Monthly Archives: October 2011

Tunisia 2011

Constituent assembly elections were held in Tunisia on October 23, 2011. These elections elected the 217-seat Constituent Assembly, which will draft a new constitution for Tunisia and elect a new interim President and Prime Minister following the overthrow of longtime President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in the Tunisian Revolution back in early January.

Ben Ali, the authoritarian despot who had ruled Tunisia since 1987 was quickly ousted following only a month’s worth of violent protests against the regime. Ben Ali’s overthrow was the first domino to fall in the string of Arab revolutions since this winter which has since expanded across North Africa and the Middle East and resulted in the ouster of at least two other longtime authoritarian rulers in Egypt and Libya. Since independence from France in 1956, Tunisia had seen only two Presidents: the “father of the nation”, Habib Bourguiba who had laid the roots of the modern secular and pro-western Tunisian state; and Ben Ali, Bourguiba’s last Prime Minister who overthrew the old man in 1987 when the country was on the verge of economic collapse. Whatever hopes there were of liberalization as Ben Ali took power were dashed by 1989, when Ben Ali reverted to the authoritarianism and political oppression of his predecessor. He won reelections countless times with huge margins, taking over 90% of the vote in nicely-staged fake elections complete with play-nice ‘legal opposition’ parties. Economic growth was not enough to keep a lid on popular discontent as unemployment, especially youth unemployment, remained a huge issue. It all boiled over in December 2010, when the revolution which cost Ben Ali his presidency was set in motion with the self-immolation of a street vendor in Sidi Bouzid. Ben Ali was ousted on January 14. On February 27, the interim government led by Ben Ali’s Prime Minister, Mohammed Ghannouchi, was forced out following protests and replaced by Beji Caid Essebi, a 84-year old stalwart of the old regime who is nonetheless a popular non-partisan senior figure. Following the revolution, the dominant party of the old regime – the Constitutional Democratic Rally (RCD) was banned and dissolved.

The new Constituent Assembly will have 217 members, of which 199 represent Tunisia and 18 represent Tunisians abroad. In Tunisia, each governorate serves as a constituency with the larger governorates of Nabeul, Sfax and Tunis further divided into two districts. Each governorate/district elects between 4 and 10 members through largest remainder closed list PR which favours the dispersion of seats between many parties (and thus small parties). The 18 ‘diaspora’ seats were divided as follows: 5 seats for France-north, 3 seats for France-south, 3 seats for Italy, 1 seat for Germany, 2 seats for the Americas and the rest of Europe and 2 seats for Arab countries and the rest of the world.

11,686 candidates on a total of 1,517 lists ran for this first free election in Tunisian history. With the RCD gone, the political spectrum was basically brand new. The big question in Tunisia and indeed in the other Arab states which overthrew longtime authoritarian regimes is who will take over? In Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, the regimes which were overthrown were, at varying extents, secular and opposed to political Islam. Thus, especially in Egypt and Tunisia, the largest opposition force under the old regimes were the Islamists (or Islamics, depending on one’s political view of such hot-button issues).

The main opposition in Tunisia under Ben Ali was the illegal and underground Ennahda (Renaissance) movement, founded in 1981 as the MTI and led since its foundation by Rached Ghannouchi. The party participated in the “freest” of the old regime elections in 1989 as an independent slate and came a distant second behind the RCD, and its success led to its rapid banning and Ghannouchi’s exile in London. The party has no old institutional base inside Tunisia, but few parties do. Instead, it has a wide network of sympathizers and a large reservoir of sympathy and legitimacy as the best organized and most respected opposition force in Tunisia. The big question surrounding Ennahda is its commitment to democracy and reform. Critics warn that its moderate rhetoric hides a more extremist faction which is ready to turn Tunisia, one the Arab world’s more liberal state with remarkably progressive social legislation (in matters such as gender equality, notably), into a theocratic backwater or at least a conservative authoritarian state. Ennahda claims that is supports democracy, political pluralism, women’s rights, civil liberties and economic liberalism. It has linked itself politically with Turkey’s governing party, the Islamic-rooted AKP. Ennahda says it is an ‘Islamic party’ but not an ‘Islamist party’.

The secular (left) opposition in Tunisia is far less organized and far more divided. Prior to the elections, the three largest parties were thought to be the Progressive Democratic Party (PDP), Ettakatol (Democratic Forum for Labour and Liberties or FDTL) and the Congress for the Republic (CPR). The PDP was legal under the old regime but was one of the most critical parties in the fake opposition, and thus actually harassed by the government and obviously kept out of the plaything legislature by the RCD. The party was founded in 1983 by Ahmed Nejib Chebbi though now led by Maya Jribi. Originally rather left-wing, the party has moved towards the centre and was allegedly backed by part of the business community. Chebbi has served in the interim government since January. Ettakatol was founded in 1994 but legalized only in 2002. It is led by Mustapha Ben Jaafar and is the closest thing to a social democratic party – it is an observer member of SI (of which the RCD was a member until SI kicked it out in embarrassment in January). The party is progressive on moral and gender equality issues. Ben Jaafar briefly served in the interim government until he quit, saying it was too dominated by old RCD stalwarts. Finally there is the Congress for the Republic (CPR), which was banned throughout the old regime’s rule and led from exile in Paris by Moncef Marzouki, a well-known human rights activist. The CPR, which is the most radical of the three main secular parties in its dealing with old RCD interests, is described as left-leaning, nationalist and concerned primarily about civil liberties.

On the sidelines of the secular opposition stood the Democratic Modernist Pole (PDM), a coalition led by the Ettajdid movement – the descendant of the old Communist Party (PCT). Ettajdid’s attempt to unite the secular movement under its wing failed, perhaps because Ettajdid – which was legal under the old regime – is much more concerned about defending Tunisia’s secular state than by destroying the vestiges of the RCD. It took the most radical stance against Ennahda but its attempts to brand the election as a straight-cut choice between evil theocrats and them failed.

There are also a handful of other centre-right parties with some sort of links to the RCD. First there were the “RCD parties”, which included El Watan led by a former interior minister of the regime and L’Initiative (Al Moubadara) led by former foreign minister Kamel Morjane. Afek Tounes, alleged by the CPR of having links with the RCD, was the top voice of neoliberalism and of the country’s wealthiest elites. Similarly right-wing was the Free Patriotic Union (UPL), a neoliberal party led by young business magnate Slim Riahi who made a fortune in Libya in energy and property development. The UPL was well funded and led some to fear Riahi was trying to become a Tunisian Berlusconi.

Finally, and most political isolated, was the far-left Communist Party of Tunisian Workers (PCOT), an Hoxhaist party led by Hamma Hammami, jailed several times by the old regime. But these were by no means the only party, as you’ll find out. There were other RCD parties, other right-wing secular parties, some socialist parties, some Arab socialist parties, some nationalist parties… an all you can eat buffet of parties in sum.

Turnout of registered voters was 52% range. A lot had feared low turnout, as Tunisians lost track of politics with over 100 lists running in their district or by disillusion with politics in the wake of the slow pace of reforms following the revolution. Turnout of the VAP, however, was apparently much lower because of low rates of voter registration. I have updated this page with final results.

Ennahda 37.04% winning 89 seats
CPR 8.71% winning 29 seats
Popular Petition (Al Aridha Chaabia) 6.74% winning 26 seats
Ettakatol 7.03% winning 20 seats
PDP 3.94% winning 16 seats
L’Initiative 3.19% winning 5 seats
PDM 2.79% winning 5 seats
Afek Tounes 1.89% winning 4 seats
PCOT 1.57% winning 3 seats
People’s Movement 0.75% winning 2 seats
MDS 0.56% winning 2 seats
UPL 1.26% winning 1 seat
MDP 0.83% winning 1 seat
Others and indies 3.35% winning 14 seats

Ennahda is the clear winner of these elections. Its victory was not a surprise, but its strength was seriously underestimated – unsurprisingly – by most pollsters. The party won some 41% of the seats and roughly 37-40% of the popular vote, which is considerably more than what was originally predicted. It is not an absolute majority, but the party is in the driver’s seat in the new Constituent Assembly. Regardless of whatever it says, it’s pretty certain that the new constitution will bear Ennahda’s mark in some way or another. However, unlike the FIS in Algeria in 1992 which won the legislative elections with a huge absolute majority (66%) and then proceeded to alter the constitution on its own terms – provoking the military’s response – Ennahda is not in such a position and this is often invoked to allay fears that Ennahda will be too dominant in the new assembly. Furthermore, Ennahda understands that it is not in its interests to take its landslide to its head and act independently and aloofly of others. Doing so would risk compromising Tunisia’s democratic transition and alienating large swathes of the society and military. It is not in its interests to do anything really ‘important’ for lack of a better term until it knows that it is in a position to win a confrontation with the secular forces outright. For the time being, Ennahda will do everything in its power to reassure Tunisians and foreigners as to its objectives. It has already said countless times that it is supports gender equality (that is, Tunisia’s current laws on the matter which are pretty progressive), liberal democracy and pluralism, the alliance with the west. It has said that it would not ban alcohol, only seek to discourage drinking through taxation, and countless other reassurances of its moderation and commitment to democracy.

The reasons for Ennahda’s success are plenty. Even if Tunisia is one the Arab world’s most secularized countries, it remains a Muslim country and voters feel some sense of affiliation with a moderate Islamic party. Second, the party emerged from the revolution with a lot of legitimacy as the most well-known longtime opponent of Ben Ali’s regime even if its role in the actual revolution was probably pretty limited overall. Third, the party was extremely well funded and could manage to pay for a big campaign. In addition, the party had a surprisingly strong and vibrant grassroots base on the ground which made it one of the best organized parties in these elections, in addition to being one of the best funded parties. Ideologically, the party’s simple message also paid off in big ways. Firstly, Ennahda promises more social spending and welfare measures, something which has made it popular in low-income rural and urban areas throughout Tunisia. But most important in the party’s success, in my eyes, is the party’s positioning as a conservative force of stability. Even if the revolution remains popular with the bulk of voters, the revolutionary euphoria of January has since died down and voters have undeniably woken up in a new country where they feel worried about their future and disoriented in a totally new political system where the police state and single-party authoritarianism of the RCD regime were pretty much eliminated overnight. Ennahda reassured voters who felt worried and disoriented with its conservative message: praising the revolution but saying that it was time to get back to work. Ennahda was the most radical force in opposition to the old regime, but today the party is a force for conservatism, stability and order. Ennahda as a reassuring force for stability and order in a complex new world really struck a chord with voters who feel a little disoriented and rather worried. This is quite similar to the first free elections of the democratic transitions in countries such as Spain, Portugal, Argentina, Brazil or Chile where the forces of the old order were shunned while voters embraced moderates who promised stability and rejected the more radical and revolutionary forces which wanted a rapid break with the old order. Just like how Egyptian voters earlier this year voted heavily in favour of a watered-down constitutional reform which was opposed by the more radical revolutionaries.

The real shock of this election came from Al Aridha Chaabia (Popular Petition). The party had not figured in any poll, it had no Wikipedia page on it, nothing had been written about in in the international media and even few Tunisians knew it. So it really came out of absolutely nowhere and did so well. If it had won 5 or so seats, then few would have noticed it as a lot of parties which won a few seats are pretty much unknown to anybody. But this is a party which officially won 26 seats. Al Aridha Chaabia is a populist personalist party led by Mohamed Hechmi Haamdi, a Tunisian businessman who has lived in London since the 90s where he runs the satellite TV station Al-Mustakilla. Hechmi Haamdi is originally from Sidi Bouzid, the birthplace of the revolution and a very poor small town in the Tunisian interior, something which hasn’t prevented him from amassing stacks of money through his TV station which is pretty popular in Tunisia and in Sidi Bouzid. Politically, Hechmi Haamdi has been all over the place. He was originally a member of the MTI – Ennahda’s predecessor – before leaving the party in 1992 to move closer to Ben Ali’s regime – before again breaking with Ben Ali in 2001 and Al-Mustakilla became a voice for the opposition. Shortly thereafter, he once again begun singing Ben Ali and Leïla Trabelsi’s praises. As a result, he is considered to be close to the Islamists but on very bad terms with Ennahda’s leadership, while at the same time he is much criticized as an ally of Ben Ali and the RCD regime – a charge he of course denies. Al Aridha Chaabia was suspected of being bankrolled by the old RCD interests. Having run his campaign from London and through his TV station, Hechmi Haamdi’s lists have been accused of illegal financing and were disqualified in five districts and its seats won there redistributed with a new quota. At first, it won 19 seats but then the invalidated lists were ‘uninvalidated’ and set the party’s results at 26. At first, Hechmi Haamdi said that Al Aridha’s remaining MPs would withdraw from the Assembly in protest but he has since reversed that decision after those remaining MPs resisted.

It was Al Aridha’s populism which explained its success. The party did well in the poor interior regions and probably “took votes” which would have otherwise probably have gone to Ennahda. In Sidi Bouzid, the birthplace of both Hechmi Haamdi and the revolution, Al Aridha won in a landslide but its list there was disqualified. But while its vote in large part can be explained as a protest vote from the interior against the coastal elites, the party also did well in some coastal regions. Overall it is the populism of Hechmi Haamdi, whose lists of wild promises included universal health care, heavy social spending, unemployment benefits of 200 dinars and a bridge to Italy(!), which won his lists the vote they got.

In the secular coalition, the CPR led by exiled opposition leader Moncef Marzouki emerged – somewhat surprisingly – as the main opposition force to Ennahda. The CPR, which was the only party of the four main secular left parties to have been illegal under the regime, was also pretty moderate and this in part explains its success. It built a bridge between Arab nationalism, civil liberties and a less confrontational attitude towards Ennahda. In contrast, the clear losers of the secular coalition – the PDP and the Ettajdid-led PDM – had taken a very confrontational attitude towards Ennahda and both failed in their attempts to coalesce what there was of a secular left anti-Ennahda vote around them. The PDP was the biggest loser (given that the PDM was never expected to do very well), given that the party had hoped to be the second largest party but ended up in a distant fifth with only 17 members. Its viscerally anti-Ennahda attitude explains part of it, but a lot seems to come from the party’s lack of revolutionary enthusiasm and its penchant for compromise with the old RCD forces. Nejib Chebbi’s participation in the first post-Ben Ali interim government was judged to be a “dark day” for the PDP, and even before that the PDP had on January 13 been the only opposition party to accept Ben Ali’s proposal to form a coalition government. Voters certainly rejected the most radical of the revolutionary forces and opted for conservative voices of stability, but they also strongly rejected those who were too closely linked to the old order. Indeed, of the “pure RCD parties”, L’Initiative won only five seats – and its vote was heavily concentrated (4/5 seats) in Sousse and Monastir, the old bastions of the RCD and the birthplaces of Ben Ali and Bourguiba respectively.

Ennahda did best in the interior regions, but there is no clear-cut polarization between a liberal coast and a conservative Islamic interior. Al Aridha’s strong showings in the interior explain part of this, but overall Ennahda can pride itself on having a very homogeneously divided vote. There is also little sign of a strong rural vs. urban divide. Ennahda did just as well in some urban areas – like Tunis I – as it did in some rural areas. In Tunis, the secular forces did best in Tunis II – which includes some of the city’s more affluent and posh suburbs and neighborhoods while Tunis I includes the poorer areas of the old town.

As I said, Ennahda is played it very well so far. It is reasserting its moderation and commitment to democracy and doing its best to please everybody. As such, Ennahda is trying to form a coalition government with the CPR and Ettakatol. This government would have the strength of bringing together Ennahda and the two biggest secular forces. But Ennahda does not want to work with Al Aridha, partly because the two hate each other and because Ennahda certainly has no interest in legitimizing Al Aridha as a political force. Given Al Aridha’s voters, Ennahda is instead going to try to explain why they voted for Al Aridha and not for them.

Ennahda is proposing the party’s secretary-general, the moderate Hamadi Jebali for the office of Prime Minister rather than Ghannouchi, the party’s boss. At the same time, it is ready to give the presidency to the other parties. It has mentioned the name of Ettakatol leader Mustapha Ben Jafaar, CPR leader Moncef Marzouki and current interim PM Beji Caid Essebsi for the presidency. Of course, Ennahda envisions the presidency as a ceremonial office in a parliamentary republic…

Liberia 2011

Presidential and congressional elections were held in Liberia on October 11, 2011 with a runoff for President to be held on November 8. The President is elected for a six-year term, renewable once. The Congress is made up of the House of Representatives with 64 members elected in single-member districts through FPTP, with each county having a number of seats based on population with a minimum of 2 seats; the Senate has 30 members elected for staggered nine-year terms and renewed by halves. Each county elects two members in totals, but not at the same time.

Liberia has been ruled since 2005 by Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, recent Nobel laureate. Johnson Sirleaf’s election marked the return of political stability after a civil war which had been on-and-off since 1989 and civil strife which had begun in 1980. Up till 1980, Liberia was a single-party state ruled by the True Whig Party since independence in 1847. The True Whig Party, which dominated Liberian politics with an iron hand, represented the interests of the Americo-Liberian minority – those descendants of the former slaves brought over to Liberia from the United States in the early nineteenth century. The Americo-Liberians had been socialized to western norms and saw the adoption of western culture and traditions as necessary for the country’s economic development. In practice, this meant allying closely with the Americans who reaped the profits of Liberia’s rubber and mining industries and repression of the country’s indigenous tribal majority. In 1980, the hegemony of the True Whigs and Americo-Liberians came to an end when President Tolbert was overthrown in a violent coup led by army officer Samuel Doe, of Krahn ethnicity. Doe set up a corrupt pro-American authoritarian regime which rigged elections and violently cracked down on other tribes, most significantly the Gio and Mano in northern Nimba County (where most of the country’s diamonds are mined). Civil war broke out in 1989 between the rebel NPFL led by Charles Taylor and supported by the Gio and Mano and the Krahn government. Doe was killed in 1990, but the war did not end there: the NPFL split, with the Gio and Dan largely backing Prince Yormie Johnson’s INPFL, while the remnants of the Krahn armed forces formed ULIMO and later LURD. Taylor was elected President in 1997. The conflict did not end until Taylor’s departure in 2003. The war had killed thousands, displaced thousands, left the country’s institutions, economy and infrastructure in ruins with some 80% living below the poverty line with 90% or so unemployed.

Since 2005, things have gotten a bit better under former IMF economist Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who has improved the state of the country’s infrastructure and public services, made headway on the country’s debt issue and solid economic growth (6.9% growth in 2011). But she is not as popular at home as she is abroad, because she is criticized for her role in the civil war (she originally backed Taylor) and for the slow progress made in reducing poverty and corruption.

In the 2005 election, Johnson Sirleaf had defeated popular former football star George Weah. Weah was originally set to run again, but then dropped his bid in favour of a short-lived alliance with former Taylor ally and 2005 candidate Charles Brumskine. When that fell apart, Weah’s party, the CDC, endorsed Winston Tubman, a former diplomat and nephew of former True Whig President William Tubman (who served 1944-1971). Finally, warlord and Nimba County Senator Prince Johnson also ran this year at the helm of his party, the NUDP. Tubman and Johnson Sirleaf’s policies were pretty much similar, but Tubman claims that he has better credentials than her and criticized her for her unclear role in the civil war.

The results were:

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (UP) 43.9%
Winston A. Tubman (CDC) 32.7%
Prince Yormie Johnson (NUDP) 11.6%
Charles W. Brumskine (LP) 5.4%
All others below 1.1%

Tubman had at first cried foul over the preliminary results, but the UN and western observers forced him to back off his original call to boycott the runoff when they judged the vote to be free and fair. He will participate in the runoff after all, but it is pretty clear that Johnson Sirleaf will be reelected. She has won the endorsement of Prince Johnson, who probably hates Tubman because Tubman is tougher on war crimes and wants Johnson to be prosecuted for war crimes. It is likely that Prince Johnson’s voters will follow their candidate’s endorsement.

Johnson Sirleaf did best in northwestern Liberia, which is ethnically Gola (she is part Gola herself), but also in the Kpelle areas in central Liberia and Grebo areas in southeastern Liberia (besides Maryland County). Tubman won Montserrado County and Monrovia, perhaps because of his Americo-Liberian ancestry, and also won the heavily Krahn Grand Gedeh County. Johnson won his native Nimba County – which is heavily Gio and Mano – with nearly 70% of the vote. Brumskine won Grand Bassa County, which, shockingly, is largely Bassa.

