Monthly Archives: December 2011

Jamaica 2011

Legislative elections were held in Jamaica on December 29, 2011. All 63 seats in Jamaica’s lower house, the House of Representatives, were up for reelection. There were 60 members in the last legislature, redistricting added three seats.

Jamaican politics, like those in the bulk of the English Caribbean, have been dominated by two parties for most of its independence. In fact, the Jamaican party system has changed little on the surface since the late 1930s and early 1940s. There are two parties, which have alternated in power since the first universal suffrage elections in 1944 and Jamaica’s independence in 1962. These are the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and the People’s National Party (PNP). While its name would indicate that it would be left-leaning, the JLP is actually right-wing, while the PNP is left-wing. Up until the 1970s, there were little ideological differences between the JLP and the PNP, as both had emerged from the native movement for Jamaican independence and especially equal rights. Both parties, especially the JLP, were born with ties to organized labour. Differences were largely based on personality, the JLP being the creation of trade unionist Alexander Bustamante and the PNP the beast of journalist Norman Manley; or based on different strategies, the JLP being moderate yet anti-establishment (though enjoying better relations with the British) and the PNP being more radical and nationalist.

The JLP won the first free elections in 1944 and governed until 1955, when the PNP was elected on a platform of full independence for the West Indies Federation (WIF). Bustamante converted to supporting independence for Jamaica alone, and in 1961 had convinced Manley to hold a referendum on withdrawing from the WIF, in which the government’s campaign for the no was defeated by the JLP’s yes campaign, and followed in 1962 by the JLP’s election. Bustamante resigned in 1967, followed by two JLP non-entities. Manley died in 1969 and his son Michael Manley became leader and subsequently Prime Minister in 1972. It is in this period that the rivalry between the JLP and PNP being very much ideological. Manley, who pursued major social reforms, was very much non-aligned and Third Worldish in his foreign policy, and at home he placed punitive taxes on foreign-owned bauxite mines. Manley’s PNP aligned closely with the non-aligned bloc, Cuba and Africa – in 1972, Manley visited Haile Selassie and in return gained the votes of most Jamaican Rastafarians. On the other hand, Manley’s rival, the JLP’s American-born leader, Edward Seaga, was very pro-American and anti-communist.

The 1970s and 1980s were also peaks of political instability and violence in Jamaica, and the country was lurching on the verge of civil war for most of the period. Starting in the 1976 elections, both parties resorted to gang support, with the emergence of party bosses/gangsters in Kingston’s shantytowns (the “garrisons”) who pooled votes for either the JLP or PNP. In the 1980 elections, in which the PNP was routed, nearly 900 people died. In 1983, the PNP’s boycott of snap elections held in the wake of the American invasion of Granada (which Seaga supported) didn’t help matters much.

Following this explosive situation, things started calming down as Seaga started losing American support and Manley toned down the socialist rhetoric. In the 1989 elections, the PNP was returned to power, and following Manley’s resignation in 1992, followed a very moderate course under the leadership of Prime Minister P.J. Patterson, who won 3 elections. Seaga finally left the reins of the JLP prior to the 2007 elections, which were won by the JLP’s Bruce Golding over the PNP’s new leader (since 2006), Portia Simpson-Miller. Andrew Holness replaced Golding as PM in October 2011, and called this election 9 months ahead of schedule.

Really, both the JLP and PNP are broadly ideologically similar these days except perhaps on foreign policy where the PNP is more pro-Cuban and less pro-American than the JLP. This year, both parties agreed to continue working with the IMF, cut spending and reduce the country’s debt. Golding was elected on some rather populist rhetoric in 2007, but today Simpson-Miller has built herself some kind of an image as a populist representative of the poor. The results were as follows:

PNP 53.32% (+3.7%) winning 41 seats (+13)
JLP 46.56% (-3.7%) winning 22 seats (-10)

Results of the 2011 Jamaican election by constituency (source: uselectionatlas)

The PNP defeated the JLP surprisingly handily, the first time an incumbent government in Jamaica has been defeated when seeking reelection. Economic issues likely played a role in the JLP’s defeat: the country’s debt is huge at 143% of GDP, unemployment is nearly 12% (which is low by Jamaican historical standards) and growth was only 1.5% in 2011 after having been in recession in 2008 through 2010. Simpson-Miller campaigned on a moderate manifesto but on more left-wing rhetoric presenting herself as the champion of the poor.

You can find a map of the results on the right. There seem to be rather few discernible stable patterns in Jamaican voting behaviour, with the JLP and PNP both holding their share of the Kingston garrisons (though the PNP has more) and results in other parishes a bit all over the place. It is hard for me to say where this pattern can be observed the most, but the PNP dominates the Rastafarian vote (in fact, this election saw the first Rastafarian MP) as it has since 1972. The PNP appears slightly stronger in bauxite and aluminium-producing areas, though this is hardly a universal pattern. The JLP pretty clearly dominates in large tourist resorts like Ocho Rios and Montego Bay, though not in the smaller hippie resort of Negril. The JLP is also strong, for obvious reasons, in the more affluent Uptown part of Kingston.

What’s hot in 2012

As we wrap up 2011, we close the door on a very momentous year in terms of electoral politics. Some of the elections held in the past years are sure to mark history in one way or another twenty years from now. Even in cases where they won’t mark history, the elections of 2011 were certainly all interesting and a few were downright fascinating. Last year, I had previewed the elections which I had seen as being “hot” in 2011. Obviously, I hadn’t foreseen the Egyptian or Tunisian elections and had not imagined the importance of the Russian elections. This year, I try to do the same thing by looking ahead at 2012 and picking out the elections which will be interesting. Obviously, as in 2011, there are elections in 2012 which we won’t expect (given the geopolitical events of 2011, nothing can be predicted for sure!) and a few of those which we expect to be interesting will be a snoozefest.

North America

 Canada (Alberta, potential provincial elections and NDP federal leadership): For the first time since 2006, Canadians won’t wake up in 2012 with quasi-weekly headlines proclaiming the inevitably of a snap federal elections. Federal politics is not really the place to be right now in Canadian politics, but there are still interesting federal leadership contests shaping up. In March, the official opposition NDP will choose from within a crowded field of 8 candidates a leader to replace the late Jack Layton. The ability of whoever becomes leader of the NDP to hold the gains of the orange wave in Quebec back in May 2011 will be crucial. In 2013, the Liberals will choose a permanent leader who will attempt to return Canada’s natural governing party to the glory of years past (or at least the “not-that-bad-compared-to-2011″ years of 2006-2011!).

In provincial politics, Alberta holds a provincial election before June which promises to be the most closely fought election in Alberta in years. The governing PCs, in office since 1971, go into battle with a new Premier, Alison Redford, who hails from the party’s left-wing (Red Tories). They face their main challenge not from the Liberals, who are on life support or the NDP, which are doing hardly better; but rather from their right with the libertarian Wildrose Party which has 4 MLAs. For a PC dynasty used to win landslides, 2012 may mark their first true challenge to their hegemony enjoyed since Peter Lougheed defeated the SoCred dynasty in 1971.

Quebec and British Columbia’s Premiers may choose to go the polls early. In British Columbia, Liberal Premier Christy Clark might try her hand at winning her first government at the polls, but the NDP’s lead over the Liberals and the emergence of a right-wing challenge to the centre-right Liberals might discourage her. In Quebec, Premier Jean Charest’s Liberals are at their lowest point in decades but the official opposition, formed by the left-nationalist PQ is also at its lowest point in decades. The political scene in la belle province is completely turned on its head by François Legault’s new party, the CAQ, which just merged with the ADQ. If Quebec votes in 2012, Legault enters as the runaway favourite but it remains to be seen how solid the support for the politically ambiguous CAQ really is.

 United States: Needless to say, the American presidential election in 2012, coupled with the GOP primaries and the concurrent Senate, House and state house battles will attract the world’s attention. It is pretty useless to remind you of the importance of the American elections. The Republican primaries, beginning on January 3 in Iowa, have been all over the place with no less than five frontrunners. Will Ron Paul, the insurgent surging in Iowa, carry through with a win in Iowa? Or will Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry or even Michele Bachmann be able to retrieve conservative support as the “not-Romney” opponent to Mitt Romney, the only candidate whose support has neither surged nor collapsed since he announced his candidacy. Who the Republicans put up against Obama in November will matter a lot, and will perhaps have a downballot effect for Republicans seeking to gain control of the Senate (with close races in states such as MT, ND, NE, MO, VA, FL, MA and NV) and trying to retain their majority in the House, whose races will be fought on new congressional district lines often redistricted by Republican state legislatures.

Latin America

 Mexico: Twelve years after Vicente Fox’s election ended over 70 years of rule by the PRI, the same PRI is now the favourite to regain the presidency from the term-limited Felipe Calderón on July 1, 2012. Against a government PAN which struggles to find a strong candidate out of its three contenders and a PRD represented by a now severely discredited and unpopular Andrés Manuel López Obrador (who placed second in 2006), the PRI’s Enrique Peña Nieto, former governor of the state of Mexico, is the runaway favourite. The likely victory of the PRI is unlikely to usher in a return to the pre-1990s era of quasi single-party rule by the PRI, but the change in power in Mexico twelve years after the PAN toppled the PRI is likely to have significant effects, especially when it comes to the drug cartel wars which have crippled Mexico in recent years.

 Venezuela: Venezuela’s controversial President Hugo Chávez will be seeking a third term in office on October 7, 2012 roughly two years after the Chavist party, the PSUV, barely won the 2010 legislative elections against a united opposition front. In 2011, Chávez was hospitalized in Cuba with colon cancer and there have been some doubts about Chávez’s health. He has shown absolutely no signs of relinquishing office in 2012, and will probably enter the 2012 election as the favourite but the opposition will likely mount a more challenging opposition than Manuel Rosales had manged to do in 2006.

Europe

 France: France holds presidential elections in April and May, followed by legislative elections in June (which will be less interesting, as they confirm the results of the presidential ballot). President Nicolas Sarkozy, now only four months out from the presidential election, is lower than any incumbent president seeking reelection since 1981 has ever been. His approval ratings remain terrible, his support at an anemic 25% in the first round and a disastrous 40-43% in the runoff against the PS’ François Hollande. But Sarkozy is a formidable campaigner, and despite the increasing factionalization of his party, the UMP, retains a strong electoral machine. Similarly, Hollande’s post-primary momentum has been eliminated as questions arise about his ability to be a strong leader and his competence on budgetary matters or foreign affairs. The left has been out of power since 2002 and last won a presidential election in 1988 with François Mitterrand. The popular mood is very much one of discontent and disillusion with the two main contenders, who nonetheless top the polls. But can this state of affairs, not too dissimilar from the one which existed in 2002, be twisted to the advantage of either Marine Le Pen, the far-right’s candidate who remains a threat to the two main contenders with her 16% support; or the centrist François Bayrou, looking surprisingly strong?

The legislative elections will likely confirm the presidential election. If Hollande wins, as polls still say he is in good shape to, the left would likely win a large majority (a vague rose) in Parliament. If Sarkozy wins, the right would still be favoured to win a majority for political stability’s sake but the conditions of a potential Sarkozy reelection will be quite unlike the euphoric hope which accompanied his 2007 victory. On the left, the PS’ increasingly picky Green allies (EELV) achieved their goal of extracting 15-25 winnable constituencies from the big boss, but at the cost of a thunderstorm which has crippled their presidential candidate, Eva Joly and to the displeasure of many Socialists – including several incumbent PS members who got tossed to the side in favour of Green candidates backed by the PS such as Green leader Cécile Duflot in Paris-6. On the right,  the waters are just as turbulent which a factional storm centered in Paris-2, opposing Prime Minister François Fillon and MEP Rachida Dati. Finally, an element which is rarely mentioned, but which promises to be rather important: the strength of the FN and the risk of the FN’s strong showings in its strongholds either eliminating the right or left outright or recreating 1997′s triangulaires de la mort for the right. These will be the first elections since 1988 fought on new constituency boundaries, and there will be 11 new seats reserved for French citizens living abroad.

 Belgium: Belgium, 541 days after federal elections in the summer of 2010, finally got a formal government in December 2011. This government is led by the Francophone Socialist Elio di Rupo and unites Socialists, Liberals and Christian democrats on both sides of Belgium’s linguistic border between Flanders and Wallonia. But this coalition is heavily Walloon in its support base, because it excludes the Flemish nationalist N-VA, which is the largest party in Parliament and in Flanders (it won 28% in Flanders in 2010). Municipal and provincial elections will be held on October 14. The federal government will be tested at the polls, especially in Flanders where the N-VA’s performance will be one of the most important things to watch out for. A poor showing by the governing parties, especially in Flanders, might hinder its legitimacy and its ability to re-unite the two linguistic communities following the protracted political crisis of 2010 and 2011.

