Monthly Archives: December 2010

What’s hot in 2011

As we close the door on a fruitful and fun-filled election year in 2010, we look forward to 2011 which has a similar stock of elections to look forward to. As a sort of preview (and Christmas present) of the upcoming year, I’ve chosen to preview and highlight a few of the major elections and referendums being held in 2011. This list, of course, is not complete and there will obviously be some snap elections which we aren’t expecting (and some snap elections which won’t surprise us); as there are elections which will excite some but bore to death some others. From my perspective, here are the main elections of 2011 and a short preview of what to look forward to.

Americas

Canada: A federal election might come in 2011, and it will be a test of Stephen Harper’s ability to win a majority after winning two straight minorities. Yet, a minority government is more than likely to come out of an early federal election. At any rate, 2011 is Canada’s super-election year with a whole slew of provincial elections in Manitoba (Oct 4), Ontario (Oct 6), Newfoundland and Labrador (Oct 11), Saskatchewan (Nov 7) as well as still unscheduled votes in Prince Edward Island and the Yukon (the only territory with partisan politics). In Manitoba and Ontario, the NDP and Liberal provincial governments respectively are lagging behind in polls and seem to be likely to lose power after 12 and 8 years in power respectively. Yet, given that neither Manitoba nor Ontario’s PCs are exceptionally strong or well-organized, it would be wrong to count them as certain winners. In Newfoundland and Labrador, the PCs will try to maintain their huge majority but they’ll have to do so without their exceptionally popular Premier Danny Williams who recently stepped down. In Saskatchewan, Brad Wall’s conservative SaskParty will win a landslide as will Robert Ghiz’s Liberals in PEI. In the Yukon, the only territory with partisan politics, anything could happen as far as we know. Furthermore, there are federal by-elections in the waiting among which the most interesting is Haute-Gaspésie—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, where the Bloc faces a strong challenge from the Liberals.

Nicaragua: Nicaragua votes on November 6, and incumbent President Daniel Ortega is determined to run for reelection (and has stacked the courts to allow him to do so). The opposition, which suffered from its division in 2006 (which allowed Ortega to win with only 38%), is trying to find a common consensus candidate, a task which is proving difficult. Former President Arnoldo Alemán (1997-2002) is interested in running again, but 2006 runner-up Eduardo Montealegre has backed Fabio Gadea Mantilla, a 79-year old regional parliamentarian, for the job.

Peru: Peru goes to the polls on April 10, in which the presidential ballot will be the main attraction. On the right, Alberto Fujimori’s daughter Keiko is running for President at the helm of the latest incarnation of Fujimori’s outfit(s). She seems to be running slightly behind the current frontrunner (who will probably not be the winner) Luis Castañeda, the former right-wing mayor of Lima. In the centre, former President Alejandro Toledo is running in fourth place. Further left, Ollanta Humala, a far-left indigenous nationalist who came second behind Alan Garcia in 2006, is running third but is slowly creeping up and might bump Keiko or Castañeda out of a potential runoff. As for Alan Garcia’s APRA, its candidate, Mercedes Aráoz, is trailing far behind.

Argentina: The death of former President Néstor Kirchner in October changed the cards drastically in this election due on October 23. The governing Peronist coalition is divided, as always, between the Kirchnerists and the Federal PJ (which is anti-Kirchner). Incumbent President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, whose popularity has increased considerably since her husband’s death, is likely to run for reelection. The Federal PJ’s strongest contender to date is former President Eduardo Duhalde, though former President and governor Adolfo Rodríguez Saá and former President Carlos Menem are also considered potential contenders. The leader of the neoliberal centre-right PRO and incumbent mayor of Buenos Aires Mauricio Macri, who has some affinity with the Federal PJ, is a likely contender. The Acuerdo Cívico y Social, the UCR-led opposition coalition, has two main contenders: congressman Ricardo Luis Alfonsín, son of former President Raúl Alfonsín and Vice President Julio Cobos. Elisa Carrió, now at the helm of her own isolated coalition, will run for a third time.

Europe

Ireland: Ireland will vote early in early 2011 at the latest. Ireland’s government has become less popular than the black plague following the economic crisis, and the IMF-EU bailout has further sunk it. As a result, the governing Fianna Fáil, Ireland’s natural governing party and the top vote-getter since 1932, is hovering between third and fourth. The main opposition, Fine Gael, hasn’t benefited as it should, given the incompetence of its leader Enda Kenny. Instead, Ireland’s traditionally weak Labour Party is hovering between second and first in almost all polls. Furthermore, Sinn Féin, whose leader Gerry Adams is running in the south now, is on route to an historic success in the south thanks to the unpopularity of the IMF-EU bailout. As for Fianna Fáil’s unlucky coalition partners, the Greens, they will get wiped out.

United Kingdom: Throughout the UK, voters will vote on May 5 on adopting the AV electoral system. The AV referendum is one of the few things the LibDems got out of the Con-LibDem deal last May. It is unknown whether or not AV will actually pass, but the success rate for FPTP-alternatives in such referendums is pretty low. At the same time, in England, local elections will be held for 36 metropolitan boroughs, 194 second-tier district authorities and 45 unitary authorities. The coalition will take a hit, the Conservatives much less so than the LibDems whose polling numbers are reaching new lows every day.

Scotland: Scotland votes on May 5 as well, with the SNP defending its governing position it had won in 2007. The SNP is down to Labour in polls since the general election, though they’re not doing that badly overall. The Tories and LibDems, however, are doing badly. Labour seems to have an edge to reconquer the government of one of its traditional bases, but the SNP shouldn’t be counted out especially if they’re able to build a coalition with the LibDems if Labour doesn’t win a majority.

Wales: Wales, on May 5, votes for its National Assembly and in a referendum to expand the National Assembly’s power on March 3. The referendum is likely to pass, and Labour is likely to win big and perhaps win an outright majority alone. Though Plaid and the Tories are likely to hold their ground relatively well, polls have been extremely bloody for the LibDems.

Northern Ireland: Again, on May 5 (or before), Northern Ireland’s Assembly is up. Though major groundbreaking changes are unlikely due to the polarized nature of politics, the main interest of this election will be to see whether or not Sinn Féin (which might outplace the DUP as the largest party) can claim the office of First Minister with Martin McGuinness. The performance of Jim Allister’s anti-power sharing TUV, the dwindling Ulster Unionists and the liberal Alliance (whose Naomi Long defeated FM Peter Robinson in the Westminster election this year) are also worth looking at.