I won’t break down congressional results because there are a billion parties. Johnson Sirleaf’s UP seems to be the biggest party in the Senate with 10 members (down 1).

Switzerland 2011

Federal elections were held in Switzerland on October 23, 2011. All 200 members of the National Council and all 46 members of the Council of States were up for reelection. Together, these two chambers make up the Federal Assembly, Switzerland’s federal legislature. The Federal Assembly together elects the seven members of Switzerland’s government, the Federal Council. Swiss elections can’t see a government being “defeated” and replaced by another, because since 1959 Switzerland’s government has had the same make-up or close to it. I had covered the structure of Switzerland’s semi-direct consociational government structure as well as all the parties in a preview post here.

It doesn’t actually matter much in terms of realities of governance, but since 1991 Swiss politics have really been turned on its head as the hegemony of the ‘moderate’ forces: Socialists, liberals and Christian democrats was challenged by the upstart right-wing populist SVP which has gone from 11.9% support in 1991 to 28.9% in 2007, thus forcing the Christian democrats to lose a seat in the Federal Council in the SVP’s favour back in 2003. The SVP’s success stems from its ability to portray itself as a nationalist party which defends Swiss sovereignty, Swiss neutrality, Swiss interests and “real Swiss” people from the perceived dangers of internationalism, economic interventionism and above all ‘foreign criminals’ whose presence in Switzerland, they claim, threatens Swiss values and Swiss way of life. Obviously, the SVP is a very controversial party and its electoral ads have often been called xenophobic or racist. After the 2007 election, the SVP’s accession showed no signs of being checked: two SVP-led measures to ban minarets (2009) and to deport foreign criminals (2010) were approved by a majority of voters in referendums.

Turnout was 49.1%, which seems to be one of the highest turnouts since 1979 or something. This number, which seems low for voters in other countries, is pretty high for low-turnout Switzerland. The results for the National Council were as follows:

SVP-UDC 26.6% (-2.3%) winning 54 seats (-8)
SP-PS 18.7% (-0.8%) winning 46 seats (+3)
FDP.Liberals-PRL 15.1% (-2.6%) winning 30 seats (-5)
CVP-PDC 12.3% (-2.2%) winning 28 seats (-3)
Greens 8.4% (-1.2%) winning 15 seats (-5)
GLP-PEL 5.4% (+4%) winning 12 seats (+9)
BDP-PBD 5.4% (+5.4%) winning 9 seats (+9)
EVP-PEV 2% (-0.4%) winning 2 seats (nc)
EDU-UDF 1.3% (nc) winning 0 seats (-1)
Lega 0.8% (+0.2%) winning 2 seats (+1)
CSP-PCS 0.6% (+0.2%) winning 1 seat (nc)
PdAS-PST 0.5% (-0.2%) winning 0 seats (-1)
Sol 0.3% (-0.1%) winning 0 seats (nc)
SD-DS 0.2% (-0.3%) winning 0 seats (nc)
Others 2.3% (+0.5%) winning 1 seat (+1)

As expected, the results, at a glance, indicate remarkable political stability which is the norm, not the exception, in Switzerland (or at least was until the SVP turned it all on its head). The most significant result is that of the SVP, which has suffered its first major setback in over 20 years. The SVP’s vote had increased in all federal elections since 1991, but this year the party’s vote fell back by a statistically significant 2 percentage points. This is a pretty major setback for the SVP, which had really wanted to break the never-broken 30% barrier this year and was in a rather good position to do so throughout the last year or so. Part of the SVP’s decline comes from a larger than expected vote transfer between the SVP and the Bourgeois-Democrats (BDP), the moderate splinter of the SVP spearheaded by the SVP’s old moderate agrarian factions from Bern and Grisons. The BDP took away a large number of votes from the SVP in Grisons, where the BDP’s founding figure (federal councillor Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf) is from. The SVP’s vote fell 10% from 34.7% to 24.5%, while the BDP took 20.5%. The BDP had not, ironically, been predicted to hurt the SVP all that much but we apparently underestimated the size of the remnants of the moderate agrarian SVP in the party’s modern electorate. Another explanation for the SVP’s setback might be that it has hit the ceiling and, given how controversial and polarizing it is, it will struggle to go any higher than 29% or so. To my knowledge, the SVP has never consistently polled over 30% federally. Finally, the economy (which, this being Switzerland, is doing pretty well) and a high Swiss franc (and thus inflation) was an important issue in this campaign. The SVP’s strength with voters is not on economic issues (where the Socialists or Radicals play better) but rather on asylum/immigration/nationality issues which were big in 2007 but not as big this year. Despite the SVP’s setback, 26.6% is still a high mark for any party in Switzerland and this only places the SVP back at its 2003 levels, which were already pretty good for the party.

The SVP (UDC) was not the biggest party in any French-majority canton this year, unlike in 2007 when the party had topped the poll with 21-22% in Vaud and Geneva. The party’s vote generally held better in the French cantons, because the BDP is inexistent there, but the vote for the other two major parties in those areas – Socialists and Radical-Liberals – coalesced better this year. The party, finally, broke through on its own in Ticino, the Italian-majority canton where the SVP’s rise thus far had been checked by the regionalist right-wing Lega. Despite the Lega doing very well this year (17.5%, up from 14% in 2007), the SVP also managed to increase its support by 1% (8.7% to 9.7%) and win its first seat ever in the canton which had until now been the SVP’s only weak spot.

The Socialists suffered another setback, winning 18.7% which is their lowest vote share since 1919. But the SP gained 3 seats. The SP was unable to benefit from the issue of the high Swiss franc and rising inflation, which should have helped the party. The SP gained in strength in Geneva, Vaud and Fribourg but generally lost votes elsewhere. In Fribourg, the SP’s win marked the first time this Catholic Sonderbund canton had not voted for the CVP and the second time since 1919 that any Sonderbund canton has voted Socialist. But the SP lost Neuchâtel for the first time since 1919.

The FDP’s merger with the Liberals (1.9% in 2007) wasn’t enough to right the sinking ship. The new FDP-Liberal outfit won 15.1%, the worst result for the Swiss radical-liberal movement since 1919 and a result which is even below that of the FDP alone in 2007. In Ticino, the FDP’s leader, Fulvio Pelli, did not even win reelection. In part, the FDP was one of the victims of the new BDP, which took more voters from the centrist parties than from the SVP. In Bern, where the BDP polled 15%, the FDP’s vote fell from 15% to 8.7% this year. The success of the Green Liberals, whose electorate overlaps with that of the FDP in large part, also hurt the party. The new FDP-Liberal party polled better than the FDP alone in Romandie, the Liberal Party’s base, but in Geneva and Vaud the showing of the FDP, while not insignificant, falls quite a bit below that of the combined 2007 vote of the FDP and Liberals – and this is in cantons where the BDP is inexistent and even the Green Liberals pretty weak (3% in Geneva, 5% in Vaud). Only in Neuchâtel, where the Socialist dominance since 1919 had a lot to do with the division of the bourgeois vote between Liberals and FDP (PRD), did the Liberal vote fold neatly into the FDP vote – both parties had polled 13% each in 2007, and this year they won 26.9%. It also helps that the Green Liberals didn’t run and the BDP only won 1.5%…

The CVP also broke the record for worst electoral performance since 1919 with a paltry 12%. The electoral decrepitude of the radicals and the Catholics is striking, when you consider that these two movements are the oldest political movements in Switzerland. The CVP did poorly pretty much everywhere, losing Fribourg for the first time since 1919 and winning less than 40% in Valais. It benefited from the absence of a Christian-social list in Jura, a list which had won 11% in 2007 but did not run this year, allowing the Christian democrats to regain a traditionally Christian democratic canton. Like the FDP, the CVP was one of the ‘centrist victims’ of the BDP and the Green Liberals’ success. The CSP, which lost its seat in Fribourg, did gain a seat in Obwald where the CSP’s Karl Vogler (apparently endorsed by the CVP) won 57% against 43% for the SVP incumbent (Obwald elects only one member). Vogler will apparently sit with the CVP, whereas the CSP until now sat with the Greens. The Protestant EVP held both of its seats but saw its support dip a bit. The ‘christian right’ EDU lost its only member.

The historic low hit by both the FDP and CVP, two of the old hegemonic parties in Swiss politics, puts into question their long-term survival. These two parties haven’t gained votes in any election since 1979 and keep hitting new “historical lows” in every election since the 1990s. If the BDP and Green Liberals keep showing vitality in coming years and the SVP doesn’t collapse and burn back to the 11% it used to win, then the very survival of the FDP and CVP are clearly on the line. Neither of these parties seem to be capable of “reinventing” themselves in the current political structure, and this being Switzerland, “reinventing” a party is rather tough when you’re a governing party since the 1890s… For now, the FDP and CVP can keep whistling past the cemetery because their immediate fate isn’t on the line and they’ll still be key governing parties in the short-term perspective.

The Greens did badly. They too had hoped for a breakthrough, that is breaking 10%. But the Greens were hurt more than originally expected by the success of the Green Liberals, who won 5.4% and 12 seats (up 9). The Greens need to move towards the centre if they want to regain support they lost and be in a position to cut short the GLP’s success. Still, this is the second highest result for the Greens in any election and, on the upside for them, they gained support (albeit not much) in the cantons where they ran and where the GLP did not run. The Greens are still in contention, in the long term, to out poll one of the two dying centrist parties and place fourth.

The two winners of this election were the Green Liberals, who won 5.4% and 12 seats, up 9 seats and 4% from 2007; and the Bourgeois-Democrats (BDP), who won 5.4% and 9 seats – up from 5 members before the election. The Green Liberals and BDP both gained votes primarily from the FDP and CVP but also, this was surprising, from the Greens (in the GLP’s case) and the SVP (in the BDP’s case). The GLP did best in German Switzerland, which is where the party’s base is. It won 11.5% in Zurich (out polling the Greens), and its states councillor from Zurich Verena Diener is in good position to win the runoff. The GLP won roughly 5-6% in the other German cantons where they ran (save 8% in Grisons) and between 3 and 5% in the French cantons where they ran (5% in Vaud, 3-3.5% in Geneva and Fribourg). The BDP did best in Grisons, Bern and Glarus (20.5%, 14.9% and 61.7% respectively) which is where the BDP took the most members from the local SVP branches and where they had sitting members. It also won 6% in Aargau and Basel-Landschaft and 5% in Zurich. In general, however, outside their strongholds, the BDP did pretty poorly (3-5%) and isn’t really in a favourable long-term position, except if the FDP dies off quickly. The BDP won between 0.6% and 1.9% in the French cantons where they ran.

The far-left finds itself with no seats for the first time in its history. They lost their last sitting member in Vaud, where they won 3.9%. They polled 10% in Neuchâtel and 6.5% in Geneva.

A word also on the other success story of this election: the right-wing populist/regionalist Geneva Citizens Movement (MCG), which I had mentioned in my preview post for their success (14%) in the 2009 cantonal elections in Geneva. The MCG, which, similarly to the SVP, is a “politically incorrect” party, has made the battle against foreign workers from France and Italy their cause. The MCG won roughly 11.7% in Geneva and one seat. But their attempts to expand into Vaud as the Mouvement des citoyens romands (MCR) didn’t work out: only 1.2% in Vaud.

A quick word on the Council of States: there will be a very high number of runoffs. I’ve counted 19 seats still left to be assigned in runoffs, notably in the cantons of Zurich, Vaud, Valais, Uri, Ticino, Bern and Lucerne were both seats are up for grabs. So far, the SP has 8 seats, the FDP and CVP 7 seats each, the SVP 4 seats and the Greens one seat. At dissolution, the CVP held 15 seats, the FDP 12, the SP 9, the SVP 6, the Greens 2 and the GLP 2. The full results by canton, which I won’t run through, can be found here. In Zurich, which I think was the most interesting contest, the GLP and FDP incumbents have placed ahead of the pack. Christoph Blocher, the SVP’s controversial figure, placed in third and is unlikely to win in the runoff.

In the preview post, I had talked about the Federal Council’s renewal in December. The comments made then still apply, and nothing has really changed for any party. The SVP might be in a slightly weaker position to claim a second seat, but it is still very much in contention. The FDP’s second seat might be slightly more at risk, but the CVP after its paltry showing on Sunday isn’t in a good position to claim a second seat at the FDP’s expense. The Greens have no chance at a seat. The big question remains whether or not the BDP’s Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf will win reelection. Her situation has not changed much with the election, because it is obviously not enough to have the BDP’s small caucus behind you. She needs the votes of the CVP and SP if she is to win.

Argentina 2011

Presidential, congressional and provincial elections were held in Argentina on October 23, 2011.

The President of Argentina is elected to a four-year term, renewable immediately once. Argentina’s runoff rules are a bit strange: a presidential candidate must win over 45% of the vote or win over 40% of the vote and lead his/her closest opponent by a margin of at least 10%.

The Congress has two chambers; the 257-seat lower house (Chamber of Deputies) and the 72-seat Senate with 3 members for each one of the 23 provinces and the Federal District (the city of Buenos Aires). This year, 130 members out of the 257 members of the lower house were up for reelection in all 24 provinces+DF. The elections are played out by party-list PR. 24 out of the 72 senators were also up for reelection in the provinces of Buenos Aires Province, Formosa, Jujuy, La Rioja, Misiones, San Juan, San Luis and Santa Cruz. The party list winning the most votes wins two of the three seats, the runner-up takes the last seat.

Gubernatorial elections were also held on October 23 in the provinces of Buenos Aires, La Pampa, Entre Rios, Formosa, Jujuy, Mendoza, San Juan, San Luis and Santa Cruz. Earlier this year, a whole series of provinces had held gubernatorial elections. In the end, only Corrientes and Santiago del Estero did not hold gubernatorial elections.

Argentine history and politics have been marked by Peronism, a “unique” ideology whose influence has outlived its creator, Juan Perón. Peronism is a diverse movement, and it stretches from the right to the left. Some Peronist Presidents have embraced neoliberalism, others have been mortal enemies of neoliberal dogma. Thus it is hard to give one single definition of Peronism besides saying, pretty obviously, that is a populist movement with a traditionally statist view of the state’s role in the economy. Juan Perón was a charismatic (demagogic?) populist army officer who deftly expanded his base outside the army (where he had many rivals) to capture the sympathies of Argentina’s poor working-classes, shunned by all politicians. His social policies won their support and turned Perón into a working-class hero. While Peronism was definitely born on the left, under Perón himself the movement slowly emerged towards populist conservatism. In his second stint in power, Perón turned against the revolutionary left and his successor, Isabel Perón was influenced by the right-wing Peronists. It didn’t keep her from running the country into the ground and forcing the military to overthrow her in favour of one of South America’s most thuggish military regimes. Peronism returned to power in 1989, when Carlos Menem was elected President (and reelected in 1995). Menem broke with the cherished statist principles of the movement when he fully embraced neoliberalism.

Despite the success of Menem’s neoliberal policies in cutting inflation and boosting economic growth, spending remained high and Argentina’s debt kept growing. It all exploded during the economic crisis between 1999 and 2002, which led to Argentina defaulting on its foreign debt. The President who took office following a tumultuous 2001, Eduardo Duhalde slowly restored the country’s economy. In 2003, Duhalde backed little-known Santa Cruz governor Néstor Kirchner to replace him, and Kirchner was elected after Menem dropped out before the runoff which would have opposed him to Kirchner, a left-wing Peronist. Kirchner took advantage of the gradual economic recovery in Argentina and cemented his power, to the dismay of Duhalde who had wanted to use Kirchner as a tool to plot his return in 2007. Instead, Kirchner had the upper hand over Duhalde and imposed his choice of successor, namely his wife Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who won by the first round with 45%. In office, Kirchner built a ‘party’ of his own, the Front for Victory (FPV), officially a faction of the Peronist Justicialist Party (PJ). Kirchnerism or left-wing Peronism rejects the Menem-era neoliberalism (which hasn’t kept Menem, now a Senator, from opportunistically backing the Kirchnerists when the wind is nice), instead favouring industrial developmentalism. It also opposes multilateral and bilateral free trade with the US and the FTAA agreement.

Cristina’s presidency has been marked by some ups and downs. Shortly after taking office, Cristina ran into a major conflict with the agroexport sector and right-wing factions of her Peronist majority when her government increased export taxes on soybeans and sunflowers (before reversing course). Her majority divided between the left-wing Kirchnerist FPV and the right-wing Peronist ‘Federal Peronism’, the FPV lost its congressional majority in 2009. But since then she has remarkably rebounded, thanks in large part to Argentina’s impressive economic growth (8% in 2011). She also benefited from an outpouring of sympathy after the death of her husband Néstor Kirchner. He had been said to be eyeing a return to the presidency this year.

The opposition to Kirchnerism is divided. One the one hand, there are the conservative right-wing Federal Peronists whose most prominent leader is former President Eduardo Duhalde. Duhalde has been at war with the Kirchners since 2005 or so, when it became clear that Kirchner was cementing his power and wasn’t looking to Duhalde to succeed him in 2007. But Federal Peronism itself is not united. Duhalde does not have full control over the right-wing of the PJ. His main rival in this field is Alberto Rodríguez Saá, the PJ governor of San Luis since 2003 and 2007 presidential candidate (7.6%). His brother Adolfo had run in 2003 and had served as President for a few days in 2001 and has served as Senator since 2005. Rodríguez Saá is insanely popular in San Luis, which is very much their personal fiefdom. Alberto Rodríguez Saá had won 68.2% of the vote there in the 2007 presidential election.

The other opposition to Kirchnerism is the liberal Civic Radical Union (UCR), Argentina’s oldest party founded in 1891 as the political vehicle for Argentina’s urban middle-classes in opposition to then-dominant rural landowning conservatives who ruled Argentina until the UCR’s Hipólito Yrigoyen won the 1916 elections. The UCR has managed to survive the tumults of Argentine politics in all that time since 1916, which is pretty remarkable. It has always been an opponent of Peronism, because Peronism is poorly received by Argentina’s wealthier urban middle-classes which the UCR is allegedly the party of. The UCR’s Raúl Alfonsín was the first democratic President of the country following the military junta, in office between 1985 and 1989. But since that time, the UCR as an opponent to Peronism has been wracked by its own string of dissensions, internal squabbles and a general lack of talent. In 2009, the UCR formed a short-lived electoral alliance with Elisa Carrió’s liberal urban Civic Coalition (CC), which fell apart because everybody hated Carrió, the runner-up in the 2007 presidential elections with over 20% of the vote. This year, the UCR nominated congressman Ricardo Alfonsín, the terribly uncharismatic son of former President Raúl Alfonsín. Alfonsín has had trouble deciding whether he should attack the Kirchner machine from the left or the right, finally opting for the right.

The opposition to Kirchnerism is also left-wing. The Socialist Party (PS) has never been a fan of Peronism despite the ideological similarities of the two. The PS had unsuccessfully worked to create a working-class base for itself to sneak up the middle between the UCR and the conservatives, but Perón totally destroyed that when he took the votes of the working-classes for himself and turned them into Peronists. These are the historical roots for the enmity between the PS and Peronism. These days, the PS is basically a socially liberal and economically centrist party whose actual ideological differences with the FPV are scarce (as are ideological differences between the FPV and any other of the opposition parties). The PS’ candidate was Hermes Binner, former governor of Santa Fe and mayor of Rosario. Binner was a popular and competent governor of Santa Fe and had the best image of any of the main opposition candidates.

A novelty in this election was the organization of “simultaneous, open and mandatory primaries” on August 14 for all offices up for election on October 23. The theory behind the primaries was to get the parties to have an internal contest to nominate their candidates in the style of a traditional primaries, in the style of Washington state’s “jungle primary”. But Argentina’s political parties are empty shells and not actual political parties. A lot are ephemeral personal vehicles and politicians in Argentina couldn’t stomach losing a primary, so the August 14 primaries were “mock elections” because the main candidates for president and other offices had no opposition. In the primaries, covered here, Cristina won 50.1% against 12.2% for Alfonsín, 12.2% for Duhalde and 10.3% for Binner. The result had been a huge victory for Cristina, whose reelection was never put in doubt after that. It was also a striking blow for the whole opposition, which failed to get one of its contenders to truly step out of the pack as the most credible contender against Kirchner in order to create some sort of anti-K opposition coalition. The presidential election thus wasn’t much of a race because Cristina, after her primary landslide, was ensured reelection unless she was caught killing a baby or something.