 Greece: At the centre of the Eurozone debt crisis and one of the countries hit the most severely by the economic crisis, Greece will likely hold snap elections by the end of February 2012. The incumbent government is a technical government led by an independent, Lucas Papademos and including members of George Papandreou’s PASOK, the opposition conservative ND and the far-right LAOS. It will be interesting to observe the electoral ramifications of the Greek crisis, which Papandreou and now Papademos’ governments have responded to with EU and IMF-imposed severe austerity medicine which Greek voters find extremely bitter and try to spit out at any occasion. The next elections are unlikely to provide stability around PASOK and ND, because both of Greece’s main parties are failing to “catch fire” with voters. ND stands at 30% support (33.5% in 2009), while PASOK has collapsed to 15-19% support (it won 44% in 2009). The main beneficiaries happen to be parties which are unlikely to be as supportive of austerity: the socialist SYRIZA, the quasi-Stalinist KKE and SYRIZA splinter DIMAR. LAOS stands to gain, but its support has already weakened after it entered government. Together, the fractious Greek left (SYRIZA and KKE, who hate each other with a passion) would be the largest force, but even divided it could prevent the formation of a government along the lines of PASOK, ND and LAOS.

 Croatia: Croatia is likely to become the 28th member of the European Union, but the country’s accession to the EU requires popular approval in a referendum likely to be held as quickly as January 2012. Voters have shown themselves very supportive of accession to the EU, with a few slips in support most recently in April, but could the Eurozone crisis and the EU’s weakness in the debt crisis cool the European apatite of Croatian voters? If Croatia turns down EU membership, it would the first time such a thing has happened and would be a severe blow to the EU and Croatia’s new government.

 Slovakia: Snap elections will take place in Slovakia in March 2012. The unsteady right-wing coalition government led by Prime Minister Iveta Radičová fell in October following her government’s defeat on a confidence vote expanding the European Financial Stability Fund. The government’s defeat on the first round of the EFSF was caused by the defection of her junior partner, Richard Sulík’s liberal SaS but also by a well maneuvered political ploy by Socialist leader Robert Fico whose party, Smer, abstained on the first round and came around to support the EFSF in a second round in return for snap elections in which Fico’s Smer, which won 35% in 2010 (but failed to hold its majority after its allies were defeated), is the favourite. Robert Fico’s government, shunned from European left-wing circles after his 2006 alliance with the far-right SNS, was known for its nationalism and his confrontational relations with Hungary. If he returns to power in March, he will govern alongside an Hungarian government led by Viktor Orbán which is both nationalist and worryingly authoritarian.

 Serbia: Serbia will vote for parliamentary elections between now and May 2012, in the context of a political scene turned on its head by the collapse of the far-right Radicals (SRS) who had won 29.5% in 2008. The far-right nationalist and anti-European SRS, led in exile by suspected war criminal Vojislav Šešelj, split in late 2008 when the moderate faction led by the SRS’ defacto leader, Tomislav Nikolić, who is more moderate and pro-European than Šešelj, formed the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS). In the midst of economic troubles, Mirko Cvetković’s pro-European centre-left coalition centered around President Boris Tadić’s left-wing DS, is showing signs of strains and narrowly trails the SNS while support for the SRS has collapsed to 7%.

 Romania: Legislative elections will be held in Romania in November, the first elections since right-wing President Traian Băsescu’s so-narrow reelection to the presidency in 2009. Prime Minister Emil Boc’s minority government, composed of Băsescu’s right-wing PD-L and the Hungarian UDMR, faces a united opposition, made up of the Social Democrats (PSD) and the National Liberals (PNL) running together as the “Social Liberal Union” (USL) and led by the PSD’s Victor Ponta. I have not found any polls concerning the public opinion in Romania and its evolution since 2009.

 Ukraine: Parliamentary elections will be held in Ukraine in October 2012. These are the first legislative elections since 2007, and the second elections (following locals in 2010) for Viktor Yanukovych, in office since 2010. These elections will take place under a new electoral law which bans electoral coalitions and replaces full PR with 50-50 MMP. President Viktor Yanukovych, generally perceived as pro-Russian, has been in office since early 2010. He has been accused by opponents of trying to create a “controlled democracy” by limiting civil liberties and persecuting political opponents, most significantly his main rival and former pro-European Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, now in jail on accounts of corruption, abuse of office and tax evasion. Tymoshenko’s sentencing frosted fragile relations between Yanukovych’s government and the EU. In the last polls, marked by a lack of enthusiasm for any party, Tymoshenko’s party narrowly outpaces Yanukovych’s PR, which did very well in the 2010 local elections. While former President Viktor Yushchenko’s party has predictably collapsed, there are unstable new forces including former Speaker Arseniy Yatsenyuk’s Front for Change and the ultra-nationalist anti-Russian Svoboda which did well in western Ukraine in the 2010 local elections. These elections will be important for their effects on Yanukovych’s presidency and on Ukraine’s place between the EU and Russia.

 Russia: In a game of musical chairs, current Prime Minister and former President Vladimir Putin wants to return to the presidency while exchanging his office of Prime Minister with current President Dmitry Medvedev. However, the aftermath of the rigged parliamentary elections in December 2011 was marked by large anti-Putin demonstrations which have shown the increasing shakiness of Vladimir Putin’s state apparatus in Russia. Putin will not lose on March 4, 2012 (though they might make him go to a runoff), especially given that his opposition once again consists mostly of old Stalinist Gennady Zyuganov and stand-up comedian Vladimir Zhirinovsky sprinkled with a discredited Western liberal and a former Kremlin ally who is rarely taken as a serious opponent. Rather, what makes the 2012 elections worth following is more its immediate impact (any protests?) and its long-term effects on Russia and the stability of the Putin apparatus.

Africa and the Middle East

 Libya: The overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi after 42 years in power will be, in retrospect, one of the marking moments of 2011. Few people had predicted that Gaddafi’s regime, which had ruled Libya since 1969 with little apparent opposition, would in the spread of less than a year succumb to a civil war started as an unorganized protest movement in Benghazi and which would culminate not that long after that in the collapse of Gaddafi’s regime in Tripoli and Sirte with NATO air support, and eventually Gaddafi’s own death at the hands of the rebels. Under his personalist and erratic rule, Gaddafi had done away with elections, political parties (in fact, parties have been banned in Libya since 1952) and with traditional legislative institutions. As such, he left the country without any structured political institutions (unlike in Egypt and Tunisia) and with no organized political forces that we know of (unlike, again, in Egypt and Tunisia where the old regimes were backed by parties and traditional legislatures). As such, we know little of the potential political forces which will emerge in the first elections (by June 2012, says the NTC). There is likely an Islamist current in Libya, and it is already well represented in the NTC, but we cannot speak of a party similar to the MB or Ennahda already structured on the ground. It will be fascinating to follow the political evolution and democratic transition in Libya, as well as the first elections in Libya since 1965. Frankly, the Libyan elections are probably what is exciting me the most about 2012.

 Egypt: Following the conclusion in January of the legislative elections and the three-stage election of the consultative upper house or Shura Council, political attention in Egypt is scheduled to shift to presidential elections expected by July 2012. This all depends on what happens between now and then, especially in the context of continuing bloody protests against the interim military government (SCAF) which is looking more and more to assert its political power and hold on to the reins for as long as possible, especially as they worry about the Islamist performance (especially that of the Salafists) in the elections thus far. The favourite for the presidency remains former Arab League boss Amr Moussa, not too well perceived in western circles for his close ties to the old NDP and his more anti-Israel policy, but very popular in Egypt for his stance on Israel. He seems to be the preferred choice of the conservatives over former IAEA boss Mohamed El Baradei, more closely tied to the young revolutionary liberal-secular sectors. El Baradei’s constituency, however, has barely been registering in polls.

 Senegal: Senegal has had only three Presidents since independence, but is generally regarded as much less authoritarian and much more stable than its other West African neighbors. In 2000, long time opposition leader Abdoulaye Wade defeated incumbent President Abdou Diouf and was reelected, not without controversy in 2007. There is mounting concern in Senegal and abroad that Wade, accused of corruption, nepotism and limiting civil liberties, is trying to establish an authoritarian regime. He has already broken the constitution by running for a third time (claiming the constitution, passed in 2001, allows him to run again). There has been some protests to his candidacy, and the aftermath of his practically certain reelection will be interesting to follow.

 Kenya: Kenya’s last presidential election in 2007 had been followed by ethnic violence between the supporters of President Mwai Kibaki and his opponent, now Prime Minister in a national unity government, Raila Odinga. Under a new constitution which necessitates a runoff if no candidates win an absolute majority (or if the winner’s support is too heavily concentrated in certain counties), Raila Odinga is the favourite for an election due before December 2012. His main opponent seems to be Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, a member of President Kibaki’s PNU party. We can hope that these elections will not lead to ethnic violence as in 2007.

 Madagascar: The Malagasy political crisis which began in 2009 with the ouster of President Marc Ravalomanana by the military and current President Andry Rajoelina. Ravalomanana has since been in exile, but the political situation has been unresolved and elections often delayed since 2009. They are now planned for May 2012, following a deal signed in September with Ravalomanana’s supporters, a deal which allows Ravalomanana to return (but the state says they’ll arrest him if he does) and participate in the transitional process.

Asia and Oceania

 India (7 states including Uttar Pradesh): State elections will be held in Goa, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Manipur, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. The elections in Gujarat and Punjab will be major races, but the most important election is perhaps Uttar Pradesh (UP) with its 200 million people which makes it the most populous subnational entity in the world and potentially the fifth most populous “country” in the world. Since 2007, UP has been governed by Mayawati and her BSP, a left-wing party claiming to represent the lowest castes in Indian society as well as minorities such as Muslims. The BSP won an absolute majority in 2007, with 206 seats, easily defeating the main opposition in the state, Mulayam Singh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party (SP). In the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, the BSP had not done as well as expected against the SP, which might (or might not) spell trouble for Mayawati, whose wealth has opened her to accusations of corruption.

 Taiwan (Republic of China): The elections in Taiwan/Republic of China on January 14 will be the first major election of 2012. In 2008, the election of Ma Ying-jeou of the Kuomintang (KMT) ushered in a more conciliatory policy towards mainland China after years of tension under the rule of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) which supports Taiwanese independence. Ma Ying-jeou’s presidency have brought tensions between the two Chinas to their lowest point in decades and forged business deals with mainland China which helped keep Taiwan afloat during the economic crisis. He had won a landslide in 2008 largely because the incumbent DPP President, Chen Shui-bian, was accused of corruption (he is now in jail). The 2012 race, in which he faces the DPP’s Tsai Ing-wen, leader of the DPP and a former Vice Premier, is promising to be much closer. Ma’s recent pronouncement in favour of a peace treaty with the mainland was a bombshell but did not help him much in a China-wary electorate. He is now basically neck-and-neck with Tsai, who has run a campaign focused on social policies. Prediction markets have even had Tsai well ahead of Ma for quite a while now. Ma is weakened by the candidacy of James Soong, an old KMT dissident who, as in 2000, threatens to split the pro-China vote and hand the election to the DPP. He could pull between 5% and 10% support, likely all support which would go to Ma in a two-way race which won’t happen.

 South Korea: Presidential elections will be held in South Korea in December 2012. The election marks the end of President Lee Myung-bak’s term, which began in 2007. Lee, who hails from the right-wing GNP, is particularly pro-American but has seen his support at home waver in part because of economic policies which are perceived as favouring the wealthy over the underprevileged. The favourite thus far is the GNP’s Park Geun-hye, who had lost to Lee running as a GNP dissident in 2007 and is the daughter of former authoritarian President Park Chung-hee, who ruled between 1963 and 1979. However, the independent candidacy of Ahn Cheol-Soo, a businessman and professor, seems to be gathering steam. The GNP received a major blow when its candidate lost the Seoul mayoral by-election (Lee had been mayor of Seoul prior to becoming President) to an independent, Park Won-soon, who was backed by Ahn.

That makes for a brief run through of what to look forward to in 2012. I’ve likely omitted a few elections which will turn out to be important and generally sidelined municipal elections and the like, perhaps for no good reason in fact. On that note, thank you for continuing to follow World Elections in 2011, and Happy New Year 2012 in a world full of fascinating electoral contests to follow.

2011′s Top 10

A year ago, I had reflected on what I thought to be the top 10 most significant elections of the past twelve months. It is always interesting and enlightening to look back at the year past and see which elections were the most significant elections. In 2010, the US midterms and UK election had topped the list in first and second place respectively.

