Monthly Archives: November 2010

Moldova 2010

Moldova held another parliamentary election on Sunday, November 28. This was a snap election held a year after Parliament in November and December 2009 failed, twice in a row, to elect a President. An overview of the situation in Moldova since April 2009 is helpful:

In April 2009, the Communists (PCRM) came within one vote of getting the three-fifths majority needed to elect the President; but in part due to disputes around the election’s fairness, the liberal opposition united to block the PCRM’s candidate and since the Constitution says that if the Parliament fails to elect the President twice in a row, a new election was called for July 2009.

In July 2009, the Communists lost 12 seats and gave the liberal opposition a 53-48 majority but not a three-fifths majority. While the liberals became the de-facto interim government, the Communists blocked two attempts – again – to elect a President. Since two early elections in the same year are unconstitutional, new elections were to be held this year.

In September 2010, a referendum to allow for the election of the President by popular vote (as it was before 2000) failed because turnout (30.79%) was below the 33% threshold. The Communists had called for a boycott of the referendum (in which 88% of those who voted backed the amendment).

A government needs 61 votes, or three-fifths of the members, to elect a President. If two successive attempts fail, as happened in spring and fall 2009, a new election must be held but two snap elections cannot be held in the same year.

Here are the results:

PCRM 39.29% (-5.40%) winning 42 seats (-6)
PLDM 29.38% (+12.81%) winning 32 seats (+14)
PDM 12.72% (+0.18%) winning 15 seats (+2)
PL 9.96% (-4.72%) winning 12 seats (-3)
AMN 2.05% (-5.30%) winning 0 seats (-7)

Exit polls had predicted that the current government would be able to form a three-fifths majority government, but the Communists performed slightly better in the real polls than in the exit polls. In the end, despite losing 6 seats and 5% of its July 2009 vote, the Communists held their ground and most importantly held their position to continue the deadlock by securing 42 seats – and thus sufficient seats to block the government in its attempt to elect a President. The four, now three-party governing coalition (Alliance for European Integration) has 59 seats, two short of the 61 needed. The opportunity for them, and arguably the country, is vying away two or more Communist deputies. It certainly isn’t unheard of, given that the government’s likely candidate, Marian Lupu (PDM) is a former Communist who broke with the party following the April 2009 election.

There seems to have been a consolidation of votes behind the PLDM, who probably benefits from a “leader” image by virtue of its leader, Vlad Filat, being the Prime Minister and thus de-facto leader of the government. The PCRM’s decline also perhaps indicates yearning for stability and finally electing a President, and at this rate of decline for the Communists perhaps another final snap election will do the trick.

Deadlock is likely to continue, unless the PCRM give up and budge or if a few of their members can be bought over. At the same time, Moldova’s Constitution will continue to astound the world by its awfulness.

Tonga 2010

Elections, widely considered the first ones for a responsible government, were held in the Pacific islands of Tonga on November 25. Tonga, a Polynesian archipelago in the South Pacific is a traditional monarchy with a rigid class structure composed of a monarch, nobles and commoners. Traditionally, nobles carried out the day-to-day role of governing the country and the Parliament – largely composed of nobles – was rather irrelevant in that the King chose the Prime Minister without consultation of the Parliament. However, better education and globalization have challenged these rigid structures and Tongans have pushed increasingly for democracy. King George Tupou V, who succeeded his obese amiable father King George Tupou IV in 2006, has been instrumental in bringing about a peaceful transition to democracy by indicating his desire to transfer most of his powers to a Prime Minister who would be responsible to Parliament.

In 2008 and since 1987, however, only nine of the Legislative Assembly’s 30 members were directly elected in multi-member constituencies by SNTV. Nine ‘noble’ members were elected by the noble aristocracy amongst themselves and the remaining 12 were appointed by the King. Pro-democracy movements, notably the Human Rights and Democracy Movement (HRDM), dominated most of the directly elected seats but formed only the opposition. Violent riots in 2006 played an important role in speeding up the democratization process, especially after most of the leaders of these pro-democracy riots were swept back into office in the 2008 elections. Reforms ahead of this year’s snap elections saw the number of direct seats increased from 9 to 17 (65%) while the 12 appointed seats were scrapped. These 17 seats would now be elected by FPTP in single-member districts. The new Prime Minister would be chosen by parliamentarians, ushering in a “commoner” Prime Minister and responsible government. The cabinet would have 11 members (or so), with only 4 (instead of 15) nominated by the King.

Here are the results:

Democratic Party of the Friendly Islands winning 12 seats
Independents winning 5 seats
Nobles’ representatives 9 seats

The pro-democracy DPFI, a new party formed by members of the HRDM, swept the election. They took all but one of the 10 seats on Tongatapu, the main island group which includes the capital Nuku’alofa. The veteran pro-democracy leader ‘Akilisi Pohiva, a top candidate for Prime Minister, won his seat in Tongatapu-1 with 62.5% of the vote. They also won both seats in the central Ha’apai island group. Pro-democracy independents which will support the DPFI won Tongatapu-5 and in ‘Eua (a small island near Tongatapu). In remote and conservative Vava’u, traditionalist independents won the 3 seats up for grabs there, as they always do.

Election Preview: Catalonia 2010

Catalonia, perhaps Spain’s best known autonomía, votes for its 135-seat Parliament on November 28. Catalonia’s autonomous parliament and the government, known as the Generalitat holds considerable powers. The Parliament is elected by closed-list proportional representation with a 3% threshold in the context of the region’s four provinces. Barcelona, by far, holds the most weight electing 85 deputies on its own. The three other provinces have either 15, 17 or 18 deputies. This electoral system seems to give the regionalist CiU an advantage, given that it managed to win the most seats in 1999 and 2003 despite narrowly losing the popular vote.

Catalonia, along with the Basque Country, is also home to Spain’s best known regionalist and nationalist movement. The roots, nature and strategy of the Catalonian nationalist movement warrants some explanation.

Catalan Nationalism

In the nineteenth century, Catalonia (along with the Basque Country) was Spain’s most industrialized region. Barcelona, open to the Mediterranean, was the base of a major industrialist (the textile industry was very important in the region) and merchant elite. Barcelona’s modern industrial bourgeoisie contrasted with Madrid’s bureaucratic or dynastic bourgeoisie, with roots in Castilian Spain’s quasi-feudalistic rural agrarian economy. The Madrid elite, which dominated an increasingly centralized liberal (in the Spanish sense) government, was seen in an increasingly negative light by the Catalonian industrialist elite. The growth of a distinct Catalan industrialist bourgeoisie went hand in hand with the intellectual renaissance of Catalonian culture and language which took pride in Catalonia’s distinct history (notably the County of Barcelona and the Kingdom of Aragon) and in the Catalan language.

Catalan industrialists saw autonomy of some sort for Catalonia as a desirable method to help grow Catalonia’s industrial economy and to separate it from Spain’s feudalistic agrarian economy. They favoured high tariffs to protect the burgeoning textile industry from foreign competition, while the Castilian elite (largely dominated by Spanish liberal thought in vogue since the 1820s) favoured free trade to open markets to their agricultural produce. Catalonia’s industrialist-dominated elite, which was largely conservative and Catholic (though not Carlist or reactionary as Basque nationalism) also used regionalism as a bulwark against the growth of left-wing workers’ movements and anarcho-syndicalism amongst the working-class, which included, as in the Basque Country, a large number of migrants from other parts of Spain (notably from the dirt-poor regions of Andalusia and Extremadura).

Catalan regionalists did not call for the region’s independence from Spain realizing that independence would hurt the economy and realizing that it still needed Spanish markets. The dominant regionalist party until the Republic, the Lliga Regionalista never advocated secession and instead saw itself the Catalan elite as the leaders of a broad national modernizing trend.

As much as Catalanism was born as a largely bourgeois right-wing ideology, Catalan nationalism during the Republic was dominated by the left and a new party, the Catalan Republican Left (ERC) and its most notable leaders Francesc Macià and Lluís Companys. The ERC originally called for the independence of a Catalan Republic federated with Spain but ended up approving a statute of autonomy which restored Catalonia’s autonomous government. The ERC, along with the anarcho-syndicalist CNT and the Stalinist PSUC during the Civil War, formed an integral part of the Popular Front and made Catalonia the last bulwark against the nationalist advance. The Francoist state, of course, led to the exile of the nationalist leadership as well as repression of Catalan autonomy and the Catalan language itself.

Out of the transition emerged the main regionalist party of present-day Catalonia, Convergència i Unió (CiU) which is in fact a quasi-permament two-party coalition composed of the larger, liberal Convergència Democràtica de Catalunya (CDC) and the smaller, Christian democratic Unió Democràtica de Catalunya (UDC). The CiU’s best known leader was Jordi Pujol, who led the Generalitat between 1980 and 2003. The CiU is a broadly right-wing party, but its main difference from the Spanish right comes on matters of autonomy. The CiU does not call, at least not openly, for independence. It supports broad autonomy for Catalonia, and Pujol’s government led to very stringent linguistic legislation (a la Quebec) which over time led to an increase in the number of Catalans speaking the language. Paying homage to Catalan nationalism’s historical ability to compromise with Madrid, the CiU instead tries, little by little, to wrestle concessions from the government in Madrid which would further increase the Generalitat’s fiscal autonomy. Traditionally, the CiU’s goal is to make Catalonia an independent member of a broader Spanish federation/confederation; or, simply put, being independent without the hassles of being independent. The CiU recognizes Catalonia as a part of the Spanish state, but rejects Catalonia’s inclusion in the Spanish nation, instead claiming Catalonia as a nation within the broader Spanish state. And thus despite the major disagreements on the issue of autonomy, the CiU has been able to work rather well (at least in the past) with the PP, supporting both of Aznar’s government between 1995 and 2004. In this election, the CiU’s leader, Artur Mas, has taken an unusually adventurous line saying that Catalonia, as a nation, is entitled to choose the dimensions of self-government it wants. It also now calls on Madrid to give the Generalitat full fiscal autonomy, and could make this a pre-condition for supporting any government in Madrid, especially setting its eyes of the aftermath of the 2012 general election.

The CiU’s strength lies in rural areas, being traditionally weak in urban centres and areas which have seen a lot of immigration from other regions of Spain. Catalan is traditionally the language of the upper and middle-classes, thus the language of the local elite. Castilian, on the other hand, is traditionally the language of the working-classes. Local government structures, specifically the comarcas it created in the 1980s, are also set up to favour the CiU and its strong base in small municipalities. Generally, the CiU tends to perform much better in elections to the Catalonian Parliament than in elections to the Spanish Chamber of Deputies. It has topped the poll in all but two of the elections to the former, but has never topped the poll in an election to the latter. In fact, it polled a mere 21% in the 2008 elections when it had won 31.5% in the 2006 elections to the Catalan Parliament. Many theses have been put forward to explain this trend, including higher nationalist turnout in elections to the Catalan Parliament. This trend also means that these elections are a bad predictor of future trends in broader Spanish politics, and explains why almost nobody have called these elections a real “test” for the Zapatero government in Madrid.

The other main nationalist party is the left-wing ERC, the leader of the left-wing current of Catalan nationalism. The ERC vocally supports the independence of a Catalan Republic from Spain, and in this campaign has made the organization of a referendum on the matter a pre-condition for any coalition. The ERC has had a shaky relationship with the CiU and in fact cooperates better with the Socialists (PSC). With 21 seats, they are currently the junior partner in the Socialist-led government of the region. They did exceptionally well in 2003 (16.5%) and 2004 (16%), likely the result of a certain backlash against the CiU’s support of Aznar’s centralist government. Their strength has abetted somewhat, suffering a big drop in the 2008 general elections despite resisting rather well in the 2006 Catalan elections.

The Other Parties

The main party of the left, and some would say the dominant party of Catalan politics, is the Socialists’ Party of Catalonia (PSC), associated to the national PSOE and born in 1978 out of the merger of two small socialist parties with the Catalan federation of the PSOE. Led by José Montilla, the President of the Generalitat, the PSC has formed government in Catalonia since 2003. The PSC recognizes Catalonia as a nation and has a definite ‘Catalanist’ orientation, supporting the transformation of Spain into a truly federal state (the Constitution of 1977 being rather centralist in its terms). The PSC is very much a urban party, being dominant in Barcelona and especially in Barcelona’s industrial suburbs where a large share of the population are descended or themselves immigrants from other regions of Spain. The Andalusian community in Barcelona Province is so big that the Andalusian Socialist Party (PSA) managed to win 2 seats in the Catalan Parliament in 1980!

