 74.39% to the PQ’s 16.65% and the ADQ’s 4.79%.
An immigrant-heavy area is a perfect recipe for low turnout, and in fact turnout in 2008 was a paltry 40.89%, though turnout was well above 50% in 2007 and above 60% in 2003 and before then. If there was one reason to care about this by-election, it was to see how pathetically low turnout would be.
The Liberal candidate was former provincial cabinet minister and Châteauguay MNA (between 1994 and 2007) Jean-Marc Fournier, the PQ candidate was Philippe Leclerc, the ADQ’s candidate was Jose Fiorilo (his third run), the QS candidate was Marie Josèphe Pigeon while the Green candidate was Tim Landry. Jose Fiorilo, the ADQ’s paper candidate, got some press after he managed to get the endorsement of the Montreal Gazette, which was counted as a major blow to the Liberals. That being said, a Liberal win here was never much in doubt, and the only real question was whether the Liberals would get over 65% or 70% of the vote.
Jean-Marc Fournier (Liberal) 64.01% (-10.38%)
Philippe Leclerc (PQ) 17.93% (+1.28%)
Jose Fiorilo (ADQ) 8.36% (+3.57%)
Marie Josèphe Pigeon (QS) 5.08% (+1.61%)
Tim Landry (Green) 4.61%
The Liberals did extremely poorly (in the context of the constituency), winning their lowest share of the vote since the riding’s 1966 creation (excluding the ‘unusual’ elections of 1989 and 1976). Such a swing repeated in the context of a general election would endanger a fair number of Liberal seats and the party could even risk being reduced to its safest seats only. That being said, this riding itself is one of the worst barometers for predicting a province-wide election. Turnout is significantly below provincial average, the party’s strength is significantly different and the demographics are quite at odds with the provincial demographics. A by-election in a safe seat can breed a more significant bleeding of votes away from the governing party to smaller parties, something which is not repeated in an election.
Yet, this riding could be a fair barometer for Quebec’s Anglophone and Allophone seats. The results show that while the anti-Liberal mood is as pronounced in Anglophone and Allophone areas, the Liberal Party’s strongest demographic, though not to the point of indicating a drastic change in these voters’ allegiance. That being said, while the Liberals suffer a massive swing against them, it does not benefit the PQ, which is unsurprising, but rather benefits the ADQ, Greens and to a much smaller extent QS. Obviously, the ADQ’s strong showing, comparatively, could be explained partly by the rather high-profile endorsement it got from the Gazette and it would probably be a bad idea to interpret this as a direct PLQ-ADQ swing in the West Island (though one is possible, given how Anglos and Allophones won’t vote PQ). If anything, it’s the Greenies who stand to benefit the most from a major swing away from the Liberals in these type of seats given that they already have a strong base with wealthier Anglophone voters and could get a fair number of votes from dissatisfied Liberals who still won’t vote PQ.
A constitutional referendum was held in Turkey on September 12. At stake in this referendum was the ratification by voters of 26 constitutional amendments to the 1982 Constitutions, amendments which will significantly change the balance of power in Turkey.
These amendments include more protection for labour, including the recognition of unions and the right to strike, and also expands the right for collective bargaining to government employees. In addition, increased rights to personal privacy will be safeguarded in the constitution, and an article which prevents military coup leaders from facing trial or legal reprisal will be repealed. The power of military courts will be curtailed, removing their authority to try civilians in peacetime. Finally, the Constitutional Court will be revamped so that it has 17 (instead of 15) members, three of whom are appointed by Parliament while the President nominates the rest. The procedure to ban political parties, one of the Turkish’s judiciary’s most important power, has also been amended so that members of banned political parties remain in Parliament and aren’t kicked out as they were in the past.
The background to these amendments is a long-running desire by Turkey’s (civilian) moderate Islamist government led by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to curtail the Turkish military’s power over politics. The military, which sees itself as the guardian of Kemalism and Turkey’s secular constitution, has long been opposed to Erdoğan’s policies which they see as going against Turkish secularism. They tried to prevent Erdoğan’s nominee for President, Abdullah Gul, from being elected in 2007, to which Erdoğan responded by amending the constitution to allow for direct election of the President (the referendum passed rather easily). These amendments, which would curtail the military’s influence further and make it harder for Turkey’s Kemalist judges to ban Erdoğan’s AKP (as they tried to do in 2009), were keenly supported by the AKP. It should be no surprise, however, that the opposition, both parliamentary and military, opposed these changes.
