Monthly Archives: December 2012

South Korea (President) 2012

Presidential elections were held in South Korea (Republic of Korea) on December 19, 2012. The President is directly elected to a non-renewable five-year term through a FPTP system. In the South Korean system, the President – as head of state and chief executive – holds the key powers. As a result, the presidential election is often the closely watched election in South Korea.

South Korea’s contemporary politics are heavily influenced by two factors rooted in the country’s recent political history: military rule and regionalism. Between 1962 and 1992, South Korea was ruled by the military, and alternated between authoritarian periods and semi-democratic openings. Between 1962 and 1979, under the presidency of Park Chung-hee, South Korea experienced a period of rapid economic growth which transformed the poor country into an advanced industrialized economy. In this period, South Korea’s economic structure began being marked by the chaebol structures – large industrial conglomerates which ran the country’s economy through a close alliance with the state. The rapid economic development of the country thanks to Korean state capitalism remains Park’s main achievement, but he remains a very controversial figure in Korea because of his authoritarianism. Economic development, indeed, went hand-in-hand with draconian repression of the opposition (students, intellectuals and unionized labour) and an authoritarian political system rigged in favour of Park’s party and the military. At the same time, Park’s regime laid the foundations of regionalism in South Korean politics, which is one of the most surprising aspects of politics in a fairly homogeneous country. Park, a native of Gyeongsang province (Daegu and Busan), led policies which heavily favoured his native province over Jeolla, the native province of his top political rival Kim Dae-jung and historically sidelined by political elites. A wave of opposition and the risk of losing Washington’s crucial political support led Park’s secret services, the KCIA, to turn against him and assassinate him.

Out of the chaos which followed Park’s death, another military officer from Gyeongsang, Chun Doo-hwan, seized power. Chun quickly asserted his power by setting up his own dictatorial regime, arresting opponents and bloodily putting down a revolt in Gwangju (Jeolla). With the backing of US President Ronald Reagan, the country’s economy continued to grow at a rapid pace during the 1980s, but opposition movements gained strength, to which Chun responded by an eclectic policy of political reforms mixed in with good ole repression. In 1987, Chun and his handpicked successor – another military officer from Gyeongsang, Roh Tae-woo, were forced to agree to the direct election of the President in 1987. That year, Roh, the candidate of Chun’s incumbent right-wing Democratic Justice Party, was elected president over an opposition divided between Busan native Kim Young San and Jeolla native Kim Dae-jung. Roh’s administration slowly democratized the system, but with the unfortunate backdrop of corruption, regional discrimination, economic decline and associated labour unrest. Prior to the 1992 election, Kim Young Sam had merged his party with Roh’s party, and had in the process managed to take control of the party to run against Kim Dae-jung in the 1992 election, which was disturbed the emergence of a populist centrist force led by Hyundai patriarch Chung Ju-yung. Kim Young Sam defeated the other Kim in the 1992 election, with the results revealing – once again – a deep regional divide between Jeolla and Gyeongsang.

Kim Young Sam’s presidency, disturbed at the end by the Asian financial crisis of 1997, marked the end of military rule in the country. Kim Young Sam proved to be the Trojan Horse who took control of the military-led Korean right to destroy it from within, which he did through the arrest and conviction of both of his predecessors in an ambitious and ultimately successful anti-corruption campaign. However, the economic crisis in Korea in 1997 hurt his party – now styled the Grand National Party (GNP) – in the 1997 elections which were narrowly won by Kim Dae-jung.

Kim Dae-jung, who became the first “liberal” president of the country – the opposition to the Korean right/military has largely been styled as liberal (which means slightly different things in Korea) – had a succesful presidency marked by economic growth, economic reforms aimed at breaking the chaebols power and a new policy of détente with North Korea (the Sunshine Policy). In 2002, he was succeeded by Roh Moo-hyun, whose presidency might be one of the most controversial in South Korea’s post-military history. The GNP led a futile charge for his impeachment in 2004 while backfired on them, while his economic policies in a period of less impressive economic numbers and growth attracted criticism. He also faced allegations of corruption (which led to his party’s collapse and later his own suicide in 2009) and incompetence.

Roh was succeeded by another controversial figure, Lee Myung-bak, the GNP candidate who won the 2007 election by a landslide over a discredited and unpopular liberal government. Already in hot water before his election for involvement in a scam by an investment house, Lee has been a polarizing figure. His opponents decry his authoritarian style, his economic policies which they claim are too favourable to big business and the chaebols, as well as a controversial free trade agreement with the United States. Lee has also led a more stridently pro-American foreign policy, and has shifted gears in relations with the North by adopting a more confrontational posture than the controversial Sunshine Policy of past liberal government. Lee had also struggled with a divided right – in 2007, he faced a dissident candidacy by former two-time GNP presidential candidate Lee Hoi-chang who founded his own party, the Liberty Forward Party (LFP) – but also a divided party. Lee’s loyalists have battled with members closer to Park Geun-hye, the daughter of former dictator Park Chung-hee, herself defeated by Lee in the 2007 GNP primaries.

In legislative elections held in April, the GNP – renamed and rebranded as the Saenuri Party and led by Park Geun-hye – managed a surprising victory over the liberal opposition, now known as the Democratic United Party (DUP). The Saenuri Party, which under Park’s leadership distanced itself from the unpopular President, won 152 seats to the DUP’s 127 seats.

