Monthly Archives: May 2011

Bremen (Germany) 2007

A state election was held in Bremen on May 22, 2011. All 83 seats in the Bremische Bürgerschaft were up for re-election. The parliament’s 83 members are split between 68 members from Bremen and 15 members from the city of Bremerhaven, which is an exclave of the city-state of Bremen. A party must win over 5% of the vote in one of the two constituent cities of the city-state in order to win representation. This means that a party winning 6% in one but 4% in the other will still be represented. This year, voters have five votes which they cast as they wish in favour of candidates or a party list as a whole. Voters aged 16 and over are allowed to vote in Bremen.

Bremen, one of northern Germany’s most important industrial cities, has been a SPD stronghold for the vast majority of the last hundred years. The SPD has been the strongest party in Bremen since 1945, and was the strongest party for almost all the duration of the Weimar Republic. The SPD has governed in the city-state since 1945, governing alone between 1971 and 1991, but following an unsuccessful traffic-light (SPD-FDP-Green) coalition in 1991, a grand coalition was formed with the CDU in 1995, an election which saw major SPD loses and the CDU almost becoming the largest party. The CDU-SPD Grand Coalition continued in 1999 and 2003 despite the existence of a red-green majority, but following the 2007 election which saw the Greens win what was, until 2011, the best state election result for them (16.5%), a SPD-Green coalition was formed with Jens Böhrnsen as Mayor.

SPD 38.6% (+1.9%) winning 36 seats (+4)
Green 22.5% (+6%) winning 21 seats (+7)
CDU 20.3% (-5.3%) winning 20 seats (-3)
Linke 5.6% (-2.8%) winning 5 seats (-2)
BIW 3.7% (+2.9%) winning 1 seat (nc)
FDP 2.4% (-3.6%) winning 0 seats (-5)
Pirates 1.9% (+1.9%) winning 0 seats (nc)
NPD 1.6% (+1.6%) winning 0 seats (nc)
Others 3.4% (-2.6%) winning 0 seats (-1)

Given the left-wing nature of Bremen, nothing in all this should be too surprising. Furthermore, given the unpopularity of the federal CDU-FDP coalition, a third-place showing for the CDU and a rout for the FDP shouldn’t surprise much. But it’s still, as far as I know, the first third-place showing for the CDU in a West German state since the 1950s or so.

The far-right populist Bürger in Wut won 7% and one seat in Bremerhaven, where far-right outfits such as the BIW or prior that the DVU have always enjoyed relative success. There were interesting gaps between swings in both constituent cities, which saw broadly similar overall results. In Bremerhaven, the SPD vote dropped 0.6% while the Green vote skyrocketed by 9.8%; but in Bremen the SPD vote increased by 2.2% and the Green vote by a more modest 5.2%.

NY-26 special election 2011

NY-26 (source: Wikipedia)

A special election was held in New York’s 26th congressional district on May 24, 2011. Representative Chris Lee (R-NY) resigned his seat on February 9, 2011 because he couldn’t keep his shirt on. Really, Lee was forced out when he had posted a shirtless picture of him on Craigslist. For some reason, he was dumb enough to use his real name.

Covering western New York, NY-26 includes all of Genesee, Livingston and Wyoming Counties and parts of Erie, Monroe, Niagara, and Orleans Counties. NY-26 is more or less tailor-made to elect a Republican, including some very conservative rural counties in western NY in addition to more marginal but still overall Republican-leaning suburban areas in Erie, Monroe and Niagara counties. The more Democratic leaning parts of Erie (Buffalo) and Monroe (Rochester) are included in the gerrymandered 28th district, tailor-made to elect Democrat Louise Slaughter Western New York has long been a Republican bastion for over a hundred years, with strong Republican support dating back to the era where the counties of the region were known as the “burned-over district”, a region known for its evangelical religious fervour during the Second Great Awakening in the 1820s. Today, western New York outside the core cities of Buffalo, Rochester and Niagara Falls remains one of the state’s most conservative areas.

Most of NY-26’s population lives in suburban Niagara and Erie counties. The district’s portion of Erie County includes part of Amherst and the north campus of the state university in Buffalo. NY-26 also includes Lockport, North Tonawanda, Batavia, Brockport, Greece and the college town of Geneseo. Democrats are strong in Geneseo, Brockport and parts of Erie and Niagara counties but Republicans dominate the rural counties and other suburban areas. This was one of New York’s only four (out of 29) CDs to vote for John McCain in 2008, giving him 52.1% of the vote against 46.4% for Barack Obama. Wyoming County, which gave 62% to McCain, is one of the most Republican counties in New York.

The seat had been held by Lee since 2008. Lee, a conservative Republican, won by 14.5% over his little-known Democratic opponent Alice Kryzan in 2008 and increased his majority to 47% against a token Democratic opponent last year. Prior to Lee, the seat had been held by Republican Thomas M. Reynolds, a conservative Republican. Scandal-tarred Reynolds had been a Democratic target in 2006, but he won by 4%. Prior to that, the region has elected Republicans to Congress since the 1960s at least.

Republicans nominated Assemblywoman Jane Corwin (142nd district), while Democrats nominated Erie County Clerk Kathy Hochul. There was a third-party figure in the contest, the crazy old man Jack Davis who got enough signatures to run on his own “Tea Party” line. Davis has run for the Democrats three times, and lost to Reynolds by 4% in 2006. Davis’ signature issue is protectionism, but seems more or less conservative on other issues though he isn’t your traditional Tea Party figure for that matter. Overall, he seems to be a crazy old man albeit one with stashes of money. The Green Party, which won automatic ballot access in 2008, nominated Ian Murphy, who had pranked called Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (R-WI) pretending to be David Koch.

This wasn’t a seat which should have been close but Jack Davis’ entrance into the contest did make it close but Jane Corwin seriously hurt herself by tying herself to the Paul Ryan (R-WI) budget, that controversial Medicare-slashing budget. Hochul lashed onto it and made Medicare a top issue, and Corwin did herself no favours by tying herself to Ryan as other Republicans such as Scott Brown (R-MA) distanced themselves from it. Davis polled strongly until last week, taking up 23-26% of the vote in polls while Corwin sled behind Hochul beginning in early May. Davis’ support slid into the 12-13% in the final week, which may or may not be the effect of a viral video showing him hitting some Corwin staffer (whose melodramatic “I’m having a seizure!”-type response was more hilarious than Davis being insane). But the last PPP poll had Hochul up 42-36 on Corwin with Davis polling 13%.

Kathy Hochul (D/WF) 47.12%
Jane Corwin (R/C/I) 42.56%
Jack Davis (Tea Party) 9.22%
Ian Murphy (Green) 1.1%

Hochul’s win is a major Democratic victory and a major Republican defeat which could further the divisions over the Ryan budget. Hochul was supposed to win because Jack Davis would take a significant share of the vote, and Davis polling under 10% (as he did) was supposed to be the kiss of death for Hochul. But it wasn’t. Hochul won strong enough support on her own, outperforming Obama’s 2008 result. Republicans can play the Nader-spoiler game, but Davis’ support would have had to split very, very heavily in Corwin’s favour – something like 80 to 20 – in order for her to win. Which isn’t an entirely realistic thing to expect, especially given the rumours that Davis drew significant Democratic support.

Democrats say that Medicare was the main reason for their significant win last night, a reasonable proposition. Paul Ryan’s Medicare-slashing budget is pretty unpopular and focusing on Medicare might be a winning strategy for Democrats in the 2012 elections – where they need to overturn a 48-seat GOP majority to regain the House.

On a final note, Hochul’s win opens up interesting possibilities for redistricting in which New York will lose two seats. New York’s legislature will likely go for an incumbent-protection map given that Democrats lack full control of the process with the State Senate in GOP hands. It seems as if legislators will strengthen Hochul by drawing her district to include Democratic Buffalo and Niagara Falls while perhaps shifting Slaughter’s district to Rochester. Tom Reed, the NY-29 Republican, might be given a district which combines his old district with the solidly Republican parts of NY-26.

Cyprus 2011

A legislative election was held in Cyprus on May 22, 2011. All 56 seats in Cyprus’ unicameral Parliament, the Vouli ton Antiprosópon (House of Representatives) were up for election. Cyprus’ Parliament has 56 full members, in addition to three observers representing the Maronite, Latin (Catholics) and Armenian minority. Since 1985, there are 24 seats “reserved” for Turkish Cypriots, but they’ve never been occupied because northern Cyprus has been occupied/ruled by Turkey/the TRNC since 1974. The Parliament’s 56 members are elected by largest remainder (hare quota, open list) PR with a 1.8% threshold in six constituencies which are also the administrative districts of the island. One district, Kyrenia, elects three members but is entirely within the northern Turkish zone, so I’m not sure how stuff works over there or who gets to vote there.

Whoruleswhere has a great profile of Cyprus which talks about the history and other details. Cyprus is a presidential republic, with the head of state playing the role of head of government. The head of state of Cyprus since 2008 is Dimitris Christofias of the communist Progressive Party of the Working People (AKEL). Cyprus is notable for being, alongside Nepal, the only country ruled by a democratically-elected communist party. AKEL supports reunification with the north, but talks more about the economy. Reunification has seemingly been pushed off the table since the 2004 defeat of the Annan Plan, and was dealt a severe blow when the north elected Derviş Eroğlu, who opposes reunification, to the presidency in 2010. Talks are basically stalled. AKEL governs in coalition with the Democratic Party (DIKO), a centre-left anti-reunification party formerly led by ex-President Tassos Papadopoulos, the anti-reunification incumbent defeated in 2008.

Meanwhile, the opposition is led by the Democratic Rally (DISY), a centre-right pro-reunification party led by Nicos Anastasiades. The ranks of the opposition also include the Movement for Social Democracy (EDEK) which despite being founded by prominent Greek nationalist Vasos Lyssaridis supports reunification and indeed the leader of EDEK’s youth wing conspired to killed Lyssaridis at one point. Finally, the European Party (Evroko) holds three seats and is a centrist party though some say it’s a far-right party supporting Enosis (union with Greece); there is also one Green.

The economy has played a major role in the electoral campaign. The government boasts a 1% GDP growth in 2010, a figure due to grow to 1.5-1.7% in 2011. The island’s 5.3% public deficit is below the EU’s 6% threshold. But the economic crisis has forced Nicosia to borrow money three times on financial markets and the credit rating was taken down a notch as Cyprus was criticized for inappropriate fiscal measures and lack of structural reforms (regarding public sector wages and social transfers which make up two-thirds of spending). The government’s response to the crisis has included increasing public spending and increasing retirement pensions by 30%. But negotiations, long overdue, on retirement pension reform keeps being delayed. The opposition has criticized the government’s policies and contends that the economic situation on the island has been made worse by the government. DISY supports privatization of some state companies, increases in social security contributions by civil servants, a 2-year moratorium on new public sector jobs and higher taxes on consumer goods. It also supports ‘private initiative’ to boost economic growth.

Here are the results:

DISY 34.28% (+3.76%) winning 20 seats (+2)
AKEL 32.67% (+1.36%) winning 19 seats (+1)
DIKO 15.76% (-2.22%) winning 9 seats (-2)
EDEK 8.93% (-0.03%) winning 5 seats (±0)
Evroko 3.88% (-1.91%) winning 2 seats (-1)
Greens 2.21% (+0.25%) winning 1 seat (±0)
ELAM 1.08% winning 0 seats (±0)

The governing AKEL-DIKO cabinet has 28 seats, exactly half of the seats in the Cypriot Parliament. It is unlikely that this election will have any major impact on future Cypriot politics.