I am ranking elections based more on their significance than any amusement or fun they may have provided. There are, obviously, different criterion  for doing this, but my basic benchmark in deciding whether an election was significant or not is whether or not said election could possible have an important effect on the short or long-term future of the country or, in rarer cases, their consequences on the broader region. An election is not necessarily significant, in my mind, if an incumbent government was turfed out of office. An incumbent government can be thrown out, but the election may be more of a pretty boring anti-incumbent mood swing which has little discernible long-term impacts. Furthermore, given how rapidly public opinion and partisan affiliation changes these days – especially during economic crises – it seems as if a lot of the elections we hail as realigning elections only end up being deviating elections. Meaning that I wouldn’t be surprised if the top elections of 2011 ended up having little long-term impact 10 or 15 years from now. Finally, not all elections change the world – far from it – so my other criteria is deciding how interesting an election was. Were its results pretty much decided in advance making the election only half-interesting to a casual observer, or was the election a closely fought contest until the end and whose results had several elements of surprise?

As in 2010, I have given priority to national elections but I have not sidelined subnational elections. By-elections are not taken into consideration, unless somebody can make a case that a particular by-election was one of the ten most important elections anywhere in the world this year.

2011 was a pretty crazy year in terms of geopolitics, and equally insane in terms of elections. Unlike in 2010, I must say that I found it very hard to decide on the most significant election, and I must admit that the top four elections on this list could (should?) all be in first place. Your participation in my poll helped me decide.

1.  Egypt: If you had told me one year ago today that an election in Egypt would be be the top election of 2011, I would probably have laughed in your face and most people would have too. In December 2010, we had just seen a terribly rigged legislative election in Egypt and the only political discussion concerning Egypt back then was whether or not President Hosni Mubarak would run again or if his son would run in his stead. What happened in Egypt – and the whole Arab world – in one year is remarkable and certainly the most important political event of 2011 by a landslide. Mubarak’s regime, thought as of being so solidly implanted, was toppled so quickly it could have seemed as if we lived on another planet than the one we lived on in 2010. The first and second stages of yet-unfinished legislative elections in Egypt were held in December 2011. The election is made all the more important because of the turbulent context in which it takes place in: it could seem as if there are the brewings of another uprising in Tahrir Square, aimed this time at the military “stewards” of the country since February. The results of these elections, which seem to be heading towards a large Islamist majority, but an Islamist majority divided between the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists, will have a significant impact on Egypt’s political future. Will the military desperately try to cling to power as it worries about the rise of the Islamists, or will the military be pushed out opening the road for whatever uncertainty an Islamist government may entail? The election is also significant because it ought to teach us another lesson in democratic transitions: never overestimate the political influence of a handful of idealistic revolutionaries and never underestimate the natural penchant for order, stability and moderation on the electorate’s behalf.

2.  Canada (federal): Whether or not the Canadian election will be a realigning election or a deviating election remains to be seen, but for the time being the Canadian election saw three major changes. The first, and actually not the most important in my mind, is the Conservative majority built on a West-Ontario coalition basically excluding Quebec – a first for any Tory majority since Confederation. The two most important shifts were Quebec’s realignment and the collapse of the Liberal Party. The Liberals, Canada’s natural governing party, did not collapse overnight: the roots of their demise had arguably been laid with the loss of Quebec in 1984, while its collapse began in 2006, intensified in 2008 and totally fell off the cliff in May. The Liberals, who had ruled Canada for most of its history, are now reduced to a rump of less than 35 members desperately trying to retrieve past greatness from an historic third place. The other story was Quebec’s realignment, which goes hand-in-hand with the NDP surge. The NDP’s surge from nowhere to everywhere in Quebec, the province where Canada’s left-wing third party had been weakest, was a phenomenon which nobody foresaw prior to the campaign. In line with Quebec’s history for wild swings which breaks swingometers, the orange crush surge gave the Bloc Québécois (BQ), which had dominated federal politics (more or less) since 1993. The Bloc won just four seats, portending a very real threat to the Quebec nationalist movement which is being replicated provincially with the PQ’s impeding collapse (assuming it is a collapse based not solely on leadership). The tragic death of Jack Layton, the architect of the NDP surge in Quebec, opens up a wide open NDP leadership race for March 2012 in which the new leader’s ability to hold the Quebec gains will be crucial to the NDP’s hope to remain in opposition and became a serious contender for government in 2015. It is too early to say whether or not the 2011 federal election represents a total realignment, but whatever happens, May 2011 will have changed something.

3.  Tunisia: Similarly to Egypt, what happened this year in Tunisia went totally unpredicted even as late as one year ago. Ben Ali’s ouster in Tunisia in early January really got the ball rolling for similar uprisings in Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain and Syria. The Tunisian elections, the first free elections in the country, saw the victory of the moderate Islamist Ennahda party. Ennahda’s victory was expected, but what makes this election most significant – besides it being an historic milestone – is that it lays the groundwork for Tunisia’s democratic transition. Ennahda has allied with two smaller liberal-secular parties and there is much more optimism regarding Tunisia’s future than there is for Egypt’s future. Will Ennahda become a model, like the Turkish AKP, for a moderate Islamist government in a democratic country, or will it usher in a slow return to the authoritarianism of the past with a new clerical overtone? The reason why I have preferred Egypt over Tunisia in terms of significance is that Egypt is more of a regional power card than Tunisia is, and Egypt is often treated as one of the dominant Arab countries whose evolution carries special weight on other countries.

4.  Ireland: It may be looking increasingly doubtful that Ireland’s elections earlier this year will usher in a major realignment, but even on the short-term the significance of what happened in Ireland cannot be whistled away. Like in Canada, Ireland’s natural governing party for the past, what, 70 years, Fianna Fáil was given a huge slap in the face, winning its worst result in its history (not topping the poll, far from it, a first since 1932) and reduced to a third-place rump concentrated in rural Ireland. In an election fought in the context of the worst economic crisis in the country’s recent history, FF’s thumping will make the history books, even if its thumping is merely a short-term blow as it may end up being. Some ten months later, the new FG-Labour government which some – myself included – had hoped could signal a realignment of Irish politics along left-right lines rather than Civil War lines, seems unlikely to be turning the election into a realignment. Labour has been reduced to its low double-digits, while FF and SF are resurgent. Ireland’s election is likely to turn out to be a deviating election and it is unlikely to carry as much importance as originally predicted. But it remains a significant election in a short-term context and especially in a review of 2011.

5.  Russia: I usually shy away, for obvious reasons, from including blatantly rigged elections in these types of things. But Russia’s election may turn out to have unintended long-term consequences. Fueled both by the obviously rigged results and the poor showing (even officially) of Vladimir Putin’s United Russia, the Russian elections have sparked major protests centered in Moscow. The Putin State has not yet been dealt a mortal blow, far from it, but the elections and their aftermath shows that a regime which one enjoyed genuine popularity as long as the times were good is now sustained by increasingly unstable foundations when times turn sour. Putin’s regime, not long ago seen as solidly implanted and almost impossible to topple, may be increasingly shaky especially in the eventuality of a new economic crisis. Putin’s reign is not over, but in a way it is possible that the elections may have the unintended effect of marking the beginning of the end for a regime whose legitimacy is seriously compromised at home.

6.  Peru: This year’s Peruvian elections proved to be a very exciting back-and-forth contest, with frontrunners emerging and quickly fading away. As the dust settled, the runoff opposed the two candidates with the most motivated base but also the two candidates with the largest number of people who hated their guts. In the words of Mario Vargas Llosa, it was a choice between AIDS and terminal cancer, or the daughter of a disgraced authoritarian President and an ethnonationalist former military officer. Ollanta Humala’s victory carries special significance as he is perhaps the first President of Peru whom the country’s indigenous population unambiguously identifies as one of their own. In an historical context, Humala’s victory this year was the product of his moderation and pragmatism after having been defeated five years prior in large part because his radicalism scared away moderate voters. Humala has an historic chance to extend to the fruits of Peru’s new-found economic prosperity and political stability to a majority of voters and tack a new moderate left-wing path in line more with Lula and Kichernerism than with Chavism.

7.  Scotland (United Kingdom): Trailing the opposition by a wide margin, Scotland’s nationalist devolved government led by the SNP turned that around in a drastic manner and won an unprecedented absolute majority previously thought of as impossible in a proportional system. Besides the historic feat, Scotland’s election was significant because it showed that the SNP understood the Scottish voter’s interests at the Holyrood level, to the extent that Labour’s disastrous Westminster-focused campaigned completely failed to. An absolute majority places Alex Salmond’s SNP government in the driver’s seat, especially when it comes to the question of a potential referendum on Scottish independence or devo-max in a near future. The political future of Scotland does not make many headlines, but we would do well to follow political developments in a region which might offer some of the highest chances for sub-national separation in Europe.

8.  Spain (general): The Spanish elections certainly did see major changes, with the governing Socialists receiving an unprecedented thumping at the hands of a previously uninspiring conservative opposition, thanks to the Spain’s disastrous economic situation. However, a government getting thrown out of office – especially under such predictable circumstances – is not enough, in my mind, to make one election particularly significant. Given the circumstances under which the new Spanish government takes office and the nature of this government, like in Ireland, it is rather hard to discern any realignment in the results. That is not to say that it was a totally insignificant election, but I would argue that the most significant aspect of these elections actually lie in the Basque Country, whose counter-cyclical results this year and especially the emergence of the abertzale left post-ETA are very significant. It is the Basque Country’s short-term realignment towards nationalist forces which merits to be highlighted the most, and it is these results’ impact on Spanish-Basque relations which must be observed in the future.

9.  Baden-Württemberg (Germany): The March 27 elections in the German state of Baden-Württemberg are unlikely to have major consequences even outside the boundaries of that state, they must be remembered as we look back on 2011 as the election of the first Green government in any major election at a regional level in Europe. What the Greens in Baden-Württemberg is certainly ground-breaking, as they become the first Green party in Europe to form government as the senior partners. While the German Greens failed in their attempt to win in Berlin and the Grüne surge of 2011 is fading, Greens understand that Baden-Württemberg carries special significance for the Green movement in Europe as it will really be their opportunity to show their worth as a serious senior governing party (rather than just a junior partner). In the German context, the results in the right-wing stronghold of Baden-Württemberg and in other state elections all signify a special blow to the right-wing CDU-FDP government of Chancellor Angela Merkel whose odds for a third term are pretty heavily stacked against her at this point.

10.  Italy (locals): Prior to Silvio Berlusconi’s resignation in November, the Italian local elections, which saw historic victories for the left in places such as Milan, would have probably received a much higher ranking. Back in power since 2008, Berlusconi suffered his first major defeat in these local elections which were coupled with a referendum dear to Berlusconi on a law granting him judicial immunity (Berlusconi also ‘lost’ this referendum). They were the beginning of the end for Berlusconi, touching at the heart of the cavaliere‘s electoral base in Milan. Even if Berlusconi’s resignation in November makes these elections more of a final defeat for Italy’s former Prime Minister, Berlusconi’s upcoming (?) progressive departure from the Italian political scene will entail a significant realignment of Italian politics which since 1994 have become increasingly structured around opposition to or support for Berlusconi, a cleavage which broke, to an extent, old lines of left and right lines. The elections might not have highlighted that, but they perhaps highlighted one important element: the growing importance to the Italian left of two of its junior allies: Italy of Values (IdV) which won in Naples, and especially Nichi Vendola’s SEL whose candidate led the left to victory in the Berlusconian city of Milan.

Honourable mentions go to South Sudan, Turkey, Argentina, Berlin (Germany) and Norway (locals). Which election will top this list in 2012? In my next post, I’ll run through “what’s hot” in 2012 in terms of elections.

African review 2011

Elections were held in the Democratic Republic of Congo on November 28, 2011 and in Côte d’Ivoire on December 11, 2011.

Democratic Republic of Congo

The DRC, the largest country in Africa as well as one of the poorest countries in the world, held general elections on November 28, 2011. The DRC, with its mineral wealth, could have the potential to be one of Africa’s richest countries, but corrupt incompetent governments succeeded by decades of civil war have ravaged the DRC’s economy and left it as one of the world’s poorest countries. In 2011, it had the lowest HDI in the world at only 0.286 and over 70% of the population live under the poverty line. The life expectancy is merely 48 years old.

Since 1996, the country which had since 1965 been ruled by anti-communist dictator Mobutu Sese Seko and known since 1971 as Zaire, has been in and out of civil wars. In 1996-1997, rebel forces and Tutsi militias allied with Rwanda and Uganda invaded the country and quickly overthrew Mobutu. In 1998, however, the new President and former rebel leader Laurent-Désiré Kabila turned against his Rwandan Tutsi allies who were plotting to place their hands on the country’s mineral resources. The second conflict in less than a year opposed Kabila, now backed by Rwandan Hutu rebels (as well as Namibia, Zimbabwe, Angola and Chad), to two main rebel groups ostensibly created by Rwanda’s Tutsi government, Uganda and Burundi to a lesser extent. Kabila was assassinated in 2001 and replaced by his son Joseph, who progressively ended the conflict with Rwanda and Uganda by 2003. After a transitional government and a new constitution, the first free elections since 1960 were held in 2006, resulting in Joseph Kabila’s controversial victory over former Ugandan-backed rebel leader Jean-Pierre Bemba.