Here are the results of the referendum approving the amendments:
The results, while a major victory for the government and another defeat for the old Kemalist politicos of yesterday, does highlight that the government still has to deal with significant opposition from the ballot boxes. The numbers on this referendum, with 42% taking the position of the Kemalist opposition, are also quite a bit higher than the numbers from the 2007 referendum, in which only 31% of voters backed the opposition; meaning that discontent with the government is edging up, as seen more recently in the 2009 local elections in which the AKP did rather poorly all things considered.
It shouldn’t be surprising that the highest numbers for the NO side were all found in the strongholds of the opposition. The coastal region of Turkey along the Mediterranean, open to European secular influences and more urbane than the interior, have always been the strongest region for the CHP (the main opposition party, which was also Ataturk’s party), along with European Turkey itself where the NO side got some of its highest support. The coastal region is also one of the main bases for the third party in parliament, the far-right crypto-fascist MHP which is strongly linked to the military (though less militantly secular than the CHP). Isolated in a sea of green, the island of red in western mainland Turkey is Eskişehir, a major industrial area and base of the DSP, a left-wing ally of the CHP and equally as Kemalist. As for the deeply red outcast in the middle of deeply green eastern Turkey, it is the province of Tunceli (81% NO), which distinguishes itself from the rest of interior Turkey by the fact that the Alevis – a liberal current of Islam – form a majority of the populations. The Alevis, officially Shi’a, are known for their values of gender equality, religious tolerance and love/respect for others. The Alevis, which are key supporters of Kemalist secularism, have been the AKP’s weakest demographic, and thus Tunceli has been the weakest point of the AKP in 2002 and 2007 (only 12% of the vote in 2007). One will note that Turkish Kurdistan distinguishes itself by its massive support for the amendments, giving the wrong impression that Kurds backed the changes, which isn’t true because turnout in these provinces were low, in some cases extremely low (9.1% in Hakkâri, for example); meaning that only Turks voted while Kurds didn’t turn out. Aside from that, support was also high in central Anatolia, the AKP’s main electoral base; though Istanbul, which is often portrayed as Turkey’s bustling western city, also supported the changes (or so I assume, given that the province of Istanbul isn’t limited to the city proper).
There are two conflicting interpretations of the consequences of this result. Those whose political sympathies in Turkey lie more with the government than the military will argue that the amendments go a long way to make Turkey a democratic country and that the curtailing of the military is a good thing for Turkish democracy. Those hardcore Kemalists or otherwise supporters of a secular Turkey, by definition wary of anything the AKP does, will argue that this is the latest step in Erdoğan and the AKP’s goal at making Turkey an Islamic republic, or, less alarmingly, a step by Erdoğan to seize control of the judiciary to cement the AKP’s place in Turkish politics and to significantly reduce the power of the opposition judges and generals. Arguably, though, the military does still have the power to stage a coup if ever (or whenever) Erdoğan or the AKP tries to move Turkey closer towards an Islamic republic.
A constitutional referendum was held in Moldova on September 5, 2010. The referendum aims to resolve more than a year of political deadlock in this former Soviet republic caused by Parliament’s inability to elect a President even after a normal election in April 2009 and a snap election in July 2009. Since a 2000 amendment, Moldova’s Constitution states that the President is elected indirectly by Parliament, but with a strict three-fifths threshold mandatory to win. The Communist Vladimir Voronin had a huge majority of 71 out of 101 seats in 2001 and while he lost his three-fifths majority in 2005, he was re-elected without much trouble with support from smaller centre-right parties. While the Communists came one seat next to the 61 seats needed for a three-fifths majority in April 2009 and theoretically needed only one dissident vote from the right to assure the election of Voronin’s hand-picked puppet, questions over the legitimacy of the April 2009 election led the opposition to block two successive attempts to elect a President. In these cases, the constitution requires a snap election, which was held in July 2009. The new election only added to the deadlock because while it gave the four opposition parties (widely known as the “liberal parties”) a majority of five over the Communists, the liberal opposition, which became the de-facto government, fell far short of the 61 votes needed to elect its candidate, Marian Lupu, in presidential ballots in November and December 2009. Because two snap elections in one year are unconstitutional, new elections will wait until fall 2010. However, the interim government, formed by the liberal parties, formed a commission for constitutional reform, of which the most important aspect is a return to the pre-2000 system of directly electing the president. The question was put forward to the people in a referendum, backed by the government though the Communists called for a boycott of the referendum. That being said, the government parties led a disconcerted campaign in which each of the four parties went their own ways instead of campaigning as a bloc. Yet, polling and general impression indicated a strong victory for the YES, with turnout generally assumed to be sufficient. A rather low turnout threshold of 33% was set to guarantee the referendum’s validity.