AKEL has a remarkably stable base of support, with support oscillating between 27% and 35% since the 1980s. It has won either 18, 19 or 20 seats since 1991. It is thus unsurprising that its vote share barely budged. DISY gains by being the most prominent opposition force, but apparently its leader Nicos Anastasiades is poorly regarded. It is hard to say how much of DIKO’s decline might indicate declining support for hardline anti-reunification talk, given that many prominent politicians have pointed out that public skepticism is growing with regard to the conclusion of an agreement. But there seems to be, since 2008 or so, more appetite in the south towards reunification but ironically if recent elections in the north are any indicator, the north might not be moving in that same direction.

Cyprus’ Interior Ministry has a nice results interface thing. AKEL was the largest party in Kyrenia and Larnaca, the latter of which has a major harbour and oil refinery. DIKO and EDEK’s support was highest in Paphos (western Cyprus), reaching 23.3% and 19% respectively in that district.

Spain 2011

Regional and municipal elections were held in Spain on May 22, 2011. I previewed all the races in a preview post earlier this week. These elections, a key test for the parties a year out from general elections, came at a bad time for Spain and its Socialist government. Spain is crumbling under 20% unemployment, a huge deficit and teetering on the verge of total bankruptcy. The government of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero is very unpopular and trails the opposition conservative Popular Party (PP) by a huge margin in all opinion polls. Zapatero’s retirement ahead of the general elections due in a year could help the PSOE, but for now the Socialist’s situation is extremely poor.

These elections are also held in the wake of a large, youth-led popular mobilization called either “15-M”, los indignados or the “#spanishrevolution”. The crux of these protests are the unpopular austerity programs and massive youth unemployment (45% with u-25), but the protests also evoke frustration at Spain’s entrenched two-party system, the electoral system and pervasive corruption on both sides. Spain has always had high unemployment, with the usually impressive 20% unemployment levels being not all that abnormal in Spain since the 1970s; as well as low growth rates even when the economy was doing well. These indicates bottlenecks in the Spanish economy which no party addresses. The 15-M protests basically called on voters to abstain out of protest.

Surprisingly, 15-M’s effects on the elections are hardly discernible. Firstly, turnout actually increased by 2%, from 63.97% in 2007 to 66.23% this year. Perhaps the increase in blank votes from 1.97% to 2.54% are a side-effect of the 15-M movement. Invalid/null votes also increased from 1.17% to 1.69%.

The Tally

Results of municipal elections, as given by the Ministry of the Interior. Only parties winning over 0.3% of the vote are included

PP 37.53% (+1.91%) winning 26,499 seats (+3,151)
PSOE 27.79% (-7.13%) winning 21,767 seats (-2,262)
IU 6.31% (+0.83%) winning 2,230 seats (+196)
CiU 3.45% (+0.2%) winning 3,862 seats (+475)
UPyD 2.06% (+2.06%) winning 152 seats (+152)
EAJ-PNV 1.45% (+0.06%) winning 882 seats (-161)
Bildu-EA-Alternatiba 1.39% (+1.39%) winning 1,138 seats (+1,138)
ERC 1.2% (-0.36%) winning 1,399 seats (-192)
BNG 1.16% (-0.26%) winning 590 seats (-71)
ICV-EUiA 1.07% (-0.09%) winning 398 seats (-53)
PA 1.02% (-0.04%) winning 470 seats (-55)
CC-PNC-CCN 0.9% (-0.08%) winning 391 seats (-13)
BNV-CC 0.8% (+0.8%) winning 345 seats (+345)
FAC 0.54% (+0.54%) winning 158 seats (+158)
UPN 0.39% (+0.39%) winning 322 seats (+322)
PAR 0.34% (-0.08%) winning 992 seats (+9)
PRC 0.31% (-0.02%) winning 322 seats (+19)
Others 9.72% winning 6,304 seats

The UPN won Navarra. This is not shown on this map for the sake of colours.

The PSOE and PP have won roughly the same amount of votes and seats in all local elections since 1999. In fact, since then, both parties have been within 1% of one another. You need to go back to the PP’s 1995 landslide to find a wider gap: 4.43% separated the PP from the PSOE. This year’s gap, 9.74% is the widest gap in local elections since 1991. This marks an undeniable “blue wave” of the PP, which shows up very pronounced on the above map which shows the party winning the most votes by provice, unlike the Ministry’s maps which show the party winning the most seats by province. From this perspective, the sound defeat of the PSOE is pretty much undeniable and the victory of the PP is similarly undeniable.

But one thing which hasn’t been noted amongst the euphoria and Y-M-C-A singing hoolala at the PP’s victory rally last night is that the PP’s vote only increased by 1.9%. As we’ll in the autonomous communities, the PP’s vote did not increase by as much as the PSOE’s vote decreased and in regions where the PP was the incumbent most of the PP gains were modest if even significant. This is not to act as a Socialist stooge and grasp at straws to forget the mud you’re in. It is only an interesting observation which might say a bit about how the PP’s victory is not a win for the PP’s platform but rather a default win for the “other main governing party”. But before jumping too high, it is noteworthy to say that several factors might hold down the PP’s vote in these calculations. In Asturias, the PP’s vote dropped by 15.6% thanks to the concurrency of FAC. In Navarra, votes cast for the UPN-PP in 2007 were counted with the PP while this year only the PP’s 5.99% showing in the Foral Community shows up. It might be more instructive to look at what happened to the PP’s vote outside Asturias and Navarra where unusual circumstances were at work.

In 1995, the IU had benefited a lot from the PSOE’s rout and saw its vote increase from 8.4% to 11.7% between 1991 and 1995. The IU vote did increase this year, which was probably inevitable as left-wing voters who voted PSOE in the past voted IU out of protest at the austerity measures and so forth. But from 6.64% for IU-ICV in 2007, 7.38% for IU-ICV this year is a rather modest increase. It is worth remembering though that Bildu hurt EB-B and Aralar considerably in Euskadi, which might skew the figures around a bit. But there were no spectacular increases anywhere for IU.

The seat distribution seems to weigh disproportionately towards rural areas and small municipalities. Like France, Spain has a truckload of small villages with a handful of people living in them who are overrepresented compared to larger towns and cities. This plays to the advantage of regionalist parties like the CiU, ERC, PNV and Bildu which are strong in small villages but also to the PSOE’s advantage which is strong in rural areas of Andalusia, Extremadura or Aragón. The map on the Ministry’s website show the party with the most seats in each province, which, as you can see by comparing my map with theirs, plays out to the PSOE’s advantage in Andalusia and Extremadura but also to CiU and the PNV’s advantage. Note that in Euskadi, Bildu emerged as the party with most seats while trailing the PNV by 5%. Bildu, for example, swept the small villages of rural Gipuzkoa.

Autonomous elections

Aragón

PP 39.72% (+8.67%) winning 30 seats (+7)
PSOE 28.98% (-12.16%) winning 22 seats (-8)
PAR 9.17% (-2.9%) winning 7 seats (-2)
CHA 8.24% (+0.09%) winning 4 seats (nc)
IU 6.16% (+2.08%) winning 4 seats (+3)
UPyD 2.3% (+2.3%) winning 0 seats (nc)

Governed since 1999 by the Socialists, Aragón saw a major shift as the PP’s Luisa Fernanda Rudi, former President of the Chamber of Deputies, led the PP to its best result ever in Aragón. With 39.7% against 29% for the Socialists, the PP did much better than polls had predicted – and the PSOE quite a bit worse. The PSOE was led by Eva Almunia, aiming to succeed Marcelino Iglesias, the PSOE incumbent in office since 1999 who was not running for reelection this year. The PAR maintained its positions but lost two seats, probably the fallout of the coalition with the PSOE since 1999. The IU saw its support grow considerably, from one seat to four seats.

The PP lacks four seats to form a governing majority, with the centre-right regionalist PAR as the key to any coalition. While the PAR has governed in coalition with the PSOE since 1999, the PAR governed or supported PP governments until 1999. Furthermore, relations between Socialists and PAR have deteriorated in recent years, rendering a new coalition of the two improbable. The most likely outcome seems to be a return to PAR’s right-wing roots through a coalition with the PP.

Asturias

FAC 29.75% (+29.75%) winning 16 seats (+16)
PSOE 29.77% (-12.27%) winning 15 seats (-6)
PP 19.92% (-21.57%) winning 10 seats (-10)
IU 10.3% (+0.62%) winning 4 seats (nc)
UPyD 2.46% (+2.46%) winning 0 seats (nc)

Last night’s winner in Asturias was Francisco Álvarez-Cascos, the former Vice-President of the Aznar government, at the helm of a new right-wing party – the FAC – created after the local PP and Mariano Rajoy denied him the leadership of the PP’s list in his home province. Even despite the division of the right, the FAC came out with one more seat than the PSOE, in power since 1999 in this old mining region. More significantly, nearly 10% separated his party from his former party – the PP. IU held its ground, but gained no seats.

Nobody has the 23 seats necessary to govern, but Francisco Álvarez-Cascos must be counted to have the advantage. Unless relations between him and his old gang are so bad that they make any cooperation impossible – unlikely – then he has the upper hand given the overall dominance of right-wing parties.

Balearic Islands

PP 46.37% (-0.08%) winning 35 seats (+6)
PSOE + PSOE-Pacte + PSOE-GxF 24.86% (-7.65%) winning 19 seats (-1)
PSM-IV-Entesa 8.61% (-0.37%) winning 4 seats (-2)
PSMen-EN 0.89% (+0.1%) winning 1 seat (nc)
Lliga Regionalista de les Illes Balears 2.93% (+2.93%) winning 0 seats (nc)
CxI 2.84% (-3.89%) winning 0 seats (-3)

For sanity’s sake, I’ve taken the ease of grouping stuff together here. The PSOE result is the sum of three PSOE-led lists, including one in Eivissa (which includes smaller leftie parties) and another in Formentera. The sum of PSM-IV-Entesa is compared to the 6 seat caucus formed by the PSM, EU, ERC and Greenies in 2007 even though the ERC and EU ran alone this time (1.27% and 2.29% respectively). CxI, Convergència per les Illes, is the old Unió Mallorquina under new clothes.

The Balearic Islands are a right-wing stronghold, with the PP/AP winning the most votes since 1983. But relations between the PSOE and various left-wing Catalan parties and, until now, the centre-right UM have been strong enough to allow for left-wing coalition governments when the PP does not hold a majority. This happened in 1999 and again in 2007, with the PSOE’s Francesc Antich taking the reins of power both times. The issue at stake here was whether the PP could get a majority, which it did. With 34 seats, the PP easily won its majority and the PP’s José Ramón Bauzà will become the next President.

The PSOE fell back in all islands besides Formentera. The small left-wing regionalists held their ground well, compensating for the loss of ERC and EU since last time. However, the centre-right UM regrouped in the CxI was swept out. The small UM had been a kingmaker in the past, allying in the 1990s with the PP and since 1999 with the left. Its alliances with the left probably sealed its fate in a year like this.

Canaries

PP 31.84% (+7.8%) winning 21 seats (+6)
CC 24.89% (+0.75%) winning 21 seats (+2)
PSOE 20.98% (-13.53%) winning 15 seats (-11)
NCa 9.08% (+3.66%) winning 3 seats (+3)

A little nightmare for the right emerges in the Canaries. The CC, a centre-right regionalist grouping, has governed in coalition with or with support from the PP since 1993. Even in 2007, after major Socialist gains, the CC-PP deal continued although the PP left the coalition after the CC supported the Zapatero budgets, making for a one-party CC government. Now, after the PP won its best result ever and the PSOE its worst result ever, both traditional allies – CC and PP – are left tied in terms of seats. The gap between both parties in terms of votes is 6.9%, but the workings of the insular electoral system allowed the CC – with its strongholds in various islands – to hold its ground in terms of seats and limit PP gains. But the tie in terms of seats makes for a tough situation. Paulino Rivero of the CC, in power since 2007, will try to hold on to power. The very moderate-regionalist CC is always key to governments, and while it leans with the PP since 1993, it works well with other parties when it comes to bringing pork to the islands. If bets were to be taken, the bookmakers would place their bets on the CC continuing in power – at least until 2012 – working with the PSOE or NCa.