The state apparatus has incomplete control over the country and the country remains wracked by remaining violence in Kivu, Ituri and Katanga as well as serious human rights abuses, sexual violence, looting, widespread disease and famine and millions of refugees. Kabila can either be seen as an observer without any power to turn things around or as a culprit turning a blind eye to his country’s ruin. At any rate, corruption remains rampant in one of the world’s most corrupt countries.

Kabila’s main rival in this election was Étienne Tshisekedi, a crippled former PM and ex-opposition leader who is dying of cancer. Tshisekedi’s main campaign plank was that he was already President because of popular will and the elections could not change that. Other candidates included the President of the Senate Léon Kengo, former Kabila ally Vital Kamerhe and Mobutu’s son Nzanga Mobutu. The official results place turnout 58.81%. While there have been tons of irregularities all over the huge country, it seems as if most people accept that Tshisekedi lost. The government had done away with the need for a runoff. The results are basically:

Joseph Kabila 48.95%
Etienne Tshisekedi 32.33%
Vital Kamerhe 7.74%
Leon Kengo 4.95%
Mbusa Nyamwisi 1.72%
Nzanga Mobutu 1.57%

The 2006 election had seen a fragmented vote in the first round and a country divided along east-west lines in the runoff between Kabila and Bemba. According to a map posted on Electoral Geography, the division this year is pretty similar. Kabila, who is from the Kivu region, took all the Swahili speaking regions – which are basically Katanga, the Kivus, Maniema and Ituri. In the Kivu region, although being his family’s native region, he was severely weakened by Vital Kamerhe’s candidacy, which won 41.7% in the Sud Kivu against 44.7% for Kabila. Tshisekedi dominated in the Tshiluba-speaking Kasai, his native region. He performed well in most Lingala and Kikongo-speaking regions, save for part of the Equateur Province where favourite son Leon Kengo dominated the Ngbandi region. The main exception is Bandudu, or at least the main bulk of it, which was absolutely owned by Kabila. This Kikongo – actually KiTuba – speaking region had voted for favourite son Antoine Gizenga, who is now a Kabila ally in 2006. Gizenga’s tribal support likely went heavily to his ally this year.

Tshisekedi has continued calling himself the legitimate President, but he has been placed under house arrest which might control the situation and prevent the country from going up in fire yet again.

I have found no result for the legislative elections, but Kabila’s allies likely won.

Côte d’Ivoire

Legislative elections were held in the Côte d’Ivoire on December 11, 2011. I had covered last year’s election here (preview), here (first round), here (runoff) and here (map). Since those posts, the country went up in fire for a short-lived civil war which ultimately saw the rapid victory of the election’s likely winner, Alassane Ouattara, backed by the international community, over former President Laurent Gbagbo who was captured by Ouattara’s forces in April 2011. The short conflict not only crippled the Ivorian economy, it saw flagrant human rights abuses on both sides. Like so many election-inspired conflicts in Africa, the Ivorian conflict was largely a tribal conflict whose roots had been laid in the results of the election. Ouattara has attempted a truth and reconciliation effort, but thus far such efforts have been quite partial and seemingly aimed mainly at destroying Gbagbo’s remaining base. Gbagbo himself was deported to the ICC to be judged on four accounts of crimes against humanity.

The Ivorian National Assembly, last elected in 2000, has about 249 members elected by FPTP in single or multi-member constituencies. You can find the only available map of these constituencies here, though sadly the CEI hasn’t released results allowing me to colour the map.

The elections were dealt a severe blow when Gbagbo’s party, the left-wing Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) decided to boycott the elections out of protest at the arrest of Gbagbo and several prominent FPI members. The government has seemingly cracked down, more or less, on the FPI and its media outlets. The legitimacy of these elections are pretty shaky, given that ultimately only 37% of voters turned out to vote in elections which were won in advance by the governing parties, made up mainly of Ouattara’s RDR and Henri Konan Bédié’s PDCI, the former ruling party.

Abidjan.net gives the following breakdown of seats:

RDR 123 seats
PDCI 76 seats
Independents 35 seats
UDPCI 7 seats
RHDP 4 seats
MFA 3 seats
UPCI 1 seat

The RDR, PDCI, UDPCI and RHDP are all part of the governing coalition. In general, the RDR, which is backed by Prime Minister Guillaume Soro’s former northern-based New Forces rebels, dominated the north of the country and Abidjan while the PDCI held its strongholds in the baoulé country around Yamoussoukro and performed well in the more pro-Gbagbo south. Independents usually dominated in the south. Guillaume Soro was elected in the northern constituency of Ferkessedougou-commune with 99% of the votes on 80% turnout. Turnout was only about 24% in Abidjan, and only 30% in the Ouattara stronghold of Abobo. The RDR dominated the vote in Abidjan with 59%, but the PDCI and independents split  the vote in the Lagunes region, which had voted for Gbagbo in 2010.

Some had thought that Ouattara was hoping on a strong PDCI result as an excuse to replace the more ambitious Soro by the old boss of the PDCI Henri Konan Bédié. Based on these results, with the RDR basically controlling an overall majority on its own, such a potential move will be rendered a bit tougher…

Besides a Christmas-day presidential runoff in Transnistria and a parliamentary election in Jamaica, this pretty much ends 2011 in terms of elections. I will wrap up the year, as always, with a Top 10 of this year’s most significant elections and a run through of what will be hot in 2012. You can help me decide which election was the most important election of the year by voting in the poll on the right-hand side of the page.

Bonaventure (Quebec) 2011

Map of the provincial riding of Bonaventure

A provincial by-election in the constituency of Bonaventure was held in Quebec on December 5, 2011. The riding had fallen vacant following the resignation of Deputy Premier and Liberal MNA Nathalie Normandeau, who had held the seat since 1998.

Bonaventure is located on the south shore of the Gaspé Peninsula, covering a string small towns bordering New Brunswick in the west or separated from New Brunswick by the Chaleur Bay. Bonaventure is significantly poorer than the province as a whole and its unemployment rate was a full 18%  in 2006. Most politically significant is the presence of a sizable Anglophone minority, about 15% of the population, spread out in small villages along the coast or further west. The Anglophone population explains part of the riding’s long Liberal history. With the exception of five legislatures, the riding has been Liberal since 1890. Between 1956 and 1994, the riding was the stronghold of Liberal cabinet minister Gérard D. Lévesque. His resignation in 1994 prompted a by-election won by the PQ’s Marcel Landry, who was reelected months later in the general election but defeated four years later by Normandeau. She was reelected easily in all elections since, winning 64% in 2008. The riding had voted against independence in 1995, with 51.6% non.

Quebec is the hot place to be in Canadian politics right now. Jean Charest’s Liberal government, in power since 2003, is breaking unpopularity records with some 8 in 10 voters disapproving of the government. The provincial Liberals have been crippled by unpopular decisions but more importantly by a string of corruption, bribery, graft and illicit party financing scandals. Quebec’s construction industry is ridden with corruption and collusion with the mafia, well implanted in the province’s construction industry. The construction corruption and the PLQ’s corruption are all tied up, explaining why it took Charest months before finally resigning himself to call for an inquiry commission into the construction industry. The Liberals, who won 42% in 2008, sit at roughly 22% support in polls these days.

In most cases, such unpopularity would play into the hands of any opposition party, no matter how awful it is. The nationalist PQ has not had that luck. It too is in deep trouble and embroiled in factional crisis. The leadership of Pauline Marois finds itself attacked on two angles: the hardline nationalists claim that Marois is placing sovereignty on the backburner and is an indecisive leader, while moderates and lite nationalists claim that the PQ’s continued insistence on sovereignty is out of touch with the reality which they claim does not favour immediate sovereignty. In June, four sitting PQ MNAs including Pierre Curzi and former PQ Premier Jacques Parizeau’s wife Lisette Lapointe. Others have since been expelled, meaning that there are seven ex-PQ MNAs now sitting as independents.

The uncertainty over Quebec’s political future is only heightened by a new wildcard: former PQ cabinet minister François Legault’s new party, the Coalition pour l’avenir du Québec or CAQ. The CAQ, ideologically centrist or centre-right, places sovereignty far behind and claims to be some sort of post-sovereignist party breaking the old federalist/sovereignist divide of Quebec politics. The CAQ sits at roughly 33-35% support in polls, while the PLQ and PQ roughly tied at 20-22% each. The scene could become even more confusing if ex-PQ MNA Jean-Martin Aussant’s hardline sovereignist Option nationale (ON) party develops a following.

The CAQ’s appeal is not ideological, rather the appeal comes from Quebec riding a wave of change for change’s sake. At this point, disillusion with the PLQ’s corruption and PQ’s chaos is so high that voters will choose anything, left right or centre. A Leger poll from earlier this month had asked CAQ voters why they supported the CAQ: 9% said it was because of its ideas, 6% because of Legault and 3% because of its school boards position. But 32% said they backed it because of a “desire for change”, 19% because they were fed up of other parties and 17% because of its novelty.

Back to Bonaventure now. The PLQ always had an edge in the contest, but the PQ made the contest personal for Marois. She campaigned heavily for the PQ’s candidate, Sylvain Roy. It was a test for Marois’ legitimacy as leader of the party and a contest to determine whether she hangs on a bit or if she is forced out even more quickly. But there was a missing element in the Bonaventure puzzle: the CAQ. Registered only weeks ago, the CAQ claims it lacks organization and funding to compete in the by-election. Its absence has been criticized, with Marois saying that by his absence, Legault is only backing the Liberals while the Liberals have basically called Legault a wet chicken. I point out two reasons for the CAQ’s absence: firstly, it is true that it lacks any organization and would not have won, thus it did not want to suffer a defeat which would rain on the parade; second, if it had run it would still have pulled in 15-20% and likely have given the PQ a result below 29%. From one point of view, running and killing the PQ could be seen as in the CAQ’s interests, but it actually isn’t. Such a scenario would have been the nail in Marois’ coffin, and sped up the perhaps inevitable process of her bowing out in favour of Gilles Duceppe, who despite suffering an historical blow in May federally, would win a large majority as PQ leader. Which isn’t in Legault’s interest, given that he certainly isn’t running for leader of the opposition.

The results were:

Damien Arsenault (PLQ) 49.46% (-14.77%)
Sylvain Roy (PQ) 37.22% (+8.16%)
Patricia Chartier (QS) 8.92% (+5.72%)
Georges Painchaud (ADQ) 2.29% (-1.23%)
Jean Cloutier (Green) 1.29% (+1.29%)
Martin Zibeau (Ind) 0.82% (+0.82%)

The Liberal victory was as expected, and though its result is pretty decent for a toxic governing party, it has still lost nearly 15 percentage points from a result which – it is true – was inflated by a personal vote in 2008. That the PLQ had always been expected to win means that this result won’t provide the PLQ with any momentum booster. The result is not great for the Liberals, but it certainly isn’t that bad considering the party’s state of terminal decline.

The PQ won 37.2%, up 8 percentage points since 2008. In a race which Marois had made personal and in doing had made it into a key test for her leadership, she lives to fight another day. The PQ’s strong performance is what she has styled a “moral victory” and it will likely allow her to cement her leadership of the party for a little while. But it is doubtful that this result will boost her party’s actual standing overall. In such, the PQ’s strong showing could be considered a little victory for the CAQ. The strong result keeps Marois’ shaky leadership on life support, but will do little to right a ship which is clearly sinking or about to hit an iceberg. Which is what the CAQ wants and needs.

QS did well, with nearly 9% of the vote and a result up 5.7% since the last election, in a region where QS is generally very weak. Clearly QS is benefiting from the PQ’s state of chaos. Of the established parties, it is the one which is in the best shape. The same doesn’t go for the ADQ, which will be the first victim of the CAQ’s rise. There is ideological proximity between the two, but beyond that the ADQ could count on a rather strong base of support in a CAQ-less scenario – mostly similar ‘wind of change’/’PLQ/PQ sucks’ type of support. All that is gone with the CAQ, which reduces the ADQ to a rump of 6-8% support. From my point of view, the ADQ’s weak result in this CAQ-less race (although this is hardly ADQ stronghold territory) shows quite well that the CAQ’s rise isn’t indicative of any right-wing shift. There is talk of a CAQ-ADQ merger, but the ADQ’s poor result in this by-election hardly gives its leader Gérard Deltell a strong bargaining card in those talks with CAQ. In fact, it risks turning a simple merger in a takeover of the ADQ by the CAQ.

Interesting times in Quebec politics…

Egypt 2011

The first stage of legislative elections were held in Egypt on November 28-29 and December 5-6 2011. Following the conclusion the two final stages by early January 2012, 498 members of Egypt’s lower house – the People’s Assembly – will have been elected. An additional ten members will be named by the interim government of Egypt, the military Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF). Of the 498 members, 332 will be elected from 46 multi-member constituencies through party-list PR (highest remainders) while 166 will be elected from a total of 83 two-member constituencies using the two-round system in a two-member constituency context.