The race was more interesting on the sidelines, with the opposition candidates moving around in the polls. Duhalde collapsed, Binner stepped out of the pack and moved upwards a bit, Alfonsín and Rodríguez Saá fell back a bit. It would have been hard for any of these main candidates to drop out like Elisa Carrió (3.2% in the primaries) did, because in Argentina each party has its own single, separate ballot paper with its candidates for president, Congress and other downballot offices all listed. Therefore, if a voter wants to vote for one party for president but doesn’t support its congressional slate, he play origami with his ballot and cut out the congressional list from that party’s ticket cut out the congressional list from another party’s ballot and so forth. A presidential candidacy thus boosts a party’s chances of downballot success, and a lack of a presidential candidacy hinders the party’s downballot chances.

The results are as follows for President with 98.25% reporting:

Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (FPV) 53.96%
Hermes Binner (Progressive Front-PS) 16.97%
Ricardo Alfonsín (UDESO-UCR) 11.85%
Alberto Rodríguez Saá (ACF-Federal Peronism) 7.98%
Eduardo Duhalde (FP-Federal Peronism) 5.89%
Jorge Altamira (FIT) 2.31%
Elisa Carrió (CC-ARI) 1.84%

As expected, Cristina won reelection by a massive landslide. Since her husband’s death and the 2009 midterm setback, Cristina has managed to impose her authority over her coalition and has benefited a lot from Argentina’s very favourable economic situation. With nearly 54% of the vote, she has won one of the biggest victories in Argentine electoral history, ranking up there with Perón in 1951 and 1973, or Yrigoyen in 1928. Cristina did best in the poor, rural, conservative and reliably Peronist isolated northern provinces where she won upwards of 60% in most cases and up to 82% in Santiago del Estero. She also did well in Patagonia, most specifically in her husband’s province of Santa Cruz where she won 74.8%. She was weaker in wealthier central Argentina, winning only 37% in Córdoba for example. However, a good part of her victory comes from the province of Buenos Aires which is Argentina’s most populous province and a key political prize for anybody who wants to win. Much had been made of the defeat of the FPV list led by Néstor Kirchner in the province back in the 2009 midterm elections, because Buenos Aires had been since 2003 a key political base for the FPV which performs strongly in the poor working-class hinterland surrounding the capital. Apparently that 2009 result wasn’t any long-term trend, because Cristina did very well in the province: 56%. And she truly destroyed her opponents (60%+ showings) in the Peronist hinterland of the capital.

Hermes Binner did well, winning nearly 17% of the vote, which is up from the 10.3% he had won in the primaries. He was the most well-liked of all the opposition candidates, he had a good record as governor of Santa Fe and he was the most credible of the opposition candidates. Binner did best in Santa Fe, where he won 39% to Cristina’s 42%. He won his hometown of Rosario by a narrow margin. He also did well in neighboring Córdoba, Entre Rios, the province of Buenos Aires and the federal capital. He was the strategic choice of the affluent urbanites of Buenos Aires and the capital’s affluent northern suburbs, voters which had voted for Duhalde in the primary but who chose Binner in the general election. Binner won the three very affluent comunas of northern Buenos Aires, but in the city as a whole, traditionally very anti-Peronist, Cristina repeated her primary exploit by winning the capital with 35.1% to Binner’s 27.8%.

Ricardo Alfonsín did only slightly poorer than in the primaries, 11.9% versus 12.2% in August. He had the widest base in terms of geographical distribution of support, polling a distant second to Cristina in a lot of the more rural and conservative (but hugely Peronist) provinces in the far north or in the wealthier rural areas of central Argentina. But Alfonsín’s candidacy never really took off. He is totally uncharismatic and, as is usual for the UCR, has had trouble deciding where he stood on the issues. He sought to ally with the left while running with some neoliberal economist as his running mate, which backfired rather badly. The UCR is dead at a presidential level because it has no politicians with talent and national ambitions.

Rodríguez Saá won 8.2% in the primaries and 8% in the general election. As expected, he won big in San Luis, with 51.5% to Cristina’s 31% in the only province which has never voted for a Kirchner. But in his home province, his support has declined a whole lot since 2007, when he won 68% in his home province (and 7.6% nationally). This means that his loses in San Luis were compensated by stronger showings outside there, mostly in the provinces which neighbor San Luis. His biggest gains came in Mendoza, where he won 20.3%, up from 4% in 2007. Cristina’s running-mate in 2007, Julio Cobos, had been the governor of Mendoza and he brought a big personal vote on the ticket in 2007 (60.9% in 2007 for Cristina, 50.8% this year) which disappeared this year, in part because Cobos broke with Cristina’s government and aligned with the opposition forces.

Eduardo Duhalde collapsed. From 12.2% to 5.9%. His primary showing had been considered very weak for a guy who was widely perceived by most of the opposition as the only one who could defeat Cristina. After his weak primary showing, his artificial support from the anti-Peronist sectors totally collapsed. He only reallt saved face in Chubut, where he won 16.5%, because it is the home province of his running mate, former Chubut governor Mario Das Neves. His vote in Buenos Aires, both the city and province, seems to have flowed in large part to Binner who won, as I said, those affluent neighborhoods of the capital which Duhalde had won in the primary.

Legislative elections

It is hard to break down legislative elections in Argentina because coalitions and parties are very loose and they differ from election to election and from province to province. This being South America, a lot of politicians are whores who will back whoever it is in their best interests to back, regardless of ideology. This means that, for now, Kircherism is a good thing for them to support. However, if like in 2009 Kircherism isn’t so profitable, then they’ll drop them without any second thoughts.

The bottom line is that the FPV have won back their congressional majority, lost in 2009. Don’t ask me the detail by party, because I have no clue. This website has broken down the 130 new legislators and 27 new senators by the candidate they backed. Kirchner (FPV) allies won 85 seats, Alfonsín (UCR) won 15 seats, Binner (PS-progressives) won 14, Rodríguez Saá (PJ dissident, right) won 6, Duhalde (PJ dissident, right) just 2 and Carrió’s CC just one. 7 did not back any candidate, 3 of whom are apparently 3 PRO (right-wing liberals) member in the capital and the rest being provincial parties which probably were close to Kirchner or will be close to her in the future. In the Senate, her allies won 15 seats against 3 apiece for Alfonsín and Rodríguez Saá, 1 for Binner and 2 others (including Menem, who ran on a provincial slate in La Rioja which supports Kirchner without being FPV). La Nación has given us the following numbers:

Kirchnerism (FPV) and allies 135 seats
UCR 41 seats
Federal Peronism 29 seats
FAP (PS) 21 seats
PRO 11 seats
CC 7 seats
Others 13 seats

Kirchnerism (FPV) and allies 38 seats
UCR 17 seats
Federal Peronism 10 seats
FAP (PS) 4 seats
Others 3 seats

A majority in the Chamber is 129 seats, and 37 seats (or 36) in the Senate. While the FPV itself has 116 deputies, but there are 19 official FPV allies which are from provincial outfits which are the FPV by another name. The FPV and its allies have won in pretty much every province besides San Luis and Tierra del Fuego. In the province of Buenos Aires, with its 35 seats and traditionally the most symbolic congressional contest, the FPV won a landslide with a bit less than 57% of the votes. In 2009 in the same province, the FPV list led by Néstor Kirchner had been dealt a symbolic blow by placing second with 32.2%.

In the Senatorial contests, the most interesting race was in the province of Buenos Aires where the defeat of Duhalde in the presidential contest led to the defeat of his wife and incumbent Senator Hilda Beatriz González, whose list placed fourth with 7.4%. In the primaries, her list had placed second with 13.3%, which would have ensured her reelection if those had been the final results. In La Rioja, Carlos Menem, one of those whores who is not officially a Kirchnerist but acts like one when it is profitable, was reelected, placing first with 35.4% (his slate was the ‘Riojan Popular Front’) against 33.8% for the FPV. In San Luis, Adolfo Rodríguez Saá’s slate (Federal Compromise) won 60.8%, ahead of the FPV which won 28.7%.

Gubernatorial elections

The FPV’s candidates won all gubernatorial elections held on October 23 besides that in San Luis, where the Federal Peronist candidate backed by outgoing governor Rodríguez Saá won easily.

The most important race was in the province of Buenos Aires, governed since 2007 by Kirchnerist Daniel Scioli. His main opponent was Francisco de Narváez, a Federal Peronist congressman and the man who had ‘defeated’ Néstor Kirchner in 2009. de Narváez was the candidate of the UDESO, the makeshift coalition formed by Alfonsín. Scioli was easily reelected with 55.1%, a tad less than what Cristina won in the province. de Narváez won 15.87% and Margarita Stolbizer, the 2007 runner-up and Binner’s candidate won 11.7%.

The closest contest and the most important one besides Buenos Aires was Mendoza. Former UCR governor Roberto Mendoza (1999-2003) sought to regain his old territory, which he had failed to do in 2007 (winning less than 10%). His main opponent was the FPV’s Francisco Pérez and Luis Rosales, the candidate backed by Rodríguez Saá. Their government is incompetent, so I can’t find results, but Pérez apparently won easily by around 10% or so.

There was one important municipal contest, in the affluent municipality of Vicente López in the greater Buenos Aires area. Vicente López has been governed since 1987 by Enrique García, currently FPV but an opportunist who whores himself to whoever is in power. He was defeated by Jorge Macri, the cousin of Mauricio Macri, the PRO mayor of Buenos Aires (city). Macri, backed by Duhalde’s coalition, won 38.3% against 34.2% for the FPV (García).

The government has the support of pretty much every governor in the country. Only the city of Buenos Aires, Santa Fe, Corrientes and San Luis are governed outright by the opposition though a case could be made that Chubut’s PJ governor is also in the opposition. During the year, the government picked up the governorships of Catamarca and Río Negro from the UCR.


Election Preview: Switzerland 2011

Federal elections will be held in Switzerland on October 23, 2011. Beyond Switzerland, October 23 will be a pretty fascinating superwahltag with some great elections in Tunisia, Argentina and Bulgaria. In Switzerland, all 200 members of the National Council (the lower house) and all 46 members of the Council of States (the upper house) are up for reelection.

The Swiss Federal Political System

Switzerland’s unique variant of representative liberal democracy sets it apart from its European neighbors and indeed in the entire world. Switzerland is a federal state modeled around the United States, but two elements make it unique: its form of semi-direct democracy in which voters play a much more influent and powerful role in everyday politics, and its consociational model of governance (shared with Northern Ireland these days). As a semi-direct democracy, Swiss voters can force a referendum on any legislation passed by a legislature and through popular initiatives can amend the constitution.

Federal legislative power in Switzerland is vested in the bicameral Federal Assembly, which is made up of two houses with equal powers. The National Council, like the U.S. House of Representatives represents cantons proportionally to their population (to a certain extent). The Council of States, like the U.S. Senate represents cantons equally (or close to it). In the National Council, each one of Switzerland’s 26 cantons is guaranteed at least one member and additional members based on its population. Like the American House, the number of members is now capped at 200. The most populated canton, Zurich, elects 34 member. There are, roughly 36,000 voters for each member. Appenzell Innerrhoden, Appenzell Ausserrhoden, Glarus, Nidwald and Obwald elect only one member. In the Council of States, the 20 full cantons elects two members. The old half-cantons (usually cantons which have been split in half) of Obwald, Nidwal, Basel-Landschaft, Basel-Stadt, Appenzell Innerrhoden and Appenzell Ausserrhoden elect only one councillor.

In the National Council, those small cantons electing only member use a pretty straight-forward FPTP (‘majoritarian’) system. In the cantons of Uri, Glarus and both Appenzells, the vote is open ended in that the voter may write in any candidate of his choice. In the other cantons electing only one members, there is a candidacy deadline. The other cantons which elect two or more members use proportional representation, which certainly isn’t as straightforward. In a typical ‘big’ canton, each party usually presents its list of candidates – usually one name for every seat, but some parties like to run the same person for more than one seat to capitalize on their chances of election (or not run candidates for every seat). But beyond that, in a lot of cases, the major parties usually have more than one list: for example, in a lot of cantons, you find a “Party X” list but also “Party X – Youth Section” list. Different party lists may then coalesce together (apparentements) to be counted as a single list when votes are counted. Within the apparentements, there can be sous-apparentements where the lists of the same party unite to increase their individual chances of obtaining seats within a wider coalesced list. The CiviCampus website, available in the four official languages, has an animation of how voting works in the proportional system.

Party lists are open lists. Prior to the election, each voter is sent pre-printed party lists with the names of all candidates on the party’s list. The voter has a whole array of possibilities. He/she can deposit this pre-printed ballot as is in the provided envelope, and each candidate on the list will receive one vote and the party as a whole will receive as many votes as there are open seats (example: in a 5-seat canton, there are 5 candidates: if the list is not modified, each candidate gets one 1 vote and the party overall gets a sum of 5 votes). The voter can also strike out a candidate’s name: the candidate will not receive an individual vote, but the party itself will receive an ‘at-large’ party vote. A voter can also strike out a candidate’s name on the list and replace that candidate with another of the candidates on the same list (cumuler in French): that candidate would thus get an extra vote out of that ballot while another candidate would receive no votes. A voter, however, may not make his ballot so that a candidate gets more than two individual votes. Panachage is also allowed, meaning that a voter can strike out a candidate and replace him/her with a candidate from another list: thus the candidate’s votes will be shared between two or more parties overall. A voter may also strike out names, panacher and cumuler all at once! Voters also receive, prior to the election, a blank ballot. The voter may write a party’s name and at least one candidate’s name on it (from any party) – if a voter has 5 votes in the 5-seat canton, he/she can write the names of, say, 3 candidates – each candidate will get one vote and the remaining two votes the voter has are given to the party at-large. If the voter writes only the names of candidates on the blank ballot but no party, if he/she does not use up all 5 votes then he/she would not use all votes. The website mentioned also explains how the elections officials may correct certain ballots with minor errors. Specific rules do vary from canton to canton.

The Council of States is generally elected alongside the National Council, and usually elected through majority votes. In general, a candidate needs an absolute majority to win or a runoff is organized 3-5 weeks later depending on cantonal law. The canton of Jura, and, starting this year, Neuchâtel, elect their members through proportional representation. The canton of Appenzell Innerrhoden elects its sole member in a popular assembly (the Landsgemeinde, one of the last remaining vestiges of direct democracy) prior to the election. This year, the canton of Nidwald elected its sole member unopposed. Specific electoral laws and regulations vary from canton to canton. Because of the different electoral system which favours parties with a larger ‘vote potential’, the Council of States has tended to see small parties (outside government) and the two most ‘extreme’ governing parties (SP and SVP) being weaker than in the National Council at the benefit of the centrist parties.

The federal executive is formed by the Federal Council. The Federal Council has seven members, elected individually by the Federal Assembly. Each member is responsible for a specific cabinet department dealing with a policy area which falls within the federal government’s jurisdiction. One member is also elected for the ceremonial revolving one-year office of President of the Confederation. The Federal Council is run by the principle of collegiality, thus besides the largely ceremonial President there is no “Prime Minister” or leading head of government. The other principle which has truly defined Swiss politics is the “magic formula”, in use since 1959 and modified in 2003. The “magic formula” guarantees for the proportional representation of the four main political forces in Switzerland. Between 1959 and 2003, the Socialists, Radicals and Christian Democrats held two seats each with the final seat going to the agrarians (SVP). In 2003, the Christian Democrats lost a seat to the SVP.

Unlike in other liberal democracies, majority rule is not the overarching principle here. Rather, the overarching principle in Swiss politics is concordance or compromise. The vast cultural, linguistic, religious and economic differences which exist in Switzerland have played a role in compelling political actors to adopt this style of consociationalism. All four “governing parties” seek common ground over some sort of compromise in all legislation, both to satisfy all political parties involved but also protect against potential popular rejection through referendum by satisfying social actors and wider networks. The “magic formula”, which, as we’ll explore is increasingly compromised these days, has nonetheless given Switzerland half a century of remarkable political stability, built national unity and protected Swiss democracy from the temporary irrationality of voters. However, the whole system being built on the bases of concordance has not encouraged vibrant political debate and turned most governing parties into boring centrist parties. Parties’ ideological markers are increasingly unclear, and Swiss politics is marked by remarkable political immobility. Furthermore, for all the talk of the “vibrancy” of Swiss democracy because of referendums and semi-direct democracy, Switzerland has some of the lowest voter turnouts in Europe. There is both an “election overload” and a general perception that nothing really changes and that voting is useless. Less than half of eligible voters actually consistently participate in Swiss democracy.

The powers of the legislature to pass laws is subject to popular control, a unique type of “checks and balances” with the people being a level of government to itself. 50,000 citizens or 8 cantons can force a referendum on any bill passed in the last 100 days. Between 1874 and 1997, only about 7% of the laws actually were subjected to a referendum, and about half of those where ratified by voters. The threat of a referendum has an indirect effect on the legislative process, pressuring the government and political actors to reach compromise to prevent a referendum. Conservatives also appreciate the referendum option as a bulwark against anything which goes to far in their eyes. 100,000 citizens may also draft a constitutional amendment (popular initiative) and force a referendum on it. Again, while only a tiny handful out of the hundreds of initiatives have been approved, they are also an indirect effect on the legislative process in that they bring to political limelight issues which were until then not in the realm of political debate.

Evolution of the % vote for the 'big four' and the Greens, 1919-2007 (1939 excluded)

Swiss Political Parties and Ideologies

Swiss political parties are organized firstly on a cantonal basis, an impact of Swiss federalism. Though parties have been increasingly centralized and homogenized in recent years, Swiss parties are both less centralized and less professionalized than other European party systems. Cantonal sections remain the bedrock of the parties themselves and the cantonal sections are independent entities. In the past, cantonal sections have taken positions or acted in a way which was rather out of sync with the federal party. Cantonal sections often take the role of factions in other European party systems: a certain cantonal section may be ideologically different from the federal party, and they often are the bases for party splits. For example, the Liberal Party and the Free Democrats (Radicals) merged in 2009, but the Liberals and Radicals in Geneva merged only in 2011 and in Basel-Stadt the two parties remain separate from one another. Because politics is really played at a cantonal level, there is no dominant party boss as in other countries and only a few party leaders have a national image, often because of their strong individual personality. Party leaders are, on the whole, pretty unimportant or certainly not as important as in other European countries.

Switzerland emerged as a federal country with a central government worthy of its name only in 1848. Besides an ill-fated attempt at centralization imposed by the French in the form of the Helvetic Republic, Switzerland until 1848 was a confederation of independent states (cantons) which were linked much more by individual treaties rather than by the very weak central government. At the Congress of Vienna in 1815, the European powers recognized Switzerland’s neutrality and encouraged the reconstruction of independent Switzerland upon confederal lines. The Federal Pact of 1815 did not create a state, but rather a confederation of cantons with their own laws, currencies, tariff systems, militias, policy spheres and political systems (Neuchâtel was a Prussian-ruled monarchy, a few cantons were direct democraties, others were limited democraties, others were aristocratic republics). Certainly the cantons didn’t kill each other anymore, but the central government had very little power – think Articles of Confederation in the United States. By the 1830s, the liberal ideas of political equality, universal suffrage, political and economic freedoms and anti-clericalism gained a foothold in the liberal Protestant cantons. Individual cantons, starting with Ticino (ironically a Catholic canton), “regenerated” their constitutions but attempts to reform the Federal Pact failed throughout the 1830s. Original attempts at reform had not been marked by sectarianism, but the anti-clerical mood of the 1840s fired up sectarian tensions between the Catholic and Protestant cantons. Liberals were progressively replaced by the more left-wing radicals, who were stridently anti-clerical and largely Protestant. In reaction to mounting tensions between radical Protestants and conservative Catholics, seven Catholic cantons (Lucerne, Uri, the two Unterwald half-cantons, Schwyz, Zug, Fribourg and Valais) formed the Sonderbund Pact in 1845 as a defensive pact against the mounting influence of the radicals.

By 1846, the radicals had gained power in a majority of cantons and through the Federal Diet they were in measure to pass a string of resolutions banning the Sonderbund pact, calling for a type of constituent assembly and expelling Jesuit orders from the country. In November 1847, tensions boiled over into civil war between the Catholic Sonderbund and the federal state. The Sonderbund rapidly defeated, and the radicals in full control, a new federal constitution was adopted in 1848, under radical guidance, creating the modern Swiss federal state. The cantons lost their autonomy in matters such as customs duties or external trade, while power was centralized (comparatively speaking) in the hands of the federal government. New constitutions were introduced in 1874 and 1999.