Barcelona and its suburbs, the core of Spain’s industrialization (along with the metal-working industries in the Basque Country) were the heart of a very strong anarcho-syndicalist and later communist movement. The high numbers of migrant workers, mixed in with increasingly poor working conditions and a strong libertarian intellectual elite, made Barcelona the core (alongside Andalusia) of Spain’s anarcho-syndicalist trade union movement (the CNT) as early as 1909. During the Civil War, Barcelona was known as the “red city” or the “red capital” (somewhat erroneously, Valencia was the seat of the Republican government, though Barcelona was the Republican movement’s heart). To this day, the Socialists remain dominant in Barcelona local politics since the fall of Franco.

Aside from the ERC, which proved to be a thorn in the PSC’s side in 2006, the PSC’s favoured coalition partner is the Initiative for Catalonia Greens – United and Alternative Left coalition (ICV-EUiA). The ICV, originally the Initiative for Catalonia (IC) was born in 1987 out of the merger of the PSUC and two smaller hard-left parties. The PSUC, created in 1936, had been a major player in the Civil War as the main Stalinist party in the region, associated with the Comintern. The PSUC, which participated in the Catalan government during the Civil War and played a major role in crushing the Trotskyst POUM in 1937, still counted for around 18% of the electorate between 1977 and 1980 but which entered a period of rapid decline shortly afterwards. Originally a loose coalition of parties, the IC progressively integrated its component parties, notably the PSUC, into a united political party which expanded to small green movements in 1995 and adopted the label ICV in 2002. The smaller United and Alternative Left was formed in 1998 by a left-wing split in the IC by a PSUC faction which refused integration into the IC. Since 2003, however, the EUiA has always run alongside the ICV. Despite its name and ecosocialist creed, the ICV is nothing comparable to the Netherland’s GroenLinks and remains in reality a democratic socialist/eurocommunist party. The party still performs rather strongly in the old PSUC strongholds in Barcelona’s industrial suburbs such as Sabadell and Badalona. The ICV is a soft-nationalist party, supporting amending the Constitution to make Spain a plurinational federal state, or, in the absence of that, holding a referendum with a choice between status-quo, federalism or independence.

The mainstream Spanish right, the PP, remains weak in Catalonia. It broke 20% only in 2000, and usually ranges from a low of 9-10% to roughly 17-18%. Like the Socialists, the PP usually performs better in elections to the Spanish Chamber of Deputies than in elections to the Catalan Parliament. Though it has offered backing to the CiU governments in the Generalitat when the CiU lacked an absolute majority, most recently between 1999 and 2003, the PP diverges dramatically from the CiU on the issue of regional autonomy. The PP does not recognize Catalonia as a nation, defining it as a part of Spain and supports decentralized autonomy within Spain. The PP also is one of the two parliamentary parties which takes a strong position against Catalan linguistic legislation, defending instead equal bilingualism, free school choice (like Quebec, Catalan linguistic legislation also entails limited school choice for parents) and an end to government penalties for businesses which are not sufficiently “Catalanized”. The PP was against the 2006 statute of autonomy and has pledged to support no party which is separatist or which supports the holding of a referendum on the question of independence.

The weakest of the parliamentary parties, winning 3 seats in 2006, the Citizens – Party of the Citizenry (C’s). A centrist libertarian/liberal party, the C’s remind me of the 1820s Spanish liberal by their liberal orientation on issues such as economics, immigration or moral values but also by their very centralist attitude on the question of regional autonomy. The C’s, which are slightly to the right of the ideologically similar UPyD (which holds 1 seat in Madrid and 1 MEP), are probably best placed to the right of the PP on the question of regional autonomy. They clearly define Catalonia as an autonomous community of Spain. On language issues, they support free school choice, equal bilingualism between Castilian and Catalan and ending government subsidies to Catalan media and cultural outlets.

The 2006 election produced these results:

CiU 31.52% winning 48 seats (+2)
PSC-CpC 26.82% winning 37 seats (-5)
ERC 14.03% winning 21 seats (-2)
PP 10.65% winning 14 seats (-1)
ICV-EUiA 9.52% winning 12 seats (+3)
C’s 3.03% winning 3 seats (+3)

turnout 56.04%

A PSC-ERC-ICV government holding 70 seats against 65 for the opposition was formed, led by José Montilla (PSC) with Josep Lluís Carod-Rovira (ERC) as Vice President.

Election Preview

Despite this being the only election in Spain in 2010, few have treated this as a major test for the Spanish government (although undoubtedly a few fools will try to look smarter than they are by perilously making connections). The major test are obviously the much wider regionals and locals being held in the spring of 2011, elections which traditionally predict the winner of the general elections a year later. The Catalan voter’s propensity to split his vote between the two levels of government makes any connection hard to establish, given that these regional elections are very rarely good harbingers of things to come. In 2006, the CiU vote increased while in 2008 it polled 11% lower than it had in 2006. In 1999, the PP got a paltry 9.5% in the regional elections but in the 2000 general elections (a PP landslide nationally) the party polled a record high 22.8%.

To start off the brief overview of what things are shaping up to be like on Sunday, here is the latest poll published in the Periodic d’Andorra (presumably published in Andorra because of a ban on late polls in Spain)

CiU 39.9% winning 65-67 seats (+17 to +19)
PSC 19.5% winning 29-30 seats (-7 to -8)
PP 9.9% winning 13-14 seats (nc to -1)
ICV-EUiA 9.5% winning 11-13 seats (+1 to -1)
ERC 7.0% winning 10-11 seats (-10 to -11)
C’s 3.7% winning 3-4 seats (+1 to nc)
Sol Cat 2.6% winning 0 seats
Others 7.9%

On these numbers, the CiU is on the verge of winning an outright majority of 68 seats (the CiU held outright majorities between 1984 and 1995), while at the same time giving the PSC its worse election result in any Catalan election since the death of Franco. It had collapsed to 24.8% in the 1995 elections, at a point where the national PSOE government was in its worst bout of unpopularity; but has never fallen below 20% in any election. Even if it ends up short of the 68 seats, the CiU on these numbers would have no trouble forming a relatively stable minority government. It could rely on the PP and ERC for issue-by-issue support to get a full majority, but the CiU is used to working in minority situations with outside support from another party, usually the PP.

The CiU seems to be doing very well overall, at the expense mainly of the PSC but also of the ERC which seems headed to a major drubbing. Perhaps Artur Mas’ unusually tough rhetoric on the question of regional autonomy and his insinuation that a referendum of some sort could drew a number of ERC voters who had perhaps abandoned the CiU in the 2003 election where the CiU’s support for the growingly unpopular Aznar PP government hurt it with its most radical nationalist voters.

The result of Solidaritat Catalana (SI) and the Reagrupament (R), two left-wing nationalist separatist parties, should be watched closely. Running to the left of the ERC on a platform which in R’s case includes unilateral declaration of independence, it is possible that one of those parties might squeak in. SI has been polling below the 3% threshold, but it might break 3% in one province and qualify for a seat there. But the problem is that SI’s support will likely be too weak in Barcelona, where the real threshold is 3%; and strength in the other three provinces which hold 15-18 seats will be hurt by the fact that the real threshold there is slightly higher than 3%. Another party, the Platform for Catalonia (PxC) is a populist right-wing anti-immigration/anti-Islam outfit, which will get a few votes but won’t win a seat. UPyD, which doesn’t along well with the C’s, is also running but will do poorly.

African review

A late and brief review of two major West African elections held earlier this month (or in late October). The first round of the elections in Côte d’Ivoire were held on October 31 and a runoff is tentatively scheduled for November 28. The first round of the elections in Guinea were held way back in late June but the runoff was finally held on November 7. I hadn’t talked about the Guinean elections because I don’t know much about the situation, but I did preview the Ivorian elections.

In Côte d’Ivoire, the first round of voting opens up a runoff which is totally unpredictable. Incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo, in office since 2000, comes first with 38.04%. But his two major opponents take the bulk of the remaining votes. Alassane Ouattara, supported by former northern rebels, will face Gbagbo in the runoff after taking 32.07% of the vote. Former President Henri Konan Bédié, the candidate of the old Baoulé-PDCI elite, is behind with 25.24%. Bédié has contested these results, but they will stick and his voters will still probably back Ouattara in the runoff as he had pledged to do before the first round. This might be enough to push Ouattara over the top, or it might not.

I had said that the results by region would be interesting, and they are.

Most patterns are predictable. Ouattara has huge backing in the traditionally Muslim areas of the north, Bédié is strongest in the Baoulé homeland while Gbagbo has more widespread southern support but polls best in the Bété homeland. To win, Ouattara will need to assemble a coalition taking up the bulk of Bédié’s southern Baoulé while running up huge margins in the Dioula and Sénoufo Muslim areas up north.

In Guinea, these were the first democratic elections since independence in 1958. Between 1958 and 1984, the country had been led into the drain under the rule of Ahmed Sékou Touré, one of West Africa’s most sanguinary despots. Between 1984 and 2008, the country was ruled by slightly milder dictator Lansana Conté who was promptly succeeded by a military junta led first by Captain Moussa Dadis Camara, and now by Brigadier General Sékouba Konaté. The presidential ballot predictably included a lot of heavy weights, but no close allies of the ruling junta were amongst the top candidates. On June 27, former Prime Minister Cellou Dalein Diallo (a close ally of Lansana Conté who broke with Conté in 2006/2007) got 43.69% of the vote. A long-time opponent of both the Conté and Sékou Touré regimes, Alpha Condé, placed a distant second with 18.25%. Former Prime Minister Sidya Touré, who had also broken with Conté (but much earlier than Diallo) got 13.02%. Another former Prime Minister, Lansana Kouyaté got 7.04%. The vote split heavily along ethnic lines, making a map of the first round a good demographic guide to the country.

Cellou Dalein Diallo dominated in the Peul stronghold of Middle Guinea and the Fouta-Djalon plateau. Condé dominated in Malinké-populated Upper Guinean plain, while Sidya Touré did best in the Susu-populated areas along the Atlantic coastline. Three other candidates also won prefectures, most of them in the Guinée forestière region, a densely forested area near the Liberian border populated largely by smaller ethnic groups such as the Kpèllés and Kissi. Ahead of the runoff, most small candidates backed Condé but Sidya Touré, who had contested first round results, ended up backing Diallo. Yet, the main factor coming into play ahead of the runoff featuring a candidate from the country’s two largest ethnicities, the Peul and Malinké; were ethnic loyalties.

According to runoff figures, Condé has won with 52.52% against 47.48% for Cellou Dalein Diallo. Ethnic votes allowed Condé to catch up with the first round’s frontrunner. A map clearly shows that despite Cellou Dalein Diallo’s utter dominance (often taking 85-95% of the vote) in the Fouta-Djalon plateau region, Condé managed the same numbers in the Upper Guinean plains and also raked up the quasi-entirety of votes cast for first round favourite son contenders such as Kouyaté, Telliano and Kourouma. In maritime Guinea, despite Sidya Touré’s endorsement of Diallo, Condé also won the bulk of the Susu vote there and also won by the narrowest of margins in Conakry, the capital.

Diallo has not recognized the results (which seems to be usual for defeated candidates in African elections), and there have been bloody ethnic clashes, mainly in Conakry, between ethnic Peuls and Malinkés. Relieving ethnic tensions will be but one of Condé’s (who is 72) challenges. Guinea, despite rich mineral (bauxite) resources, is extremely poor and extremely corrupt; and has no democratic past whatsoever. Condé is undoubtedly one of the best possible persons to deal with these issues, but the country is in dire need of competent leaders to get it out of the ditch.

Greek locals 2010

First off, apologies for the relative lack of updates. I’ve had a lot on my plate aside from this, and I haven’t been able to cover other elections especially recent ones in Africa and Asia as I would have wished. I’ll refer you, for now, to Who rules where’s overview of those recent national elections.