Straight forward? No. The list component is rather easy, so I’ll come back to it. The district component is more confusing. Each of Egypt’s 27 governorates are divided into one or more districts, each district returning two members. At least one of those members must be a worker or farmer, a leftover from the Nasserist days of corporatism. In the first round, a candidate is elected by getting 50%+1 of the votes. Each ballot contains two votes, so 10 voters cast 20 votes. It is thus possible for two candidates to win by the first round, provided one is a worker or farmer. If nobody wins in the first round, the runoff includes the top four candidates where at least two are worker/farmers and where one winner is a worker/farmer. If the first round winner was not a worker/farmer, the top two worker/farmer candidates compete in the runoff. If the first round winner was a worker/farmer, the top two candidates irrespective of occupation compete in the runoff. If the two first round winners happen to be professionals, the one winning the most votes is elected and the top two workers/farmers compete in the runoff. The result will be that at least half of the members of the new legislature will be workers/farmers.

332 members are elected through party-lists, in a total of 46 constituencies. Each governorate is divided into districts (either 1, 2, 3 or 4 depending on the governorate) with at least four seats per individual district (or 6, 8, 10 or 12 seats per individual district). Parties must win 0.5% of the national vote to be eligible for any seats, which are determined through highest remainders PR. There is a similar worker/farmer rule here in terms of both list composition and determining elected MPs (if there are more than 50% professionals in the legislature, the list with the lowest ‘coefficient’ will have to skip the professional and give the seat to the next worker/farmer on the list).

The governorates which voted in the first phase are the nine most populous ones, basically: Alexandria, Asyut, Cairo, Damietta, Faiyum, Kafr-el-Sheikh, Luxor, Port Said and the Red Sea.

Context

These elections are the first legislative elections following the Egyptian Revolution of 2011 which resulted in the ouster of long-time President Hosni Mubarak and the formation of a transitional government led by the military (SCAF) and Field Marshal Mohamed Tantawi. This legislature will be one of Egypt’s shortest in terms of lifespan, but will form the backbone of a 100-member committee which will draft a new constitution and set the stage for a presidential election to be held “no later than June 30, 2012″. These elections were all the more important as they came following the re-eruption of a mass protest movement across Egypt which criticized the SCAF’s attitude in the process. They notably accuse the SCAF of trying to establish the Egyptian military as a powerful political actor and of trying to play a key role in drafting the new constitution. Most civilian parties criticized the SCAF, but only the liberal-secular opposition demanded the elections to be delayed.

Who are the main actors? The main political actors can be divided into three: the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), the liberal-secular Egyptian Bloc and the ultra-conservative Salafist Al-Nour-led coalition.

The Muslim Brotherhood (MB), founded in 1928, was the main opposition force to Mubarak’s regime. The MB, which had been persecuted under Nasser’s reign, was given more leeway under Sadat and Mubarak whose regimes tolerated the participation of MB candidates as independents in elections. The amount of freedom granted by the regime to the MB varied over time, for example in 2005 the MB had won nearly 90 seats in that year’s legislative elections, but that result prompted the regime to resort to mass fraud in the 2010 legislative election. The MB’s leadership had originally not been hot about the revolution, though its youth largely backed the revolution. The MB founded the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) as its political arm.

The FJP has gone to lengths, like Ennahda in Tunisia, to reassure voters and the international community of its intentions to abide by liberal democratic principles. It has claimed that it supports democratic pluralism, religious tolerance, women’s rights, and national unity. It is widely considered as socially conservative and economically right-wing, though the nature of the FJP’s economic program is more or less ambiguous with some members praising the old regime’s economic policies, the platform opposing neoliberalism and supporting redistributive social justice. The FJP’s relation with the SCAF has also been a source of controversy. The FJP, which is the most organized party, resisted pressures to delay the elections and has been accused of striking a deal with the SCAF whereby the MB would support the SCAF’s policies in return for a more lenient political environment for the FJP.

The FJP competed as the largest party as part of the Democratic Alliance for Egypt, whose other main party of note is Ayman Nour’s Al-Ghad. The coalition can be considered as an heavily MB-directed affair, following the defections of parties such as the Salafists and the liberal Al-Wafd party. Originally, the FJP had claimed that it would only run in half the seats, but its coalition ended up standing in almost every available seat.

The main secular alliance is the Egyptian Bloc. The Bloc is a three-party alliance composed of business tycoon Naguib Sawiris’ right-wing Free Egyptians Party, the centre-left Social Democrats and the socialist Al-Tagammu party. The Bloc’s composite nature in terms of ideology, from markedly free-market liberal to very much interventionist socialism, has been a source of internal tension and external criticism. Judging from the varied economic ideologies of the component parties, we can pretty fairly say that the Bloc’s raison-d’etre is opposition to the FJP and MB, and in fact their rhetoric has been aimed largely at the FJP. In terms of its relations with the SCAF, the Bloc is not as cuddly-cuddly with the SCAF as the FJP allegedly was, but it is not for that matter as anti-SCAF as the Tahrir protesters are. The Bloc has faced internal and external criticism for the inclusion of candidates belonging to the former ruling party, the National Democratic Party (NDP).

A bit to the Bloc’s left is the more composite Revolution Continues coalition, which ranges from socialists to liberals to Islamists. It is much more anti-SCAF than the Bloc and perhaps a bit less militantly secular (but still very left-secular in orientation) than the Bloc.

The third major movement is the Salafist movement, whose main party is the Al-Nour party. The Salafists are a group of ultra-conservative traditionalist Muslisms, who support the construction of a society based around the strict application of Sharia law. The party’s commitment to religious equality is questionable, its attitude towards democracy is just as questionable. Abdel Monem El-Shahat, an Al-Nour candidate in the Salafist stronghold of Alexandria had said that democracy, not only unorthodox, is sinful and atheist – based on the rule of man rather than the rule of God. He also said that Egyptian Nobel laureate Naguib Mahfouz’s writing encouraged debauchery and prostitution. Al-Nour, which is strongest in Alexandria, the historic base of the Salafist Al-Daawa movement since the 1970s, ran candidates alongside smaller Salafist and ultra-conservative Islamist parties as part of the Islamic Bloc.

Other parties include the liberal secular Al-Wafd, Egypt’s oldest party, which used to be allied with the FJP; the centrist moderate Al-Wasat – an old moderate splinter of the MB; and a series of NDP proxy parties including the Freedom Party, the National Party, the Citizen Party, the Union Party and the Conservatives. Supporters and remnants of the old NDP are often called felools (which means something like remnants of an army).

The election

Turnout in the first round was reported to be 62% originally, but apparently later “revised” downwards to 52%. The highest turnout since the days of the Pharaohs (didn’t know Ramses II was elected), or so claimed the rather hilarious boss the election commission. Turnout was lower in the runoffs. The full results on the election commission’s website are all in Arabic, but thankfully brave souls have transcribed and compiled results. Jadaliyya, my source for results, has pages on the results here and here. The Arabist blog, which is well worth following, has some nice graphs.

Citing Jadaliyya, here are the popular vote results for the list vote.

FJP and allies 36.62%
Al-Nour 24.36%
Bloc 13.35%
Al-Wafd 7.09%
Al-Wasat 4.27%
Revolution Continues 3.45%
Reform and Development 1.9%
National 1.58%
Freedom 1.41%
All others below 1%

Al Ahram gave the following overall results, including all seats but two seats in Cairo-1 which will vote on January 10-11:

FJP and allies winning 82 seats (46 pre-runoff)
Al-Nour winning 33 seats (28 pre-runoff)
Bloc winning 18 seats (16 pre-runoff)
Al-Wafd winning 12 seats (11 pre-runoff)
Al-Wasat winning 4 seats (4 pre-runoff)
Revolution Continues winning 5 seats (5 pre-runoff)
Reform and Development winning 2 seats (2 pre-runoff)
National winning 2 seats (1 pre-runoff)
Freedom winning 1 seat (1 pre-runoff)
Others (Citizen, Al-Adl) winning 3 seats (1 pre-runoff)
Independents winning 4 seats (1 pre-runoff)

Jadaliyya has different results, but provides results by district. The Arabist blog post I linked to above has charts showing both the Salafist vs. non-Salafist Islamic vote by governorate and the secular vs. Islamist vote by governorate. The Salafists did not outpoll the combined sum total of the non-Salafist Islamists anywhere, but won 46% in Damietta and Kafr-el-Sheikh and 44% in Alexandria. Secular parties outpolled the Islamists only on the Red Sea, and did ‘well’ with 40% and 36% in Luxor and Cairo respectively. In Damietta, the secular parties polled only 9%. They won 26% in Alexandria.

The major winner of these elections were the Islamists, but the need to differentiate between the ‘radicals’ and ‘moderates’ is important here. The FJP won by far the most seats. Its success should not surprise, in fact it didn’t surprise anybody and it was widely expected that they would win the elections. As the political arm of the MB, the FJP started out with organizational advantages which the secular parties did not have and which were only matched by the Salafists and maybe the felools. The FJP’s advantages on the ground from day one explains, of course, its alliance with the SCAF and its bid to move the electoral process along as rapidly as possible. The MB’s organizational structure is well oiled and is widely recognized as the main, almost uncontested, leader of the old opposition to the Mubarak regime. At the grassroots level, the FJP was able to gather the results of years of MB charitable organizations, social aid and so forth. In the period since the overthrow of the regime, the FJP also played their cards extremely well. They have been careful not to scare off more moderate voters, and they have made themselves into a voice of conservative stability.

We are always too quick to overestimate the real political power of any ‘mass protests’ in any country. This is especially true in Egypt with regards to the largely liberal-secular led protests in Tahrir Square prior to the elections, demanding notably the resignation of Tantawi and delaying the vote. While Egyptians heavily backed the revolution which toppled Mubarak, the mood now is focused not on institutional issues and questions such as religion and state, but rather on bread-and-butter concerns such as inflation, unemployment, food prices, poverty, access to health and education and so forth. The mood on the ground is one of conservatism and a longing for political stability. There is not much popular apatite for a confrontation with the SCAF (13% said the protests were a good thing) nor was there much support for delaying the vote (11%). The revolutionary fervour has died down and the main concern is stability.

The FJP understood that, unlike the liberals. The FJP was keen to say that its priorities were education, healthcare and other bread-and-butter issues. It opposed the protests which demanded that the SCAF step down and that the elections be delayed. The FJP was able to respond to the conservative cry for stability on the ground. The Bloc and the other liberals didn’t do themselves any favours by campaigning, like the most militantly anti-Islamist parties had done in Tunisia, solely on fear of Islamist takeover. They should know better that besides a handful of affluent liberals in urban areas, the grassroots demand is not for that. The FJP, like Ennahda in Tunisia, represents a force of conservative stability in line with the mood of the majority.

In Tunisia, I had pointed out the similarities between the transition process observed in the Arab Spring nations and the democratic transitions of the 70s in Europe and the Americas. Voters, both then and now in Tunisia and Egypt, have embraced more or less moderate forces who represented stability and step-by-step transition rather than the more radical forces who wanted a rapid break with the old order.

The other major story of this election was the Salafists’ surprisingly strong performance, surging into a second which was far from expected. The Salafists, like the FJP, also started off with advantages on the ground. They have a similarly strong and old network of charitable organizations, and they are better implanted in mosques than the MB are. In Alexandria, where Al-Daawa has been a local presence since the 1970s, the Salafists are particularly strong. They are equally as strong in Damietta and Kafr-el-Sheikh, both of which are generally rural areas in the Nile Delta. Rural and even urban Lower Egypt is very poor, many people live in squalid living conditions, jammed into quasi-ghettos with little running water or electricity. For a lot of observers, it was these poor voters who provided the Salafists and their message of order and morality with a strong base.

Their candidates, like a lot of FJP candidates, could also count on a strong personal vote especially in poorer rural areas where it would generally be easier to convince voters based on factors other than ideology. There is also a popular sentiment, shared by a good number of voters, that MB is greedy, secretive, arrogant and self-interested. I don’t know if it would be fair to attribute the Salafist success to a conservative backlash at the FJP’s shift to the centre and away from the more religiously-influenced doctrine of the MB in the past.

It is interesting to see how the Salafist’s success has quickly turned a brief MB-Salafist honeymoon in a full-out war, especially in places like Damietta where the races are exclusively Salafist vs. MB. FJP activists decried the unfairness of having their election and 40 years of local work “stolen” from them by political newcomers. The FJP received quite a cold shower from the Salafist success, and they have not hidden their frustration at the results. In an ironic twist, the FJP are now the ones who decry the use of religion to manipulate poor voters on the Salafist’s behalf. They have also accused the Salafists of working hand in hand with and receiving much support and votes from the felools. Others in the FJP have claimed that the Salafists were funded not only by the old regime and military, but also by the Saudis and even Americans. The Salafists have tried to convince people that they aren’t radicals despite everything. They view the MB and FJP as secretive and self-interested.