The success of Nueva Canarias, a centre-left regionalist party strong in Gran Canaria led by ex-CC member Román Rodríguez, is the other notable result of the 2011 elections in the Canaries.

Cantabria

PP 46.12% (+4.66%) winning 20 seats (+3)
PRC 29.15% (+0.62%) winning 12 seats (nc)
PSOE 16.31% (-8.22%) winning 7 seats (-3)
IU 3.31% (+1.43%) winning 0 seats (nc)
UPyD 1.72% (+1.72%) winning 0 seats (nc)

The charismatic and popular Miguel Ángel Revilla of the regionalist PRC has been at the helm of traditionally conservative Cantabria since 2003, in coalition with the PSOE which fell behind Revilla’s PRC in the 2007 elections. The key to power in Cantabria is not winning the most seats – it is winning the 20 seats needed to form a majority government. No party has done that since 1983, but the PP did it last night winning 46% and 20 seats. These gains came entirely at the PSOE’s expense, which fell further, winning its worst result ever. The PRC itself actually did well, holding its ground, sign of Revilla’s personal popularity. The PP’s Ignacio Diego will govern Cantabria.

Castilla-La Mancha

PP 48.13% (+5.75%) winning 25 seats (+4)
PSOE 43.38% (-8.57%) winning 24 seats (-2)
IU 3.77% (+0.35%) winning 0 seats (nc)
UPyD 1.75% (+1.75%) winning 0 seats (nc)

Castilla-La Mancha was the symbolic contest of this election and it was the race which stood out of all other 12 contests in the autonomous communities. There were several reasons for this. Firstly, Castilla-La Mancha has been held steadily by the PSOE ever since 1983 and until 2004 it was the stronghold of José Bono, one of the ‘regional barons’ of the PSOE. Bono had managed to hold on even in the 1995 landslide, largely because of his skillful play back then on water resources (at issue was sending regional water into Murcia). A feat made even more impressive when considering that Castilla-La Mancha has voted for the right consistently in general elections since 1996. The region itself has, like Andalusia, a big number of large land tracts which traditionally makes a region left-leaning. But landless peasants aren’t a problem in Castilla-La Mancha’s cereal fields, which employ only a few seasonal employees. This might explain why Castilla-La Mancha is traditionally conservative.

This year, the contest featured José Maria Barreda, the PSOE incumbent and María Dolores de Cospedal, the secretary-general of the PP. Barreda is popular here, but Zapatero isn’t. Who was to win? Cospedal, perhaps unsurprisingly given the region’s conservatism and the blue wave nationally, won. The PP won its best result since 1983, the PSOE its worst result. The election, played out by one seat, was won by the PP in Guadalajara, the most conservative and sociologically different province, where the PP emerged strong enough to break out of deadlock in other provinces.

Castilla y León

PP 51.59% (+2.42%) winning 53 seats (+5)
PSOE 29.61% (-8.12%) winning 29 seats (-5)
IU 4.89% (+1.81%) winning 1 seat (+1)
UPL 1.85% (-0.87%) winning 1 seat (-1)
UPyD 3.29% (+3.29%) winning 0 seats (nc)

Castilla y León is the old conservative heart of Spain, and has been ruled since 1987 by the AP/PP. Juan Vicente Herrera, the PP President of the region since 2001, was easily reelected with an increased majority with results eerily similar to those of 1995. The IU also made its return to the Castillian legislature, from which it had been shut out of in 2003 and again in 2007. The Leonese regionalists fell back by 4.5% in León, where they won 8.9% and were left with only one seat in that province. León, the PSOE base in the region and Zapatero’s home region, narrowly won by the PSOE in 2007, saw the Socialists fall back by eight percentage points and a full 13 points behind the victorious PP.

Extremadura

PP-EU 46.21% (+7.5%) winning 32 seats (+5)
PSOE-Regionalists 43.49% (-9.5%) winning 30 seats (-8)
IU-V-SIEX 5.57% (+1.06%) winning 3 seats (+3)
UPyD 1.06% (+1.06%) winning 0 seats (nc)

Extremadura’s large landholdings, big landowners and rural proletariat has made it a stronghold of the PSOE, which has been in power ever since 1993 and won less than an absolute majority only once – in 1995 – and even then it remained as the largest party. Extremadura was also the holdout of Juan Carlos Rodríguez Ibarra, another PSOE regional baron who presided the region until 2007 when he was succeeded by the incumbent, Guillermo Fernández Vara. Winning by far its best result ever, the PP broke through to emerge as the largest party in this Socialist stronghold while the Socialists receded to their worst result ever. But with 32 seats, the PP falls one short of an absolute majority. The IU, shut out since 2007, returned to the regional legislature with three deputies holding the keys the power. If everything plays out as it should, the IU’s deputies should support Fernández Vara and allow the PSOE to hold on – by a string – to its old stronghold. It would be the only region out of the 13 voting this year with a Socialist president, and would be – with Andalusia and Euskadi – one of the three remaining Socialist autonomous communities.

La Rioja

PP 51.87% (+3.06%) winning 20 seats (+3)
PSOE 30.30% (-10.11%) winning 11 seats (-3)
PR 5.44% (-0.56%) winning 2 seats (nc)
IU 3.69% (+0.63%) winning 0 seats (nc)
UPyD 3.57% (+3.57%) winning 0 seats (nc)

La Rioja makes wine, but doesn’t make suspenseful elections. The PP’s Pedro Sanz has been in power since 1995, the year which the PP became the largest party. Sanz grew his majority by three seats and won the PP’s best result ever. The PSOE receded by over 10 points and won its worst result ever, being left with a mere 11 seats. The regionalist Partido Riojano, which has held two seats ever since 1983, held both of them but the PR won its poorest result to date.

Madrid

PP 51.74% (-1.55%) winning 72 seats (+5)
PSOE 26.23% (-7.34%) winning 36 seats (-6)
IU-LV 9.61% (+0.75%) winning 13 seats (+2)
UPyD 6.30% (+6.3%) winning 8 seats (+8)

Esperanza Aguirre, a bigwig within the PP, was easily reelected in conservative Madrid but her share of the vote fell back by 1.6% after having won the best PP result in Madrid in 2007. The PP’s slight decline did not benefit the PSOE, which fell below the 30% and won its worst result ever in Madrid. The 2007 election had already marked a very bad Socialist showing, but this year’s rout made 2007 look like an historic success. IU held its vote, but the election was marked by the entry of UPyD, the centre-left liberal anti-regionalist party of former PSOE member Rosa Diez which won one seat in the Cortes from Madrid in the 2008 general election.

Murcia

PP 58.82% (+0.30%) winning 33 seats (+4)
PSOE 23.86% (-8.14%) winning 11 seats (-4)
IU-RM 7.83% (+1.58%) winning 1 seat (nc)
UPyD 4.50% (+4.5%) winning 0 seats (nc)

Murcia is the most conservative region of Spain, a region where the PP’s support has only increased in recent years since gaining control of the region in 1995. The small and unremarkable region of Murcia has a lot of seafront properties and attracts much foreign residents from other European countries, which probably explains Murcia’s conservatism. The PP’s president in power since then, Ramón Luis Valcárcel, has seen support for his party and his majority in the Regional Assembly grow unchecked since 1995. This continued this year, as the PP won its best showing ever as the PSOE collapsed to an all-time low.

Navarra

UPN 35.4% (-7.47%) winning 19 seats (-3)
PSN-PSOE 16.24% (-6.47%) winning 9 seats (-3)
NaBai 15.83% (-8.28%) winning 8 seats (-4)
Bildu 13.63% (+13.63%) winning 7 seats (+7)
PP 7.46% (+7.46%) winning 4 seats (+4)
Izq-Ezk 5.86% (+1.43%) winning 3 seats (+1)
CDN 1.48% (-2.95%) winning 0 seats (-2)

In a way, it seems as if the traditions of foralism and Carlism reared its head again this year in Navarra. Navarra is a conservative region, but it is not a Spanish conservatism in the Castillian sense which pervades here. It is rather a localist conservatism with regionalist backdrops, rooted in Navarra’s Carlist tradition and its attachment to the old fueros (Navarra still has considerable and unusual financial autonomy) which dominates. This regionalism, which has no inclination of any kind towards Basque nationalism, is expressed by the UPN. The UPN was the local branch of sorts of the PP until 2009, when the PP established itself independently from the UPN after the UPN supported the Zapatero budget. Proof of Navarra’s distinctive conservatism, the UPN dominated the elections emerging as the strongest force in the Foral Parliament. Interestingly, it lost 7.47% compared to the UPN-PP in 2007. The PP won 7.46% running alone…

Basque speakers make up between 10 and 20% of the Navarrese population and form an old minority pushing for integration in the Basque country. The Basque parties grouped themselves into one big outfit, Nafarroa Bai, in 2007. NaBai included the centre-right PNV, the centre-left EA and the left-wing Aralar and Batzarre. NaBai won 23.62%, a major success, in 2007. NaBai fell apart a bit this year as EA grouped with Alternatiba to form Bildu, a party with alleged links to Batasuna – ETA’s old political wing. Though NaBai lost considerably this year, all of its loses and more were to the benefit of Bildu, which emerged with 13.6% – a major success. The two parties weigh 15 seats and nearly 30% – probably a record high for Basque nationalism in Navarra. In addition to that, IU, refounded as a coalition of IU and Batzarre, won three seats and nearly 6% of the vote.

The CDN, the UPN splitoff of Juan Cruz Alli, finally kicked the bucket as it lost all of its remaining seats. Interestingly, the success of Basque nationalists renders a wobbly Socialist-Basque nationalist-IU coalition possible. All four groups have 27 seats to themselves, with the PSN as the largest party. But such a deal also had a potential majority in 2007, but it fell apart. It is even harder to replicate this year, as it would involve the PSN working not only with the moderates in NaBai but the more radical Abertzale nationalists in Bildu which is very hard to envision given how Bildu has been pilloried by all Spanish parties (and given the historic tensions between PNV and Abertzale). The more likely outcome is an unstable UPN minority supported or tolerated by PP.

Valencian Community

PP 50.70% (-1.82%) winning 55 seats (+1)
PSPV 28.73% (-5.76%) winning 33 seats (-5)
Coalició Compromís 7.34% (+7.34%) winning 6 seats (+4)
EUPV 6.05% (-1.97%) winning 5 seat (nc)
UPyD 2.55% (+2.55%) winning 0 seats (nc)

Francisco Camps of the PP, in power since 2003 in conservative Valencia – governed by the PP since 1995 – increased his majority by one seat but the PP’s vote share actually fell back by 1.8%. There is apparently much corruption in the Valencian Community, which serves to explain why the PP went backwards when going forward almost everywhere else. Interestingly though, turnout increased in Valencia since 2007. The Socialists did not benefit any, as they fell below 30% to win their worst result ever. Coalició Compromís, a regionalist coalition which includes the regionalist Bloc Nacionalista (BNV) which was allied with EUPV in 2007, benefited the most as they performed surprisingly well with 7.3% and 6 seats. EUPV also did well, considering the loss of the BNV and other Valencian regionalist outfits compared to 2007.