As noted then, the legislative election foreshadowed the presidential election. Park Geun-hye, who had lost the 2007 GNP primary by a hair to Lee, had been working to gain control of Lee’s party ever since then and positioning herself for the presidency since 2008. In 2011, she gained control of the GNP and promptly rebranded it (quite successfully) as the Saenuri Party. She then proceeded to move the party towards the centre and distancing herself from the Blue House (the President’s residence) – notably on economic issues where the Korean right has naturally leaned towards a pro-business and pro-chaebol stance. Her presidential ambitions and political shift away from Lee and towards the centre have incensed some within her party, but after her party’s surprising victory in the April legislative elections, most of her internal opposition was silenced and humbled. She handily won the Saenuri primaries, with about 84% support.

Park’s somewhat unique personal history as the daughter of a dictator who served as First Lady under her father’s administration (between 1974 and 1979) following her mother’s assassination has been somewhat of an issue throughout her political career, but her family ties have not been untenable baggage. The liberal left, which opposed her father’s administration, has branded her as the daughter of a dictator. However, her father’s legacy is a divisive subject in Korea. The liberal left (and younger voters) widely loathes him and considers him a dictator who committed major human rights abuses, but the right (and older voters) is slightly more positive on his legacy, reminiscing the strong economic growth under his administration. Park recently apologized for atrocities and human rights violations under her father’s administration, but at no point in her career has she clearly disowned him and his legacy. During the primary campaign, she declined to state whether she considered the May 16, 1961 coup a coup or a necessary revolution to save the country. All in all, being the “daughter of a dictator” did not seriously hinder Park’s presidential ambitions – most Koreans do not consider her to be the “daughter of a dictator” or do not hold her father’s controversial presidency against her.

The presidential race was set on fire, late last year, by the potential independent candidacy of Ahn Cheol-soo, a 50-year old software engineer whose self-made businessman image and his outsider, nonpartisan political stance appealed to many voters – especially liberals and younger voters. Ahn had acted as a kingmaker in the October 2011 Seoul mayoral by-election, which was won by Park Won-soon, an independent backed by Ahn. Park defeated the GNP candidate in a major blow to the Blue House (Lee had been mayor of Seoul prior to becoming President).

The DUP candidate was Moon Jae-in, a lawyer and a chief of staff under the late President Roh’s administration. Roh left office with high disapproval ratings, dogged by accusations of corruption which ultimately led to his own suicide. Even within the DUP, Roh’s legacy remains a divisive issue. Moon struggled to emerge from Roh’s damaging shadow.

Park was the frontrunner in the campaign since 2008. The division of the opposition vote between the independent Ahn and the DUP’s Moon led to significant pressure for one of them to drop out in favour of the other. In late November, Ahn, who had announced his candidacy in September, announced that he was dropping out and endorsed Moon.

As in April, domestic issues rather than foreign policy were key issues in this election. As mentioned above, Lee’s policies have been decried by opponents as being too pro-business. He has been unable to live up to his “747″ economic promise (7% growth, per capita income of $40,000, 7th economy in the world). Instead, hit a bit by the economic crisis, the country has had slower growth (3.5%) and rising inflation (3%) and unemployment (4%). Voters are concerned by welfare programs and social services, which have forced both parties to tack a bit to the left.

Both candidates campaigned chiefly on the idea of “economic democratization”, that is breaking up the power and influence of the chaebols, South Korea’s industrial conglomerates which emerged during Park Chung-hee’s administration. Some sectors of the Korean right, which has traditionally been on good terms with the chaebols were alarmed by Park’s rhetoric during the legislative and presidential campaign, but her strategy proved successful in April and her campaign signaled that they would not turn back. Both candidates also spoke of expanding and strengthening the welfare state, to help those left behind by the past eras of development-at-all-costs.

Turnout was very high, at 75.8%. It was only a bit over 62% in the 2007 presidential election.

Park Geun-hye (Saenuri) 51.55%
Moon Jae-in (DUP) 48.02%
Kang Ji-won (Ind) 0.17%
Kim Soon-ja (Ind) 0.15%
Kim So-yeon (Ind) 0.05%
Park Jong-sun (Ind) 0.04%

The early favourite and the frontrunner, Park, won, becoming South Korea’s first woman President. Park’s victory is not all that much of a surprise, considering her frontrunner status since 2008 and most importantly throughout the actual campaign. Since taking the leadership of the South Korean right, she successfully managed to reincarnate her party, distance it from an unpopular outgoing administration and successfully steal the left’s advantage on hot-button issues such as economic inequality.

The high turnout level should have benefited Moon, and it could explain why he managed to come as close as he did. Moon and the DUP’s strongest base are young voters, who – as in any country – often drag their feet to the polls and need to be motivated by a successful campaign to actually turn out. However, the DUP and the liberals face a demographic problem. South Korea has a rapidly aging population, and older voters favoured Park. Older voters are more likely to have positive or nostalgic feelings about her father’s administration, they are a high-turnout demographic and they now make up an increasingly large segment of the electorate –  for the first time, more voters were above 50 than under 40.

The result is another blow to the DUP, which had already been rattled by its defeat in April. Moon did well, but he was unable to take all of Ahn’s potential support and recover adequately from Ahn’s challenge. Furthermore, elections fought on economic inequality have traditionally favoured the liberal left. Now, the DUP finds out that its traditional edge on that issue is gone.