Germany: No federal election, but no excuse to not be excited about German elections in 2011. State elections will be held in Hamburg (Feb. 20), Saxony-Anhalt (Mar. 20), Baden-Württemberg (Mar. 27), Rhineland-Palatine (Mar. 27), Bremen (May 22), Berlin (Sept. 18) and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern (late 2011/Sept. 4). The SPD is the biggest party in four of those states, but with Angela Merkel’s federal CDU/FDP coalition being unpopular (the FDP in particular), the German left is going to have a good year, and red-green coalitions are the favourites in most states. Baden-Württemberg, which has a CDU/FDP government, will be a major test for the Greens where they’re riding in second place far ahead of the SPD. They could be on track to forming the first ever green-red coalition, an option which could also come out of the polls in Berlin where the Greens are neck-and-neck with Klaus Wowereit’s SPD. In Hamburg, which votes early after a black-green coalition collapsed earlier this year, the SPD is the big favourite while the Greens are left fighting the CDU for distant second. In Bremen back in 2007, the Greens won their strongest state result ever with 16.4% and they’re favoured to break that record at least twice next year. FDP supporters will have a very bad year, most likely, as their party struggles badly federally and is fighting to retain representation in all states even in Baden-Württemberg, one of their strongest states.

Denmark: Denmark votes in a key parliamentary election sometime before November 12, and a referendum on abolishing Denmark’s EU opt-outs might also be held that day. In power since 2001, the right-wing Venstre-led government is down in polls. Venstre itself trails the Social Democrats by increasingly wide margins, although the Social Democrats themselves are polling rather weakly. Instead, the left-wing Socialist People’s Party is keeping up its high polling numbers, registering as the third party. It had already won one of its best results since the late 80s in 2007, and now seems likely to win its best result ever. The far-right Danish People’s Party suffered quite a bit after it voted in favour of the government’s austerity-style budget and thus alienated a good part of its electorate, and thus might lose ground after increasing its vote share in every single election thus far.

Switzerland: Federal elections will be held in Switzerland on October 23. Of course the government won’t change, but the strength of the major parties will be worth tracking. The populist right-wing SVP remains ahead in polls, though about at 2007 level. All other parties seem to be at their 2007 levels as well.

Spain: Regional and local elections on May 22. Held a year before the 2012 general elections, Spanish local elections between 1995 and 2003 all picked correctly the winner of the general election the next year (the PP narrowly won the 2007 locals, but lost in 2008). Regional elections in 13 of the 17 regions (all those regions with no special autonomy status) will be held alongside local elections in all regions. The economic crisis, which has hurt Spain a lot (with the housing bubble burst and 20% unemployment) has hurt Zapatero’s two-term Socialist government which now trails the conservative PP in polls. However, the PP’s Mariano Rajoy remains unpopular and the PP has suffered from its share of corruption scandals. Yet, the economic crisis will likely prevail in voters’ mind and put PSOE administrations (or, in Cantabria, a regionalist-PSOE administration) in Aragon, Asturias, the Balearic Islands, Cantabria and Castilla-La Mancha at risk.

Finland: Mari Kiviniemi, the new 42-year old Prime Minister of Finland, must defend her spot on April 17. Her Centre Party is in a narrow third, though all three major parties remain at or slightly below their 2007 level, when they were in reality all tied up. The right-wing National Coalition Party, in government as the Centre’s junior partner, is ahead but falls below its 2007 level. The SDP is second, but also falls behind its 2007 level as does the Centre. The main winner of these elections could likely be the far-right True Finns, who are polling nearly 15% (they won 4.1% in 2007).

Croatia: Croatia’s centre-right HDZ government only narrowly and surprisingly survived in 2007, but is facing a landslide humiliation at the end of 2011. In office since 2009, Jadranka Kosor temporarily managed to perk the HDZ’s head up a bit but the party has been wrecked by corruption and especially by former Prime Minister Ivo Sanader who resigned suddenly in July 2009, attempted a comeback in 2010 before fleeing the country to escape prosecution for high-profile corruption cases. He has since been arrested in Austria, after his head was placed on Interpol’s most wanted list. The Social Democrat-led opposition has united as the Alliance for Change, a broad coalition which now has a 20 point lead over the HDZ in polls. Also in Croatia, though maybe not in 2011, a referendum will be held on the EU Accession Treaty which Croatia will be signing soon. Polls have indicated a narrow lead for the yes.

Turkey: Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s AKP government is up for reelection on June 12. After its crushing wins in 2002 and 2007, weaker results in the 2009 locals and 2010 referendum might mean that the AKP might face a slightly tougher challenge although it remains heavily favoured over the eternally incompetent and hapless CHP. If victorious, the AKP plans to draft a new constitution altogether, emboldened by the successful approval of its constitutional reforms in a vote earlier this year.

Italy (potential): An election might be held in Italy in 2011 if Silvio Berlusconi’s coalition finally collapses some day. Yet, if there’s an election, it will likely be one of the most interesting of 2011. Berlusconi will be fighting for yet another term, but without his former ally Gianfranco Fini who might create some sort of coalition with Casini’s UDC. The left will try to make gains out of Berlusconi’s unpopularity, but faced with a poor leadership it remains unable to win anything. Polls indicate a narrow lead for the right, with the Lega Nord making important gains at the expense of Berlusconi’s PdL. Fini’s new Future and Freedom is not doing all that well, with barely 4-5% of voting intentions against 5-6% for the UDC. The PD continues doing poorly, the IdV is down a bit from its heights in 2009 but Nichi Vendola’s Left and Freedom (a new-left type coalition) is doing decently with 6-7%.

France: This is probably me being a French electoral nerd, but cantonal elections in March will probably be fun. It will be a test of Sarkozy’s popularity a year before the big year, but a test which takes place in a context where the left is on the defensive – the cantons up in 2004 are up in 2011, and 2004 was already a ‘red wave’. The left will target departments such as Jura, Hautes-Alpes, Pyrénées-Atlantiques, Cote-d’Or, Aveyron and Vienne where the right has a very weak majority. The right has less targets, but Allier, Val-d’Oise, Seine-et-Marne and Ain are its big targets. Within the left, the Greens buoyed by their 2009-2010 successes and their recent consolidation into a new party will seek to build a cantonal base where it very weak. Though cantonals are not good for the FN, their result and their effect in runoffs will be worth watching. These will also be the last cantonal elections before the planned 2014 territorial reform. Later, in September, part of the Senate is up and the left is extremely optimistic of its chances to gain a majority in the Senate for the first time since 1958.