Ceuta and Melilla

PP 65.20% (+0.02%) winning 19 seats (-1)
Coalición Caballas (UDCE-IU-PSPC) 14.34% (-6.58%) winning 4 seats (nc)
PSOE 11.65% (+3%) winning 3 seats (+1)
UPyD 2.65% (+2.65%) winning 0 seats (nc)

PP 53.93% (-2.07%) winning 15 seats (nc)
Coalición por Melilla 23.70% (+1.96%) winning 6 seats (+1)
PSOE 8.53% (-9.61%) winning 2 seats (-3)
PPL 6.82% (+6.82%) winning 2 seats (+2)

Ceuta and Melilla are conservative strongholds, and remained true to their roots. In Ceuta, the Caballas Coalition composed of the UDCE – the local branch of the IU – maintained itself in second place but did not win the sum of the 2007 votes of the UDCE and PSPC. The PSOE narrowly improved its showing. In Melilla, the CPM – a local ally of IU – kept a distant second as the PSOE lost over 9% of its 2007 vote. A new centrist liberal party, the “Partido Populares en Libertad” won 2 seats. IU’s surprising strength in both these North African enclaves seems due to the support of the Muslim minority in both these Spanish enclaves.

Municipal elections

I had previewed the races in Spain’s ten largest cities in my preview post. El Mundo has also updated its fantastic map of all the municipalities, though they have a colouring problem with the PSdeG-PSOE in Galicia which makes it seem as if the Socialists won nothing there which isn’t the case. I’ll run through, with less detail than above, the main results. The reason I do this is because I don’t have all my life and all the results are easily accessible here.

In Madrid, Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón (PP) won his sixth successive majority but saw his majority reduced from 34 seats to 31 seats and his vote share fell from 55.7% to 49.7%. This didn’t advantage the PSOE, whose 23.93% in the city is an all time low which reduced it to 15 seats. IU’s vote increased from 8.7% to 10.8%, but the major success story was UPyD which won 7.85% and 5 seats.

Barcelona has formed, since 1979, a sort of redoubt for the PSC in Catalonia which could count on the power of the municipality of Barcelona to counterbalance the CiU control of the Generalitat (until 2003, when the PSC won the Generalitat). It has always been the largest party in Barcelona and has ruled since 1979. So Jordi Hereu’s defeat last night was one of the major stories of the night. The CiU, led by Xavier Trias, won 15 seats and 28.7% (25.5% in 2007) against 22.14% and 11 seats for mayor Jordi Hereu’s PSC. The PP increased its support in the Catalan capital from 7 seats to 8 seats, and will probably form the support block for Xavier Trias. ICV, with 10.4% and 5 seats, also increased its support. ERC was the other major scalp in the capital, whose alliance with other nationalists failed to convince and halved the ERC caucus from 4 to 2 and from 8.8% to 5.6%.

In Catalonia, after a disastrous result (18%) in the regional elections of November 2010, the PSC did well (but not that well) taking 25% to the CiU’s 27.1% (which might/will begin to take the brunt of the tough austerity needed in Catalonia as well). It still lost first place to CiU and receded by 7%. The ERC (9%) and ICV (8%) suffered loses but did better than in November, as did the PP (12.7%). CiU also gained Girona, a longtime Socialist-controlled city, taking 10 seats to the PSC’s 7 and enough to govern with the PP (3). The PSC held an overall majority in Lleida and a plurality in Tarragona though CiU-PP has enough seats to govern there. It lost nearly 14% in its working-class Barcelona suburban stronghold of L’Hospitalet de Llobregat (also Spain’s 16th largest city) where the anti-immigration PxC won 7%, but should hold power.

The PP won another huge majority in Valencia with 20 out of 33 seats. But Rita Barbera’s support as mayor fell slightly from 56.7% to 52.5% and 21 seats to 20 seats. The PSPV’s 21.76% is the worst Socialist showing ever, and reduces the party to a 8-seat rump. CC-BNV and EUPV, with 3 and 2 seats respectively, made their entry (or re-entry) into the local council.

Sevilla and Andalusia are the other major story of the night. Sevilla, the largest city in Andalusia, ruled by the PSOE since 1999, fell to the PP which won its best result by far. The PP won an overall majority, taking 20 seats – a net gain of 5 since 2007 (its vote increased from 41.8% to 49.3%) while the PSOE receded from 15 seats to 11 seats (and from 40.5% to 29.5%). Apparently holding up the PSOE since 2007 didn’t do IU any favours, as it too suffered with a loss of one seat (from 3 to 2) and a loss of 1.2% in vote share.

In the rest of Andalusia, the PP controlled 5 out of 8 provincial capitals in 2007 and was aiming to take the last three: Sevilla, Jaén and Córdoba (held by IU). It was not all that hard, given that the PP was the largest party in all 8 capitals four years ago. In the five it controlled, it held its ground in Granada, it won a majority in Almería, increased its majority in Málaga, though it lost support in Huelva and Cádiz. In Jaén, it gained 3 seats to win an overall majority while the PSOE and IU fell. In Córdoba, not only did it gain two seats to get a majority the governing IU fell into third with 15% – a loss of over 20% of the vote and a loss of 7 seats. A new party, Union Cordobesa, took second with 15.23% and 5 seats.

In the autonomous community of Andalusia, a stronghold of the PSOE which has been the largest party in all elections except the 1979 locals (where the UCD was the largest by a hair), the PP won 39.36% against 32.22% for the PSOE (lowest since 1979). I don’t know what to attribute this rout in the Andalusian stronghold to. It could be a mix of national situations and unusual regional circumstances (the PSOE is corrupt here). I would gather unemployment is at record highs in poor Andalusia, which was also at the heart of the construction/housing boom with all those condos on the beach.

In Zaragoza, the PP increased its support considerably from 34% to 41% and from 12 to 15 seats. But while the PSOE fell back by 11%, and lost 3 seats, it still has enough seats to hold on with the support of CHA (which held all 3 seats) and IU (which gained 2 seats to win 3 overall). The PP has no likely allies as PAR got routed, losing both seats in the Aragonese capital. In Huesca, the PP gained four seats and could govern with the support of PAR which until now supported the PSOE. In Teruel, a city led by a PAR-PSOE administration, the PP picked up 4 seats to win an overall majority and 12 seats while PAR lost nearly 10% of its vote and 3 seats (leaving it with 1).

The PP held its huge majority and its 19 seats in Murcia while UPyD entered the assembly. The PSOE lost three seats, and IU gained one. Boring.

In Palma de Mallorca, the PP gained 2% and 3 seats (for a total of 17). But it allows the PP to gain control of a city ruled by a PSOE-PSM-UM coalition since 2007. The PSOE lost 2 seats, the PSM held both while UM/CxI got swept out both (and finished sixth with 1.5%).

In Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, the PP gained 4 seats and 7% to gain control of the largest city in the Canaries, controlled since 2007 by a PSOE-led coalition. The Socialists lost a full 19% of the vote, losing 6 seats. Its ally – a local party (CPGC) defended both seats while Nueva Canaria won 6% and 2 seats (it had fallen 0.5% short of one in 2007). In Tenerife, the CC’s Miguel Zerolo Aguilar finds himself tied 9 seats apiece with the PP (which gained 3). He could hold on with 5 Socialists (who lost two of their colleagues) or 3 members from two local parties.

The PNV won its first overall majority since 1979 in Bilbao, the Bizkaian capital controlled by the Basque Nationalist Party since 1979 and mayor Iñaki Azkuna since 1999. Its 44.12% and 15 seats make for the largest success of the PNV in Bilbao. The PP placed second, with 6 seats – a loss of one. Bildu won 14.21% and 4 seats, while the PSE-EE lost 8.6% and won 13.47%. This is a record low even in the unimpressive results sheet of the Socialists in local elections in Bilbao. But while Bilbao has a strong PNV local machine, the PSE-EE is strong at other levels: it won 36.78% in the 2008 general election. A fourth place showing is disastrous by any measure for the Socialists here.

The story in Euskadi is the success of Bildu, the new Abertzale (the ‘patriotic left’, or leftie Basque nationalists) party composed of EA, Alternatiba and some will say Batasuna, reformed ETA militants and other unsavoury types. Bildu, however, has pretty publicly renounced both violence and ETA and there is little danger that Bildu is anything close to a new political front for ETA. A belief shared even by Socialists such as Lehendakari Patxi Lopez. Bildu won 25.45% of the vote, one of the strongest showings for any abertzale party in Euskadi. The PNV won 30.05%, 1% less than in 2007. The Socialists lost 8.1% and won a distant third with 16.34% while the PP lost 2% and won 13.53% (the lowest for the PP since 1991 in any election). Bildu won 953 councillors against 872 for the PNV. It won 96 municipalities in Euskadi, including 74 with a majority. PNV won 97, 59 with a majority. These results, giving over 58% to Basque nationalists, is certainly a success given how the Basque nationalist option seemingly fell back in 2008 (the PNV came second to the Socialists in Euskadi) and 2009 (the PNV lost control of the Basque government in favour of a PSE-PP pact).

Bildu’s eruption is a sign of the continued strength of the abertzale left and how strong it can be when it is allowed to participate. It is also, perhaps, in part a reaction to the way the Spanish state has pilloried the abertzale outfits in recent years (banning most of them) and a strong vote against the Lopez regional government which is apparently unpopular. My guess, uneducated, is that the pact between the Socialists and PP which gave the Socialists the control of the Basque government in 2009 has revitalized Basque nationalism – apparently the most radical version. It has also hurt the Socialists, perhaps dangerously so, considering that the Basque Socialists can draw votes – especially in general elections – from lite-nationalists and anti-PP strategic voters. After all, the ‘EE’ part of the PSE-EE refers to an old party, merged with the PSE in 1993, which was founded as the political party of ETA-PM (the politico-military/moderate wing of ETA at the transition). The PNV itself has not been all that convincing in opposition to the Basque regional government and might appear outdated or tame to some Basque nationalists awaken from dormancy by the PSE-PP pact (which is a campaign point for both Bildu and PNV).

Bildu won 56 municipalities in Gipuzkoa, including 43 with an overall majority, representing nearly half of all municipalities. It won 34.6% of the vote and took 22 seats in the Juntas Generales of the province. Gipuzkoa is the most nationalist and left-leaning of the three provinces, with its mountainous Basque-speaking working-class villages providing a strong militant base for ETA and for abertzale forces. In the Juntas Generales of the province, the PNV won 14 seats (-2), the PSE 10 (-6), the PP 4 (-2), Aralar 1 (-1) and EB-B lost all four of its seats. In Donostia/San Sebastián, Bildu has probably ending the 20-year rule of the PSE’s Odón Elorza, taking 24.3% and 8 seats in the Gipuzkoan capital against 22.6% (7 seats) for Elorza’s Socialists who lost nearly 15%. The PP held all 6 seats and the PNV gained one to win 6. Bildu will need to ally itself with somebody, which is tricky. Elorza, however, has indicated that only the largest party should govern. He could, if he wants to lie, govern with the PP. But Bildu could govern easily with the support of the PNV. The PNV would look bad if it were to deny fellow nationalists such a prize.

The PNV failed to win an overall majority in the Juntas Generales of Bizkaia, losing one of its 23 seats (it now holds 22) and winning 37.2% of the vote. Bildu took 21% and won 12 seats, PSE took 9 (-5) and the PP 8 (nc). EB-B and Aralar were thrown out, losing their three seats. In Araba’s Juntas Generales, the PP is the largest party with 16 seats (+1) with the PNV winning 13 (-1) and Bildu 11. The Socialists won 9 (-5) and EB-B 2 (+1).