Greece held key local elections on November 7 and 14. Not only where these elections the first test for Prime Minister George Papandreou’s government since his 2009 election victory, but they were also important in that they tested the popular mood after the tough austerity measures implemented by Papandreou’s Socialist (PASOK) government. They became even more crucial when Papandreou tied his government’s survival and the austerity measures to a PASOK win in these elections (saying he’d call snap elections if PASOK lost the local elections). Furthermore, these are the first elections under the vastly revamped local government structure.

At the lower level, there will be 325 municipalities, down from 1033 municipalities. Each municipality has a popularly elected mayor and council. The second level of government are now the peripheries, of which they are 13. These had existed in the past, but had served little role and the old second level were prefectures (and a few super-prefectures in major population centres), of which they were around 50. For political nerds, the new system is more comprehensive and much simpler, but the objective behind this reform was to save costs by cutting in the number of municipalities (and councillors), their salaries and in the number of local government employees. As such, it wasn’t well received by the incumbents. To quote the Communists, these changes “will lead to new and deep anti-people changes”.

The electoral system has changed a bit, notably raising the threshold for a first round win from 42% to 50%. The seats are allocated proportionally, but given Greece’s knack for fake proportionality, Three-fifths of the seats are allocated in the runoff, with the quasi-entirety going to the winning party. The remaining two-fifths seem to be allocated proportionally on the basis of first round votes with no apparent threshold.

It should be noted that these elections are officially non-partisan, so party labels tend to be slightly less rigid than in national elections. Still, everybody knows the party of the candidates and unlike in, say, Ontario, they’re rather well publicized. Even the Interior Ministry indicates a candidate’s party affiliation as well as the parties supporting him.

Given that my comprehension of the Greek alphabet, this is not a complete overview but hopefully a better one than the non-existent coverage in the Anglophone media.

The overall results were disappointingly bad for both major parties, PASOK and ND, though the former beat out the latter in their race to the bottom and thus prevented the country from another election (which would have further wrecked the economy). Abstention, especially in the runoff, was a big winner, with turnout at roughly 49% in municipal election runoffs (and 61% in the first round, though that is already low). The big winner amongst the political parties were the Communists (in Greece, they’re still Stalinist) who won 10.89%, a number they haven’t matched in a national election since at least 1989.

In Athens, which is a conservative (ND) stronghold, ND led on the first round with 34.97% (down from 46.1% in 2006) against 28.28% for PASOK (down slightly from 28.8% in 2006). The Communist Party took 13.74%, an excellent result (they had won 8.8% in 2006) while an independent list took 7.37%. The Radical Left (SYRIZA) took 5.8%, down significantly from 10.5% in 2006. In the runoff, for the first time in 24 years, PASOK won the capital city with 51.95% against 48.05% for ND, defeating the incumbent ND mayor.

In Thessaloniki, another conservative stronghold, ND led on the first round taking 37.91% against 33.58% for PASOK (in 2006, it had been ND 41.4% vs. PASOK 21.6% on the first round). The KKE took 9.5%, an independent took 6.04% while SYRIZA took a paltry 3.67% and LAOS did similarly poorly with 3.58%. In the runoff, another historic win for the left, with 50.16% for PASOK against 49.84% for ND.

I gave up all hope of understanding these elections in Piraeus, the country’s third largest city and Athens’ well-known harbour. As one might guess, it traditionally leans towards PASOK, giving the party a 45-32 margin over ND in 2006. In the first round, PASOK was down significantly taking only 29.61% against 23.08% for ND (which also did horribly). An independent backed by LAOS did spectacularly well, with 18.83%. The KKE did very well too, taking 14.77%. A candidate backed by SYRIZA, the Greens and the new Democratic Left (a party formed by the social democratic right-wing of SYRIZA a few months ago) won 7.58%. In the runoff, while the Socialists were making history in Athens, the conservatives won Piraeus with 51.76% against 48.24% for PASOK. If you needed proof that this is an anti-incumbent election, there you have it. Turnout also probably helped the right, given that it fell to barely 36% in the runoff.

In Patras, a PASOK stronghold, the challenge to PASOK from its left. In the first round, PASOK led with 35.07% (even slightly up on 2006) while ND was outpaced by a SYRIZA-Democratic Left coalition which took 21.13% against 17.7% for ND. The KKE won 16.52% in this old working-class city, an excellent result as well. In the runoff, the SYRIZA-led coalition took 53.63% against 46.37% for PASOK. Despite KKE hating SYRIZA, which they always brand as “opportunists”, it appears that their votes played an important part in electing its candidate.

In the Cretan capital of Heraklion, one of PASOK’s strongest base in Greece (their candidate won 72.8% in 2006), they held their ground well. They took 71.82% by the first round, with 12.13% for KKE in the absence of a ND candidate. SYRIZA came fourth with 6.5%.

A right-leaning independent held on easily in the industrial suburb of Peristeri, which is the country’s sixth largest city.

Winning party by periphery (source: Interior Ministry)

In the new peripheral elections, PASOK won 8 of the 13 new peripheries against 5 for ND. The Socialists had managed to win by the first round in Crete and in the South Aegean. The major race was in Attica, the huge new periphery where 40% of the population lives. ND was thought to be favoured there, and counted a lot on maverick independent Ioannis Dimaras, a PASOK parliamentarian who broke with the party when he refused to accept the IMF bailout of the country. In the end, PASOK led in the first round with 24.05% against 20.45% for ND. Ioannis Dimaras took 15.96%, the KKE took 15.96%, LAOS took 14.44%, SYRIZA (whose top candidate was a Socialist) took 6.23% and the Greenies took 4.04%. In the runoff, PASOK won the biggest prize of the night with 52.87% against 47.13%.

ND still held on in the northern peripheries, which cover the traditionally conservative areas of the country, notably winning in Central Macedonia (which includes Thessaloniki).

It’s rare that one gets the chance to read traditional 1950s Communist discourse in this day and age, and that’s why we’re all thankful that the Greek Communist Party (KKE) exists. It’s electoral statement is worth a read. It also gives us interesting statistics, the national vote share. According to the KKE, PASOK took 34.67% (down significantly from the 43.92% it garnered in its 2009 landslide) against 32.82% for ND (which lost around one percent compared to 2009). The Communists themselves took 10.89%, up roughly 3% for 2009 and the 2006 locals. SYRIZA, named the “opportunist current” by KKE, took 4.5%, down slightly from 4.6% in 2006. The KKE’s press release is correct in stating that the coalition/party has undergone an internal crisis, with the coalition’s right-wing walking out to form the Democratic Left which won roughly 2.5%. The far-right LAOS took 4.5%, around 1.5% less than in 2009 though that number seems a bit low given that the party was allied with ND (or PASOK) in a good number of the ballots and they did much better than that where they ran independently (notably in Attica). The Greens (the Communists haven’t found a funny brand name for them yet) took 2.9%, a small increase compared to 2009.

The bottom line is that these elections, while generally decent on the surface for the governing Socialists, were largely reflective of an anti-incumbent mood which seems very widespread and affecting all major parties equally (seeing that the four largest cities changed hands this year). The high abstention also reflects this mood, and a high vote for the Communists probably reflect the anti-incumbent and protest-oriented mood. Yet, unlike in Ireland (where the government is polling worse than the bubonic plague), the electorate doesn’t seem to have abandoned the government in droves following the tough austerity measures it implemented. It may surprise given the big street protests, but we should know better than reading the political mood of a country from its street protests.

US 2010: A first look

As most of the world knows, the United States held key midterm elections on Tuesday, November 2. The entire House of Representatives, 37% of the Senate, most Governors and state legislatures were up, in addition to a bunch of local races and referendums of various types all across the nation. This is, of course, the first major test for the Democrats since Barack Obama’s 2008 win. I’ll save you the usual blabber about the significance of this and how it came to be, and go straight to what happened and why it happened.

Right now, most votes are counted. However, results in some races are uncertain and a few remain too close to call. There’ll be a few recounts. In addition, at the moment I’m writing this, a number of states (especially Washington, which is entirely mail-in voting) have not counted all votes. Thankfully, people who are good at math have extrapolated the likely final results by looking at which areas are yet to come in.

On a final note, because I’m a contrarian and because of a site I go to, I use red for Democrats and blue for Republicans. Unlike almost every other media source, although the red=D and blue=R makes more sense in a global context and can be more easily understood by most foreigners, where blue is conservatism and red is some sort of centre-left.

We begin with the Senate, where the Democrats (allied with 2 Independents) held 59 seats against 41 for the Republicans. The Republicans needed a gain of 10 seats to gain control (a 50-50 tie would be broken by the Vice President, Joe Biden). As of now, it seems like in the end the Democrats will have 53 seats against 47 for the Republicans (including Lisa Murkowski). Even if Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Ben Nelson (D-NE) were to switch sides to support the Republicans, the Democrats would still hold a 51-49 edge.

Senate

Alabama (R hold): No surprise in Alabama with a landslide reelection for incumbent Republican Senator Richard Shelby, who’s been around since 1987 (he became a Republican in 1994 following the midterms that year). He took 65.3% of the vote to 34.7% for attorney William Barnes, the Democrats’ sacrificial lamb.

Alaska (Ind R hold): The senate contest in Alaska this year turned out to be more interesting than anyone had ever predicted. First, most believed incumbent Senator Lisa Murkowski, in office since her father appointed her in 2002, would cruise to win both the primaries against Joe Miller, her Palin-backed Tea Party opponent. She didn’t – he won the primary with 50.9% against 49.1% for her. Second, most people then assumed that she would bow out and Miller would win over the Democrats’ Scott McAdams, the amiable but inexperienced Sitka mayor. She didn’t allow that to happen, instead opting to run for reelection as a write-in candidate, where voters who wished to vote for her would need to write her name in on the ballot. Given that her name isn’t very easy to spell when you don’t know her well, the Secretary of State allowed some leeway and allowed various forms of her name as acceptable. Still, write-ins haven’t won since Strom Thurmond won in SC back in 1954. Miller was originally favoured, but stumbled after a series of missteps on the campaign trail (notably an altercation with journalists) and reports that he had received various forms of government largesse. Perhaps his general arrogance, including a Twitter post noting that he was buying the drapes for his Senate office in DC, didn’t help. This was all surprising after a very well orchestrated primary campaign. On results so far, write-ins have 41% of the vote against 34.3% for Joe Miller and 23.6% for Scott McAdams. It remains to be seen how many of the 81,876 write-in votes were cast for Murkowski and how many will be valid, but with such a lead, it seems that Murkowski has won reelection as a write-in candidate. There will still be a lot of issues of various types, a possible recount in court and shenanigans that could take up to a month. If she wins, she will caucus with the Republicans, given that she did not change her party registration at any point.

Arizona (R hold): After surviving a primary challenge to his right by moving to the right, John McCain has won a predictably easy reelection over Democratic opponent Rodney Glassman, who was still McCain’s first half-serious opponent in a long time. McCain was held under 60% for the first time since 1992. He still took 59.2% against 34.7% for Glassman. Libertarian candidate David Nolan took 4.7%, possibly a lot coming from the few Republicans who still find McCain too liberal, despite his recent overhaul and shift to the right.

Arkansas (R gain from D): Senator Blanche Lincoln, a moderate Democrat in office since 1998, went down badly, taking one of the lowest percentage of the vote for an incumbent running for reelection. Unlike her colleague and fellow moderate Democrat Mark Pryor, Blanche Lincoln has put herself way too much in the spotlight and has, in the process, earned the ire of both the right and left. Her reluctant backing of ‘Obamacare’ and her conservative position on unions and climate change won her a tough primary challenge by union-backed LG Bill Hatler, whom she surprisingly and narrowly defeated. Her late backing of ‘Obamacare’ after making herself one of the key votes in the Senate won her the opposition of most conservatives. She had little chance against Rep. John Boozman, an amiable typical small-town southerner, who ran a low-key and rather moderate campaign. Boozman took 58% against Lincoln’s 36.9%. She managed to do worse than Obama had done in the state in 2008. As we’ll see later, this election was bad for typically dominant Arkansas Democrats.