How will the Salafist success affect the FJP? Will it now view Egypt’s partisan future as being a two-party system divided between moderate and radical Islamists, and move towards the centre and left (liberals and seculars) to attract their votes? Or will it move to the “right” in a bid to win those who vote for Al-Nour? Already, the FJP has said that it would not seek an alliance with the Salafists. The Salafists talk of a grand Islamist alliance with the MB, to oppose the liberal and foreign forces which they claim are degenerating Egypt; but the MB seem to understand that the Salafists would be a thorn in their side and a big load attached to them. The FJP is more pragmatic, moderate and is keen on not entering into an Islamist alliance that would alienate the SCAF, which retains power, and foreign states. On top of that, there is enough bad blood between the two enemy brothers of Egyptian Islamism to make such an Islamist coalition unlikely. The FJP prefers a centrist alliance, with parties such as Al-Wasat and Al-Wafd being their most likely partners, which pleases the more moderate sectors of society and the military.

It is interesting to note that the runoffs earlier this week halted the Salafist wave quite a bit. In competition in 27 seats – most of them straight FJP-Salafist contests, Al-Nour won only 5 of those seats. In Alexandria-1, Abdel Monem El-Shahat (the one who had criticized democracy) was defeated by an FJP candidate despite having placed second with 33% in the first round. In Alexandria-2, Tarek Talaat Mostafa, an independent backed by the Salafists and the felools was defeated by an FJP candidate after having dominated the first round with 43%. Liberals and secular voters, where they were present, likely played a role in their defeat by preferring FJP candidates as least-worst options. The defeats of these two and many other prominent Salafists allowed liberals to breathe a sigh of relief. Has the media’s attention to some of the movement’s more radical hotheads and their sprouting inanities turned the wind around?

The big losers of the first stage were the liberals, notably the Egyptian Bloc, which placed a distant third and won only a handful of seats. I had touched above on the poor strategy of the liberal camp, notably their focus on institutional matters or on opposing the FJP rather than focusing, like the FJP allegedly has, on bread-and-butter issues which would strike a chord with more Egyptians. Beyond that, the liberal parties in Egypt are disorganized, divided, weak, lacking any organization on the ground and cannot come close to the discipline and groundwork of the MB and even Salafists. Many of their star candidates lost by the first round, although the Revolution Continues candidate Amr Hamzawy in the affluent Cairo-4 constituency, which includes the upper-class neighborhood of Heliopolis.

Compared to Tunisia, where liberal and secular forces saved face and did well, it seems as if the difference between the two countries is twofold: a) Tunisian society is much more liberal and secular, while Egyptian society remains deeply conservative and religious despite the Mubarak regime’s past assurances to the contrary and b) the Tunisian liberal and secular movement was better organized and had better established leaders.

The victory of the Islamists with over 65% of the seats leaves the liberals and secular forces in total disarray. The victory of the Islamists, particularly the strong showing of the Salafists, frightens both the upper-class secular elites and the country’s Coptic Christian minority (10%) who continue to fear for a spike in inter-religious violence and the establishment of a restrictive Islamist state. The Islamist victory has also sent a chill down the SCAF’s spine. Now more than ever the SCAF seems keen on holding on to power for as long as possible. They have placed the new legislature’s legitimacy as the representative of the Egyptian people’s popular will into question, they have let it be known that they intend to play a big role in drafting the constitution and that they are not hot on giving up power and wish to continue appointing cabinets themselves. The fear, now more than ever, is that the SCAF is really trying to place itself in a role similar to that held by Turkey’s military – as non-elected authoritarian guardians of a secular order.

The second stage runs on December 14-15 and 21-22, the third stage runs on January 3-4 and concludes on 10-11. Some large governorates such as Dakahlia (last), Beheira (next), Giza (next), Gharbia (last), Sharqia (next) and Sohag (next) have still not voted. The trend is unlikely to be reversed. Consider that some of Egypt’s most ‘liberal’ governorates voted in the first stage: Cairo and the Red Sea, and Alexandria to a certain extent (though it is an Islamist stronghold). Judging from the 2011 referendum results, a proxy in my mind for liberal-secular vs. conservative, only South Sinai (Sharm-el-Sheikh) and Minya (Coptic minority) are governorates which can be considered as liberal (Giza to a certain extent). Both vote in the final stage, but basically nobody lives in South Sinai anyways. A lot of the more rural areas of the Nile Delta, where Salafists and FJP can be expected to do well, the western desert and most of Upper Egypt will vote in the next stages. I expect the FJP to do well there as well, although perhaps the Salafists will not do as well in Upper Egypt as they did in Lower Egypt where they do not seem to have as large a base.

Croatia 2011

Legislative elections were held in Croatia on December 4, 2011. All 151 members of the Croatia’s unicameral Parliament, the Hrvatski Sabor, were up for reelection. 140 members are elected in ten electoral districts which each return 14 members. There is no national threshold, but parties must win 5% of the vote in a constituency to qualify for seats there. The districts are meant to be equal in size, but since their creation in 2000 they have become more unequal: this year, 230k votes were cast on average in each but the difference ranges from 206k in one to 261k votes in another. 8 seats are elected in a single non-geographical constituency for national minorities: 3 seats for Serbs, 1 for Hungarians, 1 for Italians, 1 for Czechs and Slovaks, 1 for Austrian,  Bulgarian, German, Polish, Roma, Romanian, Ruthenian, Russian, Vlach and Jewish minorities, and one seat for Albanians, Bosniaks, Montenegrins, Macedonians and Slovenians. A fixed number of 3 members are elected to represent the Croatian diaspora, which in practice means Croatians in Bosnia and Herzegovina who often have the dual nationality.

In Slovenia, we had seen that politics are still in a state of flux and that there is no stable, long-lasting party system on the near horizon. In Croatia however, politics have stabilized quite remarkably since 2000 which marks the emergence of the country’s present party system.

Talking of a natural governing party in a country which is only 20 years old is rather ridiculous, but the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) has since independence fit that mold pretty well. The HDZ was born as a hard-right nationalist party led by a man, Franjo Tuđman, with some pretty authoritarian tendencies. Under Tuđman’s rule, Croatia suffered from high unemployment, controversial privatization policies, limited press freedoms and isolation on the international scene in the wake of the wars in Croatia and Bosnia. By the time of his death in 1999, his charm as the father of the nation had started to wear off. The mood was increasingly favourable to Europeanization and further democratization of the system.

In 2000, the opposition – divided between Dražen Budiša’s Social Liberals (HSLS) and Ivica Račan’s post-communist Social Democrats (SDP) formed a coalition. Ivica Račan, as Prime Minister and Stjepan Mesić, as President entered office in 2000 with high hopes that they would be the reformers who would drag Croatia out of its semi-isolationist, authoritarian and nationalist past. However, Račan’s composite government allying growingly right-wing Social Liberals, the agrarian Peasant Party (HSS), the regionalist IDS and the left-liberal People’s Party (HNS) soon became rift with factionalism between the partners and Račan seen as inefficient. Budiša started appearing nationalistic on the issue of deporting Croatian generals to be tried for war crimes at the ICTY, and the coalition between the two top partners soon collapsed. Račan managed to remain in office until November 2003 with the support of HSLS dissidents who went on to join the HNS.

In the 2003 elections, despite having moved Croatia firmly onto the European scene and benefiting from stable economic growth, Račan was decisively defeated by the HDZ. In the meantime, the HDZ had moved away from the hard-right nationalism of the Tuđman era and, under Ivo Sanader’s leadership, was able to be seen as a modern, moderate pro-European conservative party. While originally firmly against the ICTY indictments, Sanader quickly changed tone and defeated the party’s hard-right faction to place it on a firmly pro-European centre-right axis. Under Sanader’s leadership, Croatia inched closer to joining the EU – that is likely what Sanader will be remembered for. He was reelected in 2007, narrowly defeating Zoran Milanović’s SDP in what was perhaps the closest election to date in Croatia.

The second term proceded to become a massive train wreck. On the one hand, Croatia was a victim of the global recession: unemployment reached 12% in 2010 and is rising, the country’s debt went from 28% of the GDP to 47.5% in 2011, the economy shrunk by 6% in 2010 and recovery is slow and a large deficit. The government was forced to implement unpopular measures to deal with the economic situation of the country.

In July 2009, Sanader resigned from office and was replaced by Jadranska Kosor. Her popularity dwindled almost instantly after the introduction of a new income tax (styled crisis tax) and a 1% hike in the VAT. Simultaneously, the HDZ as a whole became embroiled in a series of corruption allegations. Kosor does not seem to be directly involved in the bulk of them, though whether she knew of them prior to becoming Prime Minister is up for debate. At any rate, Kosor’s more hardline stance on corruption would blow up in her face as prosecutors started unearthing pretty stinging corruption cases against senior HDZ members – especially Ivo Sanader.

Following the HDZ’s thumping in the 2009-2010 presidential election, Sanader – likely because he was starting to sweat from the corruption allegations which were inching closer to him – decided that he wanted to take back the party. In January, his attempts to stage an internal coup failed and he was expelled from the party on Kosor’s orders - giving her a small boost in popularity. In December, right before the Sabor was to remove his immunity, Sanader fled the country only to be arrested hours later in Austria on an Interpol warrant. Deported to Croatia, Sanader is currently rotting in jail awaiting trial on counts of bribery, corruption and so forth. While some have praised Kosor’s politically unfortunate anti-corruption drive, it certainly did not help matters for her party which on top of that suffers the effects of the economic crisis and the unpopularity of the government’s measures.

Starting in November 2010, the main opposition forces coalesced into a single coalition reminisicent of Račan’s SDP-HSLS coalition in 2000. Along Zoran Milanović’s SDP (56 seats in 2007), the other allies were the left-liberal People’s Party (HNS-LD) which had won 7 seats in 2007, the regionalist Istrian Democratic Assembly (IDS) which had two seats and the Pensioners Party (HSU) which won a single seat in 2007. Originally known as the ‘Alliance for Change’, it adopted the wonderful name (really, they ought to get a prize for being so original) Kukuriku coalition – named after the restaurant where they first met in 2009 and which literally means ‘cock-a-doodle-doo’ (in French, cocorico). Kukuriku’s platform is called ‘Plan 21′.

The HDZ allied with two minor parties of the centre-right in a few constituencies. Besides the two main blocks, there was a new party – the left-populist Croatian Labourists – Labour Party led by former HNS MP Dragutin Lesar. Other parties include the right-regionalist Croatian Democratic Alliance of Slavonia and Baranja (HDSSB), founded by controversial former HDZ defense minister Branimir Glavaš (who is a remnant of the HDZ’s 1990s orientation as a hard-right nationalist party); the far-right Croatian Party of Rights (HSP) and the agrarian right-wing Peasant Party (HSS). The HSLS, formerly the HDZ’s junior ally, entered the election with no seats after its two MPs had defected following the party’s decision to pull out of the coalition.

Apparently the government can’t be bothered to give us the national results, so all results at a national level are my calculations, which seem pretty accurate though perhaps not down to the decimal level. Turnout was 61.8% in Croatia, and 5% for the diaspora – 80% of the votes cast in the diaspora constituency came from Bosnia. The Kukuriku coalition’s results are compared to the combined sum total of SDP, HNS, IDS and HSU lists in 2007. No comparison can be made for HSS, HSLS and PGS as they all formed a single coalition in 2007 (6.5%). Please let me know if the national results are ever published officially.

Kukuriku (SDP-HNS-IDS-HSU) 40.72% (-2.88%) winning 80 seats (+13)
HDZ and allies 23.93% (-12.67%) winning 47 seats (-19)
Labourists 5.17% (+5.17%) winning 6 seats (+6)
HSLS 3.1% winning 0 seats (-2)
HSP 3.07% (-0.43%) winning 0 seats (-1)
HSS 3.04% winning 1 seat (-5)
HDSSB 2.93% (+1.13%) winning 6 seats (+3)
BUZ-PGS 2.85% winning 0 seats (nc)
Ivan Grubišić 2.82% (+2.82%) winning 2 seats (+2)
HSP-dr. Ante Starčević 2.81% (+2.81%) winning 1 seat (+1)
Others 9.56% winning 0 seats
National minorities winning 8 seats (nc) – including 3 SDSS, 1 Kukuriku-HNS

The HDZ was never expected to win, but during the campaign it failed to stop the bleeding and it was unable to keep a bad election from turning into a rout as it did. The HDZ won its worst result ever and for the first time in its history, it will not be the largest party in the Sabor. 2011 really is a bloodbath for those ‘natural governing parties’ around the world. The result, in my eyes, is not entirely Kosor’s fault as she appears to be a fairly well-intentioned person who has been forced to make unpopular decisions (whether they are good is up to you) in circumstances beyond her control and whose tougher stance on corruption only led to the total collapse of the HDZ around her as its former leader ended up canned and other senior members forced to resign for putting their hands in the jelly too often. The HDZ has suffered a rout, which is far worst than the one they had suffered (kind of) in 2000, but yet I have a hard time imagining a scenario where they collapse into oblivion.