Results of the 2012 South Korean presidential election by municipality/urban district (source: Wikipedia)

The election results revealed the deep influence of regionalism and regional polarization in modern South Korean politics. Regionalism and regional polarization has been an enduring element of South Korean politics since the 1970s. On the one hand, Moon won 92% in Gwangju, 86.3% in North Jeolla and 89.3% in South Jeolla. On the other hand, Park won 80% in Daegu, 80.8% in North Gyeongsang and 63% in South Gyeongsang. Moon also won Seoul, with a narrow majority (51.4%) while Park won the populous Gyeonggi province (surrounding Seoul) with 50.4%. She prevailed with 62% in Gangwon in northeastern Korea, won about 56% in North and South Chungcheong province, and took over 59% in Busan and Ulsan (two major cities in Gyeongsang region). The race was close in the urban areas of Incheon, Daejeon and Sejong (but Park won a narrow plurality in all of them).

The regional divide between Jeolla and Gyeongsang (particularly North Gyeongsang) thus endures. It is not a particularly emphatic favourite son vote even though Park herself was born in Daegu and her father was from North Gyeongsang; because Moon is from South Gyeongsang and represented Busan in the legislature. As explained above, the regional divide owes to a long-standing historical enmity between Jeolla and Gyeongsang which goes back to the Three Kingdoms Period (57-668 AD) when the kingdoms of Baekje (Jeolla) and Silla (Gyeongsang) fought for control of the southern Korean peninsula. The regional polarization was deepened following World War II, when South Korea’s dominant political elites (notably Park’s father) hailed from Gyeongsang and implemented economic and social policies which favoured Gyeongsang over Jeolla, which remained an underdeveloped poor backwater region with strong opposition sentiments (Kim Dae-jung was from Jeolla). The Gwangju Democratization Movement in the late 1980s, violently crushed by Chun Doo-hwan, crystallized this regional polarization.

The map to the right, shamelessly stolen from Wikipedia, highlights this deep regional polarization. Moon was also victorious in Seoul (with the exception of some affluent districts and suburbs of the city, most notably the now internationally-famous Gangnam district in Seoul). As a urban area with a strong industrial base (unions and the working-class usually lean towards the DUP or other left-wing parties) and a young population, Seoul has traditionally been a base of opposition to the authoritarian regimes and remains generally liberal-leaning.

Park will take office in February 2013. On terms of domestic policy, her campaign’s rhetoric and style differed fairly significantly from Lee’s policies, but it remains to be seen whether she will tack back to the right or if she will truly confront the chaebols and the cosy arrangements between conglomerate affiliates. In terms of foreign policy, she will pursue Lee’s pro-American policies and free trade agreements (notably with the US) while having few warm feelings for either China or Japan. She could adopt less confrontational policies in relations with North Korea, which have been frozen since Lee stated that he refused to be blackmailed by Pyongyang. She will certainly not return to the cozy détente “Sunshine Policy” pursued by the two past liberal Presidents (Kim Dae-jung and Roh) which Moon apparently wanted to return to, but she has vaguely promised to find a balance between Lee’s hard-line and the liberals’ dovish gestures.

Japan 2012

Legislative elections were held in Japan on December 16, 2012. All 480 members of the House of Representatives, the lower house of the Diet. The House of Representatives, with a two-thirds majority, can override the upper house’s veto on any piece of legislation. Japan uses a system of parallel voting in general elections. 300 of the 480 members are elected by FPTP in single-member constituencies, generally malapportioned in favour of rural areas while the other 180 seats are elected by party-list proportional representation in 11 electoral blocks. Unlike in Germany’s MMP system where the list seats serve to compensate disparities between vote share and seat share created by the single-member FPTP seats, in Japan’s parallel voting system the list seats merely proportionally reflect the vote shares on the list vote, which serves to magnify the effects of vote swings and allows parties to win large majorities. Until a 1994 reform of the electoral law, Japan used a system of single non-transferable vote (SNTV) in multi-member constituencies (which reflected the immediate post-war population distribution, so badly malapportioned in favour of rural areas) where voters had a single vote but 2 or more members were returned from a district. The SNTV system, still used for some local elections in Japan, created more proportional results and made it harder for parties to win crushing majorities on fairly small shares of the vote.

The 2009 election in Japan could have indicated a huge political realignment. The conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which had ruled Japan almost without interruption since its creation in 1955, suffered a crushing electoral defeat while the opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) swept to power with a huge two-thirds majority.

The LDP was founded in 1955 by the merger of two conservative parties, the Liberal Party and the Democratic Party. The party, generally conservative and anti-communist, governed Japan until the 1993 election, winning an absolute majority in every election until that point. The LDP dominated Japanese politics despite its decentralization, extreme factionalism, weak leadership and inner fragmentation. The LDP’s strength came from the corporatist-like “iron triangle” between the LDP, the professional bureaucracy and the upper echelons of big business. The LDP also maintained strong clientelistic relations with small businesses, farmers, construction workers and postmasters; alliances which proved electorally lucrative for the LDP in its rural strongholds. The conservative technocrats in the bureaucracy often led policy-making, with the input of the Diet and the LDP caucus/cabinet. The LDP’s corporatist association with big business did not provide votes, but it provided most of the private funding for the LDP, a factor which explains the deeply ingrained corruption and collusion which existed under successive LDP governments.

The elite bureaucracy implemented policies which allowed for rapid economic growth after the 1960s and resulted in a dramatic improvement in rural standards and income equality, even in rural areas.

The LDP’s policies were generally conservative, pro-American and pro-business but the party’s primary focus was to maintain and placate its key supporters rather than any conservative ideology. In its rural bases, competing LDP parliamentarians built strong local associations which channeled pork and other advantages to their constituents. Successive governments maintained their strong rural bases with sky-high import tariffs on rice, which kept the price of rice artificially higher than international prices.