Would you agree with the constitutional amendment, which would allow the election of the President of the Republic of Moldova by the entire population?
While those who actually voted backed the referendum by a overwhelming margin, as expected, the main facet of this referendum was the extremely low turnout. The low turnout, which has made this referendum - which passed – failed, is a severe blow for the government and a major boost for the obstructionist Communists, who have blocked any attempt to give the country a permanent President. Given the extremely low coverage of Moldova in the Anglosphere’s mass-media and the scarcity (and unreliability) of local polling, it is hard to say how much this vote was influenced by the government’s policies since it took office a year or so ago. It was generally assumed that people would look favourably upon better relations with Romania and the EU as well as a fresh IMF loan, but given that Moldova’s economy is still in wrecks and the country lacks a permanent government, voters seem to long for the tough iron-fist leadership of Voronin between 2001 and 2009.
The government now needs to dissolve Parliament for snap parliamentary elections to be held in November, likely on November 14. While it seems quasi-certain that the Communists will still pull a plurality, the question is if it can win a majority (denying the liberals even their right to continue their de-facto governing) or, more unlikely, a 2001-like super-majority which would allow the Communists to elect one of their own to the presidency. Yet, the likelier outcome seems to be further deadlock, in which the Communists and liberals continue their obstruction to the other’s right to form permanent government when the others hold a plurality of seats. The failure of this referendum, which should be blamed largely on the Communists, means that Moldova’s unfortunate political deadlock will continue in the midst of a grave financial crisis. It is hard to think of a worse system of electing a president than Moldova’s post-2000 system.
Australia voted on August 21, but the nature of the Australian electoral system and the closeness of this particular election means that the election is still anything from over. In the last post on Australia, over a week ago, I looked at the provisional results and tried to explain the basic results and analyse what happened even if the results were still anything but clear. You can read it here. While a majority of seats have yet to be formally declared and a splattering of votes remain uncounted, the seat total finally appears to be finalized and extremely likely to stick.
House of Representatives
First Preference Count
Coalition1 43.64% (+1.55%) winning 73 seats (+8)
Labor 37.98% (-5.41%) winning 72 seats (-11)
The Greens 11.74% (+3.95%) winning 1 seat (+1)
Family First 2.25% (+0.26%) winning 0 seats (nc)
Independents 2.53% (+0.31%) winning 4 seats (+1)
Others 1.86% winning 0 seats (nc)
Coalition 50.01% (+2.71%) winning 73 seats (+8)3
Labor 49.99% (-2.72%) winning 72 seats (-11)
1 Includes the individual FPVs of the Liberal, Liberal National, National, WA National and Country Liberal Parties
2 Currently includes only the 142 divisions which had a classic Coalition vs. ALP result; thus excluding 8 divisions
3 Includes Tony Crook, a WA National, who will be a crossbencher
A few remarks are important about these results, most notable of which are the three superscript numbers. These results, which are taken from the AEC, are still not entirely final and the finer decimals will still move a bit. The results, however, do remain quite misleading. I have personally summed the results for the Coalition as a whole (the actual breakdown by party being Liberal 30.4%, LNP 9.2%, Nats 3.7%, CLP 0.3%), but these includes votes, all 42,751 of them, for the WA Nationals, who won one seat (O’Connor) but who are not allied closely with the Liberals like the national Nats are. Furthermore, while Tony Crook, the new WA National member for O’Connor is included by the ABC and myself in the coalition’s total seat count, it might be more accurate to count him as a crossbencher along with the four independents and Adam Bandt. This would in turn reduce the Coalition to 72 seats, tied with Labor, and increase the overall crossbench to six. Lastly, while the Coalition has a 2,698 vote lead over Labor in the 2PP results, this all-important count excludes eight seats where the two-candidate preferred result was not “classic” (meaning that one or more minor party or an independent was in the final count). These seats, thus excluded from the count (which is the 2PP count for 142/150 divisions), are Batman, Denison, Grayndler, Kennedy, Lyne, Melbourne, New England and O’Connor. Batman and Grayndler are also some of the Coalition’s worst areas in the country, and neither Melbourne nor Denison are particularly favourable to the Coalition either. Antony Green, Australia’s election god, has called the AEC’s current 2PP results useless and indicates that an accurate 2PP result would have Labor higher, and possibly leading. While these eight seats will one day be counted on the final 2PP count, as of now they are not included until a ‘scrutiny for information’ is done after vote counting is totally done. The AEC says than in a scrutiny for information each of the formal ballot papers is allocated to either the ALP or Coalition candidate depending on which candidate got the highest preference on the ballot paper. It would therefore be intellectually dishonest for the Coalition to claim a victory on the basis of 2PP results, but sadly intellectual honesty isn’t a prized value in contemporary politics.