In Galicia, the PP has not gained enough to throw out all the biparty PSdeG-BNG coalitions governing in all six major cities. In A Coruña the PP did win enough seats to wrestle control of this old PSdeG stronghold. In Lugo, despite loses, the Socialist-BNG bloc can continue in power. In Pontevedra, the incumbent BNG-led administration picked up four seats including one from the PP and allows it to rule with the Socialists. The Socialists made some major gains in Ourense (over 10% and 3 seats) at the PP and BNG’s expense and asserts its power. The Socialists also gained at the BNG and PP’s expense in Vigo where it can continue governing. In Santiago de Compostela, it was a tight affair (only a handful of votes) but the PP won an overall majority gaining 2 seats at the expense of the BNG and PSdeG and finally takes control of a city held by the Socialists since 1987. But somewhere Franco is smiling as the Socialists lost control of El Ferrol as the PP made major gains (+18%).

Other PP gains include León, Palencia, Vitoria-Gasteiz (though it lacks a majority, with PNV, Bildu and PSE tied with 6 seats apiece to the PP’s 9), Albacete, Mérida, Cáceres, Logroño and perhaps Segovia (the PSOE needs IU to govern, being tied 12-12 with PP). The PSOE won an increased majority in Soria and increased its presence in Toledo (where it governs with IU). I don’t want my Socialist readers to commit suicide after reading this whole lot of bad news, so I’ll say that the PSOE gained Cuenca from the PP. Somebody would do well to explain how the PP managed to lose that.

Logging off…

If you’re a right-winger or Basque nationalist, you’re probably dancing around in joy; and if you’re a Socialist you’re looking for the next time the train passes to commit suicide. Some final conclusions of these elections…

The overall and universal conclusion is that the PP won these elections and the PSOE lost them. Nobody can contest that. The economy is down the hole, the government is taking the blame for it and the necessary austerity which accompanies recessions. Spanish youths are disillusioned, have little job opportunities and are looking to immigrate abroad. Many Spaniards are struggling to make ends meet as they lost their jobs. Such things spell disaster for most governments. It did spell disaster for the Socialists on 22-M.

But lest we forget that Mariano Rajoy’s popularity ratings are only slightly less ghastly than Zapatero’s ratings. There is silenced rumblings against him in the PP which he managed to silence in 2008 and won the rights to quell it all with this victory. But though Rajoy-Zapatero would be a Rajoy victory, Zapatero is retiring. The PSOE will be led by a new figure in 2012, just as the PP was led by a new figure (Rajoy) in 2004 when Aznar retired (though he apparently didn’t if you went by the overpaid stupid foreign journalists). That new figure will either be Interior Minister and government #2 Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba or Defense Minister Carme Chacón. The PSOE’s establishment favours Rubacalba and are pushing for a victory by acclamation for him, which, to me, would be a bad idea. But polls have shown that Rubacalba and Chacón are popular – more than Rajoy at least – and could at least narrow the PSOE-PP gap to the PSOE’s advantage. They will, however, need to break away from Zapatero and convince voters that though they hate Zapatero and probably the PSOE, that the Socialists should be given a third term over the PP. It requires running away from your record, basically. It is a very hard thing to do, even if your opponent is unpopular personally, but everything is possible in politics – which also move very fast, of course.

There is also much more strategic voting in general elections, where regionalists and IU do poorer than in local elections. The electoral system practically calls for it, but there is also deep polarization of Spanish politics – the left overs of the Civil War – between left and right. There a whole lot of voters who would vote for the right in a lot of other places who would rather drink battery acid than vote PP (who is seen by the left and opponents as a fascist Francoist party). And vice-versa (the right and opponents see the PSOE as red atheists). Conceivably, a number of IU and regionalist voters (especially those who voted for the smaller, non-nationalist ones like the PRC, CHA etc; but even some lite Basque and Catalan nationalists) would/will comeback to the PSOE. The PP will also get votes from those who favour local parties in rural areas, it might mend brides with the UPN and I doubt the FAC will run in the general elections (or if it did, it would do poorly).

2012 still favours the right in any case, but I would bet on something much closer than what happened on 22-M. After all, the 1995 PP landslide was followed by a close race (though a PP victory) in 1996. Felipe González had tapped into the Civil War side of politics in Spain to achieve that save-face result in 1996 for the PSOE. In 2012, the PSOE could either tap into that or Rajoy’s personality to achieve if not a victory then a save-face result.

If you want more results, there is the Interior Ministry (which has a downloadable results program for your computer) in addition to RTVE and El Mundo.

I will have forgotten something or made a stupid mistake(s) somewhere. But if you’ve read all these ramblings, you deserve a big cookie.

Liveblogging Spain 2011

WordPress does not allow for liveblogging feeds such as this one, but feel free to join in the conversation below.

Click Here

Some tips for those following the results:

  • Most media outlets will not be releasing exit polls. Regional exit polls will only be available for Aragón, Madrid and Valencia and municipal exit polls will only be available for the Basque Country, Catalonia and Galicia.
  • The Ministry of the Interior is responsible for municipal, provincial and insular council elections. Those results should start flowing in at 20:30 and be nearing completion two hours later. Check out the results here.
  • Individual autonomous communities are responsible for elections in their autonomous communities. Check out their individual websites here.
  • Municipal elections are counted first
  • Low-turnout or low-population areas will come in first, high-turnout and densely populated urban centres come in late.
  • The Canary Islands close an hour later than the rest of Spain

South Africa 2011

Local government elections were held in South Africa on May 18. South African local government is largely modeled on British local governments, except that South African local government is much easier to understand. Provinces are subdivided into 52 districts, which are similar to counties in England. 46 districts are subdivided into local municipalities, which share responsibilities with the districts – in England, these would be similar to the districts. The six largest municipalities in South Africa form metropolitan municipalities, which hold the responsibilities of both districts and municipalities. These are similar to English unitary authorities. In both types of municipalities, a majority of members are elected in single-member wards with the rest elected through list proportional representation.

South African local elections, held every five years, are the only elections held between national elections and roughly serve as kind of mid-term elections. The opposition Democratic Alliance (DA)’s win in Cape Town in 2006 provided the ANC’s main opponent with a major springboard which led to the DA winning control of the Western Cape province in 2009 after having lost it in 2004.

This year, the DA could point to its rather successful record in local government and contrast it with the ANC’s record, which is generally judged to be fairly dismal. The ANC’s critics put the dominant party on the defensive over allegations of corruption, nepotism and incompetence in local government. Though service delivery is slowly improving, most South Africans remain unhappy with the standards of their community. Unsurprisingly given the ANC’s dismal record, the campaign turned out fairly bloody as the ANC used the race card again. The ANC’s Youth League leader, the fiery populist Julius Malema played the race card hard as he usually does. But even President Jacob Zuma and other ANC warned voters of turning against the liberation party and depicted the DA as a white-supremacist party longing the days of apartheid.

The results below show the PR element only. The ward results are broadly similar, and the results for district council are spotty and misleading which makes the IEC’s sum of the votes quite misleading. Only parties winning over 1% of the vote are shown.

ANC 62.93%
DA 24.08%
IFP 3.56%
NFP 2.38%
COPE 2.22%
Others 4.83%

The ANC still dominates the vast majority of local government areas, but the DA improved their share of local government to roughly 20 or so. This election is a major success for the DA, which has won its best result in any national election and one of the best results of the ANC’s opponents since 1994. The ANC itself has fallen behind its 2006 local election showing and 2009 result (66%) and falls back to 62-63%, which is roughly the party’s floor since 1994. The ANC, however, remains the dominant party in South African politics. The remarkable story of this election is the decimation of the smaller parties. The plummeting vote share of the Zulu-dominated Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) is not all that surprising: it took a major hit in its KwaZulu-Natal stronghold in 2009 (when it polled 4.6%) in part because of Zuma’s Zulu ancestry (and because the IFP lacks any vision, policies or ideological base). It was hindered this year by a breakaway party, the brand new National Freedom Party (NFP), led by IFP dissidents. The NFP managed 10.4% in KZN (the IFP took 15.8%) and won two local municipalities in the Zululand District. Another major small victim of these elections is COPE, the anti-Zuma breakaway which won a respectable 7% in 2009. The party has apparently suffered a lot from a split between Mosiua Lekota, COPE’s leader, and Mbhazima Shilowa, the party’s number two figure. The COPE-Shilowa faction did not contest these elections. With the vote share for other parties down by nearly 6% from 2006, it could seem as if South Africa is moving towards some sort of two-party system with one dominant party. Already the Independent Democrats (ID), Patricia de Lille’s more-or-less successful anti-corruption party have merged with the DA. Other parties could see their votes flow towards the ANC or DA.

In Cape Town, the governing DA won a three-fifths majority taking 62% of the vote to the ANC’s 32.9%. Patricia de Lille, the former leader of the ID, will become mayor of Cape Town. In the Western Cape Province, the DA took 57.7% to the ANC’s 33.7%. The DA had won 51% in the 2000 local elections – when the DA was an untidy ragtag white alliance of the old anti-apartheid Democratic Party and the remnants of the apartheid-era National Party grouped in the NNP. Such things ended badly, and the ANC did well in the province in the 2004 and 2006 elections but the DA has since become the dominant party after winning control of the province in 2009.

The DA’s next best hope was Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality, the government’s name for Port Elizabeth. Although majority black, the DA hoped to keep the ANC under 50% and form a governing coalition with smaller parties like it did in Cape Town in 2006. Unfortunately for the DA, while it did the best it could – 40.3% – the ANC managed 52.1% at the expense of smaller parties: COPE won only 5% and the UDM a paltry 0.6%. The DA’s 40% is pretty impressive considering it won only 24.4% there in 2006. In Johannesburg, the ANC won 58.8% against 34.8% to the DA. In Tshwane/Pretoria, the ANC won 56% to the DA’s 39%. Finally, in eThekwini/Durban the ANC won 61.2% to the DA’s 21%. The IFP’s vote plumetted to 4%, behind the Indian-led Minority Front (MF) which won 5% in the city, which has the largest Indian community in Africa.

The IEC has a nice map of all the results by ward, while News24 has another cool interactive map. The results by ward really show how racially polarized politics remain in South Africa (the Census 2001 Atlas has maps showing the racial divide). The DA won only two municipalities outside WC: Midvaal/Meyerton in Gauteng (a more or less affluent suburb of Jo’burg, with a 35% white population) and Baviaans in Eastern Cape.

That last sentence in that paragraph brings me to my next point. The DA, in its present form, may well be starting to hit its ceiling. Winning landslides in Western Cape and in Cape Town is nice and dandy, but Western Cape isn’t South Africa. On its present coalition of whites and Coloureds, the DA has a low ceiling and poses no real threat to the ANC’s dominance. If it wants to rival the ANC’s dominance with the black population of South Africa, it will need to win more than 6% of the black vote (as it claims to have won this year) and bring the ANC not only below 60% but below 50% as to make a broad opposition coalition possible. It will take a lot and it will take a long time to defeat the ANC, and I don’t think that the DA in its current shape with its image as the party of the Cape Town Country Club is able to do that even though the DA’s image is slowly evolving. The DA or any other non-ANC party must appeal to the majority of voters in order to win. Nobody, as of now, is able to do that besides the ANC, and as long as no other party can do so, the ANC will continue governing bar unforeseen circumstances. Racially polarized politics are extremely hard to break.

Election Preview: Spain 2011 (22-M)

Spain holds local and regional elections on May 22. The municipal councils of all 8112 municipalities in Spain, the Parliaments of 13 of Spain’s 17 autonomous communities and the Parliaments of both autonomous cities (Ceuta and Melilla in North Africa) are up for election. There are also direct elections to the Juntas provinciales of the three Basque provinces and the insular councils of each island in the Canaries and Balearics.