The LDP, as mentioned above, was never a centralized party machine with strong leadership and internal cohesion; instead it was a fragmented and deeply factionalized party. Five major factions competed for power and the prime ministerial position within the LDP until the 1990s, with local parliamentarians eager to keep their seats under the SNTV system allying with factional bosses who provided them with funding for their personal local associations (the LDP had no party associations but rather candidate-centered personal associations) or gave them key party positions in return for their backing in internal leadership contests. One of the LDP’s most famous faction leaders and internal bosses was Kakuei Tanaka, who served as Prime Minister between 1972 and 1974 but who retained strong influence within the party afterwards, until Noboru Takeshita took control of Tanaka’s faction in the late 1980s.

As a fragmented and faction-driven party, policy making in LDP cabinets did not take place along traditional Westminster top-down lines but rather along collective, even bottom-up lines. Within the LDP, competing factions made for internal opposition and oversight of the Prime Minister. Factions sought to capitalize on any scandal or unpopular policy involving the Prime Minister, which then allowed them to push for the PM’s resignation.

Political and demographic changes in the country, compounded with several untenable corruption scandals involving key LDP bosses and unpopular decisions (including a consumption tax) led to the LDP’s “defeat” in the 1993 election. The LDP’s vote share fell by nearly ten points, and while it remained the most votes and seats (36.7% of the votes), it lost its overall majority for the first time since 1955 and allowed for a very disparate and directionless “eight-party alliance” to briefly take power. This multiparty coalition included new parties founded by LDP dissidents, most of them purportedly centrists and reformists. The largest of these LDP offshoots was the Japan Renewal Party, founded by Ichirō Ozawa, a former ally of Kakuei Tanaka who had found himself on the losing side of a factional fight with Keizo Obuchi and Ryutaro Hashimoto.

Dogged by internal divisions and personality squabbles, the first non-LDP multiparty government quickly dissolved and the LDP eventually regained the prime ministerial office in 1996. The multiparty coalition’s only achievement was an electoral reform which replaced the SNTV system with the current parallel voting system (though with more PR seats) and reapportioned single-member constituencies. The LDP returned to full power following the 1996 election. In that election, the traditional left-wing opposition to the LDP, formed by the Socialist Party (JSP) was replaced by the New Frontier Party, formed by several LDP offshoots including Ozawa’s party, and the Democratic Party (DPJ). The NFP, weakened by internal dissensions, dissolved in 1998.

In 2001, Junichiro Koizumi, an LDP reformist, replaced unpopular Prime Minister Yoshirō Mori as leader of the LDP. Koizumi’s accession represented the victory of an ambitious reformist faction in the LDP, which challenged the old guard and the vested interests in the LDP. Koizumi alienated several parts of the LDP coalition, notably postmasters after he privatized Japan Post. Koizumi’s reformist policies, at times, brought him closer to the opposition parties than to the old guard LDP factions.

In 2005, when several LDP parliamentarians rebelled against Koizumi’s postal privatization bill, he threw them out of the party and called a snap election. Most opposition factions besides the Communists and the remnants of the JSP (the SDP) had united in the DPJ by then, and in 2003 and 2004 had proven a serious threat to LDP dominance (the DPJ won the PR block vote in 2003). In 2005, however, with a Koizumi campaign focused on postal privatization and the need for change within the LDP, Koizumi was able to lead the LDP to a landslide victory over the DPJ. The LDP managed to obtain an historic three-fifths majority in the lower house. Particularly crucial to the LDP’s massive victory was their appeal to fickle and “floating” (the Japanese term for ‘swing voters’) urban voters in Tokyo or Osaka. In the past, the LDP had usually been weaker in urban areas.

An increasingly large number of Japanese voters are “floating voters” without strong partisan ties to either of the main parties (or the smaller parties). A lot of voters say that they remain undecided until the very last moment in any election, and the direction they break in often decides the winner or determines the strength of the winning party’s mandate. Urban areas are particularly fickle in this way, the LDP swept most of them in 2005 but they were decimated by the DPJ’s landslide in these same urban areas in the 2009 election. Rural areas have also slowly shifted away from their strong LDP partisan roots, because the LDP’s old patronage networks in rural Japan – fed by pork-barrel spending by local MPs and maintained by postmasters or farmers’ groups – has become increasingly anachronistic.

Koizumi’s retirement in 2006 precipitated the 2009 rout. He was succeeded by Shinzō Abe, a man on the party’s right with fairly nationalist views towards China and Japanese history. Abe’s term, which lasted only a year before he resigned because of his unpopularity (the LDP had been heavily defeated in upper house elections in 2007) and for health reasons, was widely described as disaster. He had chosen to focus on foreign issues rather than domestic policy and appeared to backtrack on Koizumi’s reformist agenda. Abe was replaced by the more centrist Yasuo Fukuda, who failed to reassert the reformist agenda and projected a boring image on TV. He too lasted less than a year, before resigning and being replaced by Tarō Asō, a nationalist on the LDP’s right. Unable to salvage the sinking vessel, Asō led the LDP to its worst ever electoral defeat in a snap election on August 30, 2009. Not only did the LDP fail to win the most votes and seats for the first time in its history, it won a mere 119 seats while the DPJ, led by Yukio Hatoyama, won a three-fifths majority similar to the outgoing LDP majority.