2007 election results

SVP-UDC 28.9% (+2.2%) winning 62 seats (+7) and 7 state councillors (-1)
SP-PS 19.5% (-3.8%) winning 43 seats (-9) and 9 state councillors (nc)
FDP-PRD 15.8% (-1.6%) winning 31 seats (-5) and 12 state councillors (-2)
CVP-PDC 14.5% (+0.1) winning 31 seats (+3) and 15 state councillors (nc)
GPS-PES 9.6% (+2.2%) winning 20 seats (+6) and 2 state councillors (+2)
PEV 2.4% (+0.2%) winning 2 seats (-1)
LPS-PLS 1.9% (-0.3%) winning 4 seats (nc)
glp-pel 1.4% (+1.4%) winning 2 seats (+2) and 1 state councillor (+1)
EDU-UDF 1.3% (nc) winning 1 seat (-1)
PST 0.7% (nc) winning 1 seat (-1)
Lega 0.6% (+0.2%) winning 1 seat (nc)
PCS-CSP 0.4% (+0.1%) winning 1 seat (nc)

The Swiss People’s Party (SVP or UDC) is Switzerland’s largest party and also the most controversial party. The SVP finds its roots in the post-World War I agrarian movement in German Switzerland which split off from the Radicals in Bern in 1917 to create the first agrarian party, which became the Party of Farmers, Artisans and Independents in 1936. In 1971, the agrarian party merged with two cantonal sections of the small Democratic Party, a social-liberal party, to form the SVP. The Swiss agrarian movement has always been on the right of the Swiss political spectrum, having vocally expressed anti-socialist and nationalist sentiments since its foundation in 1917. A member of the bourgeois bloc, the SVP and its agrarian predecessor were the smallest member of this bloc and the smallest party in the Federal Council, with one member between 1930 and 2003. Between the mid-1930s and 1991, the SVP won roughly 11% of the vote. However, starting in the 1980s the SVP came under the influence of the Zurich section, led by the right-wing populist entrepreneur Christoph Blocher who moved the party to the right with emphasis on increasingly popular issues such as asylum, EU membership and Swiss neutrality. The impact of the SVP’s move to the right under the influence of the Zurich section was immediate and successful. In 1995, the party won 15%. In 1999, it became the largest party with 23% and scoring a record-high gain in vote. In 2003 and 2007, it again improved its showing to 27% and 29% – some of the strongest showings for a single party in the fragmented political landscape of Switzerland. The SVP’s first victims were smaller far-right parties such as the Swiss Democrats or the Freedom Party, but in recent years the traditional parties of the centre (Radicals and Christian Democrats) have both suffered. These parties centre-right voters punished them for their perceived shift to the left and their shift towards internationalist (pro-European integration) positions. The party has generally been at the centre of most political controversies in Switzerland. In 2007, its “kick out the black sheep” poster made international headlines. Its campaigns for the deportation of ‘foreign criminals’ and the ban on minarets opened it to accusations of racism and xenophobia. The SVP rather claims it fights for an independent and neutral Switzerland, against crime and against high taxes.

The SVP’s unchecked growth forced a revision of the “magic formula” in place since 1959 in 2003. The SVP’s Blocher, one of Switzerland’s most controversial politicians, was elected to the Federal Council in 2003 at the expense of the Christian Democrats. However, in 2007, the other parties in the Federal Assembly preferred to elect Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf of the moderate Grisons branch. When the SVP expelled the whole Grisons branch in 2008, a sign of the growing centralization of the SVP under the right-wing Zurich section and Blocher, the SVP was left with no seats in the Federal Council (the SVP’s other councillor, Samuel Schmid of the centrist Bern section, joined the dissidents). The SVP regained a seat on the Federal Council in 2009 when Schmid retired and was replaced by the SVP’s Ueli Maurer. The SVP claims that it is entitled to a second seat in government.

The agrarians were founded in German Switzerland and found most of its support in predominantly German Protestant cantons such as Bern. Traditionally weak in French Switzerland (Romandie), the SVP’s rapid growth since 1991 has also affected French Switzerland where the SVP (known in French as UDC) became the largest party in the cantons of Vaud and Geneva (but only with 22% or so). Only in Italophone Ticino has the SVP been unable to build a base – largely because of the competition of a quasi-identical regional party.

The SVP’s slogan this year is basically Swiss people vote SVP, a delightfully amusing statement which means that those who don’t vote SVP aren’t Swiss.

The Socialist Party (SP or PS) is Switzerland’s second largest party. The SP was founded in 1888 and has usually been Switzerland’s largest party, between the 1930s and the 1980s and for a stretch in the 1990s. Despite the SP’s growth in the interwar era, the fear of socialism in the wake of the 1918 general strike led the bourgeois parties to move closer together and exclude the SP from government until Ernst Nobs became the first SP federal councillor in 1943. During this time, the SP slowly abandoned its Marxist theses and progressively moderated its positions. Even when the party temporarily left government between 1955 and 1959, the SP kept its commitment to democratic ideals and its very anticommunist positions of the Cold War era. But the SP has struggled in the post-war era, split between a moderate (right-wing) faction and another pressuring the party to move closer to new social and political movements on the left. In the 1970s, a tack to the left (denouncing capitalism) helped it a bit but it fell badly in the 1980s. The relative proximity of the SP to new movements on its left or the desire to limit the growth of left-wing opponents such as the Greens might explain why the Socialists have taken a rather ‘green’ line on environmental issues or moved towards very pro-European positions. This hasn’t prevented internal dissensions and cantonal splits, or kept the party from falling into the contemporary trap of European social democratic parties, that is, a general lack of ideas besides being the largest anti-SVP party. Nonetheless, the SP has played a rather important role in the development of the Swiss welfare state and its political moderation guaranteed the success of the “magic formula” after 1959.

The SP has usually been stronger in French Switzerland than German Switzerland, and it performs best in Protestant areas – given that Catholic working-class voters have traditionally been well integrated into the Christian Democratic Party. But beyond this, the SP is a very urban party, in cities such as Zurich, Bern or Basel. The SP has been the largest party in all elections since 1919 in the canton of Neuchâtel, where the SP has a solid working-class base in the watchmaking centres of La Chaux-de-Fonds and Le Locle. Other bases outside urban areas include Solothurn, Schaffhausen and Glarus.

The SP’s slogan this year is something like for everyone, not for a few which is a boring empty political catchphrase which ought to be shunned.

The FDP.The Liberals (in French, PLR.Les Libéraux-Radicaux) is not Switzerland’s dominant party any longer, but it has had the most profound influence on Switzerland since 1848 of all parties. The Radicals, as they are known in French (they are rather known as ‘liberals’ in German), are the heirs of the political radicals of the 1830s who spearheaded the transformation of Switzerland from a confederation to a federal state by 1848. The Radicals drafted the 1848 and 1874 Constitutions, and, excluding their conservative Catholic rivals, they were the hegemonic party at all levels of the federal government during the nineteenth century (post-1848). Between 1848 and 1891, they held all seven seats in the Federal Council. They retained their majority in the Federal Council until 1943. Until the introduction of proportional representation in elections to the National Council in 1919, the Radicals were also the dominant party in the legislature. The radicals formed a political party in 1894, with the foundation of the FDP (PRD in French). The central role of the Radicals was somewhat lost with the introduction of PR in 1919 and the party’s place as a catch-all broker was weakened with the loss of the party’s left-wing working-class faction to the SP and the loss of the party’s right-wing rural faction to the agrarians. However, it remained one of Switzerland’s top two parties up until the SVP’s eruption into the political landscape in the 1990s; and the Radicals played a major role alongside the SP in the development of Switzerland’s post-war welfare state model and the success of the “magic formula”.

Ideologically, the growth of the SP in the interwar era pushed the Radicals closer to their former enemies (the conservatives) to form a bourgeois anti-socialist bloc which definitely aligned the Radicals with the centre-right. After taking a stridently neoliberal position starting in 1979, which temporarily stopped their decline, the Radicals have since moved back towards the centre though retaining economically liberal positions: tax cuts, deregulation, welfare reforms and a minimal state. Of the four major parties, the Radicals are pretty much the second most right-wing party after the SVP and they have tended to be the closest to the SVP of the three non-SVP governing parties. Yet, the Radicals are more internationalist and liberal than the isolationist conservative SVP.

In 2009, the FDP merged with the smaller Liberal Party (LPS). The Liberals, the right-wing faction of the broader Swiss radical-liberal movement, were founded in the 1890s and were a small liberal group to the right of the Radicals and generally dominant in French Protestant cantons such as Geneva or Vaud. The Liberals generally took more stridently free-market positions than the FDP while the FDP was embracing the social market economy, and in their early days they generally opposed the more radical ideas of the Radicals preferring, for example, limited censitary suffrage to universal suffrage. The Radicals were in turn opposed to their left by the social-liberal Democratic Party, more working-class rather than urban bourgeois in its support, and critical in the early days of the Radical’s machine control over politics. In the twenty-first century, the progressive weakening of both the Liberals and the FDP with the rapid growth of the SVP forced the two parties to move past historical differences to form a common party, known as the FDP.The Liberals in German and English. The Liberals won a record-low 1.8% in 2007, while the FDP has been in constant decline since 1979 from 24% to 16%.

The radical movement was born in the Protestant cantons of Switzerland the Protestant cantons, both German and French, have remained the base of the Radical Party for most of its existence – although this is certainly not a universal rule. For example, the Radicals have always held Uri’s sole seat in the National Council despite Uri being a Catholic Sonderbund canton.

The FDP’s slogan is out of love for Switzerland. How sweet.

The Christian Democratic People’s Party (CVP or PDC) is the political heir of the old conservative Catholic movement in Switzerland, historically the arch-rivals of the radical (Protestant) movement. The conservatives defended a traditional vision of a conservative, rural and decentralized federal Switzerland with a strong role for the Catholic Church, in contrast to the radicals whose vision was that of a modern, democratic and secular centralized Switzerland with the ‘reactionary’ Catholic Church shunned and shut out of power. The radical vision carried the day over the Catholic minority, and the Catholic conservatives found themselves shut out from power starting in 1848 and until at least 1891. But they remained a powerful opposition to the radical hegemony, with their base in the Sonderbund cantons of central Switzerland. In 1891, Joseph Zemp became the first non-radical member of the Federal Council and the Popular Conservative Party (as it was then known) gained a second seat in government in 1919 following the first proportional elections to the National Council. With a steady electorate (because of the solidness of the Catholic bloc vote) oscillating between 21 and 23%, the CVP (the name adopted by 1970) has been in constant decline since 1979 – from 22% to 14%. The CVP’s decline forced it to abandon its second seat in the Federal Council to the SVP, a second seat which the CVP currently disputes with the FDP. The CVP has lost a lot of votes to the SVP, which has really broken religious divides to appeal to equally conservative, rural, German Catholic voters in old CVP strongholds such as Schwyz, Unterwald or Zug.

As a Catholic party, the CVP has its base in the old Sonderbund cantons – in central Switzerland (except Uri, at the federal level) but also Valais, Fribourg, Jura and Appenzell Innerrhoden. In the cantons with a strong Catholic minority – Solothurn, Aargau, Saint-Gallen and Grisons – the CVP has always had a smaller minority position with Catholic voters. The CVP tried to expand its base in the 1960s, but despite this the CVP map pretty closely follows the map of Catholics in Switzerland and it performs very poorly in cantons with few Catholics. Similar to other Catholic parties in Europe, the CVP was quite a mass-party with a wide base of Catholic farmers, traders and workers. Working-class Catholics have been well integrated into Catholic unions and the CVP, which has struggled with a long opposition between conservatives/centrists and the Christian-social movement, more left-wing on economic issues. The former has generally dominated, but the CVP retains a significant Christian-social base outside Jura and Fribourg. This explains the CVP’s more interventionist (or ‘humanist’) economic policies, favouring ‘pro-family’ policies and the social market welfare policies. It is also pro-environment.

The CVP’s slogans rock: Success. Switzerland. SVP or the best – No Switzerland without us.

The Green Party of Switzerland (GPS or PES) is Switzerland’s largest opposition party. The Greens appeared in the mid-to-late 1970s, and gradually united different cantonal sections to create a nationally structured party. Originally starting out on the gauche de la gauche, the Greens – especially in German Switzerland where their growth was slower – were hurt by competition from other parties such as the green/social-liberal Alliance of Independents (LdU) or the New Leftish Progressive Organizations of Switzerland (POCH). In 1987, the Greens, buoyed by events such as Chernobyl, won 9 seats and 5.2% of vote. After a trough in the 1990s, the Greens have started creeping up on the back of the ‘big four’ winning 9.6% in the 2007 elections. In the long term, the Greens could definitely threaten the hegemonic positions of the ‘big four’ governing parties. Their growth in recent years throws the long-term stability of the “magic formula” into doubt because, if they keep gaining strength, the Greens will have a very strong claim to a seat in the Federal Council especially if the old parties like the FDP or CVP keep falling apart.

The Swiss Greens are rather left-wing and ‘deep green’ in their political orientation. They want out of nuclear energy ASAP – Switzerland will be progressively withdrawing from nuclear energy in the wake of the Fukushima incident. It wants the country to cut its CO2 emissions by 30%, a “green economy” and it favours a very liberal immigration policy and a very pro-European internationalist foreign policy. In this regards, staunchly left-wing, environmentalist and socially liberal it is the arch-rival of the SVP – the two hate each other with a passion. The Greens, however, have had troubles hesitating between a centrist orientation and a very left-wing orientation. In some cantons such as Bern or Basel-Stadt, there are in fact two cantonal sections which each represent one of these factions. As we’ll see, the division of the Greens could put a stop to their ambitions to overtake one of the ‘big four’ parties.

The Greens are, shockingly, a urban party. It does very well in the liberal French cantons of Geneva (16.4%) and Vaud (14.3%). In Zug, the Greens’ local referent, the Alternative-The Greens Zug, also has a surprisingly strong base: 17% in 2007.

Political positioning of all 200 deputies (source: Swiss government)

The Bourgeois Democratic Party (BDP or PBD) is a small party, but also a governing party with one seat in the Federal Council. The BDP, to put things succinctly, is a moderate split-off of the SVP. Even when the SVP was becoming apparently heavily dominated by Blocher’s right-wing populist faction operating out of Zurich, the agrarian-born party was pretty homogeneous and retained a strong centrist/agrarian wing especially in the canton of Bern and holding the SVP’s original seat in the Federal Council (since 1930). In the 2007 Federal Council election, the SP, CVP and Greens decided to unite to defeat the controversial Blocher and elected in his stead the SVP moderate Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf. Widmer-Schlumpf accepted her election despite the SVP’s opposition. Her Grisons section unwilling to expel her, the SVP national leadership expelled the whole Grisons section which became the base of the new BDP. The SVP’s Bern section also defected in good part to the BDP, including the SVP’s other Federal Councillor, Samuel Schmid, meaning that the small BDP held two seats in the Federal Council between 2008 and 2009 – when Schmid retired and everybody agreed to elect the SVP’s Ueli Maurer.

The BDP opposes the SVP’s more right-wing positions on immigration and asylum. It is more internationalist (but anti-EU), more environmentally-friendly and more liberal on social issues. The BDP has ironically hurt the FDP and CVP more than the SVP. In cantonal elections in Bern, where the BDP emerged as the third-largest party with 16%, the SVP didn’t suffer a lot – rather the FDP lost votes. It remains to be seen if the BDP can really find a spot for itself outside the cantons of Bern, Glarus and Grisons where it has a strong institutional base. Electoral experience so far outside those three cantons don’t indicate that the BDP has managed to make itself a spot. The ability of Widmer-Schlumpf to win reelection in December to the Federal Council is one of the big questions of this election. It remains to be seen whether the centre-left parties and the CVP will prefer Widmer-Schlumpf or will privilege institutional stability and dump her in favour of a SVP candidate.

The Green Liberal Party (glp or pvl) is the other newcomer to the scene. The Greens, as we have seen, have been divided between centrists and left-wingers. In 2004, the Greens expelled one of their parliamentarians from Zurich. In 2007, the Green Liberals were founded, operating out of Zurich. It won 1.4% and 3 seats in the 2007 election, winning 7% in Zurich. Verena Diener won a seat in the Council of States representing Zurich, defeating a SVP candidate in the runoff. The glp’s ideology sets it apart from other green parties in Europe, the bulk of which are either markedly or rather left-leaning. The glp seeks to mix a free market economy and economic liberalism with a environmental sustainability. It support tax incentives and other free market incentives to sustainability rather than regulations, heavy taxation or bans. This generally aligns the glp with the centre-right and liberalism rather than the left or other European green parties. It could be similar, in some regards, to the Canadian Greens.

The glp is very strong in Zurich, where it won 10% in the last cantonal elections, and in other German-speaking cantons but it has had trouble setting up a base for itself in Romandie.

The Evangelical People’s Party (PEV) is one of the only small parties to not have been doomed with death: the PEV has always been a small party, never winning more than 2.5% in any election, but a political fixture since at least 1919. Originally, the PEV was, in Protestant cantons, the voice of the non-Radical socially conservative minority. The EVP is conservative on social hot-button issues such as abortion, but it is far more progressive on environmental and economic issues. It supports, for example, family-oriented policies, fair wages, solidarity with low-income people, high childcare benefits. It forms a common parliamentary group with the CVP and glp in the Federal Assembly. The PEV, however, has only a weak but rather stable base. It is really only present in German Protestant cantons, and is a major political force only in Bern, Aargau and Zurich (more or less).

The Federal Democratic Union (EDU or UDF) is another small, Protestant Christian conservative party. Founded in 1975, the EDU is, like the PEV, socially conservative but it gives much more emphasis to those kind of issues than the PEV. It describes itself as a party “defending the values of the Bible” and “judeo-Christian values”. It claims to be more left-wing on economic issues, though not as much as the PEV. The EDU is strong only in Bern, Thurgau and Zurich and Aargau to a lesser extent.

The Lega dei Ticinesi (LT, ‘League of Ticinians’) is a small regional party which operates only in the Italian-speaking canton of Ticino. The LT’s raison-d’etre is not any kind of separatism or regional nationalism, but rather as a regionalist anti-state protest party opposed to the ‘corrupt particracy’ of Ticino. Founded in 1991 by the local entrepreneur Giuliano Bignasca, it has built a populist rhetoric based around opposition to corrupt party establishments, clientelism, European integration, environmental protection, asylum policies, ‘foreigner’ welfare leeches and high taxes. The Lega did very well in its first years, winning 23.5% in Ticino during the 1991 federal elections but saw support fall to 8% in 2003 before increasing to 14% in 2007. The Lega is similar to and allied with the SVP, though the SVP operates in Ticino (but is weak: 9% in 2007, 5.5% in the 2011 cantonal elections). The Lega seems to be in an upsurge these days: it won a record-high 22.8% in the 2011 cantonal elections, only a few points behind the FDP.

The Christian Social Party (PCS or CSP) is a small party, founded only in 1997, but heir to a older Christian-social tradition within the Catholic movement and the CVP in Switzerland. The Christian-social movement has sought to apply the Christian values of solidarity and tolerance to the political sphere, favouring left-wing economic policies and vibrant welfare measures and social solidarity. The Christian-social tendency of the CVP had remained within the party despite being increasingly marginalized by the more right-wing faction of the CVP, but by 1997 the PCS was founded by the Christian-social faction of the CVP in Jura (more recently), Fribourg, Lucerne and Zurich. The PCS, which cooperates with the Greens and SP, is liberal on social issues, and left-wing on economic and environmental issues. It supports a liberal immigration policy and an internationalist foreign policy. However, the PCS is really only present in Jura and Fribourg with any significant strength.

The Swiss far-left is a bit confusing. The oldest party is the Swiss Party of Labour  (PST/POP-PdAS), founded in 1944 as an alliance of the Communist Party, left-wing socialists and SP dissidents. After winning 5% in 1947, the PST entered a period of political isolation (in the Cold War context) and electoral decline from 5% to less than 1% (0.7%) in 2007. The PST, which is often understood as being Switzerland’s communist party, is really only strong in the watchmaking towns of Neuchâtel and parts of Vaud – two cantons were it known as the POP (alongside Bern and Jura). It is something allied to solidaritéS, a far-left anticapitalist party whose base seems to be Geneva. However, the new fad in the far-left seems to be The Left, a party founded in 2009 by various ‘alternative lists’, communists, three POP sections and three SolidaritéS sections. The party has also one seat in the National Council, elected for the PST in 2007.