Africa and Asia

South Sudan: South Sudan holds a crucial independence referendum, or so it claims, on January 9. The victory of the yes seems inevitable, so what will be worth watching is how the vote takes place – if there’s any violence – and how Sudan and other African countries will react the quasi-certain victory of the independence option. Not much is known thus far, except that it is very important and might set an important precedent for Sudan and the rest of Africa.

Zambia: A presidential and parliamentary election, two years after the special presidential election in 2008, will be held sometime in 2011 in Zambia. Rupiah Banda of the Movement for Multi-Party Democracy (MMD), first elected in a 2008 by-election to fill the rest of deceased President Lewy Mwanawasa’s term. The MMD, a pro-western party which has been one of the most vocal opponents of Mugabe next door in Zimbabwe, had narrowly retained the presidency in 2008 against the populist pro-Mugabe Michael Sata of the Patriotic Front (PF). Banda is running again, and Sata probably will run again setting up a very close and interesting contest.

Liberia: Liberia’s presidential contest, on October 11, is shaping up to be an interesting race. President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, first elected in 2005 and the only elected female head of state in Africa, is running for reelection. Opposing her, the other two main contenders in the 2005 contest: footballer George Weah and Liberty Party leader Charles Brumskine have announced their intentions to form a coalition and run a single ticket to oppose Sirleaf. It is unknown which of Weah or Charles Brumskine will head the ticket.

Thailand: Thais will likely get to vote in 2011, maybe in November. Abhisit Vejjajiva’s centre-right Democrat government seems popular enough, but the result of the latest incarnation of the Thaksin Shinawatra clan (they’re now the Pheu Thai Party) is hard to predict and will probably one of the key things to watch in this election, as well as the impact of an election on the political chaos in the country since 2006/2008.

New Zealand: Sometime by the end of 2011, a general election and a referendum will be held in New Zealand. John Key’s centre-right National Party seems to be the favourites to win a second term (and likely will win an even bigger majority), and in doing so will likely be able to get rid of ACT as a coalition partner, especially given that the small libertarian ACT is facing political death. The referendum on electoral reform is likely to be much more interesting. First, voters will decide whether they want to stick with the MMP system or get rid of it. If they want to get rid of it, they have a choice between FPTP, preferential voting, STV and supplementary member (the latter is supported by most MMP opponents). Polls, as they always are in these types of scenarios, are all over the place.

These are not the only elections in 2011, of course, and neither are they the only elections which will be covered on this blog. As well, there will probably be a bunch of elections which are not scheduled right now or elections which don’t seem very interesting now but which will end up being quite interesting when they’re held. Which 2011 elections are you looking forward to the most?

2010′s Top 10

Last year, around at the same time, I listed the most important elections of the last decade. This year, no such fun, but instead a much more modest ranking of the top 10 elections of 2010. There are diverse criterion for doing this, but I’ve chosen to focus on elections which have or will have an important effect on the short or long-term future of the country. Given that not all elections, far from it, change the world; my second criteria is how interesting the election was even if it may not have been all that ground-breaking in the short and long term. I have given priority to national elections, and lesser priority to subnational elections. By-elections are not taken into consideration. So, here’s my take on 2010′s top 10.

1. United States mid-terms: The 2010 midterms in the United States saw the emergence of an activist conservative movement, the Tea Party, and a strong popular rebuke of Obama’s more interventionist response to the economic crisis. The primaries, especially on the Republican side, saw the defeat of a number of old incumbents who fell victim to a challenge from their right (the Tea Party). The defeat of Arlen Specter (the Republican-turned-Democrat in Pennsylvania), Bob Bennett (in Utah), Lisa Murkowski (in Alaska) and Mike Castle (in Delaware) will remain for a lot of us some of the most interesting primary fights in recent American political history. The general election saw the Republicans take over the House (but Democrats hold the Senate), something which will entail deadlock in the next two years but which – some say – be good for Obama once 2012 comes up – he’ll be able to run against, like Truman in 1948, a “do-nothing Congress”. The general election in Alaska also witnessed the historic and almost unprecedented (at least since 1954) write-in reelection of Lisa Murkowski against her Palin-backed Tea Party rival Joe Miller. The stretch between primaries, meanwhile, provided us with much fun. Christine O’Donnell, the witch, saying that she’s you. Joe Manchin, West Virginia’s popular Democratic Governor who wanted to be Senator, shooting legislation with his shotgun. Dale Peterson, the delightful all-American Alabama cowboy, running for AgCommish against the ‘thugs and criminals’ who steal his yard signs. Tim James, the businessman from Alabama, who wants us to speak English in Alabama and stop giving driver license exams in twelve languages. Rand Paul, the new Tea Party hero from Kentucky, who made women bow down to him and his “Aqua Buddha” God.

2.  United Kingdom: Is it me or does it seem as if that election was a century ago? At any rate, the UK’s May election resulted in the defeat of a 13-year old Labour government, the first hung parliament since the 70s and the first formal coalition government in a very long time. This government might not get reelected to a second term in 2015 and certainly the LibDems are on route to take quite a thumping in the next election. Yet, the election will have important short-term effects with the government’s austerity policies and its repercussions on the country and the LibDems. During the election, while the expected LibDem wave amounted to zilch, it provided for a very amusing and fun election with the media and people going into either mass panic or mass admiration in front of Nick Clegg (how that has changed).

3.  Belgium: This year’s Belgian elections are important because they have and will continue to intensify the political deadlock in the country, as a government is unable to be formed as a result of an election which saw a party dedicated to the breakup of the country poll the most votes and win the most seats. The continuation of such deadlock will certainly have important effects on Belgium itself, given that, according to some, it might speed up the destruction of the country.

4.  Australia: The campaign was extremely boring and lackluster, but what makes Australia’s August election worth remembering is the deadlock which followed the vote. For at least a week, nobody knew who was going to be Prime Minister given that both the government and the opposition had the same amount of seats. In the end, the conclusion to this slightly surreal election hinged on the decision of three rural independent MPs of which two finally gave their support to Labor’s Julia Gillard.

5.  Côte d’Ivoire: After delaying it a million times, Côte d’Ivoire finally held its first election since 2000 and unlike in 2000 the run-up was all fair, with no candidates excluded on shaky grounds. The first round went off without a hinge, and many people hoped that the incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo would, if defeated in the runoff, leave without issues and peacefully transfer power to the person who is seen as the rightful winner – Alassane Ouattara. Then, of course, all hell broke lose when it became clear that Gbagbo had lost and that he didn’t feel like giving up power. Tensions have flared and they continue to escalate, and it’s still possible that things will end badly. Another election which dashes our hope for free elections and peaceful transfer of powers from a defeated incumbent to a legal winner in West Africa…

6.  Guinea: Not all hope in West Africa is lost though. Guinea held its first really free election since 1958, and all went off relatively smoothly despite there being a military junta of doubtful honesty in power. It is too early to tell now, but there is hope that the election of Alpha Condé – a longtime opponent of Guinea’s various madmen-dictators, could finally right the country and do at least something, anything, to get it out of its position as one of West Africa’s poorest and most corrupt nations.