The LDP’s defeat was due in part to short-term factors, such as the country’s sluggish economy, high unemployment, Japan’s persistent deflation problem (ongoing since the 1990s bubble economy crash), a pensions records debacle, a series of hapless Prime Ministers who all lacked Koizumi’s special reformist appeal and a rebuilt opposition (in good part thanks to Ozawa, who had been forced to step down from the DPJ leadership a few months before the election because of a corruption scandal). Koizumi, by moving the party towards classical economics and free trade rather than staying true to the 55 System’s more statist patronage and corporatist policies, also had played a role in durably weakening the LDP’s rural networks which prior to the 1990s had provided the LDP with strong electoral support. But times had changed since then, the LDP’s old system of patronage and pork-barrel spending based on complex factional battles and competing networks of local rural parliamentarians became outdated. Modern electoral campaigns are won with policy proposals and clear(er) ideological directions, they are also won in the medias with telegenic charismatic leaders (like Koizumi).

The 2009 election and the LDP’s historic defeat was seen by many as a huge political realignment in Japan. Most questioned whether the LDP, as a factionalized and fragmented party with few major ideological preoccupations, would be able to survive such a defeat. However, the DPJ fell into the same vicious circle as the LDP, bumbling its way through and playing a game of musical chairs with Prime Ministers. Yukio Hatoyama, elected in August 2009, lasted less than a year in office, resigning in June 2010. Elected on a platform of breaking the old “iron triangle” and shifting Japanese foreign policy towards Asia rather than the United States, Hatoyama did not live up to the high expectations. The government waffled on the issue of the relocation of the American air base on Okinawa, after having promised during the campaign to close the base.

Hatoyama, who had won the DPJ’s presidency in mid-2009 with the support of Ichirō Ozawa, was quickly caught up by his mentor’s poisonous shadow. Ozawa had played a large role in rebuilding the demoralized and defeated DPJ after the disastrous 2005 election, turning the party into a strong, organized political machine capable of competing with the LDP and winning elections (which it did in 2007 and 2009). However, Ozawa is a controversial figure whose name has often come up in corruption scandals. Ozawa had the image of a young and ambitious reformist ready to go all-out against the LDP in 1993, but that aura has long disappeared. Ozawa now has the reputation of a power-hungry backroom party boss who wishes to turn the DPJ into his own personal machine, and organize it along the lines of the LDP under the ’55 System. After his resignation in May 2009, Ozawa kept pulling the strings with Hatoyama, who turned out to be Ozawa’s useful tool.

Caught up by a financing scandal of his own, Hatoyama resigned in June 2010, alongside Ozawa who resigned his position as secretary-general. After Hatoyama’s resignation, Ozawa lost control of the party. Naoto Kan, an Ozawa opponent, replaced Hatoyama just before the upper house elections in the summer of 2010. Kan squandered his honeymoon period with voters by announcing, just before the election, his intention to increase the consumption tax from 5% to 10%. He recovered, for a short while, some of his lost popularity after Kan defeated Ozawa in a regular DPJ presidential election in September. However, Kan’s popularity collapsed quickly thereafter. His government’s slow and tepid response to the March 2011 tsunami and the Fukushima nuclear disaster was much criticized, while the sluggish economy and the country’s huge public debt remained major issues. Kan, having hit rock-bottom and under pressure by the DPJ to quit, resigned in September 2012. He was succeeded by Yoshihiko Noda, another anti-Ozawa figure within the DPJ.

Noda’s popularity, like that of his two predecessors, quickly fell (though he remained marginally more popular than his two predecessors at the end). Similar to Kan, Noda is a technocratic figure whose focus seems to be on policy (even if they are unpopular) and reforms, and his government has led various technocratic reforms – such as the consumption tax hike – which aim to deal with some of the structural issues in Japan’s economy. However, Noda – like Kan and Hatoyama before him – is horrible at messaging and defending the government’s record.

Japanese politics in the past year have been focused around three issues: the consumption tax increase, nuclear energy and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade agreement.

The government claims that the consumption tax is key to cutting Japan’s public debt and funding rising welfare costs (in a rapidly aging country). The consumption tax hike has been a divisive and controversial issue within the DPJ and in Japanese politics in general. The LDP supported the consumption tax increase, but the party tried to play political games with the issue, associating its support for the tax bill to promises for a snap election. Noda bowed down to the LDP’s demands and promised a snap election in return for the passage of his bill. The Ozawa faction of the DPJ had rejected the consumption tax increase, largely because Ozawa’s interests seem to be his personal political career rather than policy or governance. Ozawa left the party with about 50 MPs in July.

The Fukushima nuclear disaster led to an outburst of anti-nuclear sentiments in public opinion. Nuclear energy provided about a quarter of Japan’s energy supplies in 2010 and there were 54 commercial reactors in operation before the disaster. In response to public opinion, the government announced plans to phase out nuclear energy and shut down the remaining reactors. However, pressured by business leaders who feared energy shortages, Noda approved the reopening of 2 reactors. The DPJ policy is to completely phase out nuclear power by 2030, the LDP claims the DPJ’s policy is irresponsible.

Noda has staked his political career on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a new free-trade framework between Asian-Pacific countries. The TPP would scrap tariffs and other trade barriers. While the business milieus are strongly supportive of the TPP, Japan’s heavily protected agricultural sectors opposes the TPP, fearing the effects of competition with big agricultural companies in the US.