California (D hold): Barbara Boxer, one of the Senate’s liberal icons, was facing a close race against former HP executive Carly Fiorina, who dumped a lot of her money into the race. Fiorina ran to the right, perhaps too much to the right for California, by taking a conservative pro-life and pro-oil drilling line in this race. She won by a little less than 10 points, taking 51.9% against 42.6% for Fiorina.

Colorado (D hold): In this traditionally ‘purple’ swing state, Democrats were facing big odds to win in Colorado. Firstly, their incumbent, Michael Bennet was appointed to this seat last year when the incumbent, Ken Salazar, joined cabinet. He had never run for office before, and only narrowly won a tough primary late this summer. He was, however, helped by the Republicans nominating Ken Buck, a district attorney and Tea Party-backed candidate with a penchant for controversial, though not insane (unlike other Tea Partiers) statements. Buck had a narrow lead in most polls, and most thought he’d win despite Bennet’s (somewhat unusual for a swing state) tough attacks on him for his conservative positions on abortion, gay rights and a small scandal where Buck didn’t prosecute a rape case. Surprisingly, it seems to have worked, since right now – with 98% reporting – he has 47.7% to Buck’s 46.8%. With the remaining votes coming from Boulder – a liberal stronghold, and Arapahoe – a Denver suburban county which is getting ‘bluer’, Bennet is projected to win this, and most networks should call it soon. There was a big gender gap here, with women backing Bennet 55-39, but men giving him only 43% to Buck’s 53%. Republicans have often use social wedge issues as a tool to maximize conservative base turnout (notably in 2004), but Democrats have shied away from it in the past. Could this mean that the usage of social issues as wedge issues is not reserved to Republicans?

Connecticut (D hold): Attorney General Richard Blumenthal has won the country’s most expensive and one of the most vitriolic races with 55.1% against 43.3% for former WWE executive Linda McMahon. McMahon had dumped tons of her own money into this race, but faced obstacles. Blumenthal, first thought to be unbeatable when he first jumped in following Sen. Chris Dodd’s retirement, also faced obstacles. Most notably, a scandal about remarks he made insinuating his service in Vietnam, when in fact he didn’t serve in Vietnam.

Delaware – Special (D hold): The special election for VP Joe Biden’s old seat was thought to be in the bag for Republicans – and their presumptive nominee Mike Castle, the state’s long time moderate Republican representative. That was until world-famous Tea Party rival Christine O’Donnell upset him in one of this season’s best primaries and practically handed the race to Democrat Chris Coons, originally the sacrificial lamb against Castle. O’Donnell, who was going to lose anyway to Coons due to her extreme positions in this blue state, further destroyed herself when hilarious reports of her “dabbling with witchcraft” in her young adulthood came out or when she explained that she would never lie about anything, including to Hitler about hiding Jews in her house during the Holocaust. She did, however, come up with one of the best all-time political ads:

She lost, taking 40% against 56.6% for Chris Coons, the “bearded Marxist”. She did, however, win two counties this time, so she won’t need to lie about that in her next inevitable run for office or her inevitable new show on talk radio or FOX News.

Florida (R hold): In the end, it wasn’t remotely close. In this once-hot race, the Tea Party-backed Marco Rubio, a young, charismatic and motivating candidate, won easily. He took 48.9% with nearly all votes counted, far ahead of Gov. Charlie Christ, the former moderate Republican who ran as an Independent after polls showed that he was on track to lose the GOP primary in a landslide to Rubio. He took only 29.7% of the vote. Democrat Kendrick Meek, a retiring representative, took third with 20.1%. Thus, even if Meek had dropped out in Crist’s favour like Crist lobbied him to do, Rubio would still have won although perhaps by a narrower margin. Crist won in four counties: Leon (Tallahassee), Pinellas (St. Petersburg), Broward and Palm Beach. A Cuban-American, Rubio won the Latino vote with around 55% of the vote, and won in Miami-Dade County. Meek won only one county, the black-majority northern Gadsen County.

Georgia (R hold): Senator Johnny Isakson cruised to a landslide reelection win, taking 58.1% of the vote against Michael Thurmond, the state labor commissioner, who took 39.2%. A Libertarian took 2.7% of the vote.

Hawaii (D hold): In office since 1963, the Senate’s longest-serving member, Daniel Inouye cruised to a massive win over his Republican opponent, Cam Cavasso. He took 74.8% of the vote against 21.6% for Cavasso. It seems as if Rasmussen’s shock poll giving Inouye a 13-point edge turned out to be one of the worst polls in American history.

Idaho (R hold): In 2004, Mike Crapo’s only opponent(s) were write-ins. This year, the Democrats found someone named Tom Sullivan to run against him. Crapo won 71.1% of the vote against 25% for Sullivan. In the process, he even took Blaine County, the ski-resort Democratic stronghold.

Illinois – Special (R gain from D): In this special election to President Obama’s seat, the Republican Mark Kirk, a moderate GOP representative, took the seat in a close race against Alexi Giannoulias, the state treasurer who is also a former banker (something which isn’t popular) and was involved in some shady business. Kirk was lucky that Illinois holds its primaries very early, because he could have been teabagged. He also faced issues of his own: he too made comments about his alleged service in Vietnam which turned out to be false. Kirk won 48.2% against 46.3% for Giannoulias. Green candidate LeAlan M. Jones won 3.2%, not nearly as well as some expected. Giannoulias led for most of the night, but late counting in Chicago suburbs won the night for Kirk. Giannoulias won only three counties – one of which, Cook, is by far the most populous county in the state and the Democrats’ traditional base. He took 64% there, but lost badly in the suburbs and downstate.

Indiana (R gain from D): This seat was held by retiring Democratic Senator Evan Bayh, whose surprise retirement won him the hatred of many liberal Democrats. Leaving the party to find a candidate to replace him, Bayh also took a lot of money with him in preparation for a likely 2012 gubernatorial run. It might not make much sense in a year like this, but Republican nominee and former Senator (and eternal lobbyist and ‘DC insider’) Dan Coats faced no trouble. He won 56.4% of the vote against 38.1% for Rep. Brad Ellsworth, who managed to get the NRA’s endorsement. Rebecca Sink-Burris, a Libertarian, took a strong 5.4%, reflecting some isolated conservative resentment of lobbyist and DC insider Dan Coats, who nonetheless had Tea Party backing. Ellsworth performed well in his southwestern Indiana district, but did poorly in the northeastern and north-central parts of the state which had been crucial in Obama’s narrow win in this ‘red state’.

Iowa (R hold): In office since 1981, Chuck Grassley, everybody’s favourite Twitter user, won a landslide reelection. He took 64.5% against 33.2% for Roxanne Conlin, the Democrat. She managed to eek out one county, which is unusual for Grassley’s Democratic opponents. She won Johnson County, which includes the University of Iowa.

Kansas (R hold): Rep. Jerry Moran took retiring Sen. Sam Brownback’s seat in a landslide, winning 70.3% of the vote against 26.2% for Lisa Johnston, the Democrat. He took nearly 90% of the vote in his old district, the big first (which covers most of western Kansas), but lost in two counties: Wyandotte (Kansas City) and Douglas (Lawrence, a college town).

Kentucky (R hold): Tea Party hero and ophthalmologist Rand Paul easily won retiring Sen. Jim Bunning’s seat, with 55.8% of the vote against 44.2% for AG Jack Conway, his Democratic opponent. Democrats had thought Conway, who closed the gaps in the final weeks, could eek out a win, but Conway’s Aqua Buddha ad, attacking Paul’s college religious views, backfired badly.

Conway only narrowly won in Lexington (Fayette County) and didn’t do spectacularly well in the Democratic mine-field counties of eastern Kentucky, where he had done very badly in the primary against his Blue Dog opponent, Dan Mongiardo.

Louisiana (R hold): Despite a prostitution scandal, Republican incumbent David Vitter’s seat was never in jeopardy. He won 56.6% of the vote against 37.7% for Rep. Charlie Melançon, whose very conservative campaign didn’t work out too well. He ended up doing worse than Obama had done here in 2008, underperforming especially badly in black counties though doing slightly better in the old Cajun counties in the south, parts of which are in his old district.

Maryland (D hold): In office since 1987, Sen. Barbara Mikulski was easily reelected with 61.8% against 36.3% for her Republican opponent, Eric Wargotz.

Missouri (R hold): Rep. Roy Blunt easily won this contest to replace retiring Sen. Kit Bond, a race which some Democrats hoped would be competitive thanks to their strong candidate in Sec. of State Robin Carnahan, given that the Carnahan name is popular in the state. She couldn’t stop the wave, and took only 40.6% against 54.3% for Blunt. She won only three counties, one which contains St. Louis, another which contains its inner suburbs and the other which contains Kansas City. Blunt did very well in his old district, in the Ozarks.

Nevada (D hold): Senate majority leader Harry Reid, in office since 1987, was extremely vulnerable in this cycle. His close association with Obama and the unpopular Congress made him unpopular. He was helped when Republicans nominated Sharron Angle, a Tea Partier with a history of controversial statements and positions, over two more moderate candidates. Angle made immigration a big issue, pressing her support of Arizona’s immigration law and making known her tough position on illegal immigration. She led in most of the final polls by a small margin, but Reid, who had lots of money and a formidable GOTV machine – especially among Latinos who didn’t like Angle’s immigration position at all – came back from the dead. He won 50.2% against 44.6% for Angle, a comfortable win. Latinos, 15% of voters, went to him 68-30 (a shift of only 2% to the GOP from 2004, when Reid had won 61-35). The state’s unique NOTA option took 2.2% and Scott Ashjian, the shady “Tea Party of Nevada” candidate took only 0.8%. Many thought Ashjian had been a Democratic plant to divide the conservative vote. Reid won not only in Clark County (Las Vegas) but also in Mineral and Washoe (Reno) counties.

New Hampshire (R hold): Former AG Kelly Ayotte won a landslide in a race to succeed retiring Sen. Judd Gregg. She even broke 60%, taking 60.2% against a mere 36.7% for growingly unpopular Rep. Paul Hodes. She won in all counties, did especially well in Boston suburbia and was the first example of the Republican wave which touched New Hampshire big on Tuesday.

New York (D hold): High-ranking Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer won an easy reelection with 65.4% against 33% for Republican Jay Townsend. However, with Reid winning, he probably won’t get to be Senate Majority Leader just now.

New York – Special (D hold): Incumbent – appointed – Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand was easily reelected to Hillary Clinton’s old Senate seat. Originally thought to be a weak incumbent with little base, she became stronger and the NY GOP did what it does best in statewide races: shoot itself in the foot. Its top candidates – fmr. Gov. Pataki and fmr. NYC mayor Giuliani didn’t run. She won 62% against 35.8% for Republican opponent Joseph DioGuardi.

North Carolina (R hold): Sen. Richard Burr has been reelected to a second term, and has broken this seat’s curse – it hasn’t had a two-term member since 1967. Burr won rather easily, taking 55% against 42.9% for his Democratic opponent Elaine Marshall.

North Dakota (R gain from D): Extremely popular Gov. John Hoeven, a Republican, won a crushing landslide in a race to succeed retiring Democratic incumbent Byron Dorgan, who retired after nearly 20 years in office. Hoeven, a moderate Republican – in fact, he’s a former Democrat – is popular thanks to the state’s economic success and low unemployment (lowest in the nation, I think). In an unequal contest, he won 76.2% of the vote against 22.2% for Tracy Potter, the random person which felt like running for Senate as a Democrat. Hoeven even won the state’s Indian-majority rez counties.

Ohio (R gain): It’s hard to believe that the race to succeed retiring Republican Sen. George Voinovich was once competitive. In the end, and thanks in part to a huge money advantage, former rep. and US trade representative under Bush Rob Portman easily won, with 57.3% against a paltry 39% for Democratic LG Lee Fisher. In a contest between a big free-trader like Portman, an icon of the Bush era’s economic policies; and a protectionist like Fisher, it seems as if the former prevailed over the latter. A good indicator of the national mood. Fisher got demolished in the western part of the state and did poorly in places like Cleveland, Akron, Columbus, Dayton and Toledo though he did win the Youngstown era by a strong margin.

Oklahoma (R hold): Tom Coburn was reelected to a second term with a huge majority, raking up 70.5% of the vote against 26.1% for Democrat Jim Rogers. He won every county, and took over 60% in all of them.