7.  Sweden: When the Swedish right wins power, it rarely holds it for more than one term and often suffers a large swing against it when it runs for reelection. Quite the opposite happened this year in a country known for its socialist tradition. The governing centre-right coalition was reelected, although it lost its majority, with a significant swing towards the largest party in the coalition – Prime Minister Reinfeldt’s Moderates. On the other hand, the dominant Social Democrats almost lost their century (or so) old first place position and still won its worse result in a very long time. This election represents a significant victory for Reinfeldt’s moderate brand of European conservatism (since adopted, allegedly, by David Cameron) which accepts the welfare state but pushes for welfare reform with programs such as back-to-work incentives and the like. On the other hand, this election also saw the entry of the far-right into the legislature of a country not traditionally known for being very anti-immigration.

8.  North Rhine-Westphalia (Germany): Regional elections are rarely of much importance (for example, the French regional elections were of interest but of no impact), but state elections in North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) – which is Germany’s most populous and most powerful (economically) state are always important. In 2005, the SPD’s defeat in one of its traditional strongholds led to the CDU led to snap elections. In 2010, the defeat of the governing CDU-FDP administration was seen as a major setback for Angela Merkel’s federal CDU-FDP coalition, which is indeed doing very poorly these days (especially the FDP, which risks losing all seats in an election as of now). The strong showing for the Greens – their strongest ever in NRW – also coincides with the Greens raking up some of their highest ever polling numbers in Germany (18-21%) and puts them on track to claim first spot in Berlin and perhaps first spot amongst the left in Baden-Württemberg – both of which vote next year.

9.  Brazil: Brazilian elections are always interesting (of course!), but these elections were not of much impact. There was little suspense over the winner, although there almost was at times, given that Lula’s preferred successor Dilma was always the overwhelming favourite. It still is of interest on this list because it was quite interesting, and downballot races for Senate and Governor were often quite interesting with old right-wing politicos such as Tasso Jereissati and Marco Maciel going down to defeat after decades in power. The presidential campaign, with its late swing against the frontrunner Dilma over abortion comments and the late surge of Green candidate Marina Silva were quite interesting. Not the election of a lifetime (even 2006, arguably, with the massive changes in the Nordeste emerging, was more interesting).

10.  Poland: Held in the wake of President Lech Kaczyński’s death in a plane crash in April, Poland’s early presidential election saw a battle between interim President Bronisław Komorowski and Lech’s twin brother Jarosław Kaczyński. Komorowski’s victory signaled both approval for the PO government led by Donald Tusk (up for reelection in 2011) and a final shift away from the national-conservatism and Euroscepticism of the Kaczyński years, a shift which started in 2007. Buoyed by a strong economy, the governing liberal coalition is favoured to win reelection – something which has never happened in Poland (I’m not talking about the presidency) since the fall of communism.

Honourable mentions in this list would go out to Iraq, Ukraine, Netherlands and Japan (House of Councillors).

Final wrap-up

A number of important elections took place last week and this week, with a key election in Kosovo and other elections in Belarus and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Aside from a presidential election runoff in the Comoros on December 26, these were the last major national elections in 2010.

Kosovo

Kosovo held elections for its 120 seat Assembly on December 12, the first elections since the country’s controversial unilateral declaration of independence in 2008. There are 100 seats elected directly, with 10 seats for Serbs and another 10 seats for ethnic minorities. Hashim Thaçi, the former leader of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) and leader of the left-wing Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) won the 2007 election, which led to Kosovo’s declaration of independence in February 2008. The PDK was founded as the political wing of the KLA and as thus appears much more militantly nationalist than the centre-right Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) which was founded in 1989 by intellectuals more than rebels.

PDK 33.5% winning 39 seats
LDK 23.6% winning 27 seats
Vetëvendosje! 12.2% winning 14 seats
AAK 10.8% winning 12 seats
KKR 7.1% winning 8 seats
LDD 3.3% winning 0 seats
FER 2.2% winning 0 seats

There have been serious accusations of fraud in PDK strongholds, including some which reported 94% turnout when the national turnout was only 47.5%. Overall, however, it seems as if these elections were orderly and clean with some breaches and issues in certain areas.

Turnout was 47.5%, low but up around 7.5% since the last elections in 2007. Serbs, which make up around 4% of Kosovo’s population, living mostly in the north and in central Kosovo, saw heavier turnout than in 2007 especially in central Kosovo, though Serbian turnout remained quasi-null in the Serbian enclave of Mitrovica. The Independent Liberal Party became the biggest Serbian party with 6 seats while the Serb Democratic Party of Kosovo and Metohija won only one seat, down from 3 in 2007. Low turnout, however, also indicates voter dissatisfaction amongst ethnic Albanians, unhappy with the main parties given that unemployment remains extremely high in Kosovo, which has suffered a lot from the economic crisis.

The more radical Vetëvendosje (self-determination) party, which supports a Greater Albania and wants to throw the UN out, has become the third largest party with 12% of the vote and roughly 14 seats. Yet, given that Vetëvendosje is far too radical to be a palatable governing partner for a government which wants to adopt a moderate pro-European image, it will likely be shunned out of government. The PDK will likely remain in power, possibly with the KKR (though the KKR has denied it) or a Serbian party (most likely the liberals), and there is also talk that Thaçi might become President instead of Prime Minister.

The new centrist/liberal Fryma e Re (new spirit), which got a lot of YouTube buzz, ended up doing very poorly with a mere 2.2% of the vote. More proof that YouTube doesn’t win you much seats, let alone elections.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines

The Caribbean island nation of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines held elections on December 13. The fight was between Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves’ left-wing Unity Labour Party, in power since 2001 and the right-wing New Democratic Party which held power between 1984 and 2001. The ULP had won 12 seats to the NDP’s 3 seats in the 2005 election.

Gonsalves is a close partner of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez and a member of Chávez’ Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA). Venezuela has contributed a lot to the government’s main project, the construction of a new airport (part of a bid to increase tourism). Given that the new, larger airport must fit in narrow valleys and hillsides, costs have skyrocketed to $178 million, a full 44% of GDP. Gonsalves, Comrade Ralph, has also cozied up with Libya and Iran, and the opposition has made sure foreign affairs played a major part in the campaign. The realignment with Chávez has perhaps not gone down too well, given that the ULP now has 8 seats to the NDP’s 7. That means his majority would be at risk in any by-election.