Recently, a territorial dispute with China over the Senkaku islands, which is controlled by Japan but claimed by the PRC (as well as the ROC). The islands are strategically located, near major shipping routes, key fishing grounds and potential oil reserves. The Japanese government’s decision to purchase some of the islands from their private owner revived the dispute in September. China sent its navy into what Japan claims are its territorial waters. The incident, with sabre-rattling on both sides, has led to an escalation of tensions between Japan and China.

The DPJ has done a terrible job at defending its record in government. There are many grounds to call the DPJ’s performance disappointing, for sure, but the DPJ also has several sizable achievements. It introduced subsidies for young families, abolishedstate high school tuition fees, restored support for single mothers, extended unemployment insurance, introduced free services for low-income disabled people, and banned  age discrimination in the provision of medical care. However, its disappointing economic record likely prevailed in voters mind. Kan and Noda were more technocratic figures who focused on policies and reforms aimed at resolving some of Japan’s long-term economic problems – the high debt (236.6% of GDP in 2012!), an economy mired in recession or low-growth since the 1990s, an aging population incurring high pensions and welfare costs and a recurring deflation problem.

The Other Parties

Following the 2009 election, Sadakazu Tanigaki became the LDP leader. A fairly dull and boring old politician with a fairly unremarkable political career, his performance in opposition was mediocre. He constantly attempted to play political games with the government, most recently on the consumption tax which he criticized before acquiescing to it in return for a snap election before voting a censure motion in late August. In September, Tanigaki was replaced as LDP leader by former Prime Minister Shinzō Abe, whose last term in office is often viewed as disastrous.

The LDP and DPJ differed little on policy during the campaign. The LDP more or less supports the consumption tax hike, it would agree with the TPP if it could get some tariff exceptions for its old constituencies (farmers). They differed more on nuclear energy, where the LDP has deemed Noda’s policies to be irresponsible and says that it will make a decision later. Abe indicated that reviving the economy sapped by deflation would be his main priority. His economic policies are still vague, but the LDP wants the central bank to loosen monetary policy and it wants to inject money into the economy, notably through public works spending. A nationalist with a tendency to minimize or deny Japan’s wartime record (he denies the Rape of Nanjing, which is not an uncommon position on the right in Japan), he promises a more hawkish foreign policy – notably against China – and he might seek to revise Article 9 (the pacifist article) in Japan’s constitution.

The LDP’s traditionally is the New Komeito Party (NKP), a conservative party which is, unofficially, the political arm of the Nichiren Buddhist group Sōka Gakkai International. The NKP has a reputation as a fairly clean and non-corrupt party. The party, which usually has a fairly solid electoral base, suffered heavy loses (-10 seats) in the 2009 elections.

This electoral landscape was marked by several new political parties. The most important of these parties is the Japan Restoration Party (JRP), a right-wing/far-right party. The JRP was founded right before the election by the alliance of two parties – Osaka mayor Tōru Hashimoto’s Japan Restoration Association and Tokyo governor Shintarō Ishihara’s Sunrise Party (founded in 2010). Hashimoto, who served as governor of Osaka Prefecture between 2008 and 2011 and has been mayor of Osaka since then, has some very right-wing and nationalist views. He supports decentralization of powers to the regions, for example he wants to turn the consumption tax into a local tax administered by local governments. But he has some authoritarian penchants and openly said that Japan needs some kind of ‘dictatorship’. Shintarō Ishihara, the ex-LDP governor of Tokyo since 1999, holds similar nationalist and right-wing views. Like Hashimoto, he wants to scrap the pacifist Article 9 and he has a history of being aggressively anti-China (though he toned that down when he was invited to the Beijing Olympics in 2008). Ishihara at one point also openly said that women who live after they have given birth are “useless” and “committing a sin”.

Hashimoto and Ishihara are similar politicians, both are right-wing, nationalist and populist. Besides their penchant for controversy, both have been criticized as self-serving and supporting only what is politically expedient. Both of their parties merged in November, in the process both men dropped some of their policy disagreements: Hashimoto dropped his anti-nuclear positions, while Ishihara softened his opposition to the TPP. The JRP more or less supports the consumption tax, it is vague and ambivalent on nuclear power and is generally on the pro-TPP side of things. On foreign policy, the JRP is very hawkish. It would revise or scrap Article 9.

Divisions with the DPJ over the consumption tax, the TPP and even nuclear energy led several groups of DPJ parliamentarians to walk out of the party and form their own spin-off parties. In July, Ozawa and about 50 of his most loyal followers quit the DPJ, officially over Ozawa’s opposition to the consumption tax, the TPP and Noda’s more cautious nuclear policy. Ozawa and his followers founded an outfit called “People’s Life First”. The real reason for Ozawa’s split is likely that he is bitter that he has been sidelined by DPJ leaders and can no longer continue pulling the strings from behind.

Ozawa’s party, along with another DPJ splinters (the Kizuna Party, anti-nuclear and anti-TPP; plus the Tax Cuts Japan, anti-nuclear and anti-TPP), merged with the Tomorrow Party of Japan (TPJ), a new party led by Shiga Prefecture governor Yukiko Kada. The party has been called by some observers as ‘left-wing’, to the left of the DPJ. In reality, it is hard to assign an ideology to a fairly rag-tag bunch of third parties, especially one which includes Ozawa who has not held consistent policy views in decades. Such heterogeneous coalitions of competing third parties, all hoping to form some kind of “third pole” to the DPJ and LDP is not uncommon. The JRP isn’t the most ideologically consistent party, and Ozawa spent most of the summer and fall mulling over alliances with other third parties – the “Hashists”, Ishihara and other small parties. Either out of conviction or political expediency, the Tomorrow Party is the most anti-consumption tax, anti-nuclear and anti-TPP party.