In elections to autonomous parliaments, proportional representation is used universally but threshold and constituencies depend from community to community. In all multi-provincial communities, provinces serve as constituencies and have a specific number of seats based on their populations. Asturias and Murcia, communities composed of only one province, are further subdivided into multi-member constituencies. In the insular communities, each island serves as a constituency. The threshold is either 3% or 5%. In Aragón, Asturias, the Balearic Islands, Castilla-La Mancha, Castilla y León and Navarra the threshold is 3% in each individual constituency (there is only one constituency in Navarra). In the Valencian Community, which uses provincial constituencies, parties must win 5% throughout the community to qualify for seats. In Cantabria, Extremadura, Madrid, Murcia, La Rioja, Ceuta and Melilla the threshold is 5% by constituency (Extremadura and Murcia have more than one, all others form a sole constituency to themselves). In the Canaries finally, a party must win 6% throughout the islands or 30% or first place in one island.

Held a year out from the general election since 1995, these local elections are widely seen as a pretty good indicator of the political mood but also a pretty good predictor of the results of the big election in the next year. Except for 2007, the party which won the local elections went on to win the general election.

These elections couldn’t come at a worst time for the governing Socialists (PSOE). Spain is struggling under nearly 20% unemployment, a huge budget deficit and until recently on the brink of bankruptcy a la Greece/Ireland/Portugal. The government has been compelled to adopt tough austerity measures which have succeeded in bringing Spain back from the brink but at the cost of severe budget trimming which have caused social disruptions. Budget trimming is especially difficult in a decentralized country such as Spain, where regional communities (always clamoring for more financial powers) account for 37% of public spending. Hounded for his initially sluggish response and then his austerity-minded budgets, the Socialist President of the Government, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, in office since 2004, has won some of the worst approval numbers of any Spanish head of government and finally announced in April 2011 that he would not stand for reelection in 2012. The governing PSOE has taken the brunt of the blame for the crisis and its effects, and trails the opposition conservative Popular Party (PP) by roughly 15 points. Hardly inspiring numbers for a government a year out from the elections.

But the PP is winning by default. Its leader, Mariano Rajoy, has never been inspiring to anybody and his leadership ratings aren’t anything to boast about. He faced some internal opposition within the PP after he lost his second election in a row in 2008, but managed to hold his position. At any rate, Zapatero’s announced retirement is probably bad news for the PP. The two most prominent successors to Zapatero, the 4o-year old Defense Minister Carme Chacón and the Interior Minister and Vice-President of the Government Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba are both more popular than Rajoy and polls show they could manage to cut into the PP’s lead rather significantly.

But as of now the cards are placed unambiguously in the opposition’s favour. The PP is eying a win as significant as the PP’s landslide victory in the 1995 local elections. But though that victory presaged Aznar’s election 1996, the PP’s victory in 1996 was much narrower than its 1995 landslide in regions and municipalities. Below, I preview the races in all autonomous communities and in the major cities.

Autonomous communities

Aragón: The PSOE has held Aragón since 1999 with Marcelino Iglesias, who is retiring this year. His government’s number two, María Eva Almunia Badía, will be aiming to succeed him. The PP will be led by former President of the Chamber of Deputies, also a woman, Luisa Fernanda Rudi Úbeda. Since 1999, the PSOE has governed in coalition with the centre-right regionalist Aragonese Party (PAR), which had previously governed the region between 1987 and 1993. Polls indicate that the PSOE is holding its ground quite well, maintaining a narrow lead or a statistical tie with the PP which has nonetheless gained ground. The PAR is slightly down, while the left-wing regionalist Chunta Aragonesista (CHA) is at its 2007 levels. The IU might increase its presence from one seat to 3-4 seats. In any case, unless the PAR has a change of allegiance to its former right-wing roots, the PSOE at this level is in good position to retain the presidency of the region with the CHA and PAR as potential allies and the IU as a backer. Somebody closer to the ground would be in better position to explain why the PSOE has held up comparatively well in Aragón.
2007: PSOE 30, PP 23, PAR 9, CHA 4, IU 1

Asturias: The old mining region of Asturias has been held, with one exception (1995-1999) by the PSOE since 1983. Asturias will probably be one of the more interesting communities to watch, if only because of the division on the right. Last year, Francisco Álvarez-Cascos, the Vice-President of the Aznar Government between 1996 and 2000, made clear his intention to return to elective politics after his retirement in 2004. But the Asturian PP is somehow not fond of him and shoved him aside in favour of Oviedo municipal councillor Isabel Pérez-Espinosa. Snubbed, Álvarez-Cascos sent a letter to Rajoy explaining that he was quitting the PP after “insults” from the Asturian PP. He proceeded to set up his own party, the Foro Asturias (FAC). The division of the right between the official PP and Álvarez-Cascos’ rebels grouped in the FAC has given the PSOE a Pyhrric first place in polls even though its vote is down significantly from the 43% it won in 2007. The PP and FAC are left fighting for second place, with the FAC’s position wildly oscillating between a strong second and a more distant third. The IU, which retains nearly 10% of the vote in Asturias, is at its 2007 levels. Even if the PSOE does win first place, it is hard to see it retaining power unless Álvarez-Cascos’ hissy fit is at the point which makes differences between his outfit and the PP irreconcilable.
2007: PSOE 21, PP 20, IU 4

Balearic Islands: The right has been the strongest party in the Balearic Islands since 1983, but the left led by the PSOE’s Francesc Antich governed between 1999 and 2003 and again since 2007 in coalition with various left-wing parties and the fledgling Unió Mallorquina (UM). If the right wants to govern, it needs an absolute majority. The PP fell just short of keeping its majority in 2007, winning 29 of the Parliament’s 59 seats. Polls indicate that the PP is now extremely likely to gain at least one more seat and take back government. Interestingly, such gains would not be made at the PSOE’s expense if recent polls are to be believed: the PSOE has managed to increase its standing from the 28% it won in 2007 to roughly 30% and 20-21 seats. Instead, the PSOE’s ally, the Catalan PSM-IV-Entesa and the UM refounded as the Convergence for the Island (CxI) will suffer loses. The former will have minor loses, the CxI-UM could be swept out of Parliament altogether. At any rate, the PP has its best chance at a sure gain here.
2007: PP 29, PSOE 20, UM 3, PSM-EN 2, EU 2, ERC 1, Els Verds 1, PSMen 1

Canaries: The PSOE gained 9 seats in 2007 and became the largest political party on the islands, but was left out of government which has been held by the centre-right regionalist Coalición Canaria (CC) whose governments always began as coalitions with the PP but seem to invariably end up as CC-only governments. Polls vary rather wildly, but the bottom lines seems to be a general three-way tie between the CC, PP and PSOE. The PSOE will probably fall back to where it was in 2003 (25% and 17 seats), while the PP could gain enough to become the largest party on the islands. CC is at its 2007 levels. The Canarian nationalists of Nueva Canarias, well implanted in Gran Canaria, had narrowly missed out on representation in 2007 but has seemingly now cleared that 6% threshold to gain representation. If the PP becomes the biggest party, it could form a coalition with the CC (or vice-versa).
2007: PSOE 26 seats, CC 19 seats, PP 15 seats

Cantabria: Cantabria has been governed since 2003 by Miguel Ángel Revilla of the Cantabrian Regionalist Party (PRC) whose regionalist party has been the senior party in a coalition with the PSOE. The PRC was actually smaller than the PSOE in 2003, but Revilla’s popularity allowed the PRC to become the second largest party behind the PP which has topped the poll in the region since 1995. Revilla and the PRC remain popular and it is unlikely to suffer major loses, polls giving it roughly what it has today (11-12). The PSOE, however, will likely take a drubbing and fall below the 10 seats it currently holds to 8 or so and allow the PP to potentially win the 20-seats it needs for a majority. Revilla’s government likely hinges – like in Galicia in 2009 – on whether the PP wins an absolute majority.
2007: PP 17, PRC 12, PSOE 10

Castilla-La Mancha: Castilla-La Mancha is an interesting region and its closely contested election this year has become the symbol of these elections. The PP has been the largest party in general and European elections since 1994, but the region has been governed without interruption by the PSOE since 1983. Until 2004, it was governed by José Bono, one of the powerful PSOE regional barons and today the President of the Chamber of Deputies. Bono had narrowly held on in the PP-landslide of 1995, but grew his majorities in 1999 and 2003 although the PSOE – now led by José María Barreda lost 3 seats in 2007. Today, Barreda is fighting to hold on against the secretary-general of the PP, María Dolores de Cospedal. Polling shows that the race is in a statistical tie and has barely budged in any direction since the campaign kicked off. The PP seems to have a one-seat edge in most polls. If you watch only one region on May 22, make it this one.
2007: PSOE 26 seatsPP 21 seats

Castilla y León: There is absolutely no contest in the heartland of Spanish conservatism, governed by the PP since 1987 and which has had a PP absolute majority since 1991. The PP’s Juan Vicente Herrera will consolidate his majority with some small gains, at the expense of the PSOE. The Leonese regionalist UPL will likely hold its two seats. Somebody will inevitably make the symbolic comment that the PSOE will do badly in León, Zapatero’s home province, which the PSOE had narrowly won in 2007.
2007: PP 48 seats, PSOE 33 seats, UPL 2 seats

Extremadura: Extremadura is a Socialist stronghold and has been governed by the PSOE since 1983, and, until 2007, by the powerful PSOE baron Juan Carlos Rodríguez Ibarra. It is thus very bad news for the PSOE to be in a tight race in its stronghold. The PSOE is either tied or narrowly trailing the PP, while IU – which lost all seats in 2007 – could return to parliament if it clears the 5% threshold. A very dire situation for the PSOE, but certainly a region to watch on May 22.
2007: PSOE-Regionalists 38 seats, PP-UEX 27 seats

La Rioja: Another snoozer in a conservative stronghold. The PP’s Pedro Sanz will sail to another majority in the region he has governed since 1995. Neither the PP nor the PSOE seems to be budging much from their 2007 levels, and it is unlikely that the PP will have major gains or the PSOE major loses. The regionalist Riojan Party (PR), which has held two seats since 1983, will either keep both or lose one. At any rate, it isn’t a contest to lose sleep over.
2007: PP 17 seats, PSOE 14 seats, PR 2 seats

Madrid:The interesting contest in Madrid was last year – the PSOE primary. The PP’s Esperanza Aguirre, at the helm of the region since 2003, won a record-breaking super-majority in 2007 taking 67 out of 120 seats. Aguirre, a top figure within the PP and a potential leader if Rajoy ever leaves, will likely re-edit – and build upon that impressive feat.  The interesting contest, the PSOE primary last year, saw Zapatero’s favourite candidate – Foreign Minister Trinidad Jiménez defeated by a rebel, Tomás Gómez. The PSOE’s wranglings certainly didn’t help their case much. IU could make some gains, but eyes will be on UPyD which hopes to break the 5% threshold required to win seats. Madrid’s legislature will now have 129 seats (+9).
2007: PP 67 seats, PSOE 42 seats, IU 11 seats

Murcia: Murcia is a conservative stronghold, one of the most conservative autonomous communities in Spain. The PP’s Ramón Luis Valcárcel has governed the region since 1995 with increasingly solid majorities (29/45 in 2007). Polling shows that the PP could gain two seats at the PSOE’s expense – such a result would be the PP’s best result in a region which has trended heavily towards the right in recent years.
2007: PP 29 seats, PSOE 15 seats, IU 1 seat