Belarus

President Alexander Lukashenko, avid skiier, held an electoral-type event in Belarus on December 19. The “last dictator in the heart of Europe”, Lukashenko has been in power since 1994 and has resorted to fraud and various types of crackdowns to keep power. He was reelected with with 83% in 2006, with the opposition taking 6%. There were protests and a so-called “jeans revolution” afterwards, but it amounted to nothing. Unlike Putin or other post-Soviet dictators, Lukashenko has not built a “king’s party” similar to United Russia and has instead made sure the “legislature” is dominated by ‘independents’ (with a handful of fraud parties, pro-Lukashenko, winning a dozen seats or so). Traditionally Lukashenko has always been very cozy with Russia, but recently both countries fell out with each other and Russian TV recently showcasing Lukashenko’s authoritarian rule. Yet, there is little sign that Lukashenko is losing his grip on power.

This election, which was called the freest yet (though that isn’t hard), resulted in Lukashenko winning a mere 79.7% of the vote. The against-all option came second with 6.5%, with the closest candidate being the opposition activist Andrei Sannikaŭ who took 2.6%. Turnout was 92.9%, of course. Amusingly, it seems like the Interior Ministry didn’t feel like making up a new set of results this year (hey, it’s the holidays) so it just took the 2004 referendum results (79.4% in favour, 90.3% turnout) and used them for this charade after tweaking it a bit. There have been some protests, but it will likely amount to nothing.

Mapping the Ivorian vote

The Côte d’Ivoire’s Independent Electoral Commission (CEI), the commission which proclaimed Alassane Ouattara as the winner over incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo with 54% of the vote, released its version of the results of the second round by region.

The basic structure of Ivorian politics since 2000 or so is the very apparent north-south divide. The south, fertile and green, is largely Christian. It is the centre of the cocoa and coffee economy which made the country’s fortune until the 1990s. The north – the northwest in particular, is drier and largely Muslim. There has also been important immigration to the northern savannas from Burkina Faso, Mali and Guinea; immigration which has played a major role in Ivorian ethnic tensions since 1994 and have changed the ethnic makeup quite considerably. As in most of West Africa, tribal allegiances are the single most important factors in Ivorian elections. First rounds usually see a very divided vote which candidates representing one or more of the major ethnic groups, while the runoff traditionally sees two candidates (often those backed by the two dominant ethnicities) who build unholy ethnic alliances to win. In Côte d’Ivoire, the Baoulé, the dominant elite under Houphouët-Boigny, backed the Houphouëtiste candidate, Bédié, in the first round but heavily backed Ouattara in the runoff. Ouattara, who had only heavy backing from the Malinkés and Sénoufos in the first round, built an unholy alliance with the Baoulé (and the Yacoubas) to win in the runoff. Gbagbo had backing from pretty much every other ethnic group in both rounds.

Ivorian regions are further subdivided in departments, which often change boundaries, and which are pretty useless. Nonetheless, they are an interesting level for analysis. The CEI did not report results by department in the runoff, instead reporting them through centralized coordinating centres whose boundaries still largely follow departmental boundaries.

This map shows that reducing Ivorian electoral politics to a nice north-south is quite misleading. The reality is that in Côte d’Ivoire, like in most of former French West Africa, all politics is ethnic and about the alliance of ethnic groups to obtain power. Ouattara had the quasi-unanimous support of the northwestern Malinkés and Sénoufos, which was his original base, and expanded to include strong support in the 65-85% range from the Baoulés (which had backed Bédié in the first round) and the smaller Yacouba minority which backed, as visible here, a small candidate (Albert Mabri) in the first round. Not much should be read into this alliance other than an opportunistic alliance created by two traditionally rival politicians to obtain power and wrestle it from the hands of an opposing ruling class.

On the other hand, Gbagbo obtained the support of most of the country’s other ethnicities. Gbagbo himself is a Bété and in the past he enjoyed strong support, but surprisingly in this election his best results did not come from Bété areas. This could mean that Gbagbo once in power distanced himself from his traditional clan, or that mixing of ethnicities in the south (but not in the north) brought about by a very extensive Baoulé migration from their heartland in the Lacs and N’zi Comoé region to other regions of the country (notably Bas-Sassandra, the only coastal region won by Ouattara, which had backed Bédié in the first round) have served to muddle up traditional ethnic lines. Ironically, Gbagbo’s strongest support seems to have come from ethnicities akin to the Baoulé (an Akan tribe) such as the Agnis and Attiés which are concentrated in the Lagunes, Agneby and Comoé regions. I don’t know much about inter-Akan family relations, but one could realistically assume that the Agnis and Attiés have felt alienated from the Baoulé due to the latter’s omnipotence in Ivorian politics in the past. Gbagbo also performed strongly amongst ethnicities akin to the Bété (in the Kru family), notably the Wés south of Man in the west.

Abidjan, like most major African cities, has been extensively affected by internal migrations of various ethnicities. In the end, Gbagbo very narrowly won the city with roughly 51% against 49% for Ouattara. It should not be surprising that such ethnic mash-up cities end up being the focal points of riots, conflicts and sometimes civil wars in Africa.

How not to run elections

I suppose this post could be about Haiti, but it’s about Côte d’Ivoire. The West African state held the first round of its first presidential election in ten years back on October 31. A runoff between the top two contenders, northern-backed Alassane Ouattara and incumbent southern-backed President Laurent Gbagbo, was held on November 28. Gbagbo had won 38% against 32% for Ouattara in the first round, but, as expected, third-placed contender, former President Henri Konan Bédié (25.2%), backed Ouattara who was expected to win. The first round, save for the usual silly accusations of fraud and recount demands from the third placed candidate, went smoothly enough. But since the runoff decides access to the Finance Ministry and its stashes of money, it’s quite important.

Results were due to be announced by the CEI some days after the first round, but it was delayed a bunch of times and finally the CEI announced on December 2 that Ouattara had won 54-46 against Gbagbo. The next day, on December 3, the Constitutional Council announced that the CEI had no authority because it announced results late and that only it could announce results.  It proceeded to invalidate results from a number of northern regions (Ouattara’s main support base) and give Gbagbo the victory with 51.5% against 48.5% for Ouattara. The Constitutional Council is run by Paul Yao N’Dre, who is an ally of Gbagbo.