Kukuriku has won a convincing victory and a comfortable majority to boot. What I find most interesting is that the combined sum total of all of Kukuriku’s components in 2007 is actually higher than what it won this year. The SDP and HNS probably lost some voters to Lesar’s new Labourist party, which I’d love to find out more about and understand the reasons behind their success. In other cases, some of those parties’ individual voters in 2007 might not have voted for the SDP-dominated Kukuriku coalition this year.

As in so many cases, after phenomenal victory comes the harsh realities of governance. This is especially true these days, where opposition parties often win huge victories over unpopular incumbents but wake up the next day with a deficit, debt and unemployment rate which is just as huge. Croatia’s new Prime Minister find himself in this situation. The anti-corruption campaign was nice, but the main problem in Croatia is unemployment and the general anemic economy. Plan 21 – the coalition’s program – is, as is typical, full of flowery rhetoric and the usual assumptions that governments can do anything they please like in a cocoon. Stuff like ‘re-industrialization’ of sorts towards an export-oriented growth will likely go out the window along with the rhetoric about neoliberalism being negative and the need for a fairer society. For starters, the incoming government has shown itself quite receptive to asking the IMF for a loan – something which the HDZ had resisted. Kukuriku’s leaders otherwise seem pretty lucid about the reality they find themselves thrown into. Milanović will also need to prevent his grand coalition from turning into a mess like Račan’s coalition had ended up as. Will the SDP’s coalition partners, notably the HNS and IDS, stick together with the SDP as the Kukuriku coalition faces the economic crisis?

Another issue which the incoming government will be faced it is that of Croatia’s membership in the EU. The adhesion process is now completed and is awaiting ratification in a referendum likely to be held early next year. Milanović does not seem to be a top fan of European integration, but the HNS which will likely get the foreign ministry is very much pro-European. The local fallout of the Eurozone crisis and the general chaotic state of affairs in the EU will be interesting to follow. Up till this point, opinion is generally comfortably in favour of joining the EU although there was a spike of nationalism in April 2011 following General Ante Gotovina’s sentencing by the ICTY.

In terms of third parties, it was new third parties rather than older third parties which had a good outing. The main surprise was the rather unexpected strong showing of Dragutin Lesar’s new populist left-wing Labourists, who won 6 seats. They performed strongest in more left-wing northern central Croatia and Istria, but did poorly in Slavonia and Dalmatia. The other surprise of the election was the surprise performance of an independent list led by Ivan Grubišić, a former Roman Catholic priest who ran on an anti-corruption and ethics platform. His performance was regionally concentrated in Split and southern Dalmatia (district 10). He won 11.7% of the vote and two seats in that district. On the far-right, the HSP was swept out and replaced on that front by a splinter, the “HSP-dr. Ante Starčević” – which seems even further to the right – which won 6% and a single seat in district 10. Although not as new as either of the three new parties who gained entrance into the Sabor, the election was marked by the strong showing of the right-wing regionalist HDSSB who had ran on a very much anti-HDZ decentralist platform. Likely taking the bulk of its votes from the HDZ and HSP (whose support in 2007 mostly came from Slavonia), the HDSSB won 6 seats with 21.7% in district 4 and 11.5% in district 5.

On the other hand, older third parties performed rather poorly. The HSS, the HDZ’s junior coalition partner, suffered its worst result ever winning only 3% of the vote and being reduced to a single seat (district 2, where it won 6%). The HSLS had found itself without any members in the Sabor after its two members defected from the party in disagreement over its decision to pull out of government. Running alone, HSLS won only 3% of the vote and failed to win a single seat.

The electoral map of Croatia, in particular HDZ’s traditional strongholds, bear a close resemblance to the map of the war zones in the country during the conflict of the 1990s. A similar pattern had been seen in the 2010 presidential runoff. The HDZ performs strongest in those areas which were part of Serbian Krajina or were located close enough to the breakaway Serbian entity to have suffered heavily during the war – namely Lika, Dalmatia and Slavonia. I suspect there may be other factors at play too, but the resemblance is rather striking and becomes even more striking when the HDZ is reduced to its core bases in years like 2011.

Kukuriku’s support was concentrated in Zagreb, northern Croatia and most of northern Croatia. In Istria (to be fair, district 8 which includes Rijeka and some coastal areas which are not Istrian), where the regionalist IDS was party with the coalition, Kukuriku won 57% to the HDZ’s 12.2%. Istria had been a frustration for HDZ in the party’s heyday of the 1990s, when Istria often proved the lone holdout of opposition to the Tuđman regime. It has since remained one of the HDZ’s weakest regions. Istria has a small Italian minority, but what seems to define it as politically unique nowadays is a tradition of inter-ethnic tolerance (at the turn of the century, Istria was much more ethnically heterogeneous) which has bred a strong regional identity and particularism.

Istria also speaks the Chakavian dialect of Croatian, a dialect which is regionally concentrated in Istria and the islands of the Adriatic along the Dalmatian coast. There is another striking resemblance between the electoral map and dialectical map: the areas speaking the Chakavian and Kaikavian dialect of Croatian (Kaikavian is spoken in northern and central Croatia) tend to be the most left-leaning areas, while Shtokavian dialectical regions – Lika, Dalmatia and Slavonia – tend to be right-leaning. The difference between Chakavian areas and Shtokavian areas along the Dalmatian coast was particularly visible in the 2010 presidential runoff. There might be other factors coming into play, but this is another case of pretty interesting resemblances.

Russia 2011

Legislative “elections” were held in Russia on December 4, 2011. All 450 members of the State Duma, the lower house of the Russian legislature, were up for reelection. Since 2007, members are elected by party-list PR in a single national constituency with a 7% threshold, but parties winning 5-6% win one seat and parties winning 6-7% win 2 seats.

Russia is a one-party dominant authoritarian regime. The man who calls the shots since 2000 is Vladimir Putin, who served as President between 2000 and 2008 and has served as Prime Minister since then, although in a change of traditional roles Putin was truly the top gun and not his clone, President Dmitry Medvedev. In a game of musical chairs, Putin intends to become President again in next year’s presidential election while Medvedev takes his boss’ old job as PM. Putin’s power is backed up by United Russia (ER), the presidential and dominant party whose ideology, officially conservative, is that of any similar Party of Power in any authoritarian regime.

ER, or rather Putin, has built up full control of the state, its institutions, the regions, regional executives (governors are now named by the Kremlin), the secret services and the state-run media. Elections are widely and correctly regarded as being neither free nor fair, but unlike in some of the sub-Saharan dictatorships, elections are not entirely a huge joke. Compared to some of those same authoritarian countries, the amount of fraud is not earth-shattering phenomenal and there is a semblance of actual voting going on. What is more rigged than the actual elections themselves are the process. The state runs the media, and blocks the opposition from accessing media outlets save the few independent ones still in existence. The state’s institutions can conveniently block the most vocal opposition parties from running. More importantly, ER resorts to intimidation, bribery, coercion, threats and group pressure to buy its votes. In a good number of cases, the sheer rigging of the process before the votes means that the regime does not need to sweat the election itself too much.

There is, of course, lots of rigging and fraud in the elections as well. Traditionally, the favoured process is having ER’s stooges (who are often, conveniently, from the electoral commission) fill out tons of ballots themselves with the ‘correct’ party. No surprise, therefore, that high turnout correlates very well with high returns for ER. In other cases, the official results just inflate ER’s vote share by 5-25 percentage points. There is also wide regional variation in rigging. In the republics of the North Caucasus and most ‘ethnic republics’ for that matter, the election ranges from excessively rigged to completely fraudulent fabrication. Chechnya’s Ramzan Kadyrov is particularly good at making up election results, though he’s hardly subtle about it.

ER is the dominant party and is the Kremlin’s party, but the Kremlin has bankrolled, staged or created a good number of new parties outright. The biggest of these parties is the Liberal Democratic Party (LDPR), which is neither liberal nor democratic. The LDPR is the one-man party of Vladimir Zhirinovsky, its leader and founder. The LDPR was founded as a creature of the KGB and Zhirinovsky is a clown whose only use is making insanely eccentric pronouncements about the greatness of Russia and to run a party where the rednecks of Russia can park their vote. Its ideology is a populist mish-mash of far-right nationalism, some left-wing populism and general crazy stuff. In practice, the LDPR is probably bankrolled by the Kremlin and its MPs are reliable supporters of the Kremlin.

In 2006, the Kremlin staged the founding of “A Just Russia” (SR), an officially socialist party who has been a bit less pliant than the LDPR towards the Kremlin. Its actual position is a bit ambiguous, but there is little doubt that they are pro-Kremlin as well. In 2008, the Kremlin seized control of the old liberal opposition Union of Right Forces (SPS), sold the party off to a rich guy who turned out to be a bit of a thorn in the side, stole the party from him and turned into the “Right Cause”, a “liberal” outfit run by the Kremlin. Only the 90%-dead Yabloko, an old left-liberal party still exists as the main legal liberal opposition party.

The main legal opposition force is the Communist Party (KPRF). The KRPF is run by Gennady Zyuganov, an old hard-line Soviet apparatchik who has run the party with an iron hand. The KRPF receives affection from abroad as being the sole opposition party, but in reality the KPRF is as unsavoury as the other parties. It is an old Stalinist party full of nostalgia of the Soviet Union and also quite keen on invoking Russian nationalism, to the point where its critics have styled it a fascistoid party. Still, the KPRF is the only half-serious opposition party, but they have given up at being a competent opposition years ago and seems quite happy playing the role of an official opposition which opposes the regime but is too lazy to oppose it in a meaningful way.

Vladimir Putin built up his support because of Russia’s political stability under his reign, an oil-fueled economic boom (5-8% economic growth in his second term), an increase in the standard of living, restoring order (especially in Chechnya) and a nationalistic foreign policy which re-asserted Russia’s role in the concert of nations as a key world power. However, the charm has begun to wear off. The main culprit would be the economy: Russia’s economy was in recession in 2009 when it receded by nearly 8%. There is frustration and anger in rural Russia, where many people still live in poverty. There are other factors as well: the middle-classes who have enjoyed the fruits of the economic boom may now be hoping for democratization, of which there are no signs to date. Corruption is also a major issue, and there is much anger towards ER (branded the “party of crooks and thieves”) and Putin’s stalwarts who have lined their pockets.

Turnout fell to 60%, apparently an all-time low. Results are, with 99% reporting:

ER 49.29% (-15.01%) winning 238 seats (-77)
KPRF 19.2% (+7.63%) winning 92 seats (+35)
SR 13.35% (+5.61%) winning 64 seats (+26)
LDPR 11.68% (+3.54%) winning 56 seats (+16)
Yabloko 3.43% (+1.84%) winning 0 seats (nc)
Patriots 0.97% (+0.08%) winning 0 seats (nc)
Right Cause 0.6% (+0.36%) winning 0 seats (nc)

The election was marred by obvious cases of fraud, to which I’ll come back to in an instant. Yet, the results were still a significant blow to Putin, whose party suffered a pretty major setback. It is the obvious result of the regime’s increasing shakiness, which although not a direct threat to it right now indicates that the regime’s heyday might very well be gone. It is unlikely, however, that the results will be a “wake up call” for the regime, which is instead far more likely to resort to increased authoritarianism and heavy-handed tactic in a bid to maintain power which will only become more desperate as time goes. Yet, the opposition to the regime could only go on growing in such circumstances. Those who think that any of this means that the 2012 election will be closer than originally thought is obviously kidding themselves, because there is no way Putin will be allowed to lose – besides, his opponents will likely consist, as always, of a Stalinist and a stand-up comedian. However, the Kremlin’s gravy train is increasingly shaky, a renewed economic crisis seriously threatens the regime, and the factions within the Kremlin could prove harder to maintain under a united front. Putin’s reign-for-life, which I’m sure he’d like, could prove harder to maintain. But it’s unlikely he’ll leave by his own will, rather he’ll be forced out or his regime will trickle out once he disappears somehow.