The SVP’s growth has killed the previously vibrant Swiss far-right, which peaked at a combined 8% in 1991. The two biggest parties were the Swiss Democrats, founded in 1961 on an explicitly xenophobic platform about the “overpopulation” of the country due to immigration. The SD were behind some of the popular initiatives “against foreign overpopulation” in the 1960s and 1970s before taking a weird environmentalist position, but one backed by xenophobic theses (the foreigners are destroying our land, basically). The SD were killed by the growth of the SVP and lost its sole seat in 2007. The other main far-right movement was the Freedom Party, founded in 1985 as the “Motorists Party”. It was a right-wing populist movement against environmental protection, state interventionism and asylum policies. Again, it was killed by the SVP by 1999. The performance in Geneva of the Geneva Citizens Movement (MCG), which placed third with 14% in the 2009 cantonal elections in Geneva might be worth following. Geneva, despite its liberal reputation (which is still true), has a long little-known history of affection for populist right-wing parties, such as Vigilants in the 1960s-1980s and the MCG these days. Both these movements operate out of opposition to foreign (French and Italian) workers and residents in Geneva, claiming that their presence takes away Swiss jobs. They are also, similarly to the Lega, opponents of the so-called ‘particracy’.

Polling and the Federal Council

The last SSR barometre says:
SVP-UDC 29.3%
SP-PS 19.9%
FDP-PLR 15.2%
CVP-PDC 14.2%
GPS-PES 9.3%
glp-pel 4.9%
BDP-PBD 3.6%

The interactive prediction market (Wahlboerse) predicts a result of:
SVP-UDC 28.84% (-0.06%)
SP-PS 19.58% (+0.03%)
FDP-PLR 13.76% (-3.85%)
CVP-PDC 12.9% (-1.58%)
GPS-PES 9.54% (-0.05%)
glp-pel 5.55% (+4.12%)
BDP-PBD 4.31% (+4.31%)

The results, barring surprises, should be remarkably similar to those of 2007. The SVP is either going to fall back a bit or gain a bit, but it is unlikely that it will be scoring more huge gains as in 1999 or 2003. It is perhaps because the SVP has played it rather quiet this year: no big controversial ads out there about “black sheeps” and the like. The SP and the Greens are also both pretty stable, either a bit above or below their 2007 showings. The main shift is in the centre, where the main changes will be happening. The “old” parties – Radicals and CVP – will lose a small but significant part of their 2007 electorate to reach, in both cases, historic lows. The benefactors of these evolutions in the centre will, ironically, be new parties which do not have their roots in either party. The BDP and Green Liberals will be taking most of their new voters from these two centrist parties, from which they do not emanate but with which there is significant support and ideological overlap. In the BDP’s case, it will be interesting to measure its performance in both the three cantons where it holds its five seats (Bern, Grisons and Glarus) and where it has no apparent support or institutional base. In any case, the BDP’s relative success will not have any major impact on the SVP but rather on the old centrist parties. The ‘political centre’ (FDP-CVP-glp-BDP) will emerged stronger from this election, as will the ‘greens’ (GPS-glp) and the opposition parties.

A word on turnout: it was 48% in 2007. Turnout remains low by European standards but has increased constantly from a low of 42% in 1995 (SVP-effect?). With the election pretty boring and unlikely to produce major changes, will turnout fall back this year?

The more exciting election will be the December election of the Federal Council. The stability of Swiss politics because of the “magic formula” was challenged by the SVP’s eruption in the 1990s and 2000s, then by the success of the Greens in 2003 and 2007 and then by the growing dissonance between the SVP and its other three governing “partners” starting in 2007 with the election of Widmer-Schlumpf. This means that the SVP is now a bit of an “opposition” party within the government, and holds only one seat despite it weighing nearly 30% nationally (and the BDP, which also holds one seat, a mere 3-4%). The Greens are unlikely to succeed in their goal to enter government – they would need the support of the SP and CVP/glp/PEV groups to win, and that is unlikely as it would really screw up the balance of power. Then the other questions are whether or not the BDP’s Widmer-Schlumpf will win reelection and whether or not the FDP (after an historic low) will see its second seat threatened by either the SVP or CVP – both parties claiming a second seat. The fate of the BDP’s Widmer-Schlumpf depends on the behaviour of the SP and CVP, because it is likely that the FDP will back the SVP’s claim to a second seat (in return for SVP support for the FDP’s second seat?). The SP could back her over an SVP candidate, as could the Greens (who could also run one of their own). In a 2009 Federal Council by-election, the BDP had apparently talked about backing the CVP’s candidate for the FDP-held seat (the FDP’s Didier Burkhalter held the seat) in return for the CVP backing the BDP this year, but I don’t know what come out of that and where the CVP stands on allowing the BDP to hold its seat. I see it as unlikely that the BDP will hold on, given that it would be a major blow to the legitimacy of the government and to the stability of the “magic formula” to deny the SVP a seat which, from a neutral and totally objective perspective, it deserves given its weight and given the point of the “magic formula” – ignoring one’s view on the SVP. The CVP also wants to regain the seat it lost to the SVP in 2007, but I believe it understands that going against the SVP is not the way to go. If it wants a second seat, it needs to go against the FDP which will be the party which will probably lose the most this year. The fight between the CVP and FDP over which one of the two historic rival deserves a second seat will be the other question mark of this election, which, like every Federal Council renewal since 2003 promises to be remarkably fascinating!

Molise (Italy) 2011

Regional elections were held in Molise, a region of Italy, on October 16 and 17, 2011. The directly-elected president of the region alongside the 26-seat regional council were up for reelection. The last elections took place in 2006 and were won by Angelo Michele Iorio of the right-wing coalition with 54% of the vote.

Molise is Italy’s newest regions – created out of Abruzzo in the 60s – and is the second least populated region in Italy. It is a small, rural and poor province in southern Italy. During the First Republic, Molise was a very conservative province and often gave the right-wing DC its best results in the country. The party on its own won over 50% of the votes and an absolute majority in all regional elections between 1970 and 1995. Under the Second Republic, however, Molise’s political profile has changed somewhat to become something of a swing region. In 1995, the left won the regional elections by a tiny margin over the right but in the games of alliances, the left-wing president was toppled in 1998 by Iorio, who aligned with the right before himself being removed in 1999 in favour of the left. The left won the 2000 elections by 0.4%, but these elections were cancelled when a court ruled that there had been irregularities concerning the Green list in the elections. Iorio won the re-vote in 2001 by 58% against 42% for the left’s Giovanni di Stasi. In 2006, he was reelected with 54%. But at the same time, Molise voted for the left coalition (although by very small margins) in both 2006 and 2008. A lot of this is due to the strong local implantation of Italy of Values (IdV), the anti-corruption party led by Molise favourite son and ex-magistrate Antonio di Pietro. IdV won 28% in the 2008 general elections, coming out far ahead of the mainstream PD which won only 18%.

This election wasn’t really on the radar and thus not played out as important a political test for embattled Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi as the local elections earlier this year – marked by a big left-wing victory – but they were still interesting. Turnout was 59.79%, down from 65.1% in 2006.

Direct vote for president
Angelo Michele Iorio (Right-PdL) 46.94% winning 3 seats
Paolo Di Laura Frattura (Left-PD) 46.15% winning 1 seat
Antonio Federico (M5S) 5.6%
Giovancarmine Mancini (La Destra) 1.29%

Overall regional council vote
Right 56.37% winning 15 seats
Left 40.49% winning 11 seats
M5S 2.27%
La Destra 0.86%

The race for president, which in these regional elections is the most important contest, was surprisingly close and decided by 1505 and less than one percent. This is quite surprising considering Iorio’s apparent local popularity and the right’s much more pronounced success in elections to the regional council. This is a good result for the left, but a potential victory ‘spoiled’ by the strong showing of the Five Star Movement (M5S), a left-populist movement led by popular anti-corrpution blogger and and comedian Beppe Grillo. Grillo’s M5S had already ‘spoiled’ the 2010 regional election in Piedmont by taking away votes which would otherwise have pretty logically gone to the left. A pretty disappointing ‘close but no cigar’ election for the left.

The regional council vote was marked by some pretty amazing fragmentation, and also a pretty stark difference to the presidential race. On the right, the PdL emerged as the largest party with only 18.9% (5 seats), with strong showings from the local ‘Progetto Molise’ (9.5%), the UDC (6.8%), the Alliance of the Centre (6.7%) and the regionalist Great South (6.5%). On the left, it was even more fragmented. Overall, the left won 40.5%, quite a bit below Frattura’s showing in the presidential contest. The PD won only 9.9%. IdV did very poorly considering that Molise is the party’s home turf. It won 8.8%. Perhaps the party’s perceived shift to the left with the likes of newly-elected Naples mayor Luigi de Magistris (who favours a closer alliance with Nichi Vendola’s SEL) has been poorly received by voters in di Pietro’s native region. An IdV Senator from Molise recently criticized the IdV’s left-wing shift. Francesco Rutelli’s Alliance for Italy did well with 6.3%, as did the small Socialist Party which won 4.6%. Vendola’s SEL won 3.9%, the communist Federation of the Left took 2.8%.

France 2012: PS open primaries (runoff)

The second round of left-wing open primary elections (primaires citoyennes) were held in France on October 16, 2011. These primaries will nominate the candidate of the opposition Socialist Party (PS) and its small ally, the Left Radicals (PRG) for the 2012 presidential elections. All French citizens were eligible to vote provided they pay a symbolic minimum fee of €1 and sign a declaration of vague left-wing values. I had talked about the candidates in a preview post and covered all the results of the first round here.

At the outset of the first round, the frontrunner of the campaign, former party boss François Hollande had come out ahead with 39.2% ahead of 30.4% for Martine Aubry, his main rival and current party boss. Hollande’s showing had been a bit weaker than originally expected, and Aubry’s performance was conversely better than expected. The main surprise of the first round came from the strong showing of Arnaud Montebourg (17.2%), the young standard-bearer of the party’s left and ‘deglobalization’. The party’s 2007 candidate, Ségolène Royal, won only 7% while the young standard-bearer of the party’s right, Manuel Valls, won 5.6%. PRG boss Jean-Michel Baylet won only 0.6%. Aubry’s hopes for the surprisingly open runoff rested on the transfer of Montebourg’s left-wing voters to her candidacy, more left-wing than Hollande’s consensual centre-left candidacy. Support from new voters and a good majority of Royal’s equally left-wing voters was also necessary. However, despite a very aggressive offensive against Hollande from the left (Hollande as ‘inconsistent’, ‘flip-floppy’, ‘unclear-wishy-washy’, ‘the system’s candidate’ or even ‘right-wing’), Aubry’s campaign failed. Royal, surprisingly, endorsed her ex (following the logical endorsements of the centrists Valls and Baylet). Then Arnaud Montebourg, on a personal level, endorsed Hollande, despite his ideas being generally closer to those of Aubry rather than those Hollande. Following these pretty crippling blows, Aubry needed two things to win: that Royal and Montebourg’s voters reject in large numbers the endorsement of their candidate and vote for Aubry instead, and that the runoff sees a major spike in turnout through the heavy participation of non-PS left-wingers (Greens, Communists, far-left) which favoured Aubry more than Hollande. A tall order, but not seen as impossible. Despite Hollande’s big momentum during the entre deux tours, almost all observers predicted a fairly close runoff though with Hollande favoured.

Turnout was, logically, up from the first round. With 9407/9425 polls confirmed (the rest were likely cancelled) 2,860,157 voters turned out, which is 6.6% of registered voters in France (2010 numbers, the same warning applies concerning this data as in round one). This up nearly 199k from the first round, a 7.5% increase. The metropolitan department with the biggest increase was Haute-Corse (+26.85%) followed by Corrèze (+18.77%). The Nord, Pas-de-Calais, Seine-Maritime, Haute-Loire and Pyrénées-Atlantiques also saw turnout increase by over 15%. Only Saône-et-Loire (-5.53%) and Tarn-et-Garonne (-0.22%) saw turnout drop.

François Hollande 56.57%
Martine Aubry 43.43%

In the end it wasn’t even close. Hollande, after underperforming in the first round, overperformed most polls in the runoff. While Hollande’s victory was pretty likely, nobody really thought that he’d be able to win by such a big margin – despite the big momentum going his way with the endorsements or personal support of all other four first round candidates.

Turnout increased by just about the right amount for Hollande – a more significant boost in turnout, which would likely have come from the non-PS left, would have been more likely to benefit Aubry. As I had hypothesized following the first round, a good number of potential Hollande voters seemed to have opted out of the first round because he was the big favourite, but they certainly turned out for the runoff. Then his undeniable big mo’ had a rather important effect. It might have pushed wavering voters to his side, and it also could have even taken a few first round Aubry voters who wanted to vote for the winner and guarantee him a large majority.

The most surprising aspect of the vote is also that those who had voted for the other four candidates in the first round followed the endorsements or opinions of their candidate rather loyally. In the case of Valls and Baylet voters, this is not surprising. But more surprising is the case of Royal voters. I had thought they would be more likely to abstain in very large numbers, and a good number probably did – turnout increased by less than the national average (+7.5%) in her Poitou-Charentes base (15-18% for her in the first round), meaning that a good number of her voters didn’t turn out but this was compensated by new voters. But those of her voters who did vote seem to have gone to Hollande by a rather significant margin. Aubry needed those Royal voters to win, and given the likely proximity of Royal voters with the party’s left, it wasn’t a pipe dream. But the numbers, especially in Poitou-Charentes where Hollande beat Aubry by over 30% in all four departments, show that her voters probably went in bigger numbers to Hollande rather than Aubry. In her native Deux-Sèvres, where she had won 18% in the first round, Hollande won 72.2% – one of his biggest wins outside his Limousin stronghold. In Melle, Royal’s home base where she had won 32% in the first round, Hollande won 77.1%. The Poitou-Charentes perhaps isn’t the best of examples: a lot of Royal’s vote here was probably native-girl rather than any ideological proximity to her, and the Poitou-Charentes, like the inner west or Brittany fits the profile of Hollande’s locales: provincial and politically moderate. But it is hard to conduct a good study, given that outsider her home turf, her results were uniformly low to the point where it’s hard to say if the runoff results were influenced by her voters.

Equally surprising was the case of Montebourg’s voters, who were very much the ‘kingmakers’ of the runoff and a crucial block for Aubry to win if she was to win. First off, a good number of them probably did not turn out. Some wavering voters (perhaps some FN voters) voted for Montebourg as a pure ideological or protest vote, and had no affinity for either Hollande or Aubry (in fact, they probably saw them as one and the same). Others were traditional PS voters, but very much on the party’s eurosceptic left and did not vote for either Hollande or Aubry (broadly similar ideologically, especially on Europe or such things). Turnout dropped by 5.5% in his native Saône-et-Loire (56% for him in the first round), which is a pretty huge number considering that turnout overall increased by some 7% in the whole of France. But a lot of his voters did turn out, and they rather surprisingly seem to have followed their candidate’s personal endorsement of Hollande rather loyally – though overall the split might have favoured Aubry by a hair (hard to say). Hollande won Saône-et-Loire by a bigger margin than he won nationally, taking 59.6%. In Montret, where Montebourg had won 97% (and Hollande 3%), Hollande won 69% (turnout dropped from 118 to 106). In Montebourg’s Frangy-en-Bresse bastion, where he had won 85%, Hollande won 61%. Even if Montebourg’s voters, overall, might have favoured Aubry by a hair, it is the very fact that Hollande – the ‘centrist’, ‘flip-flopper’ and ‘soft left’ candidate – could take so much Montebourg voters, voters who voted for the candidate farthest to the left and the proponent of ‘deglobalization’. Though some Montebourg voters expressed anger at Montebourg’s surprising personal endorsement of Hollande (the type of Montebourg voter who would not turn out), a surprisingly large amount of them opted for Hollande despite all of Aubry’s attacks on Hollande from the left. Montebourg himself said that he endorsed Hollande primarily because he came out ahead on October 9 and would have endorsed Aubry if she had come out ahead (in other words, he wants a cabinet position), this feeling of “unite around the favourite” seems to have been shared by a large number of left-wing voters. In the end, more than any questions over Hollande’s socialist pedigree, a lot of undecided or on-the-fence voters voted out of a desire to defeat Sarkozy, which Hollande is widely seen as the most capable of doing.

Aubry also played her runoff campaign very badly. The rapid string of endorsements from Valls, Baylet and particularly Royal didn’t help her, but she had the momentum on her side coming out of October 9 and she allowed herself to completely lost that. True, some of it wasn’t her fault, but she probably hurt her cause more than helped her cause when, starting during the Wednesday debate, she turned to a chaotic, aggressive, left-wing and frankly desperate tone against Hollande. It was hard to evaluate from a neutral perspective how her attacks on Hollande as being “the soft left”, or generally a centrist wishy-washy flip-flopper of questionable left-wing pedigree would help her. She did attack Hollande on his weak-point (that of being too centrist and ideologically unclear), but she did so in an increasingly desperate and ‘wtf’ way. She went off the deep end when she started calling Hollande “the candidate of the system”, which is a pretty amusing thing for the incumbent party boss backed by the party old guard to say. Her poor showing shows that she did not help her case with her attacks on Hollande.

Although the UMP, which resorts every day to more and more awful strawman arguments, would like to make you think that this shows an awfully divided party because “obviously Hollande should have won with 70%” (arguments that make psephologists cry); this is a good result for the party itself. If the race had been close, like Reims in 2008, then there would have been chaos and the personal feuds would have resisted and played out. Instead, such a definite victory is a big boost for Hollande. It gives him a big legitimacy boost and makes the continuation of major feuds unlikely. The Aubry camp certainly isn’t too enthused about the result, but some key Aubry supporters like Fabius have already made their moves to cozy up with Hollande.

One of the things which had very much crippled Royal’s campaign in 2006-2007 despite her landslide closed primary victory was the division of the party between her campaign, led by Royal and her lieutenants; and a rather hostile party establishment and old guard which barely raised a finger for her. Certainly Royal was and remains a very polarizing person within PS circles, and unlike Hollande has a lot of enemies. And the 2006 primary had left its wounds on the party. The old guard came out to help Royal only late in the campaign, and did so with little enthusiasm. While the Aubry camp might be gloomy and hardly enthused about their rival’s victory (and there are clear scars), Hollande has so far handled his victory better than Royal did in 2006. Right after he won, he staged a very powerful and symbolic victory celebration alongside Valls, Royal but also Aubry and Fabius. The danger for him and the PS remains a division of the party between the campaign and the party, especially given how the party apparatus is led by one Martine Aubry.

Geographic analysis

Those who hoped for a ‘bluer’ map than that of the first round will be pretty disappointed. Hollande won all departments which had voted for him on October 9, except for the Somme which went to Aubry by a handful of votes. He also picked up St. Pierre et Miquelon, which Baylet had amusingly won. The patterns of the runoff are broadly similar to those of the first round (well, obviously). The map clearly shows Hollande’s solid ‘provincial’ or rural implantation. His support ripples out from his Correzian bastion, which gave Hollande an “African-like” 94%, and extends into the rest of the Limousin and Massif Central to give his map a distinctively chiraquian-pompidolian flair. But he also won strong support in the rest of the left-leaning and rural departments of the old Radical southwest, and polled remarkably well in Royal’s Poitou-Charentais base (not all surprisingly: as I said above, this is a politically moderate region). He also did well in the bulk of Auvergne, the Languedoc-Roussillon (perhaps a frêchiste vote for Hollande against Aubry, who had gone on a crusade against the frêchiste feds of the region) and generally in rural Champagne, Touraine, Berry, Orléanais, Lorraine and even a good part of Bourgogne.

Only the more urbanized and Greenish departments of the Rhône-Alpes, PACA, Ile-de-France and surprisingly Alsace are a bit weaker for him, in general. His support was lowest in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais, the political home base of Martine Aubry and industrialized Picardy and Haute-Normandie (the latter of which is the political home base of Laurent Fabius).