Gbagbo was sworn in the next day and named his government with a new Prime Minister. Gbagbo, backed by the south, also seems to have the support of the military but lacks foreign support. He has taken a somewhat nationalist tone, a tone which reeks of Ivoirité. On the other hand, Ouattara – who used to work for the IMF – also took office and named incumbent Prime Minister Guillaume Soro (of the New Forces, the former northern rebel group) as his Prime Minister. Ouattara is recognized by the international community as the rightful winner of the election, and has the backing of the former northern rebel groups.

It remains to be seen how long Gbagbo can last without the support of the international community, but he is an able politician and has the backing of important power brokers (the south and the military). At any rate, this election, which was supposed to complete the transition to democracy and stability after the bloody Ivorian Civil War has ironically put the country on the verge of another civil war. A house divided against itself cannot stand.

Catalonia 2010

Regional elections were held in the Spanish autonomía of Catalonia on Sunday, November 28. All 135 seats in Catalonia’s Parliament were up for election, and the control of the Generalitat, Catalonia’s very devolved regional government, was also up for grabs as a result. I had discussed Catalan nationalism and the idea of ‘Catalanism’ at lengths and briefly discussed the main political parties in a preview post last week. Without further adue, here are the results:

CiU 38.48% (+6.96%) winning 62 seats (+14)
PSC 18.31% (-8.51%) winning 28 seats (-9)
PP 12.33% (+1.68%) winning 18 seats (+4)
ICV-EUiA 7.38% (-2.14%) winning 10 seats (-2)
ERC 7% (-7.03%) winning 10 seats (-11)
C’s 3.40% (+0.37%) winning 3 seats (nc)
Sol Cat 3.28% (+3.28%) winning 4 seats (+4)

As predicted, the centre-right regionalist CiU won a strong victory, though in the end it fell 6 shorts of an overall majority and performed slightly worse than most polls had predicted. With 62 seats, Artur Mas will become President of the Generalitat, the first CiU leader of Catalonia’s devolved government since the Socialist tripartito (PSC-ERC-ICV) took power from the CiU in 2003. The CiU cooperates well with other parties, but it rarely works with other parties in a formal coalition agreement. Its governments have only once (between 1984 and 1987) included a member of a party other than the CiU. It prefers As thus, Artur Mas will form a minority government which will enjoy relative stability. While relations between the CiU and the ERC have soured recently, they still do share some common ground, more or less, on questions of devolution. Finally, of course, the PP has an interest in supporting or propping up Mas in the long run. They disagree on devolution given that the PP are centralists, but the PP knows when to stop acting as such. Looking forward to 2012, when the PP could more likely than not have a minority government in Madrid, it would need the support of the CiU (as between 1996 and 2000) and the PP could support Mas in Barcelona in return for the CiU’s support if Rajoy is in power come 2012.

The PP are the second winners of this election, and furthermore they managed to exceed expectations. Not predicted to do well, they in fact gained 4 seats and nearly 2% of the vote. They probably took a few votes from the CiU (they do share a general right-wing ideology), which was widely predicted to win big (thus not motivating fickle voters to vote for them in the end). It certainly represents a positive trend for the PP, but the PP remains very weak in Catalonia overall. The Ciutadans held their ground, but didn’t gain anything in the end. Given that they work with a low floor and ceiling, that isn’t very surprising.

The PSC collapsed totally. The PSC’s old low in these elections had been 25% in 1995, and overall the PSC had never dropped below 20% in any election in Catalonia. The PSC basically had everything going against it. An unpopular Socialist government in Madrid, voter fatigue with a government in power since 2003, an economic crisis in which Catalans (who are faring slightly better) resent having to prop up poorer parts of Spain, and dogged by infighting in the three-party government. I said that these elections are poor predictors of other elections, but certainly this can’t be good news for the national Socialist Party ahead of the 2011 and 2012 elections. These numbers would indicate that the PSOE could fail worse than in 1995, but thankfully for them the PP is certainly not much stronger overall.

The PSC’s two allies since 2003 also took hits. The ERC took a big hit, losing half its vote. The ERC was hurt by internal squabbles between current leader (who has resigned) Joan Puigcercós and former leader J.L. Carod Rovira. It was also hurt significantly by competition to its left by two smaller and more radical separatist parties, the SI and RI. The ICV-EUiA did disappointingly badly, shedding a fair number of votes. The ICV and its national counterpart, the IU, always tend to over poll and suffer in the final stretch as a few hesitant left-wing voters return to the PSC. It is hard to see if that was a reason for their disappointing result this year, though.

The radical separatist Solidaritat Catalana per la Independència (SI), led by former Barcelona FC manager Joan Laporte, a millionaire. They picked up four seats. To my surprise, they cleared 3% just barely in Barcelona which gave them 3 seats in the most important province of the region. However, they also won nearly 5% in Girona, giving them a seat there as well. The Reagrupament Independentista, crazier than the SI, took 1.28% and broke 3% in Girona. The islamophobic Plataforma per Catalunya (PxC) took 2.42%, narrowly missing out on a seat.

In the process, CiU won all comarcas, a feat it had not done since 1995. It won Barcelona, which is a good bellwether for the national popular vote winner, with 36.3% against 17.8% for the PSC (it had only narrowly gone to the CiU in 2006). It also won a fair share of communes in Barcelona’s industrial-immigrant hinterland, most notably places like Sabadell or Badalona. In fact, the PSC was relegated to only a small base in that area, barely winning places such as L’Hospitalet de Llobregat, a major industrial suburb of Barcelona. In rural Catalonia, as always, the CiU won clearly over 40% of the vote, often over 50% in the most isolated areas in the Pyrénées. In a lot of those villages, the ERC often managed to place second while parties such as the PSC or PP did extremely poorly.

It is important to note that comarcas are effectively gerrymandered to the CiU’s benefit in local government, so they’re perhaps not the best level for full analysis. For example, if these elections used comarcal boundaries as constituency boundaries, the CiU would garner roughly 88 seats to the PSC’s 23 according to an analysis here.

Catalonia will likely get four years of stable conservative government, with the squabbling of the tripartito era gone – if not for good, than for quite some time. Though Mas has a forthright attitude towards devolution, the economy was the basis of the CiU’s campaign. He promises, first off, some sort of austerity measures. That could include getting rid of the tons of quangos which the outgoing government setup. However, his government will also attempt to wrestle off more powers from Madrid, as is usual with all CiU governments. Mas’ ultimate goal is to give Catalonia full financial powers, and thus give the region an aura of sovereignty without being an independent nation. Zapatero has already signed a deal with the Basque PNV which grants the Basque Country more powers in return for the PNV’s support for Zapatero’s budget. It is likely that the CiU will do the same either with Zapatero or his successor.