Oregon (D hold): Democratic incumbent Ron Wyden, a popular senator and health care expert in office since 1996, was reelected in one of the Democrats’ easiest wins. He took 57.2% of the vote against 39.5% for his Republican opponent, Jim Huffman.

Pennsylvania (R gain from D): Former GOP Rep. Pat Toomey took 51% of the vote against 49% for Rep. Joe Sestak, his Democratic opponent. Joe Sestak, the former admiral and congressman since 2006, defeated floor-crossing incumbent Sen. Arlen Specter in a primary, but struggled for most of the campaign against Toomey. A good candidate, Sestak fought back and closed the gap to low single digits in the final weeks or so. Despite leading for a good part of the night thanks in part to good turnout and good numbers out of Philadelphia, in the end Toomey prevailed because Sestak performed weakly in Philly’s suburbs, where both candidates hail from. Despite losing narrowly statewide, Sestak lost in the traditionally Democratic working-class steel areas east of Pittsburgh in the Allegheny region.

South Carolina (R hold): In this hilarious contest, incumbent Sen. Jim DeMint, one of the Senate’s Tea Party icons, won reelection with 62.4% of the vote against his bizarre and insane Democratic opponent, Alvin Greene, who took 28.2%. Green candidate Tom Clements took 9.6%. Alvin Greene, a black man who inexplicably won the primary against a much better opponent (Vic Rawls), got headlines when he was charged with obscenity (showing porn to an 18-year old college student) and when he proposed to boost the economy by producing action figures of himself. Greene, who lives with his parents and is generally bizarre, did rather well, likely due to the black vote still going heavily to him. The Green candidate, who emerged as the saner liberal candidate, did well, but didn’t manage to outpoll Greene as some had predicted.

South Dakota (R hold): Incumbent Sen. John Thune, in office since his 2004 win over Tom Daschle, was reelected unopposed. He is considered a likely contender for the presidency in 2012, which explains why he amassed so much money in his uncontested race.

Utah (R hold): Mike Lee, the Tea Party-backed candidate who emerged victorious of a primary which followed a state convention in which incumbent Sen. Bob Bennett was thrown out of the race, won easily, with 61.6% in a solidly red state. Democrat Sam Granato took 32.8%, while Constitution Party candidate Scott Bradley took 5.7% out of the blue. He won all but one county, Summit, a ski-resort region east of SLC.

Vermont (D hold): In office since 1974, incumbent Sen. Pat Leahy – the only Democratic Senator from Vermont in the state’s history – won an easy reelection with 64.4% of the vote against 30.9% for Republican Len Britton. He won in all counties, including Essex, a small and traditionally more conservative county in the east of the state.

Washington (D hold): With 88% reporting, Democratic incumbent Patty Murray holds 51.6% of the vote against 48.4% for her Republican opponent, Dino Rossi. Dino Rossi, who narrowly lost the 2004 gubernatorial contest (the Republicans’ equivalent of Florida 2000) after a recount, has already conceded defeat (for a third time since 2004).

West Virginia – Special (D hold): Extremely popular Gov. Joe Manchin toyed with the law to get a special election held in the state following the recent death of the seat’s long-time holder, former PPT Sen. Robert Byrd. Most had thought Manchin, who holds 70% approvals, would win easily, but in a state where Obama is extremely unpopular and where liberal policies are unpopular, that wasn’t the case. Even though his Republican opponent, Tea Party-backed John Raese, a wealthy businessmen who has more connections with Florida than with WV, was certainly not the best opponent, Obama’s unpopularity gave Manchin a tough run. He trailed in some polls, but came back roaring with attacks on Raese’s unpopular positions (abolishing the minimum wage) and his Florida connections to take a narrow lead. Perhaps one of this season’s most well-known ads from Manchin helped him a bit:

Manchin won 53.5% of the vote against 43.4% for John Raese, a surprisingly big win. Manchin campaigned as a conservative, shooting – literally – cap-and-trade (which is unpopular in WV, which is a top coal producer) and pledging to repeal the bad parts of ‘Obamacare’. He is likely to end up being another Ben Nelson, a conservative Democrat who’ll break with his party more than once every year.

Wisconsin (R gain from D): Russ Feingold, a well-known liberal Democratic Senator, was defeated by Republican businessman Ron Johnson in a heartbreak to many left-leaning Democrats. Johnson, one of Feingold’s toughest opponents in a reelection contest, won 51.9% of the vote against 47.1% for Feingold. Economic woes in the Upper Midwest contributed in large part to Feingold’s defeat.

House of Representatives

Republicans have taken the House, taking 60 seats from the Democrats thus far. They’ll certainly have 239, the Democrats will certainly have 186 seats. Here are my final projections, including 10 uncalled races, for the House:

Republicans 243 seats (+65)
Democrats 192 seats (-65)

This will make Republican minority leader John Boehner (R-OH) the new Speaker of the House, taking over from Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). Boehner has been in office since 1991, and is not at all your Tea Party-style grassroots conservative activist. He’s far more on the establishment’s side, but he will have to deal with a Tea Party caucus which is at least 39 strong. He has promised not to let them down, but he will have a harder time satisfying most of their more radical demands, especially given that the Republicans will have little opportunity to pass some of their own legislation with a Senate and executive still dominated by Democrats. Furthermore, along with most establishment Republicans, Boehner is also quite experienced in the world of pork and lobbyist, something which may not play very well with the most hardcore of Tea Party folks.

According to the exit polls, it was the independents (obviously) as well as a largely white, suburban middle-class electorate which is struggling economically which gave the Republicans their major win. The suburban electorate, which had also given the Democrats their wins in 2006 and 2008, gave the GOP a 54-43 edge (in 1994, it was 57-43 for the Republicans). Rural voters also swung big to the Republicans.

Whites preferred the Republican Party 60 to 38. However, Hispanics as a whole likely swung below the national swing, giving the Democrats a 65-33 advantage, one which is much larger than the 56-44 edge they had given Democrats back in 2004 or the 61-39 advantage for Democrats back in 1994. Though there was talk of a major swing with Hispanics, it seems as if they didn’t swing as big as expected, likely the result of the Arizona immigration law and the Republicans’ move to the right on immigration.

Republicans won back a lot of suburban districts they had lost in 2006 or 2008, but the Democrats resisted in a few of these suburban districts, perhaps indicating that some suburban areas – like those in New England or Colorado – might have become more Democratic. Yet, Democrats in suburban districts such as John Hall (NY-19), Patrick Murphy (PA-8), John Adler (NJ-3), Mark Schauer (MI-7), Melissa Bean (IL-8), Harry Mitchell (AZ-5), Dina Titus (NV-3), Ron Klein (FL-22) and of course Alan Grayson (FL-8) have all lost. The latter of the list, Grayson, especially badly, probably because it really backfired to call his opponent a Taliban.

The Republicans, most notably, also cleaned up in a lot of generally white, rural Southern districts which Blue Dog Democrats held. There was a major shift in the South from Democrats to Republicans, and not only in House races. In Tennessee, Republicans gained three rural districts held by Democrats, one of which was through the crushing defeat by a full 21 points of Rep. Lincoln Davis in TN-4. In Mississippi, both Travis Childers (MS-1) and Gene Taylor (MS-4) lost. Bobby Bright, somewhat surprisingly, didn’t hold on in AL-2 against Martha Roby. Republicans also picked up two open seats in Arkansas, but didn’t unseat Mike Ross (AR-4). In Texas, Chet Edwards (TX-17) lost 62-37! In LA, MS and AL; all districts held by Democrats are black-majority. All in all, Blue Dog Democrats, especially those in the South, lost badly. The Blue Dog caucus will find itself much, much smaller come January 2011. Some of their big names outside the south, such as Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin (D-SD) and Walt Minnick (D-ID) lost, the latter of which was actually quite surprising.

A few Blue Dogs, some in the most conservative of places, held on. Jim Matheson (UT-2) and Dan Boren (OK-2) are notable for their survival. In North Carolina, only one Democrat (Bob Etheridge) lost and that’s largely because the map is a Democratic gerrymander.

Democrats gained three seats, none of which are surprising. In DE-AL, John Carney easily gained Mike Castle’s open seat over Republican Glen Urquhart; an O’Donnell-like candidate who thinks liberals are Nazis. In LA-2 (New Orleans), Republican Joseph Cao (who won only because the Democrat was a crook) was defeated 64.6-33.5. Finally, in HI-1, where Charles Djou won a special election this summer only because Democrats were divided, he lost 53-47 to Democrat Colleen Hanabusa.

Hit hard by unemployment and the economic crisis, the Rust Belt was ground zero of a major anti-Democrat swing. It carried Republicans into governors mansions and state legislatures, and also saw Republicans take control of a majority of House seats in PA, OH, IL, MI, IN and WI. Though helped by a map favourable to them, especially in Ohio and Illinois, Republicans threw out a lot of incumbents or took open seats. A lot of them in areas which have suffered a lot from the recession.

State-level races

Alabama (R hold): Robert Bentley, with 57.9%, will succeed term-limited Governor Bob Riley. He defeated Ag Commish Ron Sparks, who won 42.1%. While Sparks did well in a few areas outside the traditional Black Belt, it was far from enough. Most importantly, Republicans gained control of both chambers in the Alabama legislature for the first time since Reconstruction. In downballot races, Republicans swept all offices, and notably defeated incumbent Lt. Governor Jim Folsom Jr. (son of former Gov. “Big Jim” Folsom Sr.). All this is a signal of a final shift in the Deep South away from local (conservative) Democrats towards Republicans, already dominant at the presidential level for at least a decade.

Alaska (R hold): Governor Sean Parnell, who succeeded Sarah Palin in 2009, won reelection with 58.9% against 38.3% for Democrat Ethan Berkowitz. Perhaps the only surprise is that Parnell didn’t break 60%.

Arizona (R hold): Governor Jan Brewer, the former Secretary of State who became Governor when Gov. Janet Napolitano (D) joined Obama’s cabinet, won reelection with 54.9% of the vote. Originally a very weak incumbent who lacked base support after tax hikes, she became a conservative hero with her controversial immigration legislation. Democratic AG Terry Goddard trailed with 42% of the vote. In major ballot initiatives, voters approved with 55.3% an amendment which prevents ‘mandated health insurance’ (like ‘Obamacare’). Measure 203, which would legalize medical marijuana, lost narrowly, with 50.1% against.

Arkansas (D hold): Arkansas may be shifting towards the GOP, but Democratic Governor Mike Beebe won a landslide reelection and in the process won all counties and won the best result for a Democratic gubernatorial candidate in the country. He won 64.5% against 33.6% for Republican Jim Keet. However, downballot, Republicans won all three statewide positions they contested and apparently swept the seats they contested in the legislature. Yet, the AR GOP’s traditional incompetence and inability to find candidates (the Green Party is often better than that than the AR GOP) have allowed Democrats to hold the legislature and three statewide positions which were contested only by the Greens. Yet, with the House at D 55-45 for Democrats (down from D 72–28) and the Senate at D 22-13 (down from D 27-8); the Democratic control of Arkansas’ legislature is definitely endangered.

California (D gain from R): In a big win for Democrats, former Governor and incumbent AG Jerry Brown picked up California, with 53.5% of the vote. Massive spending, at almost $45 per vote, by former eBay CEO Meg Whitman didn’t win her much aside from 41.3%. These results reaffirm California’s status as a safe ‘blue’ state. Democrats, seemingly, with the AG race in doubt, have also swept downballot statewide race. Notably, San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom ousted incumbent (appointed) LG Abel Maldonado 50-39. In much-watched ballot measures, voters rejected Prop 19, which would legalize marijuana, with 53.8% against. Prop 23, which would suspend air pollution laws until unemployment drops was rejected with 61.1% against. Prop 20’s approval also ensures that California redistricting will be n0n-partisan. To make solving the state’s budget woes easier, the approval by 54.7% of voters of Prop 25 will make a simple majority, and not a two-thirds majority, required to pass the budget.