Navarra: From its days as a Carlist stronghold, Navarra has kept a strong conservative regionalist streak which is expressed by the Navarrese People’s Union (UPN), which was allied to the PP until 2008. The UPN has governed the region since 1996 in coalition, until 2009, with the Convergence of Navarrese Democrats (CDN), a 1995 split in the UPN by the more nationalist and moderate wing of the party. There were high hopes for a left-wing government in 2007, which had the sufficient seats, but all finally fell through. Since 2007, the second largest block in the Foral Parliament is Nafarroa Bai (NaBai), a Basque nationalist electoral coalition now composed of Aralar and the PNV. Eusko Alkartasuna , the dwindling left-wing non-violent nationalist party has been taken over by alleged Batasuna (ETA’s political wing) militants who have driven EA into a new electoral coalition, Bildu, whose legality was recently upheld by the courts over the traditional fears that it was the latest front for Batasuna/ETA. Polls show a stronger right-wing vote, with the UPN losing less (from 22 to 18-19 or so) than the PP is gaining (7-10). The PSN-PSOE will suffer some rather important loses, and the CDN is fighting for survival. Pollsters disagree on Bildu’s strength, but the combined weight of NaBai and Bildu seems to be equal to or slightly superior to NaBai’s successful showing of 23.6% in 2007.
2007: UPN-PP 12 seats, NaBai 12 seats, PSN-PSOE 12 seats, CDN 2 seats, IU 2 seats

Valencian Community: Valencia is a conservative stronghold, governed by the PP since 1995 and with an absolute majority since 1999. All that is unlikely to change, as Francisco Camps remains far ahead. The PP could increase its comfortable majority at the PSOE’s expense. The United Left (EU), now separated from its nationalist allies, will likely hold most if not all of its seats. The nationalists grouped in the Coalició Compromís oscillate a bit below the 5% threshold.
2007: PP 55 seats, PSPV-PSOE 37 seats, EU 7 seats

Ceuta and Melilla: The Spanish North African enclaves are both PP strongholds and any change is extremely unlikely. In Ceuta, the PP won 65.2% in 2007 and could win up to 70% this year. The real race is for second, which was taken in 2007 by the UDCE, a local party allied to IU. The PSOE could improve on its 2007 standing a bit at the expense of the UDCE, now united with a smaller left-wing local party in a new coalition. In Melilla, the PP won 56% in 2007 and could improve either a bit or a lot on that showing. The Coalition for Melilla (CPM), allied to IU, had taken second with 22% in 2007 but seemingly could now lose that second place to the PSOE. UPyD, apparently, could also be looking at seats.
2007: Ceuta – PP 19 seats, UDCE-IU 4 seats, PSOE 2 seats; Melilla – PP 15 seats, CPM-IU 5 seats, PSOE 5 seats

The run-through (which is certainly very incomplete and extremely brief) shows the dire straits the left is in. The PSOE could realistically lose all regions and be left with Andalusia and Euskadi. It could, perhaps more realistically, be reduced to just one or two regions such as Aragón, Extremadura or Castilla-La Mancha.

Municipalities

El Mundo has a fabulous map of the 2007 municipal elections which also includes some interesting demographic information. Particularly interesting is the municipal survival of IU in a good number of towns, the regionalist presence of the Andalusian PA in rural Andalusia, and Navarra’s dominance by local parties.

Much more could be written, but for time’s sake I’ll go through the laundry list of major cities:

Madrid: the mayor of Madrid since 2003 is Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón, a prominent moderate within the PP. The PP will hold its solid majorities, with little movement elsewhere aside from UPyD’s potential entrance into the municipal assembly.

Barcelona: The traditional core of the Catalan Socialists (PSC), Barcelona has been ruled by the PSC since 1979 and though CiU has come close at times – most recently in 2007 – the PSC has always been the largest party. Polls have shown that this may change, as the CiU is narrowly but consistently ahead of the PSC’s incumbent Jordi Hereu in polls. All other parties represented would remain roughly at those levels. Jordi Hereu could still hold on, of course, with the support of ICV and the ERC.

Valencia: Boring stuff again in a city ruled since 1991 by the PP’s Rita Barberà who will likely hold all her seats and perhaps gain some more while the PSPV-PSOE remains predictably weak.

Sevilla: Something is weird in the state of Andalusia. The eternal stronghold of the Spanish left is apparently seeing a major shift towards the right, with the PP on the road to governing all 8 provincial capitals (it currently holds 5). Sevilla is the major target, with the PP on track to win an absolute majority (17 seats). Both PP and PSOE had won 15 seats in 2007, the PSOE governing thanks to the support of two IU councillors.

Zaragoza: Held by the right between 1995 and 2003, the Aragonese capital is held by the PSOE since 2003. The PP could gain an extra councillor or two, but not enough for a majority. This could save the PSOE, which, though on track to some significant loses (from 13 seats to 10-11), could yet hold on thanks to the CHA, IU or PAR.

Málaga: The famous vacation resort is held by the PP since 1995 and that is unlikely to change. Mayor Francisco de la Torre will hold and perhaps increase his majority.

Murcia: I’m sorry, but this is getting very boring. The PP will hold this stronghold, governed by the right since 1995, with another predictably huge majority.

Palma de Mallorca: Similarly to what happened in the region as a whole, the PP won the most seats in Palma in 2007 – as it has done since 199 – but the PSOE’s Aina Calvo formed a governing coalition with the UM (2) and the Bloc per Mallorca [PSM-EN and EU] (2). The PP is quasi-certain to win an absolute majority and win back control. The PSOE will suffer loses, as will the PSM-EN, but seemingly UM will be shut out.

Las Palmas de Gran Canaria: On the back of that impressive Canarian PSOE surge in 2007, the PSOE’s Jerónimo Saavedra won control of a city governed by the PP since 1995. The PP could see some small gains, but insufficient for an overall majority, while the PSOE will likely lose 3 to 5 seats. Nueva Canarias could hold the balance of power, and would probably back the left.

Bilbao: Bilbao is the birthplace of the PNV, but it isn’t a stronghold of Basque nationalism by any means although the party has governed the capital of Vizcaya since 1979. It is unlikely that any of that will change, with the PNV set to hold on or gain marginally. The PSE-EE and PP could lose seats or remain where they are. Bildu, finally, will make its entrance with somewhere between 2 and 4 – roughly HB’s weight in the city before it was banned. Bildu’s showing will be worth watching in Guipuzcoa (and San Sebastián), the province most favourable to left-wing Basque nationalist movements and to Batasuna.

The image in the top 10 cities of Spain is very bleak for the left. They currently govern five of the ten, and they could very well be left with 0 (or, more realistically, a pitiful 1-2). The map of Spain’s provincial capitals could end up similar to what it was in 1995: 39 PP, 5 PSOE. In that election, the PSOE had topped the poll only in Andalusia and Extremadura. It isn’t inconceivable to imagine the PSOE doing even poorer than that.


West Bengal (India) 2011

A general election for the 294-seat Legislative Assembly of West Bengal in India was held in six phases between April 18 and May 10 with the votes counted on May 13. West Bengal had the longest serving democratically elected communist government in the world, with the Communist Party of India (Marxist) – the CPI(M) for short – ruling the state since 1977. West Bengal, which includes Calcutta, has long been a stronghold of Indian communism, something which might have something to do with the state’s alleged alienation from New Delhi. The Chief Minister of West Bengal since 2000 has been Buddhadeb Bhattacharya, famous for liberalizing West Bengal’s economy somewhat although West Bengal remains one of India’s poorest states.

Politics in West Bengal are pretty much a two-way game between the CPI(M)-led Left Front and the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) – the ruling multi-party coalition in New Delhi. The UPA is dominated by the All-India Trinamool Congress (AITC), a populist party led by Mamata Banerjee. The INC has a smaller base within the UPA, while the ruling Left Front also includes assorted communists and socialists. The BJP is inexistent in West Bengal.

Here are the results of the election:

AITC – UPA 184 seats (+154)
INC – UPA 42 seats (+21)
CPI(M) – LF 40 seats (-135)
AIFB – LF 11 seats (-12)
RSP – LF 7 seats (-13)
CPI – LF 2 seats (-7)
SP – ? 1 seat (+1)
Others 7 seats

As happens in most Indian state elections, when the ruling party is voted out of power it is usually done through a rout of epic proportions. Though the popular vote was only split 48-42 in the UPA’s favour, the wonders of FPTP turned that small-ish margin into a landslide defeat. The sitting Chief Minister, Buddhadeb Bhattacharya, was defeated in his own seat.

The Communist lost can be attributed to a number of factors, the most prominent of which are corruption, bad governance, poverty and being in power for way too long. More recently, land battles in the state ended in the Communist government ordering the police to shoot down protesters, which was, of course, a very bad move for a communist party. The CPI(M)’s defeat has been on the cards since 2009 at least, when the Left suffered loses in the Lok Sabha elections and then in 2010 when the CPI(M) lost its Calcutta stronghold in local elections. But even though it was predicted, the CPI(M)’s defeat remains shocking by its proportion. West Bengal is the core, the pedestal of the Indian communist movement which makes this defeat all the more significant.

For those who believe that India’s future economic development resides in free-market economics, they won’t be too enamored with Mamata Banerjee or the AITC. Mamata is a populist, who made a big issue of the land battles which destroyed the CPI(M) and which managed to sweep out the government on a wave of revolutionary fervour. The AITC and Mamata played a major role in the 2006 protests opposing the implantation of a Tata factory in Singur and finally drove Tata (and jobs) out of the state. But given that the AITC is a member of the governing UPA alliance, it won’t be able to break out too much from the central government’s economic policies.

In other Assembly polls, the CPI(M) lost control of its other stronghold – Kerala – to a INC-led alliance albeit rather narrowly. In Tamil Nadu, the governing Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) lost in a landslide to its enemy, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) and in doing so will continue the amusing game of musical chairs played between the DMK’s boss M. Karunanidhi and the AIADMK’s J. Jayalalithaa which has been going on almost unhindered since 1989.  In Assam, the governing INC won a huge majority at the BJP and Asom Gana Parishad’s expense.

Singapore 2011

A general election was held in Singapore on May 7, 2011. Singapore’s Parliament has 87 elected members who will be joined by up to three non-constituency members (NCMPs) and nine nominated MPs (NMPs).

Singapore is an illiberal democracy, and is much closer to a ‘meritocracy’ or ‘technocracy’ than a traditional liberal democracy. Singapore has been ruled since 1959 by the People’s Action Party (PAP) and between then and 1990 by the PAP’s Lee Kuan Yew, the dominant figure of Singaporean politics. His eldest son, Lee Hsien Long, has been PAP leader and Prime Minister since 2004. The PAP, originally a socialist anti-colonialist party, quickly transformed into an anti-communist right-wing party of power. Its policies have transformed Singapore into the economic powerhouse of southeast Asia and one of the wealthiest countries in the whole of Asia, albeit at the expense of free speech, civil liberties and liberal democracy. Though broadly right-wing and favouring neoliberal economic measures to establish a meritocratic civil society, the PAP has made use of generous spending instruments and economic interventionism to cement its dominance.

The electoral system also cements its dominance. Most of the elected MPs are elected in gerrymandered Group Representation Constituencies (GRCs) which are multi-member constituencies with 4 to 6 MPs each. Voters in each GRCs vote for a party list, and in an electoral college-like way, the winning list (even if it is by one vote) takes all seats. Obviously, such stuff helps cement the PAP’s dominance. There are 15 GRCs in this election. There are also 12 single-member seats (SMCs) in this election. Since 1984, there are up to three NCMPs, which are opposition members nominated to serve in Parliament despite losing in the election. Normally the best-performing loser is nominated to Parliament, and there is currently only one NCMP. Propaganda and other blatant advantages help the PAP, but the divided opposition has been on an upswing since 2006. The largest opposition force is the socialist Workers’ Party (WP), with smaller parties including the National Solidarity Party, the liberal Singapore Democratic Party, the new liberal Reform Party, the liberal Singapore People’s Party and the declining broad liberal front Singapore Democratic Alliance (SDA).