In the first round, I had noted a rather stark urban-rural divide between Aubry and Hollande, with Aubry being the urban candidate against the ‘rural’ Hollande. The same pattern is replicated in the runoff, though not as pronounced. The gap between Aubry and Hollande in Paris, which Aubry won as in the first round, was smaller than in the first round. Lyon seems to have voted for Hollande, and Strasbourg went to Aubry by only 54 votes. I haven’t found data for Toulouse, Rouen or Metz. The addition of Valls’ very urban first round 6% perhaps played a role here, as did increased turnout. The map in urban areas such as Paris, Lyon and Marseille retain a bourgeois-for-Hollande and poorer people-for-Aubry pattern, though here again it is less pronounced – Hollande won the very left-wing, diverse and low-income 13th in Paris.

Turnout increased the most in the bases of both candidates: both Corrèze and the Nord had turnout up by 15%. Aubryst Pas-de-Calais and Seine-Maritime also had similarly large increases in turnout. As aforementioned, turnout dropped significantly only in Montebourg’s Saône-et-Loire but also, interestingly, by a tiny amount in Baylet’s Tarn-et-Garonne. Probably a handful of PRG voters with little interest in the PS.

Conclusions: Past and Future

4%. That is what Hollande was polling one year ago. Though he rarely trailed in the polls following DSK’s arrest, Hollande did indeed come back from far. When Hollande left the party’s leadership in 2008, he was widely judged as a poor leader, the memories of the 2002 and 2007 presidential defeats fresh in mind. His leadership had been criticized for being too conciliatory and soft: making no enemies, but making no friends. Outside a close circle of supporters (Le Foll, Sapin, Vallini, Le Roux etc), Hollande went through a traversée du désert (a trough) which lasted pretty much until late 2010 or even early 2011. But slowly, Hollande fought back and was determined to win. His reelection as president of the general council of Corrèze in March boosted his profile and he rode on a little wave of momentum to announce his candidacy right after the cantonal elections. Unlike Aubry’s campaign, his was well managed and always at the forefront of events. Aubry seemed to have gone on vacation right after announcing her candidacy in the summer. At first, when DSK was still the prospective favourite, he was slowly rising on a profile of “normal” (and ‘provincial’) president – as opposed to the flashy international IMF-lifestyle of the former IMF director. When DSK was arrested, he surged into the lead and would (by large) only grow his lead as the weeks went. He took a lot of DSK’s potential support – moderate voters in the party’s reformist social democratic wing. His “normal” president stature and image was a serious boost, especially in presenting him as the candidate who was most able to beat Sarkozy (a vote-determinant not to be downplayed), but also against the more ‘elitist’/’system’ Aubry. His ability to stick his ground in the trick runoff campaign pitted against a powerful left flank (Montebourg) raised his credibility in the eyes of the wider public. Some might have thought that his ‘general election’ type of campaign wasn’t appropriate to a primary, but it actually worked out well for him. Set against Aubry’s boring, uninspiring and mismanaged campaign it isn’t a wonder, in the end, that he won like he finally did. To draw a link with American politics, Aubry was a bit the “Clinton” of the contest – longtime politico, apparatus insider support, experienced rough-and-tumble politician and in a position to win easily through their control of the party’s insider network and structures (but who finally led a poor campaign). Hollande, though most certainly not a political newbie or with low name recognition, was a bit the “Obama” of the contest – a bit on the outsides of the current structures, relatively inexperienced (Hollande never served in cabinet), starting out very low in polls but leading an innovative and organized campaign and playing on his strength with the ‘grassroots’ and the broader electorate.

The top echelon of the 2012 field is thus set: Nicolas Sarkozy, François Hollande and Marine Le Pen. Hollande is a strong candidate and a threat to Sarkozy. Of the two candidates, he was the strongest against Sarkozy. The blog Sondages 2012, run by a friend of mine, which has a wonderful rolling average of all polling pegged Hollande at 30.4% on October 10 and Aubry at 26.8%. Sarkozy was at 22.7% against Hollande and 23.3% against Aubry. One of Hollande’s main strength, which helped him in this campaign, is his ability to attract centrist and even centre-right voters to his fold. His conciliatory, moderate, reformist social democratic image gives him a stronger base with those voters. The main losers of Hollande’s nomination are the ‘centrist’ candidates: Bayrou, Villepin and Borloo before he dropped out. Bayrou, Villepin and Borloo all performed better in the Aubry scenarios than in the Hollande scenarios. Conversely, those who might stand to gain something out of Hollande’s nomination are those further to the left: Eva Joly (EELV) and especially Jean-Luc Mélenchon (FG). Hollande’s left flank is weaker than Aubry’s, but if he can position Montebourg well, he could cover his left flank and prevent losing some of the more left-wing PS voters to the Greens or Left Front. Hollande, however, does have his weaknesses. His relative inexperience in governance could be used against him, and Sarkozy will probably do so by running on his experience in foreign affairs and on the debt crisis issue. He could use a theme similar to Stephen Harper’s successful “in times of economic trouble, it’s me or chaos” line. His support seems to be based quite a lot on his “normal” president image or similar ‘image’ things rather than deep ideological affiliation, and as such is probably less solid. Sarkozy is a very strong candidate too, and should certainly not be taken for dead. But, with approvals at 35% and an anemic 22% in first round polls and a terrible 40-42% in the runoff, he is certainly in worse shape than any incumbent president of the Fifth Republic were one year out from reelection.

Newfoundland and Yukon (Canada) 2011… and Madeira?!

Provincial elections were held in the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador on October 11, alongside territorial elections in the Canadian territory of Yukon. There were also regional elections on the Portuguese autonomous island of Madeira on October 9, which is being included in this post because it’s cool enough to be mentioned but not interesting enough to warrant its own post. And also because both Newfoundland and Madeira are islands, I guess.

Newfoundland and Labrador 2011

Newfoundland and Labrador has been governed since 2010 by Kathy Dunderdale of the Progressive Conservative Party (PC). Dunderdale had replaced Danny Williams, elected in 2003 and reelected in 2007, as Premier and PC leader following Williams’ retirement.

Newfoundland is Canada’s newest province, having joined Confederation in 1949. In 1869, it had rejected an earlier offer to join Canada and instead preferred to retain responsible government as a British dominion. Until the Great Depression, Newfoundland had in fact enjoyed relative prosperity despite its economic dependence on cod fishing and limited lumbering and mining. Economic opportunities had attracted many Irish Catholic immigrants, most of whom settled on the Avalon Peninsula and in the capital, St. John’s. Irish Catholics soon grew to become 40% of the island’s population, co-dominant alongside the Anglicans and other Protestants of largely English ancestry. The religious disputes which accompanied this religious divided led to sectarianism, which has long been a hallmark of Newfoundland politics. Prior to Confederation, the Liberal Party was largely Catholic while the Tories and later the left-wing Fishermen’s Protective Union (FPU) heavily Protestant and, in the FPU’s case, linked to the powerful Orange Order. Newfoundland was one of the countries hit the hardest by the Great Depression: the collapse in the price of fish devastated the island’s main economic activity, and the government’s uncontrolled spending spree prior to the Depression had created an astronomical debt and deficit. In 1934, Britain was forced to take over its dominion, at the price of abolishing responsible government. Starting in 1945 and culminating in 1949, Newfoundland was divided over its institutional future, a debate which was narrowed down to two options: Confederation with Canada or responsible government (independence). Joey Smallwood, a Protestant radio personality, orchestrated a successful campaign in favour of Confederation which notably included influencing the powerful Orange Order into instructing its members to vote for Confederation because the Catholics were against. Catholics on the Avalon Peninsula had indeed opposed confederation in the first inconclusive 1948 referendum, fearing for the future of their religious schools. Finally, Smallwood and Confederation beat responsible government and the Avalon’s Irish Catholics 52-48.

Joey Smallwood went on to organize the Liberal Party (because the federal Liberals had been pro-Confederation), which dominated provincial politics until Smallwood became too old and authoritarian in 1972. Smallwood’s tenure was marked by various megaprojects (the Churchill Falls dam) and huge amounts of social spending, which made the Liberals popular across (Protestant) rural Newfoundland. The Liberals established themselves as the party of Protestant ‘mainland’ Newfoundland, while the Conservatives established themselves as the dominant party on the Avalon Peninsula and in St. John’s, two heavily Irish Catholic areas. The sectarian divide remains relatively important in Newfoundland politics to this day. Ironically, this religious divide is the reverse of the old religious divide in the rest of Canada, where Catholics are more likely to be Liberal and vice-versa. Voting patterns in Newfoundland are not influenced as much by sectarianism today as by the permanency of ancestral (‘genepool’) voting patterns, especially in rural Newfoundland. This has made it particularly difficult for third parties, such as the NDP, to emerge.

Smallwood’s magic wore off by the late 60s, and after a tied election in 1971, the PCs ended Liberal domination of Newfoundland in 1972 with Frank Moores’ landslide victory over the Liberals, now rid of Smallwood who would eventually form a splinter party (Liberal Reform) in 1975. Brian Peckford succeeded Moores in 1979 and stayed in office until 1989, but his successor Thomas Rideout was defeated by Clyde Wells’ Liberals in 1989. The Liberals, first under Wells (of Meech-fame) then under Brian Tobin and Roger Grimes, held office until 2003. In 2003, they were kicked out of office by a decisive margin (34 seats to 12) by Danny Williams’ PCs.

Newfoundland has historically been a poor province. The island’s dependence on fishing and the declining stocks of cod has, in the past, made it one of Canada’s top “have not” provinces, that is, fiscally dependent on equalization payments from Ottawa. However, the discovery of offshore oil and gas reserves and the progressive exploitation starting in the late 1980s have boosted Newfoundland’s economy. In recent years, Newfoundland’s offshore oil and gas sector has boosted it – an historic feat – into the ranks of the “have” provinces. Onshore natural resources are a provincial jurisdiction in Canada (Alberta’s oil sands, for example), but offshore natural resources are a federal jurisdiction. This has led to major battles between provinces such as Newfoundland and Ottawa over the control, taxation and exploitation of natural resources and at the heart of the Atlantic Accords in the 1980s and in 2005. Provincial Liberal governments crossed swords with federal Liberals on the issue when they were in government. Danny Williams did the same in 2004 with the Paul Martin Liberals, and finally got what he wanted after having removed all Canadian flags from government offices. In 2008, Danny Williams, although a Conservative, entered into a very bad spat with Stephen Harper after Harper reneged on a promise to exclude non-renewable energy sources from the equalization formula, which led Williams to call Harper a ‘fraud’. The spat was so bad that Williams led a very successful ‘Anything but Conservative’ (ABC) campaign in the 2008 federal election. Since then, however, relations between Newfoundland PCs and Harper Conservatives have gradually been patched up. Dunderdale endorsed Harper in 2011.

Danny Williams’ powerful advocacy of Newfoundland interests against both Liberal and Conservative governments in Ottawa, alongside very lucrative new deals opening up new offshore oil sites made him very popular. In 2007, Williams’ PCs won nearly 70% of the vote and 44 out of 48 seats. He maintained astronomical approval ratings (75-90%) until his retirement, which came as a surprise to most in December 2010. He was replaced by Deputy Premier Kathy Dunderdale, who has managed to become her own self and walk out of Danny’s shadows. She remains very popular, buoyed by a still-booming economy and an enviable fiscal balance sheet. In contrast, the Liberals, who held only 4 seats in the House of Assembly at dissolution, have struggled with leadership since 2003. Their leader lost his seat in 2007, and Yvonne Jones, who succeeded him after the 2007 defeat, resigned the leadership in August blaming health issues. She was replaced by former MHA and cabinet minister Kevin Aylward. The NDP has been led by Lorraine Michael since 2006. Smallwood’s quasi-socialist rhetoric and policies obviously prevented the party’s growth in the early years, and the permanency of tribal/ancestral voting patterns have also checked the rise of the NDP in most of Newfoundland. It has never won over 14% or 2 seats provincially, though the federal NDP did very well in St. John’s both in 2008 and 2011.

Results were as follows. Change is on dissolution.

PC 56.09% (-13.5%) winning 37 seats (-6)
Liberal 19.07% (-2.62%) winning 6 seats (+2)
NDP 24.64% (+16.15%) winning 5 seats (+4)
Others 0.19% (-0.04%)

The PCs were, unsurprisingly, reelected with another huge though not as huge majority. The economy is booming, and the books are balanced. There have been a few issues over hospital closures and road conditions in rural areas, but by and large most voters are still happy with the PCs. The interesting battle throughout the campaign and election night was the race for opposition. The Liberals, with all their leadership troubles and their last-minute change in leadership back in August gradually collapsed in the polls, at the benefit of the NDP which surged to historic highs.

The Liberals ended up placing third, with 19% and slumping to another historic low in terms of popular vote, but they actually managed a net gain of 2 seats and hold on by the skin of their teeth to official opposition. The Liberals ran a very rural-oriented campaign, aiming to present themselves as the rural alternative to rural Newfoundlanders who were unhappy with PC policy over roads or hospitals. Unsurprisingly, that rural stuff didn’t work in St. John’s and in fact most of the Avalon Peninsula: the Liberals, who had already polled a poor third in St. John’s in 2007 did terribly there this year. Terribly is a bit of understatement, in fact, considering the Liberals won all of 2-7% in most of the capital’s ridings. They also placed third on most of the Avalon and also in most of rural eastern Newfoundland. For some reason, they had a big upswing in support in western Newfoundland, where they gained three seats (and lost one). Kevin Aylward was unsuccessful in St. George’s-Stephenville East against a PC incumbent, losing by over 15% (49-33). But the Liberals gained the Bay of Islands, St. Barbe and the Humber Valley (the latter riding, won by 68 votes over the PCs, was crucial in giving the Liberals the official opposition). These are traditionally ancestrally Liberal areas, but why the Liberal Party’s rural message worked there and not as much on the rest of mainland Newfoundland is anybody’s guess. The Liberals also gained Torngat Mountains, a huge and sparsely populated riding in northern Labrador, apparently thanks to a candidate who visited every part of it by speedboat.

The NDP did extremely well, winning a record-high 24.6% and 5 seats. However, compared to expectations and the last polls, it under-performed slightly and its failure to overtake the Liberals for official opposition was a real heartbreaker for the NDP. Its surge was concentrated, mainly, in St. John’s where it holds 4 of its 5 seats. It had only one seat in St. John’s, the long-time NDP stronghold of Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi held by NDP leader Lorraine Michael and before that by current federal NDP MP Jack Harris. The NDP’s success in the 2008 and 2011 federal elections was concentrated in St. John’s, and many suspected the same for the NDP’s provincial surge. The problem with the NDP and St. John’s is that most of the city’s ridings were/are PC strongholds (as is most of the Avalon, where the NDP also did well), so even if the party does very well it still faces an uphill battle to topple PC incumbents. This is a bit what happened this year, though the NDP did take three Tory-held seats. The party’s problem is that it continued to fare relatively poorly in rural mainland Newfoundland, where they have yet to topple the Liberals as the main non-PC party. The excessive concentration of the NDP’s support on the Avalon contributed in large part to the NDP’s failure to win official opposition, as its failure to breakthrough outside there (the Liberals placed second outside the Avalon and the capital) meant it couldn’t win official opposition. Another pretty disappointing showing was in Labrador West, which was last won by the NDP in 2003 and thought to be one of the NDP’s certain gains. It might have something to do with how the last NDP MHA ended up: in jail for fraud. The NDP had lost by only 354 votes in 2007, this year they lost to the PCs by 663 votes. The NDP came closer in Lake Melville (50-35 for the PCs), which is the focal point of the controversial Muskrat Falls deal which the NDP opposed. Still, there are good signs for the NDP too in mainland Newfoundland. One of the big shockers was The Straits-White Bay North where the NDP’s Christopher Mitchelmore defeated Liberal incumbent Marshall Dean in a three-way race in a riding, ancestrally Liberal, which had been picked up by the Liberals in a 2009 by-election. Certainly no one expected the NDP to win that seat. The NDP had targeted and eventually came within 4o votes in the PC-held seat of Burin-Placentia West. The NDP has a small and older base in Burin, and their candidate was the deputy mayor of the major city in the riding.

The Liberals holding on to official opposition will make rebuilding their easier, given the advantages being the official opposition gives. Their weakness in St. John’s is, of course, a major roadblock. The NDP also needs to improve their standings outside of the Avalon, where their vote increase this year was far less impressive.

Yukon 2011

Yukon is the smallest territory by land area and the second least populated jurisdiction in Canada after Nunavut. Yukon, most significantly, is the only territory to have partisan politics instead of non-partisan consensus government. The Yukon has been governed since May 2011 by Darrell Pasloski of the Yukon Party, who succeeded Dennis Fentie of the Yukon Party. Fentie had been in office since 2002.

The Yukon differs from the other two territories in a number of ways. The Klondike of the late 19th century led to an influx of white European (most often British) settlers, which the current-day NWT did not have. To this day, the Yukon is significantly more European in its ancestry than the other two territories which both have a majority of Natives or Inuits. Only 25% of the Yukon’s population is of aboriginal ancestry, while a bit over 50% claim some sort of British ancestry (single or multiple response, 2006 Census). Whitehorse, the capital, is more easily accessible from the south than Yellowknife, though it has a smaller population than Yellowknife.

Yukon adopted partisan politics in 1978, and since then Tories, Dippers and Grits have alternated in and out of office and official opposition. The PCs won the first two elections, until they were defeated by the NDP’s Tony Penikett in 1985. The PCs, for reasons not unconnected to Brian Mulroney’s unpopularity federally, renamed themselves as the ‘Yukon Party’ in 1992. The Yukon Party, led by John Ostashek, won the 1992 elections but unpopular fiscal policies contributed to their defeat by the NDP in 1996. However, by 2000, the NDP were defeated by the Liberals, whose majority quickly collapsed into a minority after 3 defections and forced an early election in 2002. The Yukon Party, led by Dennis Fentie, defeated the Liberals, who won only 1 seat, in the 2002 election. Fentie was reelected with a majority in 2006, and was replaced by Pasloski in May of this year. Pasloski has never held elected office before, and his only electoral outing was when he ran for the federal Tories in 2008. Prior to that he was apparently the owner of a few Shopper’s Drug Mart pharmacies.

Yukon politics is much more about the person than the party. Ridings are small and isolated, with roughly 700-1000 votes cast in each, so what logically what matters much more than the party is the candidate. Party lines, moreover, are extremely loose: floor-crossing is very common. Former Premier Dennis Fentie was a member of the NDP until 2002, and MLAs regularly leave their parties to sit on the other side or as independents. Party politics are thus pretty unstable: the Liberals have ranged between 7.6% and 43% support since 1978, the NDP has gotten between 20% and 45% and the Yukon Party between 24% and 40.5% since 1992.

Results are as follows, standings compared to the 2006 election. One extra seat was added this year.

Yukon Party 40.45% (-0.15%) winning 11 seats (+1)
NDP 32.56% (+8.96%) winning 6 seats (+3)
Liberal 25.33% (-9.4%) winning 2 seats (-3)
Others (Ind, Green, FNP) 1.66% (+0.56%) winning 0 seats (nc)

Helped by a booming economy, the Yukon Party was reelected with another majority. Yukon’s resource-based economy is doing really well, as is much of northern Canada’s economy. It has been criticized for its poor record on environmental issues, where it has shied away from protecting Yukon’s natural beauty, but the economy trumps all other issues. The NDP, on the other hand, took much of the 2006 Liberal vote and surged into a strong second with 32.6% and 6 seats while the Liberals won only 25.3% and 2 seats. The Liberals suffered from a vote which was a bit too homogeneous: they had a lot of strong seconds or thirds but ended up only winning two seats. Liberal leader Arthur Mitchell lost Copperbelt North to the Yukon Party by a 10% margin. The Liberals won two ridings, including sparsely populated Vuntut Gwitchin (predominantly Native) in the far north, where only 145 votes were cast altogether. The Yukon Party performed best in southern Yukon, which is traditionally the most conservative region of the territory.

Interestingly, unlike in 2006, there were a lot of incumbents defeated. The NDP lost no seats, but the Yukon Party and especially the Liberals had a lot of their incumbents defeated. The Liberals even managed to defeat a YK Party incumbent (and minister of economic development) in Klondike, and two other cabinet ministers also went down to defeat against the NDP. The NDP’s new leader, Liz Hanson, easily held her seat of Whitehorse Centre which she had won in a 2010 by-election (after the death of the NDP incumbent). She won 63.2% of the vote.