Colorado (D hold): In a much-watched gubernatorial contest, Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper held on to retiring Gov. Bill Ritter’s seat, taking 50.7% of the vote and winning easily over former Rep. Tom Tancredo, known for his controversial far-right views on immigration. Tancredo was the Constitution Party candidate, and became the de-facto Republican as the actual Republican, Dan Maes, collapsed into irrelevance thanks to his general insanity and scandals. Tancredo won 36.8% of the vote, while Maes took 11.1%. That will still ensure that Republicans retain major party status in the state, because falling under 10% would mean they’d have become a minor party for the books. Republicans, however, took out the Democratic incumbent officeholders for SoS and Treasurer. Republicans also won control of the Colorado House. In ballot measures, one which would have defined a “person” as “beginning at conception” was soundly rejected, with 70.5% against. One measure which would have prevented mandated health insurance was defeated 53-47.

Connecticut (D gain from R): Florida 2000 all over again? So far, Democrat Dan Malloy holds an alleged lead over Republican Tom Foley, with 564,885 votes to the former (source: New York Times) and 557,123 votes to the latter. This count seems to include a weird situation in Bridgeport (a Democratic stronghold) where they ran out of ballots and extended voting, and where they’re still counting votes. The incompetence of the Secretary of State means this race is still lingering, but it seems increasingly likely that Malloy has picked up Republican Gov. Jodi Rell’s seat.

Florida (R gain from I): The gubernatorial contest was a close one, but in the end it was Republican Rick Scott, who, with 48.9% of the vote, won out. Despite his low favourable numbers, and despite the fact that a lot of his voters voted for him with reservations, he defeated former state CFO Alex Sink who won 47.7%. However, Republicans won’t get to gerrymander the congressional districts because a ballot measure to set “standards for Congressional redistricting” was approved with 62.9% of the vote.

Georgia (R hold): Former Rep. Nathan Deal, the surprise victor of the Republican primary over a Palin-backed Tea Party candidate, was easily elected Governor with 52.9% against 43.1% for former Gov. Roy Barnes, defeated in 2002 and seeking a political comeback this year. Some thought Barnes could get it, especially over a slightly corrupt person such as Deal, but the wave carried him through. Republicans also swept all downballot statewide offices.

Hawaii (D gain from R): Former Rep. Neil Abercrombie was easily elected Governor of Obama’s birth state with 58.2%, succeeding term-limited Republican Governor Linda Lingle. Lt. Gov. James “Duke” Aiona took 41.1% of the vote. His easy win in the end, despite pollsters showing it surprisingly close, proves that Hawaii is a hard state to poll.

Idaho (R hold): The Governor with the best name in the country, Butch Otter, was reelected with 59.1% of the vote against 32.9% for Democrat Keith Allred. Former Republican state legislator Jana Kemp, running as an Independent, won 5.9%. Otter has always seemed to be underperform, for Idaho Republican standards, likely tied to the fact that he got in hot water for raising taxes once. Allred still managed to win three counties: Blaine, Teton (resorts) and Latah (Moscow, a college town).

Illinois (D hold): Democratic Governor Pat Quinn is the real comeback kid. Given for dead after a tough primary and lingering discontent with Illinois Democrats following the Blagojevich scandal; he’s come back for an unforeseen win over Republican Bill Brady. Quinn won 46.6% against 46.1% for Brady, while disgraced former Democratic LG candidate Scott Lee Cohen took 3.6% and Green Rich Whitney (misspelled as ‘Rich Whitey’ on some ballots – guess he didn’t do well in Chicago’s South Side) took only 2.7%. Quinn might have been helped by the fact that the more people learned about Brady, the less they liked him. It is understandable: Brady is a creationist (and ‘dog-murderer’) who fits in better in, say, Alabama than Illinois. Like Giannoulias in the Senate race, Quinn won only three counties – including Cook – but still won. What seems to have hurt Brady vis-a-vis Kirk is an underperformance in Chicago’s suburbs, because Brady did as well or slightly better than Kirk downstate. With Democratic control at the executive and legislative level, this gives Democrats the right to gerrymander the new congressional districts to their liking.

Iowa (R gain from D): Democratic Gov. Chet Culver was easily defeated by former four-term Republican Gov. Terry Branstad (1983-1999), who was seeking a fifth term. Branstad took 53% against 43.3% for Culver, who has suffered from the economic recession and was no match about Branstad, who reminded voters of the good times they had with him in the 80s and 90s. In the House, Republicans took control with 60 seats against 40 Democrats, overturning a 56-44 Democratic majority. It also came close to taking the Senate, and defeated the incumbent Sec. of State.

Kansas (R gain from D): Sen. Sam Brownback was easily elected Governor with 63.4% against 32.1% for Democrat Tom Holland. Democrats had won this seat back in 2002 with Kathleen Sebelius, who is now the HHS secretary. She was replaced by Lt. Gov. Mark Parkinson, who did not run for reelection. Republicans also took out appointed Democratic statewide officeholders and obviously held their huge legislative majorities.

Maine (R gain from D): Republicans with Tea Party-backed candidate Paul LePage took this seat, held by term-limited Democratic Gov. John Baldacci. LePage, who seems to be an erratic and borderline crazy man, and despite his negative favourability numbers, won a plurality with only 38.3% of the vote. The late surger of the campaign, independent Eliot Cutler (who worked with the Carter administration) won 36.5% and nearly took out LePage, and would likely have won if the campaign had lasted another week. Democrats made a terrible pick with Libby Mitchell, the epitome of a boring old career politician, who took 19.1%. LePage, who is a French-American (giving him an edge with this traditionally Democratic electorate), did well in the upstate region of the state including Democratic French-American places like Aroostook County. However, Cutler won the more liberal counties on the coast. In addition, Republicans gained control of both houses of the legislature, currently controlled by Democrats.

Maryland (D hold): Elected in 2006 by defeating Republican Gov. Robert Ehrlich, Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley won a rematch with Ehrlich easily, with 55.8% against 42.3% for Ehrlich. Seemingly, the Republican wave barely touched Maryland, maybe because the state has a large number of government workers, who, Republicans might say, like big government.

Massachusetts (D hold): Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick was narrowly reelected over his liberal Republican opponent Charlie Baker. Patrick, whose bad approval rating have improved somewhat, won 48.4% against 42.1% for Baker. Treasurer Tim Cahill, a former Democrat running to the right of both major candidates and drawing support from Blue Dog Democrats, won 8%. Surprisingly, while his support collapsed from 30% to 8% during the campaign, his support didn’t fall from the last polls to the voting booth. That might have hurt Baker. What also Baker, vis-a-vis Scott Brown in January, is that while he also performed strongly in Boston’s outer suburbs, he didn’t do as well as Brown did in small post-industrial towns such as Lowell. Democrats, despite Republicans actually finding candidates, held all statewide positions. Notably, AG Martha Coakley was reelected easily with 62.8%.

Michigan (R gain from D): In a state which has suffered a lot from the recession, Republicans have picked up this seat held by unpopular term-limited Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm. The Republicans, who picked their best candidate in Rick Snyder, a moderate businessman type, won with 58.1% against a paltry 39.9% for Democrat Virg Bernero, who only won five counties. Republicans also picked up the Michigan House, where they now hold 63 seats to Democrats’ 47 (it was D 67-43 before).

Minnesota (D gain from R): In a very narrow race, it seems as if former Democratic Sen. Mark Dayton won by a hair, with 43.7% against 43.2% for Republican state legislator Tom Emmer. In a race where the two major candidates are unappealing partisans, Independence Party candidate Tom Horner won 11.9% of the vote. That, and narrowly holding all other three statewide offices, was one of the DFL’s only bright spots given that Republicans shockingly seized control of both houses. In the House, they hold a 72-62 majority (it was D 87-47 before) and a 37-30 Senate majority (it was D 46-21 before).

Nebraska (R hold): Very popular Republican incumbent Gov. Dave Heineman was reelected with 74.3% against 25.7% for Democrat Mike Meister. Heineman won over 60% of the vote in all counties.

Nevada (R hold): After defeating embattled incumbent Gov. Jim Gibbons in the GOP primary, Brian Sandoval – a Latino – will become governor. Sandoval, a rather moderate candidate, took 53.4% of the vote against 41.6% for Harry Reid’s son, Rory Reid. NOTA won 1.7%. Downballot, however, Democrats defended all their incumbents and also narrowly kept their majorities in both houses of the legislature.

New Hampshire (D hold): Popular centrist Democratic Gov. John Lynch won a narrow reelection, especially when compared to his landslides in 2006 and 2008, with 52.6% against 45.1% for little-known Republican opponent John Stephen. That was really the only bright spot for Democrats, given that a Republican wave swept the state. In the excessively huge House, Republicans now hold a huge 298-102 veto-proof majority (it was D 225-175 before) and also took the Senate, 19-5 (it was D 14-10 before). New Hampshire has a small government libertarian feel (live free or die, after all, is the motto on the license plates); which might explain its tendency to have big swings against incumbent parties (Republicans in 2006-2008, Democrats in 2010).

New Mexico (R gain from D): New Mexico will have its first female Latina governor, Susana Martinez in January. She won 53.6% against 46.4% for Democratic LG Diane Denish in a race to succeed term-limited Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson, who has become unpopular with the campaign financing scandal which also killed his chances to join cabinet back in 2009. It may be surprising, but Martinez did well with Latinos overall (though probably narrowly lost them). That is largely because New Mexico’s Latino population, the biggest as a % share in the country, is largely of old Spanish stock rather than recent Mexican stock. The Spanish folks have been around for ages, and probably care much less about stuff such as illegal immigration. Seemingly, Navajo turnout was also dirt-poor (which isn’t surprising).

New York (D hold): AG Andrew Cuomo, son of fmr. Gov. Mario Cuomo, won easily over his insane Tea Party GOP opponent Carl Paladino, who is also the perfect stereotype of a shady Italian mafioso. Cuomo won 61.4% against 34.1% for Paladino, who will go back to his “construction business” soon enough. World-famous Rent is too damn high Party candidate Jimmy McMillan won only 1% of the vote. Paladino, however, managed to do insanely well in western upstate NY, where he’s from and won a landslide in his home county of Erie (a traditionally Democratic place, which includes Buffalo). Downballot, Democrat Eric Schneiderman easily held Cuomo’s old job but Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli was only narrowly reelected, probably because he isn’t squeaky clean himself on the financial front of things. The status of New York’s (Republican gerrymandered) Senate, the most dysfunctional legislature in the country, is still undecided, with Republicans at 30 against 29 for Democrats will 3 seats undecided. On the redistricting front, if Republicans get the Senate, a bi-partisan incumbent protection map will likely win out.

Ohio (R gain from D): Ohio has suffered a lot from the economic crisis, and it made its incumbent Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland pay the price. Despite a strong GOTV machine, Strickland, with 46.7%, has narrowly lost to Republican John Kasich who won 49.4%. The Republican wave also extended downballot, with Republicans taking control the House easily and seemingly sweeping all statewide positions. Notably, populist Democratic AG Richard Cordray narrowly lost to Mike DeWine (who had gotten a trouncing in the 2006 Senate race in Ohio). Control of all these positions give Republicans control over the redistricting process, a big advantage for them.

Oklahoma (R gain from D): Former Rep. Mary Fallin, a Republican, easily defeated Lt. Gov. Jari Askins with 60.1% against 39.9% for Askins. This seat was held by term-limited Democratic Gov. Brad Henry. Republicans also swept away all statewide offices, a number of which were still held by Democrats. In the state’s two most interesting ballot measures, one that would prohibit mandated health care passed with 64.7% in favour while another which would forbid use of international law or sharia law in state courts passed with 70% in favour.

Oregon (D hold): In Oregon, former Governor John Kitzhaber narrowly got another nonconsecutive term, winning 49.2% against 48.1% for Republican Chris Dudley, a former pro basketball player. Legislative control remains undecided, with the House tied at 30 apiece and the Senate at 15-13 for Dems with 2 undecided.

Pennsylvania (R gain from D): Republican AG Tom Corbett easily won the contest to succeed term-limited Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell in a state which has suffered a lot from the economic crisis. Corbett won 54.5% against 45.5% for Democrat Dan Onorato, who ran a pretty bad campaign. Republicans also took control of the House easily, giving them full control in the legislature and thus free hands on the redistricting process.