A week ago, I had classified seven seats as being ‘in doubt’, which was a generous definition, or at least one quite a bit larger than the ABC’s definition. Since then, only one seat has changed hands, that seat being Denison where Labor’s narrow 2PP lead over the independent Andrew Wilkie proved to be short-lived. With almost all votes counted there, Wilkie has been elected with 51.2% of the 2PP vote. In Boothby, the Liberals held on with 50.8%, they gained Brisbane with 51.1%, held Dunkley with 51% and gained Hasluck 50.6%. Labor’s hold in Corangamite is narrow, but with 50.41% on 2PP, it seems to have held on. Likewise in Lindsay, where it has 51.18% of the 2PP votes, a “comfortable” hold. All in all, no seat is in doubt at this point, meaning that most postal ballots and those kind of pre-poll and special votes have been counted.
Now that counting is pretty much done, a list of gains and a look at the swings becomes more useful.
Labor has gained two seats, but lost thirteen seats (including eleven to the Coalition). Here is a list of gains, excluding notional gains or holds:
Solomon (CLP gain from ALP): Darwin and Palmerston, held by the CLP until 2007.
Melbourne (Green gain from ALP): Inner Melbourne. The Green Adam Bandt won a traditionally Labor seat by a wide margin, helped by demographic changes and the retirement of the ALP’s sitting member.
Denison (Ind gain from ALP): Hobart and suburbs. The left-wing independent Andrew Wilkie won one of Labor’s safest Tasmanian seats on Green and Liberal preferences.
Bennelong (Lib gain from ALP): North Shore Sydney suburbs. A key seat gained by Labor’s Maxime McKew over then-PM John Howard in the memorable 2007 election, McKew lost to former tennis player John Alexander.
Hasluck (Lib gain from ALP): Metropolitan suburban Perth. The Liberals’ Ken Wyatt becomes Australia’s first aboriginal member of the House.
Macquarie (Lib gain from ALP): NSW’s Blue Mountains and the far exurbs of Sydney. Gained by Labor in 1993 (lost in 1996) and gained again in 2007 (and lost again in 2010).
Bonner (Lib/LNP gain from ALP): Brisbane’s inner eastern suburbs. Former inaugural Liberal MP Ross Vasta has gained back his old seat, lost in 2007.
Brisbane (Lib/LNP gain from ALP): Inner Brisbane and inner Brisbane suburbs. Boundary changes have played a large role in Labor’s loss in this seat represented by a Labor member since 1980.
Dawson (Nat/LNP gain from ALP): Coastal central Queensland seat. The National Party’s shock defeat in 2007 after a 13.2% swing to Labor has been erased, with the LNP’s George Christensen winning the seat rather easily.
Flynn (Nat/LNP gain from ALP): Inland central Queensland seat with an important mining industry. Created in 2007, the seat’s inaugural Labor member has been defeated.
Forde (Nat/LNP gain from ALP): Outer southern Brisbane. Another Queensland seat gained by the ALP over the Liberals in 2007 with a massive swing (14.4%), and another loss for Labor.
Leichardt (Lib/LNP gain from ALP): Cairns and Cape York peninsula in northern Queensland. A pro-incumbent seat gained by Labor after the Liberal member’s retirement, Labor incumbent Jim Turnour easily fell on a large 8.6% swing to the right.