The Your Party (YP) and the People’s New Party (PNP) are two more or less right-wing third parties founded by LDP breakaways. The YP, led by Yoshimi Watanabe, seems fairly ideologically consistent (a rarity with third parties): it is more or less libertarian, centre-right and reformist supporting lower taxes, free enterprise but opposing nuclear power. The PNP is a populist party founded back in 2005 by some anti-postal privatization LDP rebels. The PNP has now turned into an irrelevant close ally of the DPJ.

On the left, the Japanese Communist Party (JCP) has maintained a small and solid base of support in recent elections while the Social Democratic Party (SDP) are the disorganized remnants of the old JSP. The JCP is fairly moderate, having never really aligned with the Eastern Bloc. For example, the JCP is vaguely apathetic towards the Imperial Household, rather than opposed. The SDP, which has cooperated with the DPJ government, is not really ideologically distinguishable from the JCP (and is sometimes described as being to its left).

Turnout was 59.3%, the lowest turnout in a general election since the war. In 2009, 69.3% of voters had turned out, motivated by the chance to dump the LDP. The results are presented as follows: party – single-member (SM) constituency vote (%) – SM seats – block (PR) vote (%) – PR seats >> total seats. The total seat numbers are compared to standings at dissolution.

LDP 43.01% (+4.33%) SM winning 237 SM seats — 27.79% (+1.03%) PR winning 57 PR seats >> 294 seats (+176)
DPJ 22.81% (-24.62%) SM winning 27 SM seats — 15.49% (-26.92%) PR winning 30 PR seats >> 57 seats (-173)
JRP 11.64% (+11.64%) SM winning 14 SM seats — 20.50% (+20.50%) PR winning 40 PR seats >> 54 seats (+43)
NKP 1.49% (+0.38%) SM winning 9 SM seats — 11.90% (+0.45%) PR winning 22 PR seats >> 31 seats (+10)
YP 4.71% (+3.84%) SM winning 4 SM seats — 8.77% (+4.5%) PR winning 14 PR seats >> 18 seats (+10)
TPJ 5.02% (+5.02%) SM winning 2 SM seats — 5.72% (+5.72%) PR winning 7 PR seats >> 9 seats (-52)
JCP 7.88% (+3.66%) SM winning 0 SM seats — 6.17% (-0.86%) PR winning 8 PR seats >> 8 seats (-1)
Independents 1.69% (-1.12%) SM winning 5 SM seats >> 5 seats (-4)
SDP 0.76% (-1.19%) SM winning 1 SM seat — 2.38% (-1.89%) PR winning 1 PR seat >> 2 seats (-3)
PNP 0.20% (-0.84%) SM winning 1 SM seat — 0.12% (-1.61%) PR winning 0 PR seats >> 1 seat (-3)
NPD 0.53% (+0.53%) SM winning 0 SM seats — 0.58% (-0.04%) PR winning 1 PR seat >> 1 seat (-2)
Others 0.38% (-1.51%) SM winning 0 SM seats — 0.89% (-0.6%) PR winning 0 seats >> 0 seats (-1)

LDP-NKP Coalition 44.49% (+4.65%) SM winning 246 SM seats — 39.69% (+1.43%) PR winning 79 PR seats >> 325 seats (+186)

The LDP (and its usual coalition ally in the NKP) won a huge victory, taking a two-thirds majority in the lower house of the Diet; a two-thirds majority which will allow the government to override the upper house, where the DPJ still retains a bare plurality until elections for half of the seats next summer. The LDP’s rather phenomenal victory is the mirror opposite of what happened in 2009 and is basically a carbon copy of Koizumi’s 2005 mandate for postal privatization.

However, even if the LDP-NKP won a two-thirds majority and a massive landslide, the LDP’s victory can ironically be described as being somewhat “underwhelming” and the result of a backlash against the governing party rather than any upsurge in the LDP’s support.

The size of the LDP’s victory was magnified by Japan’s parallel voting system, under which it is much easier to win large absolute majorities on fairly small shares of the popular vote (unlike the old SNTV systems) because the PR component does not balance and compensate the disparities between vote share and seat share created by the FPTP component (unlike in MMP systems like Germany). This system had allowed the LDP to win a two-thirds majority in 2005 before allowing the DPJ to get its own two-thirds majority in 2009. Similar to the winning parties in the last two elections, the LDP-NKP this year utterly demolished the DPJ and the other parties (including the JRP) in the single-member constituencies, taking all but 54 of the 300 single-member constituencies in Japan.

Results of the 2012 Japanese election (source: Wikipedia)

Excluding Osaka, where the JRP won 12 of the 19 seats in the prefecture because of mayor Tōru Hashimoto’s local popularity and strong political machine (which includes the governor of the prefecture), the LDP was dominant in nearly every other region in Japan. Hokkaido, which used to be a strong point for the DPJ, turned into a major bloodbath for the DPJ, hindered in part because of local divisions (the NPD, which includes local ex-DPJ rebels, was strong on the island). In the politically decisive urban battlegrounds – Tokyo, Kanagawa (Yokohama), Aichi (Nagoya) and Saitama – regions where the opposition parties had historically been strongest but which have become increasingly politically contested in recent years as most urban voters have become “floating” swing voters (which altogether make up about 40% of the electorate!), the LDP decimated the DPJ. In 2005, urban voters attracted to Koizumi’s reformist agenda had abandoned the DPJ (strong in urban areas in the 2003 election) and provided for the LDP’s massive landslide. In 2009, urban voters swung hard against the incumbent LDP government and they allowed the DPJ to carry a two-thirds majority. This year, these “floating” voters turned the DPJ’s defeat into a rout.