Rhode Island (I gain from R): Former Republican Senator Lincoln Chafee, a liberal Republican who became an Independent and backed Obama in 2008, was elected governor just 4 years after losing his Senate seat. Chafee, the most left-wing candidate in the race, took 36.1% against 33.6% for Republican John Robitaille, who did surprisingly well. Democrat Frank Caprio, who ran to Chafee’s right, seems to have suffered a lot from the comment he made in response to Obama’s decision not to endorse him: “he can take his endorsement and shove it”. He won a paltry third with 23%, while Moderate Party candidate Ken Block won a surprisingly good 6.5%. Democrats easily held statewide offices and the legislature. A ballot measure to remove “and Providence Plantations” from official state name failed badly, with 77.9% against.

South Carolina (R hold): Nikki Haley, an Indian-American woman, will succeed Mark Sanford after winning a surprisingly close race with 51.4% against 47.1% for Democrat Vincent Sheheen. The race ended up being surprisingly close, given that most thought Haley would glide to victory. Nobody seems to have come up with a good suggestion as to why it got close, but the common wisdom seems to be a mix between a good Democratic candidate and perhaps lingering racism from some voters (just as Bobby Jindal suffered from the same thing in Louisiana in 2003).

South Dakota (R hold): Dennis Daugaard, a Republican, won 61.5% against 38.5% for Democrat Scott Heidepriem.

Tennessee (R gain from D): Republican Bill Haslam won a landslide in a seat left open by term-limited Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen. He won 65% against his little-known and equally conservative Democratic opponent Mike McWherter who managed to get only 33.1%. Republicans also turned a narrow edge in the House into a big majority.

Texas (R hold): In office since Bush became President in 2001, Gov. Rick Perry won a third full term easily, a win which solidifies him in a potential run for national office soon. Perry, thought to be vulnerable early on, won 55.1% against 42.3% for Democrat Bill White, a former Houston mayor. White did better than Obama in old Dixiecrat places in east Texas, but still lost handily statewide. In addition to holding all other statewide positions, Republicans also routed Democrats in the House, where Democrats thought they could overturn the 76-74 Republican edge there. On the contrary, Republicans now hold a 99-51 majority there.

Utah (R hold): Incumbent Gov. Gary Herbert, in office since his predecessor Jon Huntsman was named ambassador to China in 2009, won his first term easily with 64.2% against 31.8% for Democrat Peter Corroon. Corroon won only one county, Summit.

Vermont (D gain from R): Left open with the retirement of Gov. Jim Douglas (R), Vermont was one of the Democrats’ few bright spots. State Senate President Peter Shumlin, a Democrat, won narrowly over Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie, a moderate Republican. Shumlin won 49.6% against 47.8% for Dubie, meaning that the legislature will elect the governor given that nobody has over 50% – but that’s a formality and Shumlin will win while Dubie has already conceded. Dubie ran a moderate campaign focused on jobs and taxes, while Shumlin gave social issues such as abortion and gay marriage a larger role. Dubie might have been hurt by two factors: negative ads backfiring on him and his support for controversial Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant. The legislature remains solidly Democratic, but Republicans did better in other statewide races, narrowly holding Dubie’s old seat (LG) and reelecting Auditor Thomas Salmon, a former Democrat who switched parties.

Wisconsin (R gain from D): Held by unpopular retiring Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle, Republicans easily won in Wisconsin with 52.3% for Milwaukee County exec Scott Walker against 46.6% for Democrat Tom Barrett, who still got surprisingly close to Walker. Republicans also took control of both houses, giving them redistricting power.

Wyoming (R gain from D): Republican Matt Mead easily won term-limited Democratic Gov. Dave Freudenthal’s seat, taking 71.6% against 25.1% for Democrat Leslie Petersen. Mead even narrowly won traditionally Democratic Teton County, ski bunny country.

In other state legislative results, Republicans took North Carolina’s House and Senate for the first time since Reconstruction, meaning that Republicans will get to undo last time’s Democratic gerrymander in their favour (the Democratic governor has no veto power over that). The Republicans also gained Indiana’s House and easily held the Senate.

One can’t conclude this wrap-up of the midterms without featuring the best campaign ads of this cycle, and likely of the decade: Dale Peterson, defeated in the primary for Alabama Agriculture Commissioner.

Brazil 2010: Runoff

The second round of Brazil’s presidential election and nine gubernatorial elections were held in Brazil yesterday, Sunday October 31. The results of the first round, including the single-round legislative contests were covered here.

The presidential runoff featured Dilma Rousseff, Lula’s hand-picked successor, who was heavily favoured after the first round; and former Governor José Serra of the centre-right PSDB. Though Dilma won 47% on the first round and ran around 14 points ahead of Serra, she faced a surprisingly close race early on in the runoff, where she was cornered by Serra and external forces on the wedge issue of abortion and she had a tough time finding a winning voice. The issue of abortion, which came up right before the first round and played a big role in her performance that day, came up again to haunt her. Religious leaders, especially those in Brazil’s influential evangelical community, expressed dissatisfaction at her past support for liberalizing the country’s conservative abortion laws. Her campaign and the PT, of course, backtracked and reaffirmed that she would not liberalize any abortion legislation if elected President. This might have helped her, but Serra used the opportunity to portray her as a flip-flopper and a panderer. Furthermore, Serra’s early daily ads early on were quite strong, attacking Dilma on her lack of experience, and even on the issue of corruption, which is always a risky field in Brazil for candidates to attack each other on. Dilma’s ads, on the other hands, perhaps relied too heavily on the traditional worship of Lula and heavy publicity for his government’s social policies. Furthermore, since Serra is a stronger candidate than Alckmin was, he was able to shield himself from the PT’s usual line that the PSDB is pro-privatization. However, Dilma opened up the gap a bit from a narrow 4-6 point advantage into a 10-12 point advantage. Serra, who had worked so hard to find his voice in the campaign and finally found it right after the runoff, lost it again. First, there were rumours according to which Serra’s wife had an abortion during their exile in Chile (during the dictatorship). That killed the issue of abortion and prevented Serra from using it as a wedge issue (given the sparse ideological differences between both, wedge issues are well-liked by candidates). His campaign was also hit by small scandals, and he himself was hit in the face – by masking tape – and he overplayed the incident. The campaign in general became quite violent, and Serra was the main culprit in making it so. Perhaps it didn’t help him to be so tough, but from his point of view it was his only hope and he gave the race all he had. In the end, it was far from enough:

Dilma Rousseff (PT) 56.05%
José Serra (PSDB) 43.95%
blank and null 6.7%
abstention 21.50%

Dilma’s victory – which is also a resounding victory for pollsters (notably Ibope, who got it all correct in their exit polls and most of their final polls) is a major victory for Lula and his government’s policies. It isn’t surprising that a very popular incumbent would be succeeded by his preferred candidate, though it may be surprising for some that Dilma didn’t win a massive landslide given how high Lula’s approval ratings are. That says a lot about how class-stratified the country is, actually. Not much point in jumping on the western media’s bandwagon and placing undue emphasis on the fact that Dilma is a women, given that even though Brazil is a patriarchal society, it wasn’t an issue in the campaign and I doubt there was much sexist voting by men. In fact, as for Royal in France back in 2007, Dilma probably did better with men than with women. Some will argue, quite rightly, that Dilma is not extremely feminine and her tough style and past experiences almost make her a typical male candidate instead of a stereotypical female candidate (the myth of the women candidate being shier, not as tough and all that stupid stuff). However, one thing which is important to note now is that there’s a pattern of women office holders in Brazil (and perhaps in other Latin American countries, such as Argentina) being held to account much more than males. For example, voters have proved to be much less tolerant of corruption in governments led by a woman than in one led by a male. Given the nature of politics in Brazil and the inevitability of a winning candidate constructing not-so-clean alliances, this could become an important issue.

It is likely that Dilma will continue Lula’s policies. She campaigned openly on the fact that she was the candidate of continuity (it’s funny that at the same time in a majority of other western democracies, everybody’s going around on the theme of ‘change’). Comparisons can be drawn to Santos in Colombia, widely seen as the candidate of continuity (of Uribe’s policies). But unlike Santos, Dilma was the incumbent’s preferred candidate and unlike Santos, there is no rivalry of date between the incoming and outgoing presidents. Continuing Lula’s policies mean that Brazil’s much lauded social programs will continue and likely be built upon, while at the same time rather heavy state involvement in the economy (strict control of inflation through high interest rates, oil royalties, no privatizations, big spending) will continue. On the foreign policy level, it is widely believed that she will continue Lula’s policy of increasing Brazilian presence on the world stage (through active participation in the G20 summits and increasing foreign aid programs in Africa and especially Lusophone Africa) all with the aim of getting Brazil a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. In addition, her victory means that Brazil’s controversial (to Washington’s eyes) relations with Iran will continue. On the regional level, Brazil will remain a major player in the broad left block (which includes the likes of Chavez, Correa and Morales) and in the smaller centre-left moderate Southern Cone block (which includes Fernandez de Kirchner, Lugo, Mujica). A Serra victory would have put Brazil far more in line with Washington and would have led to worse relations with Venezuela or Bolivia.

On the topic of random factoids, this is the second time since 1994 that a retiring President’s preferred candidate wins (a case could be made that FHC wasn’t, deep down, Itamar’s preferred successor; if you discount 1994 then you’re going back a long time). It is also the second succession from an elected President to another since 2002, because before that the last transition from elected incumbent to elected incomer was in 1961 with the JK-Quadros handover.

Albeit with an overall swing to the right compared to 2006, the geographical patterns established in 2006 have stuck, and will stick. Brazil is, at its roots, a class-stratified society. A left-wing government which has undertaken policies aimed at lifting the country’s poorest out of poverty has perhaps led to make this division even more pronounced. Many middle-class Brazilians, a lot of whom will loathe Dilma, tend to look down on the poorer classes and regard the whole issue as an annoying problem, and the people who are poor as somewhat of a problem. Some will regard the Bolsa Familia and similar social programs as nothing more than the government’s attempt to bribe the poor population into voting for them and installing a Mexican PRI-like regime led by the PT in Brazil. The heavy vote of the wealthier regions in Serra’s favour tend to exemplify this division of the electorate along lines of class. As in 2006, the ‘blue states’ have a much higher HDI and GDP per capita than the ‘red states’ do. In 1989, it was almost the other way around.

Serra won 53.89% and 50.92% in the South and Centre-West regions respectively. The first in Brazil’s wealthiest (and whitest) region; including well-off cities such as Curitiba (63.6% for Serra), Florianópolis (61.5% for Serra) and Porto Alegre (55.8% for Serra) and also a rather hilly but extremely wealthy inland region stretching from northern Rio Grande do Sul all the way into the Paulista backcountry. In very wealthy and heavily white European cities such as Joinville, Blumenau and Londrina; Serra won by huge margins. That being said, parts of the three southern states sharing a border with Argentina or another country tended to vote for Dilma more heavily, a result, largely, of lesser affluence in these more isolated areas; but also of an old dying tradition of positivism in the gaucho countryside of Rio Grande do Sul (which was still alive and well as recently as 1998). In the Centre-West, the thick woods of Mato Grosso have been disappearing fast as soy farms expand and contribute to the region’s strong agrobusiness-driven economy. While agrobusiness and the whole soy industry tends to translate into a right-wing vote, it certainly cannot be said that the PT governments have not encouraged this growth. Dilma herself, as Energy Minister, was well-known for pushing through major hydroelectric projects in the region while Lula, allied with figures such as Mato Grosso’s soy king Blairo Maggi (incoming Senator), allowed the rapid growth of agrobusiness. Agrobusiness has also taken root in Acre (replacing the 1980s rubber-tapping dominated backwoods economy in favour of a pioneer front big farms economy), Roraima, Rondônia and Pará. On the other hand, the state of Amazonas and Amapá have not seen a similar growth in agrobusiness at the expense of the rainforest. In addition, federal funding and social spending is very high in Amazonas and lower in surrounding states.