Madeira (Portugal) 2011

Madeira is a Portuguese archipelago which is 400km north of Tenerife (Canary Islands) and nearly 1000km southwest of Lisbon. The island of Madeira is the most important island in the archipelago, which also includes other smaller islands. Madeira is of volcanic origin and its terrain is rugged, marked by steep valleys and a low-lying coastal plain around the capital, Funchal. Madeira is one of the two autonomous regions of Portugal, alongside the Azores. The Madeiran economy is nowadays very much reliant on tourism, services and also Madeiran wine. It is the second wealthiest region in Portugal after Lisbon.

One name has dominated Madeiran politics since 1978: Alberto João Jardim. Jardim, one of Portugal’s most controversial politicians, has been President of the Regional Government since 1978. Although one of the big ‘barons’ of the right-wing Social Democratic Party (PSD), he is very much a populist. He has been a fiery advocate of Madeiran interests, and has not shied away from making controversial statements or from having a particularly abrasive personality. His policies have been wildly popular in Madeira, which is the PSD stronghold. Jardim’s PSD has always had an absolute majority in the regional legislature, and has between 53% and 66% of the vote since the first regional election in 1976. In the last election, a snap election called by Jardim in 2007, his PSD’s unchecked declined since 1988 was dramatically halted as he was rewarded by islanders for his confrontation with the Socialist government in Lisbon. He won 64% against 15.4% for the Socialists (PS).

We also know that he most certainly is not a thrifty spender: the PSD government of the island has been supported artificially by a huge public debt and wild spending. Not shocking considering Alberto João Jardim’s style of abrasive regionalist right-populism or the importance of the tourism sector to Madeira. But with Portugal’s economic situation still in the ditch, constant struggles with the IMF-EU over more bailout money and a deficit/public debt which is becoming ever bigger, the issue of Madeira’s public debt has become a top political issue in Portugal. It has become a source of embarassment for the Prime Minister, the PSD’s Pedro Passos Coelho. The Madeiran situation became even more important when it was revealed that the Madeiran government had “forgotten” to report a good part of its deficit and overall public debt. Alberto João Jardim originally talked about a “small hole” of €5 billion, but the Finance Ministry has instead found out that the island’s debt was rather €6.3 billion or 123% of the regional GDP. In 2010, the regional government had failed to report €975 million in debt (€68.4 in 2009 and €174.7 in 2008). The election campaign in Madeira was very much dominated by the issue of the regional debt and the government’s failure to report parts of it.

PSD 48.56% (-15.68%) winning 25 seats (-8)
CDS-PP 17.63% (+12.29%) winning 9 seats (+7)
PS 11.5% (-3.92%) winning 6 seats (-1)
PTP 6.86% (+6.86%) winning 3 seats (+3)
CDU 3.76% (-1.68%) winning 1 seat (-1)
PND 3.27% (+1.19%) winning 1 seat (nc)
PAN 2.13% (+2.13%) winning 1 seat (+1)
MPT 1.93% (-0.33%) winning 1 seat (nc)
BE 1.7% (-1.28%) winning 0 seats (-1)

Alberto João Jardim’s PSD won its tenth straight majority, but it did so with less than 50% of the votes (48.6%) and the PSD’s worst showing (by far) in a Madeiran regional election. The issue of the debt and especially the government’s failure to report parts of it undoubtedly had a very negative effect on Alberto João Jardim’s PSD. However, Madeira being Madeira and the local PSD being a true political machine like no other with an old-style populist cacique like no other, it was obviously not enough to defeat (!) Alberto João Jardim. As an example of the PSD’s institutional power in Madeira, there was a scandal on election day over the PSD using cars belonging to the state’s electricity company to bus voters to the polls. The main benefactor of the PSD’s collapse by nearly 16% was the right-wing CDS-PP, which is in opposition in Funchal but the PSD’s junior partner in Lisbon. The CDS-PP, which is economically liberal, won an historic second place ahead of the PS and became the main distant opposition force to the PSD.

On the left, the PS did poorly and also won its worst result in a Madeiran regional election. Considering it had done awfully in 2007, that’s quite an achievement, especially for an opposition party so vocal about Alberto João Jardim’s little accounting problems. The PS nationally seems to be in a tough phase after its June 5. The major benefactor of the PS’ losses (as well as those of the far-left Communists and BE) was a new left-wing party, the Portuguese Workers Party (PTP). The PTP’s main asset in Madeira seems to be the island’s second most-famous politician, José Manuel Coelho who was until recently affiliated with the right-wing PND (and ran as the PND’s presidential candidate in January). Coelho is the first local weapon to use the same weapon as Jardim: populism. He has emerged as an equally as fiery populist opponent of Jardim’s PSD regime, which he accuses of restricting democracy on the island and is, overall, an equally as crazy and erratic populist firebrand as the old Jardim. He gained notoriety as a PND deputy when he unfurled a Nazi flag in the regional legislature to symbolize his opinion of the PSD, which got him thrown out of the legislature (and blocked from re-entering) and into national headlines. In his January presidential candidacy, Coelho won 39% of the vote in Madeira (and 4.5% nationally). In the June elections, heading the PTP’s slate, he won only 2.13%. Coelho might be in a position, with the local PTP apparently being his personal vehicle, to become the main figure of opposition to Jardim using Jardim’s populism against him.

The PND, Coelho’s former party, did well, likely right-wing voters from the PSD voting for the right-wing PND. The animal rights-green PAN won one seat (it had almost won one seat in Lisbon back in the June elections), and the right-wing green MPT held its seat. The left-wing BE lost its seat.

France 2012: PS open primaries 2011 (first round)

The first round of left-wing open primary elections (primaires citoyennes) were held in France on October 9, 2011. These primaries will nominate the candidate of the opposition Socialist Party (PS) and its small ally, the Left Radicals (PRG) for the 2012 presidential elections. All French citizens were eligible to vote provided they pay a symbolic minimum fee of €1 and sign a declaration of vague left-wing values. These ambitious primaries, the first on such a large scale in France, were truly an historic first for the PS and for French politics in general. I had talked about the primaries and the six candidates in a preview post ahead of the first round.

The first round of the primaries were pretty much a success. 2,661,284 voters came out to vote. Using data from the 2010 regional elections (slightly inaccurate as these primaries also included New Caledonia, French Polynesia, Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon and French citizens abroad as well as under-18 members of the PS or PRG’s youth wings), roughly 6.1% of registered voters (2010 numbers) came out to vote. For comparison’s sake, the PS’ candidate in the 2007 runoff against President Nicolas Sarkozy had won nearly 16.8 million votes. In the 2009 European elections, in which the PS hit rock-bottom and won only its core voters, its lists had received 2.8 million votes. It is certainly not record-shattering turnout, but it is a good turnout for the PS. For another comparison, in the closed primaries of 2006, only 179,412 Socialists had voted and in the 2008 election of the PS’ First-Secretary, 232,912 members were registered to vote. The PS said that it had expected 1-2 million voters, so 2.7 million voters is a good figure. And it also brings in €3 million or so… never a bad thing for any political party.

The results were as follows:

François Hollande 39.17%
Martine Aubry 30.42%
Arnaud Montebourg 17.19%
Ségolène Royal 6.95%
Manuel Valls 5.63%
Jean-Michel Baylet (PRG) 0.64%

Hollande, as the polls had predicted, came out comfortably ahead of his main rival, party boss Martine Aubry in the first round. The polls had not messed up, he was the true frontrunner. However, Hollande did not do as well as the polls had predicted, though not in the end by a large margin. His result, 39.2%, is strong but it is under the symbolic ’40% line’ which most polls had predicted he would cross. He has an 8.75% margin over Aubry, which is also slightly less than what the polls had given him, and more importantly it is under the symbolic 10% margin which would have maintained his solid advantage. It is certainly not a defeat or even a major setback for his candidacy, but undoubtedly the slight underperformance on October 9 has broken Hollande’s strong momentum somewhat and changed the dynamics of the runoff. Hollande likely suffered from a demobilization of his potential electorate, which decided not to bother voting given how certain his victory seemed to them on the eve of the vote. The polls in general also underestimated the size of the gauche de la gauche electorate in the broader primary electorate, with the higher than expected turnout of the party’s left-wing playing against Hollande, who was the more centrist of the main candidates.

Martine Aubry won 30.4%, a showing which is a few points better than what polls had given her though not by any means a shocking overperformance. Yet it is for her and her supporters a strong result and, coupled with the smaller than expected gap between her and Hollande (8.75%), will revitalize them ahead of the runoff which is very open-ended. Her strong showing undeniably boosted her supporters’ morale. One of Aubry’s main advantages, especially in the circumstances of this runoff is that she has made herself the standard bearer of the “true left” of sorts, that is a clearer and more offensive left. Hollande’s main weakness is his centrist, feel-good image which makes him appear as a weak-willed, opportunistic and flip-flopping candidate to the party’s left.

Certainly the biggest surprise of this primary and one of the factors which boosts Aubry is the strong showing of Arnaud Montebourg, the young maverick figure of the PS’ left and the vocal proponent of démondialisation. Montebourg’s late surge into third place had been picked up by most pollsters, but the remaining undecideds and late-deciders broke heavily in his favour, meaning that pollsters all underestimated his performance by at least 3-4%. He won 17.2%, a very strong third and a result which, if played correctly, promises Montebourg a bright political future. Montebourg was clearly the only candidate who gained something from the three debates and the only candidate for whom the ‘official campaign’ had a major impact on his numbers (because he led what was probably the best campaign of the 6). Montebourg’s left-wing rhetoric of deglobalization, European protectionism, reindustrialization, institutional shakeup and fighting corruption struck a chord with the gauche de la gauche, which turned out in big numbers on October 9. His left-wing rhetoric appealed to those voters, who, in these times of economic crisis, found his radical leftism quite attractive and saw in him a refreshing change. Ségolène Royal’s campaign was all about appealing to those indignés, but in contrast to Montebourg’s well orchestrated campaign, hers was chaotic, overly populist and sectarian. Montebourg had a clear, well-managed campaign and he was able to defend his ideas with intelligence and charisma – which Royal failed to do.

Ségolène Royal was the major loser of the primaries. For the PS’ 2007 candidate, who had won the 2006 closed primaries in a landslide and had come within 102 votes of winning the party’s leadership in 2008, her phenomenal downfall is very bitter indeed. She had styled herself as the candidate of the indignés, but on this ground she found herself at a loss against Montebourg’s more credible and more reasonable discourse. Her chaotic, erratic and populist discourse of jumbled-up vote-winning goodies and random ideas did not convince. With 7% support she did very poorly, worst in fact than predicted by most pollsters – ironically enough in fact, having gone on a bizarre crusade against the pollsters when they started showing bad numbers for her.

Manuel Valls, with 5.6%, did about as well as a candidate on the PS’ right could expect. There is simply not a large base within the French left for a candidate who campaigns vocally for fiscal orthodoxy, against the 35-hours and against welfare-leeches. The story is a similar one for Jean-Michel Baylet, the sole non-PS candidate in these open primaries, who could not expect to do much better in a primary which was effectively a PS primary. His 0.6% are a paltry showing, but for Baylet, what counted more than the result was just participating to increase his party’s notability and remind the PS that he is a very loyal ally who expects to receive his fair share in upcoming negotiations for legislative seats for 2012.

Geographical analysis

What is fascinating about the map of this primary is how homogeneous Hollande’s support was, and also how the resemblances with internal PS party shenanigans are sparse. True, the map is certainly that of a left-wing primary, as Aubry’s isolated strongholds reveal. But it is quite different from the maps of internal PS party business, elections in which the support of the local federation’s bigwig will sway the whole federation your way. Some departments, like the Nord or Seine-Maritime certainly followed the orientation of the local federation boss. But in a lot of other cases, the endorsement of the local bigwig didn’t have much effect: Aubry lost the Bouches-du-Rhône despite Guérini’s support, Hollande lost in Lyon despite Collomb’s support and Montebourg lost in Guyana despite Taubira’s support. Right off the bat, this makes these primaries much, much cleaner and harder to rig.

Hollande received very homogeneous support throughout France, which is a strength for his candidacy. His strong base of support with provincial elected officials and local notables surely helped, but above all his support shows that he was the candidate of choice for the middle-classes (la France moyenne), employees or small businessmen. He is the candidate of rural France, the small and mid-sized towns and the  Hollande performed best, obviously, in his local stronghold of Corrèze where he received 86% of the votes, a local base which overflowed in a Chiraquian-Pompidolian manner into Haute-Vienne, Creuse, Cantal or Lozère. Hollande also performed well in regions such as the inner west or Brittany, politically moderate regions where the PS has gained in strength recently. While Hollande performed strongly in the quiet suburbs surrounding most major cities, he was not the favourite of urban voters and he lost most or performed comparatively weakly in most of France’s largest cities. Within cities, Hollande’s support was highest in the most affluent (and often most right-wing) neighborhoods. As the Paris inset of the main map shows, Hollande’s strength in Paris was concentrated in the city’s affluent west-end. A similar pattern can be seen in Lyon or Marseille. This is not to say that Hollande was purely the candidate of the affluent, in fact one of Hollande’s main strength here is his proven ability to appeal to a heterogeneous base to build relatively homogeneous levels of support throughout France. Not too surprising, perhaps, given Hollande’s conciliatory and moderate “normal president” image.

In contrast to Hollande’s homogeneous map, one of Aubry’s weaknesses as evidenced by her map is the relative confinement of her support to small bastions. Aubry won only four departments: the Nord, Pas-de-Calais, Seine-Maritime and Paris. In her native Nord, she won 54% and her local favourite daughter base also extends into Pas-de-Calais. In the Seine-Maritime, the support of the historical local left-wing bigwig Laurent Fabius probably played a key role. In Paris, Bertrand Delanoë’s support was probably not without effect. In the Seine-Saint-Denis, which she lost by 1%, Claude Bartolone’s support was also probably not without effect. In general, Aubry convinced a young, urban, generally well-educated and ‘trendy’ electorate. In contrast to François, the candidate of small-towns and the province; Aubry was the candidate of the cities. Though often losing the department in which they are located in, Aubry won most of France’s major cities: Paris, Lyon, Lille, Strasbourg, Toulouse, Grenoble, Rouen or Metz (and came within 2 votes in Rennes). A breakdown of the vote in Paris, Lyon or Marseille shows that Aubry carried the more working-class (and left-wing) neighborhoods but also the more trendy and central bobo areas. In middle-class suburbia or in rural France, Aubry struggled far more. In more urban and in general more politically left-leaning areas (the old left-wing areas in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais and Picardie, for example), Aubry did better against Hollande. Her map shows a little Green effect: she performed strongly in regions where Greens do well: Ille-et-Vilaine, Loire-Atlantique, Savoie, Isère, urban areas and even Alsace (!). This is the only visible effect of non-PS voters on the primary map in a consistent fashion, as the maps show very little perceptible Communist or far-left influence.

Arnaud Montebourg’s map was also relatively evenly balanced, ignoring massive favourite-son voting in his Saône-et-Loire stronghold (56%). Unlike Aubry, his local support spills over into neighboring departments: he performed well above average in next-door Jura (nearly 30%), Ain, Côte-d’Or and Nièvre. In good part, Montebourg’s support was quite rural or small-townish, doing especially well in isolated and ‘forgotten’ departments such as Alpes-de-Haute-Provence (24%), Lot (21%), Lozère (19%), Drôme or Ardèche (22%). These rural departments have been hit hard by a decline in local public services, and there is a lot of anger in these ‘forgotten’ rural confines against Sarkozy and the UMP in general. In other parts, Montebourg’s support was reminiscent of FN support: Montebourg performed above average in traditional frontiste strongholds such as Vaucluse, Bouches-du-Rhône, Var or Alpes-Maritimes. Small town or low-income protectionist voters who may flirt with the FN in other elections, or perhaps – in the Bouches-du-Rhône particularly – a vote against local corruption? In urban or old industrial areas, Montebourg performed about average, and in urban areas his support was usually correlated quite closely to Aubry’s support.

Ségolène Royal did not even save face with her results. She won only 18% in her political base in the Deux-Sèvres, a distant second behind Hollande. Even in her own political stronghold, Melle (in Deux-Sèvres), she was 10% behind Hollande… even Jean-Michel Baylet won his hometown by a big margin. She polled best, with 15-18%, in the region she governs, Poitou-Charentes but did poorly outside there with homogenously low support throughout the rest of France. Royal was popular and had targeted low-income suburban neighborhoods, but even in those top targets for her campaign, she barely polled 10% – at best.

Manuel Valls polled 11% in Essonne and 10% in the Hauts-de-Seine, and won in his hometown of Evry. While some may have thought his political implantation in a commune populaire like Evry and his law-and-order rhetoric might have helped him in other difficult suburbs, he did poorly in those (5% in Seine-Saint-Denis). His support was heavily concentrated in affluent neighborhoods and municipalities. Like Hollande, he did best in posh west-side Paris (over 15% in the 7, 8 and 16th arrondissements) or in the wealthy parts of Lyon or Marseille. He polled 23% in Neuilly-sur-Seine, hometown of a certain Nicolas Sarkozy. Outside Ile-de-France, Valls’ map has a spookily close correlation with that of the FN in the 1980s and early 1990s.

Jean-Michel Baylet managed to win something. Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon, with 39% or 106 out of 269 votes. Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon had elected a PRG deputy in 2007, who had backed Baylet in the primaries. In France, he polled best – 15% – in his native Tarn-et-Garonne where he is President of the General Council and Senator. He also won his hometown. But his result in Tarn-et-Garonne represents a full 11% of his national support, and it was one of his only two good showings, the other being the PRG stronghold of Haute-Corse where he won 14% (and more votes than in Paris!). His map, besides that, peaks at 2% support in the traditionally Radical departments of Lot and Hautes-Pyrénées or hardly impressive 1 percents in a lot of old Radical bases.

Predicting the unpredictable

What result for the runoff? The closer-than-expected margin in the first round between Hollande and Aubry will mean a closer-than-expected runoff. While Hollande probably remains the marginal favourite going into the runoff, his slight underperformance on October 9 has broken his momentum somewhat and given Aubry much more momentum then she had on October 8. Both Hollande and Aubry have things going for them, which makes predicting the final result rather perilous and meaning, in effect, that this race is very much open.

François Hollande’s main advantage is that he enters the runoff with a high floor. He can count on the support of at least two-thirds to three-fourths of Valls’ and Baylet’s voters (0.6% and 5.6%), which places his floor at roughly 46%. He has already received the endorsements of both Manuel Valls and Jean-Michel Baylet, both endorsements of low impact but important in that they give him a high floor. More surprisingly, he also received on Wednesday the surprisingly clear endorsement of Ségolène Royal, his ex. It is doubtful whether Royal’s endorsement will have much impact on the final result, given that her reduced electorate is largely composed of her die-hard fans and is rather left-leaning (and thus probably more towards Aubry than Hollande, all things being equal). But the endorsement of his ex is a nice momentum-booster for Hollande, showing him as the candidate most capable of rallying support from both sides of the playing field (Valls and Baylet on the right, Royal on the left).

The PS primary and the primary-related events of this week are all over the news in France, something which should increase turnout even more on October 16 where the motivation to turn out is even higher than last week. There are, in France, a good number of voters who only turn out in the runoff. It is hard to evaluate where these new voters will be coming from and how they will break between Hollande and Aubry. If it is true that some of Hollande’s potential voters abstained on October 9 because his victory was looking very likely, then some of those voters should logically come out to vote on October 16. Higher turnout from centrists or from PS sympathizers should help Hollande, while higher turnout from the radical left or the Greens should help Aubry. Aubry, in general, basically needs any new voters to prefer her over Hollande. Hollande is not as reliant on the support of new voters, and could win the primary while losing these new voters.

Martine Aubry’s main advantage is that her more left-wing positioning in the primary means that she is the most likely benefactor of Arnaud Montebourg’s support. Montebourg, very much a kingmaker, is unlikely to personally endorse any candidate. Though the maverick Montebourg had supported Aubry in Reims in 2008, the two have crossed swords on the issue of the primaries themselves (Montebourg being one of the earliest proponents of open American-like primaries) and most recently on the Guérini affair (Montebourg accusing Aubry of being soft on corruption within the PS). He has repeatedly called Hollande and Aubry two sides of the same coin. While some of his supporters from October 9 will likely not turn out in the runoff, most of his electorate will probably turn out a second time. This is where Aubry’s chances lie: she needs, absolutely needs, strong support from Montebourg’s voters to win the runoff. She appears to be the ‘natural’ choice for his voters. While they have their differences (Europe, corruption etc) she is more left-wing than Hollande and Montebourg’s voters probably harbour lingering doubts about Hollande’s left-wing values. They are more likely to see him as weak-willed, directionless and a flip-flopper. That is exactly why Aubry has been going after Hollande rather violently on these points.