Canadian by-election bonanza

Three federal and one provincial (in Quebec) by-elections were held in Canada on Monday, November 29. Of the four total by-elections, three were close and one of those three was a major surprise. At the federal level, the constituencies of Vaughan (ON), Dauphin-Swan River-Marquette (MB) and Winnipeg North (MB) fell vacant following the retirement of their sitting members to run in the October municipal elections in Ontario and Manitoba. Ultimately, only Vaughan Liberal MP Maurizio Bevilacqua was successful in that race, with Dauphin-Swan River-Marquette Tory MP Inky Mark and Winnipeg North NDPer Judy Wasylycia-Leis being unsuccessful. In Quebec, the provincial riding of Kamouraska-Témiscouata fell vacant after the resignation and death (the same day) of provincial cabinet minister Claude Béchard, a Liberal who had held the seat since a 1997 by-election.

The federal series ultimately didn’t include a Quebec riding (Haute-Gaspésie—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia fell vacant on October 22), but given that all three major parties were defending a seat, it was seen as a good test for all three parties and especially Michael Ignatieff’s Liberals. In Quebec, the traditionally safely Liberal riding of Kamouraska-Témiscouata was seen as a test for both unpopular (understatement) Liberal Premier Jean Charest and slightly less unpopular PQ leader Pauline Marois.

Federal by-elections

Vaughan covers the rapid-growth suburbs of Toronto in the electorally crucial 905 belt. The riding is the most Catholic, least Protestant and least non-religious riding in Ontario; is largely white (25% or so non-white) and quite wealthy. Nearly 54% of residents claimed Italian ancestry according to the 2006 census, a statistic supported by the high percentage of Catholics (77%), married couples (87%) and second-generation immigrants (37% – the highest in Canada). Vaughan has seen rapid growth, a lot of it from visible minorities, with a population of 154,206 in 2006 – a full 37.6% increase on 2001. It will likely be divided into two ridings following the 2011-2012 redistricting.

Vaughan’s Italian-Catholic tradition explains its reputation as a Liberal stronghold. The Liberals, Maurizio Bevilacqua in particular, have held this riding since the 1988 election, and always with double-digit majorities and oftentimes with 50-70% of the vote. However, since 2000, as has happened in similar ‘ethnic suburban Liberal stronghold’-type ridings, the Liberals have consistenly shed votes. From a 62.6% majority in 2000 (on redistributed borders), the Liberals fell to a 14.8% majority in 2008 (in 2006, they still had a 33.7% majority).

The Conservatives nominated a star candidate in former police chief Julian Fantino, who ran a mud-slinging campaign focused around the theme of law-and-order. The Liberals, on the other hand, continuing with their knack of nominating horrible candidates, found only generic businessman Tony Genco after a long search. Certainly not the best choice against a star candidate, who turned into the frontrunner. Fantino, however, was dogged by the fact that he didn’t campaign much and seemed to lead an invisible campaign which ignored all-candidate meetings.

Julian Fantino (Conservative) 49.10% (+14.46%)
Tony Genco (Liberal) 46.65% (-2.53%)
Kevin Bordian (NDP) 1.68% (-7.94%)
Claudia Rodriguez-Larrain (Green) 1.22% (-5.64%)
Paolo Fabrizio (Libertarian) 0.64%
Dorian Baxter (PC) 0.28%
Leslie Bory (Ind) 0.28%
Brian Jedan (United) 0.14%

The media seems to have considered Fantino the overwhelming favourite, so some counted his narrow win as somewhat of a setback for the Tories. Pragmatically, it’s still an important win for the Tories and one which comes in the electorally crucial 905 belt which is key to a Tory majority government. However, sensational headlines about the fall of a Liberal stronghold are a bit off the mark. As noted above, the vote has been shifting away from the Liberals in ridings such at these at a rapid pace since 2000 and there were some massive swings in ridings like these in 2008 (Dion played really, really poorly in the 905 suburbs). Of course, there is also the high possibility that a popular long-term incumbent like Bevilacqua artificially inflated Liberal numbers and may have hid the fact that Vaughan was really a marginal riding in the end. The NDP and the Greens were crushed very badly, winning just over 1% of the vote each. A case of strategic voting if you’ve ever seen it, especially amplified because the race was covered as an exclusively Liberal-Tory affair.

The percentages may throw us off a bit, but the NDP and the Greens’ squeeze probably helped the Liberals more than the Tories. Turnout was only 32%, 20 points less than in 2008, but the Tories held on to all but 130 of their 2008 votes. That might indicate that Fantino was really good at maximizing Conservative turnout, but in the end might not have gotten a lot of votes from 2008 Liberal or NDP voters. The bottom line here is a Conservative victory smaller in size than originally anticipated, a decent Liberal defense effort and a total collapse of other votes.

Dauphin-Swan River-Marquette, a rural riding in western Manitoba, was the least interesting of the contests. It is a typical western rural riding, with 27% employed in agriculture, 24% of aboriginal ancestry with most residents claiming distant European, in this region often Ukrainian, ancestry. The Liberals won this riding in 1993, but only with 32% of the vote against a split right and a strong NDP. The CCF and NDP also held this riding in the distant past, most recently in 1980. Retiring MP Inky Mark was elected for the Reform Party in 1997, reelected for the Alliance in 2000 and for the Tories since then. Since this riding took its current form in 2000, the Tories have never won by less than 27% and Mark won by a 45% margin in 2008 over the NDP.

Robert Sopuck (Conservative) 56.73% (-4.81%)
Denise Harder (NDP) 26.26% (+9.71%)
Christopher Scott Sarna (Liberal) 10.28% (-3.59%)
Kate Storey (Green) 5.61% (-0.9%)
Jerome Dondo (CHP) 1.11% (-0.1%)

No surprises here. Despite low turnout – only 26.9% (lowest of the 3, likely caused by bad weather) – the Conservatives held on by a big margin. The NDP also won its only good showing of the night, winning nearly 10% more than in 2008. While the Liberals saved their deposit, they collapsed to a new low, which certainly isn’t a good sign. These numbers seem to show that the Liberals are becoming increasingly irrelevant in rural areas – especially those out west, where the non-Tory vote is shifting to the NDP at a rapid pace since 2004 or so. The Greens did best here, probably helped a bit by Inky Mark’s endorsement.