In the Northeast, what we saw in the first round were repeated again on October 31. In the major urban centres, Dilma won Salvador (73%), Recife (66.4%), Fortaleza (61.8%), Teresina (63.9%) and São Luis (76.7%). Serra was victorious notably in Natal (51.7%), Maceió (60.8%), Aracaju (53.8%) and in smaller centres such as Vitoria da Conquista (55.9%) and Campina Grande (60.2%). Broadly speaking, Dilma totally owned in the sertão. She already won 70-90% in a lot of the sertão’s small towns, she won by similarly crushing margins this time.

Marina Silva (PV), who won 19.3% in the first round, did not endorse anybody though some prominent Green politicians and state parties did (Fernando Gabeira, of course, went to Serra). Her vote, it is estimated, broke around 55-60% for Serra. This isn’t surprising, given that a large part of her electorate was a young, well-educated and urban electorate who had more in common with Serra’s average voter than Dilma’s average voter. Brasilia, which she won by a strong margin, went to Dilma by a 5.6% margin. Belo Horizonte, MG; her other big win, however, went to Serra, narrowly, with 50.4% for him.

In the city of Rio de Janeiro, Dilma won 60.99% of the vote. A map of the results at the ward level can be seen here. The wealthiest areas in the city’s south facing the ocean went heavily to Serra. The well-known places: Copacabana, Ipanema and Leblon (the wealthiest place in the city) gave him over 60% of the vote. The north, which has more favelas and is generally poorer backed Dilma by large margins. In Rio de Janeiro, the core of the city is not the wealthiest area (unlike in most Latin American cities), and it went heavily to Dilma. Dilma also swept Rio’s northern faubourgs, cities such as Duque de Caxias and Nova Iguaçu. Niteroí, a well-off town on the other side of the Bay of Guanabara, which had gone to Marina, went to Dilma narrowly with 52.6%. Volta Redonda, the old heart of Brazil’s metallurgical industry, which had voted for Marina as well, gave Dilma 61.7%.

In the city of São Paulo, Serra won 53.64% of the vote. A map of the results at the ward level can be seen here. The core of the city and its surrounding areas went heavily for Serra. These areas, as is usual in a lot of cities, are the wealthiest parts. Serra won a crushing 77.5% in Pinheiros, the city’s wealthiest area (with a HDI similar to some Scandinavian countries). He took 82.5% in the Jardim Paulista, which is also extremely wealthy. The city’s outskirts, on all three sides, went to Dilma, with her margins increasing the further you got from the centre of the city. Dilma won the working-class cities of the ABC belt, where Lula’s political career kicked off. She won 56.2% in São Bernardo do Campo and 66.5% in Diadema. Serra took nearly 69% in São Caetano do Sul, the country’s wealthiest municipality.

Dilma won by nearly 17 points in Minas Gerais (59-41 or something), and this was probably crucial in the state which usually decides elections. Belo Horizonte, the state’s wealthy capital, voted narrowly for Serra although its suburbs voted heavily for Dilma. Dilma also won Juiz de Fora, a major industrial city in the south of the state, with 68.8%. She also won in Uberlândia, a major city in the west of the state, with  As expected, the state-level races on October 3 (swept by the PSDB and its allies) were a different ballgame all together and had no effect on the presidential race. Aécio Neves did some last minute and reluctant campaigning for Serra in a state where he was elected Senator in a landslide a month ago, but it was arguably in Aécio’s interest to have Serra lose in order to make the ground perfect for him to run in 2014.

Abstention was quite high, breaking 20% and reaching its highest point since 1998. Abstention is technically illegal in Brazil, but turnout is not strictly enforced, especially in remote areas. Turnout is usually lower in these remote areas and higher in urban areas; and thus in some areas low turnout can hurt the left. Turnout was particularly low in Acre, Amazonas and Maranhão. Blank and null votes, however, were lower, because there are fewer possibilities for voter error when you have only two candidates instead of ten or so. Indeed, those whose votes are blank and null now are perhaps in large part voters who deliberately voided their vote to make a message (Plínio, the PSOL’s candidate, cast a blank vote).

The state of Acre had a 44 point swing to the right compared to 2006, making it Serra’s strongest state (Roraima is still in the top, though, narrowly trailing Acre as his second-best state). I don’t know the in-and-outs of economic changes on the ground, but there has likely been a major shift towards agrobusiness in the state. In addition, there are a lot of evangelicals in the North, and a look at results in places like Rio de Janeiro and Espírito Santo (likely explaining Serra’s win there) show a major shift of this demographic towards Serra vis-a-vis the 2006 results.

There is also the case of state governments influencing presidential results. Rio Grande do Norte and Paraíba both had strong swings towards Serra, and in both of these states a left-wing incumbent aligned with Dilma were defeated. In Tocantins, lower turnout likely explains why Dilma’s percentage share actually declined between the first and second round; though here again an incumbent governor allied with the left was defeated (albeit narrowly) for reelection.

While the Northeast trended towards Serra, it should not be interpreted as a sign that something is changing there. Dilma won over 70% of the vote in the region, making it her best region again and there is nothing that could explain a major swing to the right at this point in time, except a weakening of the left in certain urban centres in the region. What we saw happen in the region in 2006 were certainly not a fluke, on the contrary it is now a defining pattern in Brazilian electoral geography.

The whole South, the outer Centre-West and São Paulo had a net ‘trend’ (swinging below the national swing) towards Dilma. Rio Grande do Sul, where Dilma is based, was the only state where she did better than Lula had done in 2006. That being said, she lost in Porto Alegre, her political base. The trend towards her in the rest of the region is part local appeal (Lula had a Northeastern appeal, probably, in 2006) but also perhaps a reflection of a small and almost invisible shift with a part of the urban middle-class as a result of the strong economy in the country which has benefited the middle-classes as well. In Mato Grosso, her well-known and documented support for agrobusiness and hydroelectricity were probably important factors in this ‘trend’.

The ‘evangelical effect’ is probably an explanation for the trend in Espírito Santo but also Rio de Janeiro and Rondônia. These states have a lot of evangelical voters, and they swung heavily towards Serra this year. In Espírito Santo, where offshore oil is booming, oil royalties may have proved to be an issue favourable to Serra.

We finish with a look at the gubernatorial runoffs, and a look at 2014.

In Alagoas, incumbent Governor Teotônio Vilela Filho (PSDB) was reelected with 52.74% of the votes against 47.26% for former Governor Ronaldo Lessa (PDT). Collor’s hypocritical support for his old enemy Lessa wasn’t enough, especially against a good and smart campaigner like Teo Vilela. Although a member of the PSDB, Vilela has placed a lot of emphasis on his ability to work with the federal government to get things done from Alagoas (think of rhetoric similar to “working across party lines” in the US). He has also made sure people think that he’s actually endorsed by Lula or supported by Lula. Furthermore, Vilela, who is honest and competent, has a good record in government and attacked Lessa hard on corruption (Lessa is quite corrupt). When you’re attacked for corruption in Brazil, it’s rarely a good thing to then hang out with the country’s sole impeached President – Collor.

In Amapá, Camilo Capiberibe (PSB) has been elected governor with 53.77% of the votes against 46.23% for Lucas Baretto (PTB). This is a major victory for clean government and a defeat for José Sarney, the corrupt President of the Senate and Senator from Amapá, a state which he basically owns. Capiberibe, endorsed by the PSB and PT in the first round, got a lot of other parties on his side and emerged as a kind of anti-corruption candidate over Lucas, who is corrupt due to his ties with Sarney. In this context, it’s important to note that the incumbent governor (defeated badly on the first round) recently spent a few days in jail. Sarney still wields considerable power, and even though he hates the Capiberibe family, the incoming Governor has said he wants to work with Sarney.

In the Federal District, the next Governor is Agnelo Queiroz (PT) who won 66.10% against 33.9% for Weslian Roriz (PSC). Agnelo isn’t 100% clean, but the DF has had a major corruption scandal in 2009 (with its then-governor removed from office and sent to jail) and the right’s standard bearer, the Roriz family (Joaquim Roriz was removed from the ballot in the end, and was replaced by his wife) are crooks. Agnelo campaigned big on corruption, and promises honest governance. He won almost all of the votes which had gone to smaller candidates in the first round, notably 14% won by the PSOL’s Toninho.

In Goiás, Senator and former Governor Marconi Perillo (PSDB) won 52.99% against 47.01% for former mayor Iris Rezende (PMDB). Marconi Perillo, a popular senator and successful governor till 2007, has won a tough race to succeed his former ally and current rival, retiring Governor Alcides Rodrigues (PP). Alcides Rodrigues and his first round candidate, Vanderlan (PR) who took about 16% both backed Iris Rezende, also backed by Lula.

In Pará, former governor Simão Jatene (PSDB) won 55.74% of the votes against 44.26% for incumbent governor Ana Júlia Carepa (PT). He had retired at the last minute in 2006, and the PSDB’s candidate, Almir Gabriel, had lost to Ana Júlia Carepa thanks to a strong flow of first-round PMDB votes to her. This time, it’s vice-versa. The PMDB, and its local baron, well-known criminal Jader Barbalho, supported Jatene in the runoff, although Jatene is on very poor terms now with fellow tucano Almir Gabriel. Jatene also promises to work across party lines to get pork for his state. Hopefully he doesn’t take Jader Barbalho’s route of getting it.

In Paraíba, former mayor Ricardo Coutinho (PSB) won 53.7% against 46.3% for incumbent governor Ze Maranhão (PMDB). Coutinho, although a former petista, was endorsed by the PSDB/DEM and is considered to be a right-winger or close to it. Ze Maranhão had only taken office as a result of the disqualification of the 2006 winner (Cunha Lima, who was forced out for vote buying), and led a pretty poor campaign, notably refusing to debate Coutinho. Ze Maranhão, who won 49.3% in the first round, also saw his vote share drop.

In Piauí, Governor Wilson Martins (PSB), who took office in March, was reelected with 58.93% against 41.07% for his PSDB opponent, Silvio Mendes. There was never much suspense in this race, though Martins won by a slightly larger margin than polls had predicted.

In Rondônia, former federal deputy Confúcio Moura (PMDB) won 58.68% of the vote against 41.32% for incumbent Governor João Cahulla (PPS), in office since March. Confúcio Moura had received the support of Expedito Junior (PSDB), a top contender who was barred from running under the Clean Slate law. To answer inevitable questions, Confúcio seems to have endorsed Dilma reluctantly but seems to be one of those pure opportunists who have trouble endorsing a candidate when its time (but have no trouble supporting him/her if he/she wins).

In Roraima, the surprise of the night came with the narrow reelection of Governor Anchieta (PSDB) with 50.41% against 49.59% for Neudo Campos (PP). Anchieta, who took office in 2007 following death of former governor Ottomar Pinto (PSDB) had been in hot water after the first round, in which he trailed Neudo Campos by nearly 3 points.

Focus in the political world, for some, has already shifted over to 2014. Dilma is widely expected to run again, although some (mostly those on the right) believe that Lula would like to run again in 2014. However, he’ll be old by then and he has shown no interest in doing so. Lula is hardly a Chavez or a Putin, and though Dilma was his candidate she does not seem to be the type of person who is a perfect puppet and placeholder. There are, however, other names on the broad left/government side which are ambitious and tempted by a run. Eduardo Campos (PSB-PE) is emerging as a major political leader for the PSB and has much weight as Pernambuco’s popular governor. He is definitely ambitious, perhaps the equal of Aécio Neves. Sérgio Cabral (PMDB-RJ), the governor of Rio, is also thought to be interested in running some day.

For the opposition, it was clear from the outset that José Serra was not their ideal candidate. Not extremely charismatic, too old and too connected to Cardoso for his own good, he also faced quiet rebels, notably from the party’s young guard: Aécio Neves and Beto Richa. The easy wins by both of these young and talented individuals were a sign to the party to start renewing itself. It also places Aécio Neves (PSDB-MG) as the early favourite for 2014, with Beto Richa (PSDB-PR) but also Geraldo Alckmin (PSDB-SP) as other potential contenders. In his awkward concession speech, José Serra said he wasn’t bowing out yet and he didn’t close the door to a third run. He also had a snide remark for Aécio when he complimented Alckmin for his loyalty (Serra’s supporters accuse Aécio of disloyalty and not doing all he could for Serra).

The next time Brazil will grace us with elections is in 2012, for municipal elections.

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