In the final high-stakes TV debate held on Wednesday, Aubry very much targeted Montebourg’s voters by taking a more left-wing tone and attacking Hollande of being soft, weak-willed, a flip-flopper, incoherent or even ‘too rightist’ and ‘too system’. The debate was pretty much a sleep-inducing draw, with Hollande and Aubry both having their weaknesses and strengths and the ‘winner’ largely dependent on one’s perspective on the candidates. It is hard to evaluate what impact the debate will have, but I doubt it will have much impact. Aubry’s increasingly desperate tack to the left is clearly aimed at winning over Montebourg’s voters, and it is really hard to evaluate from my perspective whether or not her debate performance and her tougher and tougher attacks against Hollande will succeed in winning over Montebourg’s voters.

[last minute: Friday Oct. 14 >> Montebourg has announced his personal endorsement of Hollande. A very big blow to Aubry's increasingly chaotic and desperate campaign, and a major boost for Hollande's campaign, perhaps not as much in absolute vote terms but in terms of momentum and last-minute advantage. It remains to be seen whether or not Montebourg's voters will vote like their guy in droves, but even if they don't all vote like him, it remains a pretty crippling blow to Aubry. Her desperate and bizarre attempts to attract him has not work, but it might attract some of his voters. Hollande should be counted as the major favourite in this contest right now.]

Poland 2011

Legislative elections were held in Poland on October 9, 2011. All 460 members of Poland’s lower house, the Sejm and all 100 members of the upper house, the Senate, were up for reelection. The Sejm’s 460 members are elected through d’Hondt proportional representation with a 5% national threshold in 41 multi-member constituencies (each with a varying number of seats, peaking at 20). Ethnic minority candidates, which in practice means the German Minority party, is exempt from this 5% national threshold. A novelty in this election, the Senate’s 100 members will be elected through FPTP in 100 single-member constituency rather than by plurality block voting in multi-member constituencies as in the past. The Polish Senate is basically powerless, given that the Sejm can overrule any senatorial amendment or rejection by an absolute majority.

Poland has been governed since the 2007 legislative elections by Donald Tusk of the centre-right liberal Civic Platform (PO) with the whorish-agrarian Polish People’s Party (PSL) as its junior ally. Since 2010, the PO has also held the less powerful presidency with Bronisław Komorowski as President. Poland’s political landscape since the fall of communism in 1990 has been unstable and saw governments come and go, and political parties emerge and die off in quick succession. In 1997, the right-wing AWS won the elections with 33.8% but lost all 201 seats four years later in 2001 when it won 5.6%. That same year, the Polish left (SLD) won a landslide with 41% of the vote. Then, four years later, after a succession of scandals and an unpopular economic policy, the SLD collapsed to 11.3%. Since 2005 or so, the political system has stabilized somewhat with the emergence of the liberal Civic Platform (PO) and the national-conservative Law and Justice (PiS) as the two largest parties. Of course, since 2007, the two far-right parties which were so strong in 2005 – Andrzej Lepper’s Samoobrona and the League of Polish Families (LPR) – have collapsed into oblivion. But PO and PiS have implanted themselves solidly as the two main parties, with the SLD and PSL on the sidelines, distant thirds and fourths.

The 2005 legislative elections were won by PiS, led by Jarosław Kaczyński, whose twin-brother Lech Kaczyński won the presidential elections a month later. Between 2005 and 2007, PiS formed a fractious and fledgling coalition with the two far-right parties, Samoobrona and the LPR. After Jarosław Kaczyński’s coalition collapsed in 2007, the PO won the snap elections by a wide margin over PiS – 41.5% to 32% – while the far-right barely polled 3% altogether. Donald Tusk, PO’s leader and the runner-up in the 2005 presidential election, became Prime Minister in coalition with the agrarian PSL, an empty shell led by former Prime Minister Waldemar Pawlak which whores itself to the largest party in a bid to enter government.

Polish politics have seemingly stabilized, for the time being, into a system with two strong right-leaning parties, PO and PiS, a weak left and an in-existent radical left or right. From a cursory point of view, both PO and PiS are right-wing parties, but in reality PO and PiS are two very different parties both reflecting the polarized nature of Polish society and politics. The liberal PO reflects the pro-European, internationalist, liberal and comparatively secular vision of society shared by one half of Poland, that is the more urban and more affluent Poland. The conservative PiS reflects a Eurosceptic, deeply clerical, socially conservative and very nationalist vision of society held by the other half of Poles, that is the more rural and less affluent Poland. On moral issues, PiS is the most vocally socially conservative force though PO is not by any means a social liberal party. On economic issues, at least in rhetoric, the conservative PiS is far more dirigiste and in favour of state intervention than the liberal PO, which originally supported a flat tax, radical red-tape trimming measures and privatizations.

The polarized state of Polish politics is reflected by the electoral map of Poland, relatively stable since the 2005 presidential election. PO is very much a urban party, while PiS is very much a rural party. But the map also famously and very closely replicates the boundaries of Poland in 1914: the parts of Poland which were part of the German Empire until 1918 lean to PO, while the parts of the country which were part of the Russian Empire or of Austria-Hungary lean to PiS. It is not just a coincidence of history, but very much an effect of Polish history since 1918. German Poland was far more industrialized, urbanized and developed than either Russian or Austrian Poland. The railway network was far denser, industries (shipbuilding, coal mining) far more important and education levels higher. Far more importantly however, what is today western Poland saw major population shifts following World War II and the creation of modern Poland within its modern boundaries. German populations who lived in what is today Polish territory were forcibly moved to Germany and the territory resettled by Poles from other regions (the parts of interwar Poland seized by Stalin in 1945). Most of the Polish population in western Poland or the “German Poland” of 1914, has only been settled there for roughly 65 years at most. It is thus far less rooted locally,  in most cases few have longstanding family ties with the region and is more accustomed to moving around. It is also a region where the new Polish communist regime post-war was able to set up its own state structure and institutions without running into any long-standing clerical hegemony. All these factors – economic development, affluence, new population with little local ties and a weaker Church – inform a more liberal view of society. In contrast, the rural regions of eastern Poland which were under Russian or Austrian control until 1918, have been ethnically Polish for hundreds of years and saw little population displacement in the post-war era. The population of rural Masovia or Galicia has been settled in those regions for hundreds of years, and the Catholic Church has retained a predominant influence even throughout the communist regime. Under Russian and Austrian rule, these poor rural regions were far less developed, industrialized or educated than German Poland, and to this day these regions remain poorer and less developed (far more rural and agriculture-based).

PO was elected on a very liberal program in 2007: flat tax (15%), privatizations, cutting red tape and other liberal-minded economic and fiscal reforms. In power however, Donald Tusk’s government was strayed away from any too radical measures and basically disowned economic liberalism. There is no flat tax in sight, taxes increased slightly, privatization has gone forward at a very slow and cautious pace and public spending remains high. The government can pride itself with having kept Poland out of recession in 2008, and the country’s GDP grew by a solid 3.8% in 2010 and is projected to grow at a similar rate in 2011 and 2012. Unemployment has fallen to 9% from a high of 20% in 2002. Salaries and the standard of living have also increased. The country’s debt remains an issue (it has increased to 56% of the GDP since 2007), and reforms in bureaucracy and the healthcare system remain overdue. In power, Tusk has aimed for consensus and unity as much as possible, which is why he has kept away from the PO’s original ideology of economic liberalism. He has attracted defections from the SLD and from some ex-PiS moderates. On economic matters, PO’s 2011 campaign lacks all the grandiose liberal rhetoric of 2007 and instead keeps to cautious rhetoric about Poland’s economic vitality and progress since 2007. No tax cuts are promised, though a cut in the VAT by 2014 is vaguely promised. The cabinet wishes to control the public debt by bringing it down to 48% of the GDP by 2015. Furthermore, the government wishes to inject more private competition in the healthcare sector. On the foreign stage, the Tusk government has also been all about conciliation and dialogue and has broken with the aggressive conspiracist-nationalistic tone of PiS which likes to play on lingering anti-Russian and anti-German sentiments common to Polish conservatism. This conciliatory style may have kept PO strong since 2007, avoiding the usual fate of collapse which has awaited most Polish governments, but it has given it the image of a wobbly party which is all about dancing in circles around a bonfire rather than actually taking tough decisions or deciding on policy.

In the 2010 presidential election, held in the wake of the death of President Lech Kaczyński, Jarosław Kaczyński postured himself as some kind of moderate and conciliatory figure. It won him 47% in the runoff, but he did not win the presidency. He dropped his new-found moderation and turned into a nutjob. He has said that his moderate positions in 2010 were caused by some prescription drugs he had been taking, and since then he has endorsed the anti-Russian conspiracy theories surrounding his twin brother’s death in the Smolensk plane crash and moved PiS even further to the right. In late 2010, a group of moderates and liberals within PiS including  Joanna Kluzik-Rostkowska and Michał Kamiński left PiS to create the right-wing Poland Comes First (PJN), which has taken liberal positions on economic issues (criticizing the slow pace of economic liberalization under PO) but has otherwise struggled to differentiate itself from PiS. PJN itself descended into infighting recently when Kluzik-Rostkowska left the party to join PO. PiS campaigned on a populist economic platform, proposing to tax the banks, increase taxes on the wealthy, increase the minimum wage by 50% and halting the PO’s privatization.

In the 2010 presidential election, the SLD’s presidential candidate and party boss Grzegorz Napieralski had won a surprisingly decent 13.7%. The left (running as LiD, a short-lived alliance of the left including the SLD) had failed to gain ground in 2007, but following PiS’ gradual shift to the right, there was a chance that SLD could improve its standing significantly in 2011 and place it in a position to re-establish itself and the Polish left as a real alternative. However, Napieralski’s success in 2010 apparently got to his head and he increasingly asserted his authority through a centralization of power within the party. He sidelined some influential members of the SLD during the creation of the party’s electoral slates in the constituencies. Starting in mid-September, the SLD faced competition from a new factor, the Palikot Movement (RP). The Palikot Movement emerged in 2010 as a cult around its eccentric founder, Janusz Palikot. Palikot, a social libertarian, had been an eccentric maverick member of PO and was known in Poland for his controversial statements on other politicians or his behaviour in general. Palikot, however, managed to turn what was until September a small personality cult into a real party (helped by the SLD’s divisions and a series of bizarre and provocative statements by the Church). The RP is a rarity in Polish politics: it is very socially liberal (pro-choice, pro-gay right, pro-drug legalization) and radically anti-clerical (which is rare in Polish politics). It combines social libertarianism with some kind of more vague economic liberalism.

Turnout was 48.92%, down from a high of 54% in 2007.

PO 39.18% (-2.33%) winning 207 seats winning (-2)
PiS 29.89% (-2.22%) winning 157 seats winning (-9)
Palikot 10.02% (+10.02%) winning 40 seats (+40)
PSL 8.36% (-0.55%) winning 28 seats (-3)
SLD 8.24% (-4.91%) winning 27 seats (-26)
PJN 2.19% (+2.19%)
KPN 1.06% (+1.06%)
PPP 0.55% (-0.44%)
WP 0.24% (+0.24%)
German Minority 0.19% (-0.03%) winning 1 seat (nc)
Samoobrona 0.07% (-1.48%)

The composition of the Senate:

PO 63 seats (+3)
PiS 31 seats (-8)
PSL 2 seats (+2)
Independents 2 seats (+2)
SLD-Włodzimierz Cimoszewicz 1 seat (nc)
SDPL-Marek Borowski 1 seat (+1)

Donald Tusk’s PO government made history on Sunday by becoming the first Polish government since the fall of communism to win reelection. His PO/PSL coalition has 235 seats, a 4-seat majority, and will likely stay in office after these elections. In the past, all incumbent governments had failed to win reelection, and, in a lot of cases, lost their reelection bids by phenomenal landslides. This year, the political turnaround is remarkably low. The governing parties, PO and PSL, lost only five seats altogether. In 2007, the three governing parties had lost 79 seats (though PiS, the largest party in that government had gained 11 – the far-right lost all of its 90 members). In 2005, the SLD government had lost 162 seats and in 2001 the AWS had lost all 201 seats. As Poland’s level of economic development and standard of living catches up with that of western Europe, and the economic and social difficulties which fed anti-incumbent reactions slowly dissipate, voters are becoming much more supportive of incumbents and much less likely to punish them heavily at the polls. The PO government has been rewarded for Poland’s comparatively strong economic performance in the EU, the progressive rise in the standard of living and salaries, and the political, diplomatic and economic stability the PO has brought since taking power in 2007 from a fractious, divided government. PO, of course, benefited from ‘strategic voting’ from left-wingers and other Poles who feared that PiS could win these elections and win back power, an idea fed by the government which portrayed the battle as a straight contest between itself and PiS.

With PO and PiS having been the two largest parties in all elections since 2005, it appears as if Poland’s remarkably unstable political system has stabilized somewhat around those two parties with the PSL and SLD as smaller parties. However, while the current system might hold for a few years, I doubt that this system can be considered to be definitely implanted. After losing six elections in a row since 2006, it is doubtful whether PiS can actually ever form government again and, in the long term, survive in its current state. PiS’s national-conservatism still speaks to a large portion of Polish voters and there will always be a place in the political system for such conservatism, but a majority of voters strongly reject the party and Kaczyński’s government between 2006 and 2007 evokes bad memories of political instability and diplomatic isolation. Moreover, it is unlikely that younger Poles will endorse the same nationalist and social conservative views of their parents: this election showed it well. Unless there is some major economic collapse and the left is unable to rebuild, then it is unlikely that PiS will be able to return to power again in Poland. Kaczyński’s move back towards ultra-nationalism and hard-right conservatism hasn’t and will not do the party any favours. The most likely scenario, for the long term, is that PO will remain as the main right-wing party with some sort of new left mixing social democracy, social liberalism and anti-clericalism regaining political prominence while PiS declines into third or falls into divisions. The PJN split was an opportunity for PiS moderates to find a political space on the right between the liberal PO and the increasingly hard-right PiS, but it ended up being a jumbled attempt at doing so. Yet, such splits within PiS could become much more common if Kaczyński keeps an iron-hand over his party and keeps PiS from evolving towards more moderate positions.

PO’s victory is the reward of a grateful electorate for political and economic stability, a comparatively robust economy and a progressive increase in their standard of living. They have made mistakes along the way and not all is bright – unemployment is at 9%, inflation has crept up a bit and some reforms remain overdue – but, in general, the voters are happy with the way things are going. The PO lost just over 2% support and two seats in the Sejm. PiS lost roughly the same number of votes as PO, just over 2%. Proof of the continued political polarization of Poland – for the moment. But as mentioned above, it is hard to see PiS improve significantly or make a major breakthrough discounting any unforeseen event. PiS has a loyal and solid base which turns out in big numbers every election, but if it is to win back government any time in the near future PiS needs to break past its rock-solid base in rural eastern Poland and expand its support into urban areas and liberal western Poland – which is hardly likely, especially if PiS keeps harking to the right rather than slowly moderating its conservatism. There is also the problem that even if PiS was to breakthrough and win, say, 35-40%, it would be left rather isolated in the tough game of coalitions. The far-right which supported the Kaczyński cabinet until 2007 died in 2007 and isn’t showing any signs of rebirth. The PO, SLD and now Palikot Movement will certainly not cooperate with PiS in its current state. Of the current parliamentary parties, only the PSL which whores itself to anybody could perhaps realistically consider a coalition with PiS.

% vote for the Palikot Movement by Sejm constituency (own map)

The spectacular success of this election was the maverick Palikot Movement, the anti-clerical and social libertarian movement led by former PO deputy Janusz Palikot. Palikot’s success shows the evolution of a part of Poland’s youth and broader society away from the social conservatism of the country’s governing elites and in favour of social liberalism. It remains to be whether or not the Palikot Movement is a one-election fad, or whether is will be able to solidly implant itself as Poland’s third largest party ahead of the older PSL and SLD. The party’s electorate is a bit all over the place. It did very well in traditionally conservative Lublin Voivodeship, but Palikot himself was born there and was originally elected for the PO in Chelm constituency. It performed better in urban areas, but rather interestingly did not win its best results in urban districts.

The SLD won its worst result ever, despite early campaign talk that the SLD could rebound a bit from the lows of 2005-2007 this year. In the end, thanks in large part to the phenomenal success of Palikot and the terrible leadership of Grzegorz Napieralski, it amounted to naught as the SLD received a major thumping with a large part of its new social liberal electorate in the urban centres abandoning the party. The SLD has, since its 2005 defeat, been totally incapable of rebuilding itself into a major alternative and Grzegorz Napieralski’s authoritarian leadership of the party in recent weeks hasn’t helped matters. The SLD still has some talented members among its ranks – former Prime Minister Leszek Miller returned to the Sejm after a 6-year absence. Napieralski himself has stepped down, and will therefore be making room for new blood. But after a heavy defeat and falling into fifth place, it remains to be seen whether the SLD as it presently incarnated will be the driving party behind the re-emergence of the Polish left which I predict will happen in the long run.

The PSL’s decent showing after Waldemar Pawlak’s pathetic showing in last year’s presidential elections is a sign of the party’s continued vitality outside of the personality-driven presidential elections. The PSL can still count on a disproportionately large base of support in rural Poland and a strong network of elected officials in local government. The PSL, which whores itself to larger parties in return for political influence, will likely remain part of the incumbent government.

In Senate elections, the PO won 63 seats against only 31 for PiS. The PSL won two, while two high-profile left-wingers won seats – the SLD’s Włodzimierz Cimoszewicz in Podlaskie Voivodeship and the SDPL’s Marek Borowski in Warsaw. Two independents were elected, one of whom is an ally of Wrocław mayor Rafał Dutkiewicz and the other of which was former Senator and filmmaker Kazimierz Kutz. The Palikot Movement, which supports the abolition of the Senate, did not run any candidates for Senate.

The map has evolved very little since the 2007 elections. Polish politics are divided both on a rural-urban axis and an east-west axis (or German vs. Russian-Austrian axis, for history buffs). In the 2010 presidential election, the PO’s support increased as the population of the settlement increased, with the party doing best in the largest cities and doing poorest in villages. The rural-urban divide breaks the east-west divide, because the PO did just as well in “eastern” urban areas (which were Russian or Austrian until 1918) as they did in “western” urban areas. Eastern cities such as Warsaw, Łódź or Kraków are reliably PO areas, even though they lie in territory which was Russian or Austrian until 1918. Still, the divide cannot be entirely laid down to rural-urban, because there is an unmistakable divide between east and west and the PO performs strongly in sparsely populated rural areas in western (German) Poland. The roots of this divide have been explored above, and they continue to be a potent factor in Polish politics.

It is truly a work of beauty to see the borders of 1914 replicated so closely in a Polish election in 2011. There are, of course, a few exceptions. The first exceptions are the urban areas, which are reliably liberal even if they fall in eastern Poland. The other exception, an eyesore for those who like their electoral maps clean, are the counties of Lubin and Polkowice in the Lower Silesian Voivodeship. Lubin and Polkowice are important copper-mining areas, and the Polish mining giant KGHM is based in Lubin. PiS has, in some parts, a rather working-class base in part because of its penchant for economic populism and statism (however true it is in practice). The final exceptions are a handful of isolated, non-urban solidly PO or SLD-leaning counties deep in eastern Poland. These counties most often have large ethnic minority populations – Hajnówka County, which voted SLD, is heavily Belarussian (and has a big timber industry). Other areas have large Ukrainian or Lithuanian populations. Poland’s German minority, which benefits from special linguistic and cultural rights and has its own political party, is concentrated heavily in Opole Voivodeship. The German Minority won 8.76% in Opole this year, down slightly from 2007 when it had lost one of its two seats in Opole. The German population is concentrated to the east of the city of Opole (Strzelce, Krapkowice, Opole and Olesno counties mainly, also in Kędzierzyn-Koźle, Prudnik and Kluczbork counties).

My apologies for the delay in putting together this post. Other posts on the weekend’s elections will follow.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 476 other followers