Longman (Lib/LNP gain from ALP): Caboolture and southern Sunshine Coast. Labor’s Jon Sullivan could unseat a high-profile cabinet minister (Mal Brough) in 2007, but he could not hold on against the 20-year old Liberal Wyatt Roy, who becomes the youngest member ever elected.
La Trobe (ALP gain from Lib): Melbourne’s outer eastern suburbs. Labor ended twenty years of Liberal domination with a very narrow win over sitting Liberal MP Jason Wood.
McEwen (ALP gain from Lib): Central Victoria. With a swing to Labor in the state and a retiring incumbent, Liberals had little hope of holding on to their narrow 27-vote majority in the most marginal seat in the country as of the 2007 election.
Psephos has a preliminary list of two-party swings in each division here. The general patterns were noted in the last post, with the biggest anti-Labor swings being recorded in NSW, Queensland and the Northern Territory. Queensland, of course, has a lot to do with an inflated vote for Labor in 2007 when native boy Kevin Rudd led the party, and the state government’s unpopularity has not helped matters for Labor. While NSW’s swings was not uniform throughout the state, with some huge swings against Labor in Sydney but smaller swings against it in rural or coastal NSW, the basic reason for NSW’s swing is the unpopularity of the state government. On the other hand, Labor suffered only a 0.01% swing in Julia Gillard’s home state of Victoria (with large swings to Labor in Melbourne and especially in Gillard’s seat of Lalor) and gained ground in South Australia (where Gillard has roots) and Tasmania. In South Australia, it is apparently Labor’s best result since 1972 while the Coalition’s result in Tasmania is one of its worst results ever (if not the worst result ever). Interestingly, both South Australia and Tasmania recently re-elected state Labor governments and Victoria is likely do so come October. The 1.92% swing against Labor in Western Australia is surprisingly low, given the popularity of the Liberal state government and the mining tax’s effect, but the question mark with the Nationals’ number and all that has probably fudged stuff there a bit.
The swings within Sydney were looked at in the last post, and the general results remain the same though numbers have changed. Some of Labor’ safest seats in Sydney, as well as some of the Coalition’s safest seats in Sydney, saw large swings against Labor. The largest swing in the country, Fowler’s 13.2% swing to the Coalition can perhaps be explained by the factional wrangling in this redrawn seat which saw a transfer of members to accommodate high-profile Left member Laurie Ferguson left homeless after her old division was abolished. Fowler being dominated by the ALP Right, it seems like the party’s bigwigs moved Werriwa’s Right MP Chris Hayes to Fowler to give Ferguson the seat of Werriwa. The second highest swing (11.3%) came in former Liberal leader Malcolm Turnbull’s seat of Wentworth. Here as in other posh urban divisions, Labor bled a lot of votes to the Greenies, likely the result of a 2007 posh social liberal urbanite ALP vote moving to the Greens with frustration by these posh small-l liberals over Labor’s backtrack on climate change policy and the like. In Wentworth in particular, Turnbull’s moderate stance on the ETS while he was leader might have helped him win the preferences of Greenies, the Greenies nearly overtaking Labor here. Canning (WA)’s swing to Labor seems to explainable by a top-notch ALP candidate (who still didn’t win). The bottom line in the swings is that while patterns are to be seen, some surprise and in other cases the expected patterns aren’t there. The question mark over swings in this election fits in well with the general question mark about this election as a whole.
On a side note for those interested in Australia’s country party, the Nationals have overall managed 13 seats, 6 of which are officially counted as LNP seats and one of which is held by crossbencher Tony Crook. This represents, overall, a gain of two seats for the party. It could perhaps put the lid, for some time, on talks about further state-level mergers between Liberals and Nationals, though the National’s performance in Victoria come the October elections in that state will perhaps be of more interest in the world of rural politics in Australia.
As expected, the Greens have signed a confidence-and-supply deal with Labor and Denison’s independent centre-left MP Andrew Wilkie has also gone with Labor. Though Tony Crook made his intentions unclear, declaring that he wanted more money for his state (the WA Nationals have a rather fruitful policy of ‘royalties for regional Australia’) and that he could support Labor if they scrapped the mining tax, he will support Abbott, though it seems more as an independent vote for him than a whipped party vote. This gives Labor’s Julia Gillard the support of 74 votes against 73 votes for Abbott. To put it in an overly dramatic way, three men will decide the fate of a G20 economy.