In 2006, the PAP took 82 of 84 seats with the WP and SDA winning one SMC each. The WP also got a NCMP.

Traditionally, the opposition does not even contest most GRCs and a lot of SMCs, with only 47/84 seats contested in 2006. This year, only one GRC (Tanjong Pajar) remained uncontested and 5 PAP MPs including Lee Kuan Yew were elected by walkover – the lowest number of uncontested seats since the 1960s. Furthermore, that GRC was left uncontested only because the opposition was “35 seconds late” in handing in nomination papers. The results are:

PAP 60.14% (-6.46%) winning 81 seats (-1)
WP 12.82% (-3.52%) winning 6 seats (+5)
NSP 12.04% (ex-SDA) winning 0 seats (nc)
SDP 4.83% (+0.76%) winning 0 seats (nc)
Reform 4.28% (new) winning 0 seats (nc)
SPP 3.11% (ex-SDA) winning 0 seats (-1) + 1 likely NCMP
SDA 2.78% (-10.21%) winning 0 seats (nc)

These results don’t mean much, but it’s a huge morale boost for the opposition. The ruling PAP has suffered its worst result since 1968, and for the first time the opposition has won a GRC. The WP slate won 5-member Aljunied GRC with 54.7% of the vote, a swing of over 10% towards the WP. In doing so, it defeated two sitting PAP cabinet ministers including Foreign Minister George Yeo. It also held the old opposition stronghold of Hougang SMC, held by the WP since 1991, with a record 64.8% of the vote. The opposition, however, represented by the SPP, lost Potong Pasir SMC where Lina Chiam has been unable to succeed her husband’s seat, which he has held since 1984. The opposition won 49.6% there. It also came close in Joo Chiat SMC (49%, a 14% swing to it) and East Coast GRC (45.2%, a 9% swing to it).

Northern Ireland 2011

Assembly elections were held in Northern Ireland on May 5, 2011 as part of the UK election bonanza, covered in earlier posts which you’ll find scrolling down this page. Northern Ireland’s Assembly has 108 seats elected by STV in 18-multi member constituencies which elect 6 MLAs each. Given Northern Ireland’s troubled history, Northern Ireland is a consociational democracy, and a consociational democracy which takes the word consociationalism to its true meaning. The Northern Irish executive, led by a First Minister and Deputy Minister forming a powerful duo and various ministers, is neither elected through popular vote nor is it a traditional government seeking confidence of the Assembly. Rather, the makeup of the power-sharing executive is determined by the d’Hondt PR formula and cabinet seats are apportioned based on the number of seats held by a party in the Assembly. The largest party of the largest community gets the office of First Minister, while the largest party of the minority community gets the office of Deputy First Minister.

When talking Northern Ireland, we often talk in terms of communities. Politics is also tightly regimented along lines of community. Northern Irish parties are, with almost all parties identified to said communities. The Protestant or Unionist side includes the Democratic Unionist (DUP) and Ulster Unionist (UUP) parties with two smaller parties, the Progressive Unionist Party (PUP) and the Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV). The DUP, led by the famous Reverend Ian Paisley between 1971 and 2008, was originally the more radical of the two main Unionist parties and the more right-wing of the two, being based in the evangelical Free Presbyterian Church. The DUP originally opposed power-sharing deals, but the growing influence of younger pragmatists within the party led to it to accept power-sharing, culminating in Paisley becoming FM in 2007. The UUP, long the dominant party of Unionist politics (and Northern Ireland), has been in terminal state since 2007 at the earliest and in bad straits for most of the twenty-first century as the DUP has outplaced it as the largest Unionist party. The UUP is often seen as the most moderate party, largely due to the work of its ex-leader David Trimble in favour of the Good Friday Agreement. The party has had a hard time adapting to life as the second fiddle in Unionist politics, and its desperate and ultimately failed linkup with the Conservative Party in 2009-2010 was one of their leadership’s desperate moves. The smaller parties, PUP and TUV, are much smaller in weight. The PUP is the only left-wing Unionist party, and is linked to the UVF paramilitary – a linkup which has divided the party and led to its only MLA walking out of the party in 2010. The TUV was founded in 2007 by former DUP MEP Jim Allister as a radical Unionist party opposed to power-sharing. Allister did well in the 2009 Euros, winning nearly 14%, but the TUV has since turned into an also-ran and personal machine for Allister.

On the Catholic or Nationalist side, the two parties are Sinn Féin (SF) and the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP). SF, which we all know well, is the more left-wing and ‘republican’ of the two parties and was pretty much the political wing of the IRA. SF’s participation in the peace process was vital, and it has enjoyed more and more success as it moderated its position, allowing it to become the largest of the nationalist parties. The SDLP conciliates moderate nationalism with social democracy, and played a vital role in bringing SF to the table and making the power-sharing agreements work. Since then, however, the SDLP has suffered loses – like the UUP – and is now the second largest nationalist party. However, unlike the UUP which is still struggling to grasp that reality, SDLP has had less problems and it isn’t in a terminal condition.

The liberal Alliance Party (APNI) is a non-sectarian, cross-community liberal party. The Alliance is not exceptionally strong, but APNI candidate Naomi Long stunningly defeated DUP First Minister Peter Robinson in his East Belfast constituency in the 2010 general election. Furthermore, APNI was allowed a seat at the table – David Ford as Justice Minister – an exception to the d’Hondt formula of cabinet allocation. The Green Party (GPNI) also has one seat in the Assembly, and they’re cross-community as well.

Here are the results, marked by a low turnout of 54.5%

DUP 30% (-0.1%) winning 38 seats (+2)
SF 26.9% (+0.7%) winning 29 seats (+1)
SDLP 14.2% (-1%) winning 14 seats (-2)
UUP 13.2% (-1.7%) winning 16 seats (-2)
Alliance 7.7% (+2.5%) winning 8 seats (+1)
TUV 2.5% (+2.5%) winning 1 seat (+1)
Green 0.9% (-0.8%) winning 1 seat (nc)
PBPA 0.8% (+0.7%) winning 0 seats (nc)
UKIP 0.6% (+0.4%) winning 0 seats (nc)
PUP 0.2% (-0.4%) winning 0 seats (-1)
Independents winning 1 seat (nc)

(56 Unionists vs. 43 Nationalists, +1 Unionist and -1 Nationalist)

The overarching trend here is stability. There has been no drastic movements, with no party gaining over 2.5% more than its 2007 share of the popular vote and with no party losing or gaining more than 2 seats. The DUP remains the largest party and gains two seats, while Sinn Féin gained one seat. The second fiddle party within each community, SDLP and UUP, suffered loses (again). The Alliance gained the most, but fell short of gaining another seat in North Down by a handful of votes, that last seat falling to the Greens who held their seat there despite the retirement of the popular Green MLA there. Jim Allister’s TUV actually did very poorly, down further from its rather disastrous 4% in the 2010 GE. But Allister was elected on the last count in North Antrim.

Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness had hoped to become First Minister after these elections, which would have required SF placing first ahead of the DUP which it did in 2009 and 2010. But the DUP remained rather comfortably ahead of SF, and did roughly 5% better than in 2010. In this story, one of the main actors is Peter Robinson, the comeback kid. The First Minister had a rough ride in 2009 and 2010, with his wife Iris (a former MP and MLA) being embroiled in a sex scandal, a series of bad things which culminated in Robinson shockingly losing his East Belfast Westminster seat to the Alliance’s Naomi Long in May 2010. Since then, Robinson has been on the way back and his efforts paid off. With 28% first preference votes, he easily topped the poll in East Belfast and led the DUP to a strong showing after the 2009 disaster (at Jim Allister’s hands) and the setback of 2010.

The SDLP and UUP both suffered loses for the second consecutive election. There’s no hiding from the fact that both of these parties are in dire straits and must reinvent themselves in a way which prevents them falling further down the road of irrelevance.  Their respective positions seem confused, and probably confusing to voters and members. The overall picture for the SDLP is bad, but not all that bad as it still managed to top the poll in South Down and Foyle (though not by a whole lot, especially in Foyle). The picture for the UUP is bad, and Tom Elliott’s recent outburst at his count in Fermanagh and South Tyrone only makes the whole thing worst. Elliott, the UUP’s leader since last year, has made no secret of his conservatism and his positioning within the right of the party (rather than, say, the civic unionism of David Trimble and Sylvia Hermon). Furthermore, in Unionist politics, competition for ‘ethnic intransigence’ seems to be a constant, and Elliott’s goal seems to be pushing the UUP into a TUV-lite position to the right of the growingly pragmatic DUP. At his count, Elliott attacked the “traitorous scum of Sinn Féin” and Shinners wearing “the flag of a foreign nation”. Perhaps Mr. Elliott should study the results of the TUV before acting like a Unionist dinosaur.

Northern Ireland seems to be consolidating into a two-party DUP and SF system, with the SDLP and UUP risking long-term extinction or irrelevance if such trends continue.

The Alliance did well, gaining a second seat in East Belfast where it won 26.3% of the overall first preferences, up 7.5% on its 2007 performance (the DUP won 44.1%, up 6.4% since 2007, in East Belfast). As aforementioned, it fell short of a second seat in North Down, that seat instead being held by Steven Agnew for the Greens. Agnew won roughly 8% of first prefs and was elected on the last count. The popular Alliance-turned-Indie-turned-Green Brian Wilson had won the GPNI’s first seat there in 2007, likely due to a large personal vote, but retired this year. His wife Anne was the APNI candidate who fell short of that seat, ironically enough. As a final note about North Down, the DUP did quite well there with 44% (up 10%) against a mere 10% for the UUP which has apparently not recovered from the Sylvia Hermon episode of 2010.

Jim Allister’s TUV did horribly, its paltry 2.5% result being the party’s lowest result in its brief existence. Even in Allister’s North Antrim, the TUV won only 12% of first prefs (10% for Allister himself), lower than the 16.8% he won there in 2010. Yet, Allister managed election on the ninth count. The TUV’s low showing shows the low weight of radical unionism in Northern Ireland, and Allister’s platform of being a thorn in the side of the executive probably won’t amount to much.

In East Belfast, both the PUP-turned-Indie incumbent Dawn Purvis and the PUP’s leader Brian Ervine lost out. Purvis was eliminated on the final count, after polling 5.3% of first prefs. Ervine won 4.6% of first prefs and was eliminated on the tenth count, right before Purvis. An Independent, David McClarty, was elected in East Londonderry on the seventh count with 8.6% of first prefs. McClarty ran as an independent after being deselected by the UUP. The UUP will now try to win him back (in order to get a second cabinet seat), but Elliott’s outburst won’t help considering McClarty commented that they made Jim Allister look like the Dalai Lama.

Of the smaller parties, the far-left PBPA won 5% in West Belfast and 8% in its Foyle stronghold but transfers weren’t good enough to get it a seat there. UKIP won 5.6% in South Down, where its candidate is a local councillor.

The new cabinet will have a DUP FM, a SF Deputy FM alongside 4 DUP ministers, 3 SF ministers, and one minister each from UUP, SDLP and Alliance. The Alliance will likely have two ministries overall, though, with David Ford likely to hold his Justice portfolio. If McClarty joined back up with the UUP, the UUP would get a second seat at APNI’s expense. The Alliance could take such matters into court, as could the UUP if they only get one ministries to the APNI’s two considering the APNI is half the size of the UUP.

Local election counts are underway, with the same trends showing up: DUP and SF stable, SDLP and UUP loses, Alliance gains.

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