ER’s vote was probably boosted through rigging by anywhere between 10 and 20%. Its real support is probably something like 30-35% at most. Again, there was much regional variation in the rigging and results. Northern European Russia around St. Petersburg and Karelia proved, probably, to have the ‘fairest’ process. In sharp contrast, Ramzan Kadyrov proved again that while he’s good at rigging, he’s hardly subtle about it. ER won 99.48% of the vote in Chechnya, although turnout was shockingly and dangerously low at 93.31%. Make a better effort in March, Ramzan! ER also won 91.62% in Mordovia, 91.44% in Dagestan, 90.96% in Ingushetia, 89.84% in Karachay-Cherkessia and 85.29% in Tuva. These are also the regions which saw some of the heaviest turnouts, proving that, in Russia, high turnout=vote fraud. In contrast, turnout was pretty low (often below 50%) in places where ER didn’t do “as well”.

Most of the places where ER did well tend to be autonomous republics, and by consequence tend to have a large ethnic minority population.  These places receive the most pork from the gravy train, their bosses are probably quite powerful on the ground and have tons of powers to do what they want with the elections. Two other places where ER did particularly well have benefited from the gravy train: Chukotka, the uber-remote Siberian wasteland which used to be run by Roman Abramovich and Yamalo-Nenetsia, where Gazprom is huge.

There was also some major vote fraud in Moscow City, where ER is claimed to have won 46% against 19% for the KPRF. In this case, the city’s new mayor Sergey Sobyanin is likely out to prove himself to the Kremlin as a good election manager. In contrast, ER won just 32.8% in Moscow oblast, which surrounds the city. An exit poll in Moscow had placed ER at 27.5% against 25.5% for the KPRF, with Yabloko winning 16%; but conveniently all traces of that exit poll were erased from the internets.

Slovenia 2011

Legislative elections were held in Slovenia on December 4, 2011. All 90 members of Slovenia’s National Assembly were up for reelection. 88 members of the National Assembly are elected by party-list PR with a 4% threshold, while two seats are constitutionally reserved for the Italian and Hungarian ethnic minorities. Those members are elected by Borda count.

This snap election came after a September 20 vote of no-confidence in Prime Minister Borut Pahor’s Social Democratic (SD) government. Pahor’s SD had won the 2008 legislative elections and had formed a coalition with the social liberal Zares, Liberal Democracy (LDS) and the Pensioners Party (DeSUS). DeSUS left the government in April and Zares left the government in July, placing Pahor’s cabinet in minority.

Like most post-communist states, Slovene politics could still be considered in a state of flux. Following independence, the country was more or less dominated until 2004 by the LDS, led by Janez Drnovšek for most of that time. In 2004, the LDS was defeated by Janez Janša’s conservative Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS), which had originally been a moderate social democratic party (known as the Social Democratic Party) but which had shifted to the right pretty dramatically under Janša’s leadership. Following its defeat, LDS disintegrated into factional warfare which strengthened the hand of the Social Democrats (the reformed ex-communists), led by Borut Pahor who had taken the SDs on a moderate, pragmatic progressive path abandoning the more hard-line left-wing positions of the past. In 2008, Pahor defeated Janša and formed a coalition with Zares, a social liberal splinter of LDS led by Gregor Golobič, LDS and DeSUS (which had also been in Janša’s right-wing government).

The main opposition is the SDS, led by Janša, who has been hurt since 2008 by a bribery scandal in which he is accussed of having received bribes from a Finnish weapons company. Besides the SDS, the other parties on the right is the agrarian conservative Slovenian People’s Party (SLS), the conservative New Slovenia (NSi) and the far-right Slovenian National Party (SNS).

With the 2008 elections, we could have thought that Slovenian politics would realign and stabilize around a left-right system opposing SD and SDS, with a smaller centrist liberal faction including a much-weakened LDS and a rump of parties to SDS’s right. The 2009 EU elections seemed to confirm that, although SD with some 19% had done quite poorly compared to a year prior (30%). Apparently that was not quite the case. Pahor’s government has been faced by the economic crisis, which has affected Slovenia pretty badly. Economic growth was just 1.2% in 2010, after receding by 7.8% in 2009. Unemployment is 12%, and the country’s debt has gone from 23% to 43% in the space of two years. Pahor’s government has struggled in the face of the country’s battered economy and a turbulent government hurt by corruption allegations involving the leaders of Zares and LDS. In June, the government lost a referendum on pension reforms which would have increased the retirement age to 65.

The opposition SDS remained ahead in the polls for 2011 and the bulk of the campaign, with Janša apparently unscarred by the corruption cases. SDS promised ‘urgent austerity’ including public spending cuts, tax breaks and pension reform. The campaign was marked by two new parties. The first one is Positive Slovenia (LZJ-PS) led by Ljubljana mayor Zoran Janković, who is considered centre-left. His party promises a ‘a safe and successful welfare state’, which he says entails a balanced budget, 4% economic growth, tax cuts for job-creating investments and a 1% hike in the VAT to 21%. The other new party was Gregor Virant’s Civic List, led by former cabinet minister Gregor Virant. Virant focuses on trimming the state at all levels, reducing public expenditure in an ‘intelligent way’, fighting red-tape and white-collar crime and developing e-government.

Turnout was 64.83%, up insigificantly from 2008.

LZJ-PS 28.53% (+28.53%) winning 28 seats (+28)
SDS 26.24% (-3.02%) winning 26 seats (-2)
SD 10.5% (-19.95%) winning 10 seats (-19)
LGV 8.41% (+8.41%) winning 8 seats (+8)
DeSUS 6.99% (-0.46%) winning 6 seats (-1)
SLS 6.89% (+1.68%) winning 6 seats (-1)
NSi 4.8% (+1.4%) winning 4 seats (+4)
SNS 1.8% (-3.6%) winning 0 seats (-5)
LDS 1.46% (-3.75%) winning 0 seats (-5)
TRS 1.21% (+1.21%) winning 0 seats (nc)
SMS 0.85% (+0.85%) winning 0 seats (nc)
Zares 0.65% (-8.72%) winning 0 seats (-9)
All others under 0.65% (+2 ethnic minority members)

I have a hard time recalling an election which was so surprisingly unexpected in its outcome. All the final polls and most observers had predicted, based on those polls, that SDS would win pretty easily with up to 30% of the vote with Zoran Janković’s party placing in a more or less strong second behind SDS. In reality, LZJ-PS surged pretty much out of nowhere on election day to win a plurality and beat SDS for first place. My uninformed first hunch would be that SDS was hurt more than expected by the Janša-Patria scandal, though I have no idea how true that is.

LZJ-PS pretty much replaced Pahor’s Social Democrats as the main force on the left and they probably took most of those 20% who had voted SD in 2008 but abandoned the sinking ship this year. Rather unsurprisingly, they did best where SD had done best in 2008 (the map has an amusing east-west divide, masking in part a more marked rural-urban divide). They also took some significant support from Zares and maybe LDS, although part of the liberal vote also flowed in part to Virant’s new party. Zoran Janković also benefited from both his wealth and his popularity, especially in Ljubljana. He seems to represent a popular disillusion with both Pahor and Janša, the two main political leaders in the country since 2004. A good number of Slovenians no longer seem to trust either of them in the wake of the economic crisis. A lot of LZJ-PS’ victory by a narrow margin over the SDS probably hinged quite heavily on the Slovenian capital, where LZJ-PS did very well (about 40%) and where turnout was also heaviest.

The governing parties, except DeSUS (probably a sign of the party’s stable core electorate) all took a thumping. The Social Democrats, which had more or less given up, managed to only take a thumping instead of an avalanche wipe off the face of the earth as earlier polls had predicted. They’re now, more or less, back at their original levels of the 1990s as the post-communist party. Zares, which was wiped off the map very badly, has been in free fall since 2009 when the party’s leader Gregor Golobič was involved in a scandal concerning his investments in a company. A shift towards some type of progressive left party on its part did not solve matters. The LDS, whose leader is also involved in a corruption case, could be considered as dead after failing to stop its ongoing bleeding since 2004. The far-right, interestingly, was also wiped off.

Zoran Janković will have to abandon his mayoral office if he is to become Prime Minister. At any rate, the poor relations between Janković and Janša seems to preclude any grand coalition of LZJ and SDS. A coalition with SD falls short of a majority, and a LZJ-SD-Pensioners coalition is also short. Only some of sort of coalition with SD and Virant’s party could feasibly work out, but I have no ideas if such an option is realistic. Fresh elections should not be ruled out.

I hope to have finished posts on Croatia, Russia, Egypt and a by-election in Quebec (Bonaventure) by the end of the week, time depending.

Guyana 2011

Legislative elections were held in Guyana on November 28, 2011. All 65 seats in the National Assembly were up for election. The South American country’s unicameral legislature has 40 members elected through party-list PR in a national constituency and 25 members elected through party-list PR in geographic constituencies The head of state, the President, is responsible for appointing the Prime Minister and cabinet. Each party list must nominate a candidate who will become President (automatically, it seems) if that party wins the most seats in Parliament. The President can dissolve Parliament, but there are little grounds for Parliament to remove the President (mental incapacity and major violations of the constitution). The President is not a member of the National Assembly, though the Prime Minister is. Like in presidential regimes, the President is both head of state and government.

Guyana is a little-known country with a very interesting history and politics which are well worth following if you’re interested in ‘ethnicized politics’. Guyanese politics are centered around race and ethnicity. The country, which became independent of the UK in 1966 and a republic in 1970, is dominated by two major ethnic groups: Indo-Guyanese and Afro-Guyanese. Indo-Guyanese are of East Indian descent and were brought to Guyana to work as indentured servants on sugar plantations in rural areas following the abolition of slavery. They make up 43.5% of the population. Afro-Guyanese, 30% of the population, are of Black African descent and are the descendants of the first slaves brought to Guyana, but in the twentieth century they migrated to urban areas where they now make up a majority of the population. In the past, Afro-Guyanese – especially mulattoes – formed the economic elite of the country in the urban areas, but there is now a large Indo-Guyanese middle-class although they remain largely rural (meaning in this sense ‘coastal’ more than ‘in the bush’) in their settlement. 16.7% are of mixed race and 9.2% and indigenous Native Americans.

Race has really defined politics since the late 1950s. The socialist nationalist People’s Progressive Party (PPP) was born as a multi-ethnic party led by Linden Burnham (black) and Cheddi Jagan (Indian), but by 1957 it split into two racially-defined parties led by one of the two dominant personalities of the era: the Burnham PPP became the People’s National Congress (PNC) while the Jagan PPP remained known as the PPP. Burnham originally moved to the right and abandoned Marxist rhetoric in favour of racial rhetoric against Jagan, who led the left-wing faction of the PPP. Burnham’s PNC won the 1964 elections and seized power to rule until 1992. Under Burnham, Guyana turned more and more into a single-party socialist regime. Electoral fraud was rampant, providing the PNC with huge majorities. The state and PNC became synonyms, and intimidation of Indo-Guyanese became widespread. As the economy collapsed and Burnham died in 1985, his successor Desmond Hoyte was forced to abandon socialist policies and democratize the system. Jagan’s PPP won the free 1992 elections. Following his death in 1997, it was his white US-born widow Janet Jagan who became President, ruling until she resigned in favour of Finance Minister Bharrat Jagdeo who has ruled since 1999. Reelected in 2006, Jagdeo’s government has been fairly popular because of his social policies and a fiscal reform. Jagdeo retired this year in favour of Donald Ramotar.

The opposition includes the PNC, which in this election ran as the “A Partnership for National Unity” (APNU) alliance with smaller parties. Its base remains largely Afro-Guyanese (by consequence urban), and its presidential candidate is Afro-Guyanese. The largest non-ethnic party is the Alliance for Change, which urges voters to “vote for change, not race”. Its candidate is Indo-Guyanese. The United Force (TUF) is a small right-wing party. There appears to be some unofficial rule that the two main racial groups will split the two offices: the current President is Indo-Guyanese, but the Prime Minister is Afro-Guyanese. The APNU’s presidential candidate is black, but his PM candidate is Indian.

PPP 48.6% (-5.73%) winning 32 seats (-4)
APNU 40.81% (+5.35%) winning 26 seats (+3)
AFC 10.32% (+2.15%) winning 7 seats (+2)
TUF 0.26% (-0.61%) winning 0 seats (-1)

Without much surprise, the PPP was returned to office and Ramotar was elected President although the PPP now falls short of an overall majority like in 1997. The election seems to have gone off without too many problems, there was no ethnic violence reported after the results were announced.

The geographical distribution of the votes is pretty much in line with the ethnic distribution. Those regions with heavy Indian majorities (along the coast and the border with Suriname) voted heavily for the PPP, while the urban regions of Georgetown and Linden – the two where Afro-Guyanese form the majority – remained loyal to the APNU/PNC. The more random distribution is that of the Amerindian vote. Barima-Waini (region 1) has a 62% Amerindian majority and voted heavily PPP. Cuyuni-Mazaruni (region 7), which is 42% Amerindian, 38% mixed and 11% African voted PNC. Potaro-Siparuni (region 8), which is 76% Amerindian voted for the AFC. But Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo (region 9), which is 89% Amerindian, voted PPP.

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