As previously mentioned, these three rather experienced and in some cases long-time members were all members, at some point in time (albeit sometimes in past decades) of the Nationals. They all represent seats classified as rural and they have often been seen as a kind of bloc. While they talked as a bloc, they will not vote as a bloc. Their decision is due to fall on Tuesday afternoon Australian time. All three have secured some parliamentary reform which includes an independent speaker, time limits on question period and an “acknowledgment of country” at the start of every parliamentary sitting day. If all three back Abbott, he has the 76 seats he need. Vice-versa, if they back Gillard, she has 77, one more than an absolute majority of 76 seats. While a 75-75 deadlock is possibility, it is a remote one at best given that the independents have indicated that they will work to avoid such a result. Rob Oakeshott has said that in such a case, one of the three would need to reconsider their decision in order to break the deadlock in such a scenario. All three seem to agree that stable government is a major point in their decision process, which could give Labor-Greens an edge given their Senate advantage. That being said, rumours indicate that the three seem more likely to back the Coalition and polls in their respective divisions show that local voters would prefer they back the Coalition (which isn’t surprising given their seats). Polls also show that Australians would prefer that the independents back Labor, though voting intentions for a new election give the Coalition an advantage.
incomplete provisional results – subject to change
Coalition winning 17 seats (-4) for a total of 33 seats (-4)
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 1 seat (nc) for a total of 1 seat (nc)
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)
NSW: Coalition 39.18% (3), ALP 36.69% (2), GRN 10.42% (1), Shooters 2.35%, LDP 2.26%, CDP 1.95%, Sex 1.76%
Victoria: ALP 38.07% (2), Coalition 34.42% (2), GRN 14.53% (1), FFP 2.63%, DLP 2.3% (1), Sex 2.23%, LDP 1.8%, Shooters 1.36%
QLD: LNP 41.57% (3), ALP 29.35% (2), GRN 12.67% (1), FFP 3.45%, Sex 2.59%, LDP 2.23%, Fishing and Lifestyle 2%, Shooters 1.74%
WA: Liberal 43.19% (3), ALP 29.73% (2), GRN 13.86% (1), Nationals 3.41%, Sex 2.23%, CDP 1.81%, LDP 1.16%, FFP 1.15%
SA: ALP 39.1% (2), Liberal 36.53% (2), GRN 13.30% (1), FFP 4.14% (1), Sex 1.67%, Shooters 1.11%
Tasmania: ALP 41.47% (3), Liberal 33.1% (2), GRN 20.37% (1), Shooters 2.02%, FFP 1.23%
ACT: ALP 41.52% (1), Liberal 33.92% (1), GRN 22.83%, DEM 1.73%
NT: CLP 40.88% (1), ALP 34.6% (1), GRN 13.63%, Sex 5.14%, Shooters 4.82%
Again, repeating past analysis made last week is a waste of time, so more analysis on the Senate results and what they mean is found in last week’s post. The notable change is that Family First, while losing their Victorian seat, might have gained one off the Liberals in South Australia in the person of millionaire and the party’s federal chairman Bob Day who is also an ex-Liberal. Needless to say, it’s hard to see him being a swing vote. The DLP seems to be on track to winning the final seat in Victoria off of Family Firster incumbent Steve Fielding, which is somewhat good for Labor given that the DLP is more likely to side with them (at least on economic issues) than the FFP is. Of course, in the realm of political history nerdiness, the return of (re-grouped) groupers to Parliament is hilarious.
The good results of various rural protest parties such as Shooters and, in the Queensland, some Lifestyle outfit, is notable, likely an effect of the propensity of voters to vote for protest parties where they feel it doesn’t matter much. Shooters won over 6% in New England, and won over 4% in large swathes of rural NSW, Queensland and the Northern Territory. Fishing and Lifestyle won over 6% in Kennedy and Leichardt. There seems to be no major notable pattern in the votes for the Sex Party, though it polled well in the Northern Territory.
This election is almost over, but the big point of any election – who forms government – has yet to be decided. It’s anybody’s call (well, technically, it’s the call of three men) as to whether Abbott or Gillard is in the top job come Wednesday or Thursday this week.