Winnipeg North is a inner-city urban riding in northern Winnipeg, was supposed to be safe NDP. Covering most of Winnipeg’s north-end, which is a cosmopolitan impoverished working-class area, the seat has a long CCF-NDP history. The riding has the highest percentage in western Canada of manufacturing jobs (19%) and is only 48% white with 20% aboriginal and 32% of visible minorities. Notably, Winnipeg North has the country’s largest Filipino population – 21%.

CCF founder and labour activist J.S. Woodsworth represented part of the present-day seat between 1925 and 1942, and the NDP has been dominant since then with a few exceptions. A Liberal, Ray Pagtakhan, represented a part of the current seat in the 90s. The current seat of Winnipeg North has been held by Judy Wasylycia-Leis since its 2000 creation (she represented the old Winnipeg North Centre, which makes up 73% of this riding, between 1997 and 2000). The Liberals were within 10% on redistributed results in 2000, and within 12% in 2004. But in 2008, they won only 9.2% while the Tories managed a ‘record’ 22.4%. Winnipeg North was the NDP’s second-best seat overall in 2008 with 63% of the vote. Amusingly, the Communists have always done ‘well’ here, sometimes breaking 1%. They had won 27% in 1945, but their vote collapsed shortly thereafter.

The Liberals had a star candidate, provincial Liberal MLA Kevin Lamoureux, who has managed to win rather easily in the traditionally NDP seat of Inkster for a few years. The NDP nominated Kevin Chief, an aboriginal with roots in the aboriginal community. The Conservatives nominated Julie Javier, a Filipina, in an attempt to hinder the Liberals and NDP with the Filipino vote. The Conservatives thought they stood a chance, running a law-and-order campaign, and even sent Harper to make a visit.

Kevin Lamoureux (Liberal) 46.32% (+37.11%)
Kevin Chief (NDP) 41.17% (-21.42%)
Julie Javier (Conservative) 10.45% (-11.90%)
John T. Harvie (Green) 0.72% (-4.06%)
Jeff Coleman (Pirate) 0.60%
Frank Komarniski (Communist) 0.45% (-0.22%)
Eric Truijen (CHP) 0.29%

This is a seat which the NDP had absolutely no business losing. The Liberals were going to do well no matter what because of their star candidate, but the NDP had no excuse for losing their second safest seat and the safest in the Prairies. The Liberal win was a major surprise, which almost nobody had predicted. Part of it, a lot in fact, comes from a top-notch candidate who has managed to win elections here (well, part of the riding) as a non-Dipper and has done so pretty convincingly. Another thing is that low turnout by-elections (31% in this case) here are detrimental to the NDP, whose electorate is poorer and thus more likely to turn out (but – turnout was only 43% in 2008 and the NDP still won by 40%) especially when the weather is bad (like it was on Monday, apparently). It remains to be seen if this result a by-election fluke as the NDP would like to believe, or if it is confirmed in a general election. Still, Lamoureux will be very vulnerable in a higher-turnout general election.

The overall narrative of these by-elections are favourable to the Conservatives (thought not as much as some think), mixed-bag for the Liberals and poor for the NDP. Winning Vaughan is definitely a good thing for the Tories, which proves that they are still very competitive in the 905 and that they still stand a decent chance at picking up seats there on their route to a majority. That being said, it remains to be seen if Fantino won only by a strong Tory turnout organization effort or if he genuinely broke through with ancestrally Liberal voters. If it’s the former, it’s bad for the Tories which means they still need to work on appealing beyond their base. If it’s the latter, it’s good news for the Tories overall. For the Liberals, losing Vaughan is definitely bad but they remain competitive there despite nominating an awful candidate against a star candidate. Vaughan certainly isn’t Ignatieff’s Outremont. Winning Winnipeg North cancels out the loss in Vaughan, but it remains a shaky win which is more likely than not to be a fluke, but it shows that local Liberal candidates are still very much competitive even in non-traditionally Liberal areas and in urban areas out west (where they’ve suffered a lot since 2006). For the NDP, it’s bad (with the exception of Dauphin-Swan River-Marquette) and losing Winnipeg North is beyond awful. For the Greens, it’s bad, but by-elections are awful things for them as a rule.

Provincial by-election

A by-election was also held in Kamouraska-Témiscouata on Monday. This seat had been held since a 1997 by-election by Liberal Claude Béchard who was a popular cabinet minister until his death/resignation on September 7. Kamouraska-Témiscouata is 99% French, and is a typical rural Quebec constituency. But it gave only 53% of the votes to the YES in the 1995 referendum, and has been held by the Liberals since 1985. The Bas-Saint-Laurent region is not hardcore nationalistic, especially when compared to the North Shore (and places like Lanaudière), but it isn’t a federalist stronghold either (unlike Beauce, for example). While this is not a swing riding per se, the PQ certainly needs to do well here (not necessarily win, it only won in 1976 and 1981) and in the general area in order to win provincially. The region is definitely conservative, and the ADQ did well here in the past.  Béchard did really well in 2008, winning 53.7%, perhaps a number artificially inflated a bit by sympathy over his battle with cancer. The ADQ won 36.7% here in 2007 (against 39.7% for Béchard) and managed second in 2008 with 21.6% (against 21.1% for the PQ).

The Liberals nominated Béchard’s predecessor in this seat, France Dionne, who held the seat between 1985 and 1997.

André Simard (PQ) 36.85% (+15.70%)
France Dionne (Liberal) 35.85% (-17.85%)
Gérald Beaulieu (ADQ) 23.03% (+1.47%)
Serge Proulx (QS) 2.67% (-0.27%)
Frédéric Brophy Nolan (Green) 1.60%

The PQ’s victory is certainly very bad news for the Liberals. It isn’t surprising, given that Charest has a 16% approval rating and that 77% of people want him gone, but some had thought this seat was too safe for the Liberals for them to lose it. The Liberal’s hope was that the anti-Liberal vote would split evenly between the PQ and ADQ, but in the end while the ADQ gained a bit of ground, the anti-Liberal vote coalesced around the PQ. The Liberals suffered a massive swing against them, a swing which, if repeated provincially, would kill off most Liberal MNAs except those on the West Island. The ADQ, on its side, managed to hold its head up high a bit, a respite in their collapse since 2008. They could benefit a bit of the Liberal’s collapse in ridings such as this one, but the reality is that they’re still dying (and would really die if a new centre-right party is created as the buzz says) and that the anti-Liberal vote is still coalesced around the PQ. PQ leader Pauline Marois can breathe a sigh of relief, given that a lot of people had said that if she managed to lose this by-election for the party, her leadership might be at risk. She isn’t very popular, and few people are truly enthusiastic about the prospect of having her replacing Charest by 2013, but she is more popular than Charest who is well on his way to be less popular than the plague by the New Year.

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