Therefore, as in 2005 and 2009, the winning party’s victory was magnified by the electoral system (and the heavy weight of FPTP in said system) and resulted in a huge majority in terms of actual seats.

The LDP’s landslide in the single-member seats and in the election overall is largely a reflection of a backlash against the DPJ rather than any upsurge in support for the LDP. Even Shinzō Abe, the new LDP Prime Minister, candidly recognized that his party’s victory was largely the result of anti-DPJ sentiments rather than support for the LDP.

The 2009 election, rather than being a realigning election as most observers initially hailed it as back then, was also a strong anti-incumbent election. In 2009, the DPJ’s landslide reflected the unpopularity and general haplessness (if not, according to many, outright incompetence) of the three successive LDP cabinets following Koizumi’s retirement in 2006. It was not a large electoral realignment as much as a large anti-incumbent swing. The optics of the LDP losing power in a monumental landslide blinded us to this fact in 2009.

The DPJ entered office with high expectations, fueled by its own rhetoric of wrestling power away from senior bureaucrats, breaking the old “iron triangle”, cut down pork-barrel spending, spend more on social services and “revolutionize” the old US-Japan alliance. Like so many Japanese governments in recent years, it did not live up to these expectations and it fell victim to that same vicious cycle which had destroyed Abe, Fukuda and Aso’s cabinets. The game of musical chairs continued, with the DPJ going through three successive Prime Ministers, none of them proving to be charismatic, inspiring popular leaders (like Koizumi was for the LDP).

In the ever-changing and unstable world of modern Japanese politics, the most durable and popular leaders are those who are able to get their message across, market themselves/their parties successfully and present a charismatic image in the medias. However, none of Japan’s last six Prime Ministers (since Koizumi retired in 2006) have fit the bill and their failures at messaging and marketing are part of the explanation for their decline in popularity. The consumption tax, TPP and nuclear energy have been controversial and divisive issues, but in every case the DPJ failed at taking the offensive on the issues, and was placed on the defensive and allowed itself to be outmaneuvered by the LDP or other parties and groups on those issues; even if ultimately the LDP had relatively little policy difference with the DPJ on issues such as the consumption tax.

To be sure, however, like the post-Koizumi LDP cabinets between 2006 and 2009, the DPJ cabinets since the 2009 election have also been hurt by other factors. The government’s economic record was mediocre, with Japan still mired in recession, low-growth and deflation. The DPJ also alienated many of its voters and part of its base by waffling and wobbling over the issues, most notably the question of the US military base on Okinawa, nuclear power or the consumption tax (the DPJ’s 2009 manifesto had opposed such a tax increase).

As a result, Japan’s “floating” voters who have swung wildly in the past six years were clearly unhappy with the unpopular DPJ government, and as a result they swung away from the party (rather than towards the LDP, actually) just like they had swung towards it in 2009.

The popular vote (particularly the PR block vote) shows how relatively unimpressive and “underwhelming” the LDP’s actual performance was. The LDP and NKP only minimally improved their share of the vote on the block vote, taking 36.7% together – up only 1.4% on their disastrous 2009 performance. This means that, with the obvious exception of 2009, this is the worst result for the LDP-NKP coalition. The LDP itself won only 27.8% of the list vote, although they did take 43% of the vote in the single-member constituencies.

The LDP’s victory, therefore, was basically entirely the product of the DPJ’s collapse. The DPJ won only 15.5% of the block vote, falling into third place behind the JRP, and only 22.8% of the FPTP vote. In the 2005 disaster, the DPJ had managed to hold 52 single-member seats (they won 113 seats overall, and 31% on the list vote). This year, the DPJ held only a mere 27 single-member seats. It was obliterated on Hokkaido, where the party had been strong, 2005 included. While Noda easily held his own seat in Chiba Prefecture, no less than eight cabinet ministers lost their seats altogether (constituency losers may sometimes survive by being ‘rescued’ on the list vote) including the finance minister (Koriki Jojima) and the chief cabinet secretary (Osamu Fujimura) and the internal affairs minister (Shinji Tarutoko). Former Prime Minister Naoto Kan lost his district seat in Tokyo but was rescued by the block vote.

The JRP performed rather well, placing second with 20.5% on the block vote. The core of its appeal, however, was concentrated in the Kinki region and specifically in Hashimoto’s political base in Osaka Prefecture. The JRP topped the vote in the Kinki block, with 31% of the list vote, and won the most seats (12 out of 19) in Osaka Prefecture. In the Tokyo block, where the party’s leader and outgoing governor Shintarō Ishihara was the top candidate on the list, the JRP won nearly 20% on the list vote. A finer analysis of the JRP’s results, however, shows that most of its gains likely came on the back of disgruntled DPJ voters. In single-member districts without a JRP candidate, the JRP’s list voters more often than not backed a non-LDP (often DPJ) candidate.

The JRP is thrust into a strong and potentially promising position, but one which at the same time can also be fairly dangerous for the party. On the one hand, with the DPJ having fallen into a state of utter disrepair (even worse than in 2005) and with questions about the DPJ’s future as a party being seriously posed, the JRP could profit from a DPJ collapse. But at the same time, the JRP is an unholy alliance of two ambitious and charismatic local political bosses (Hashimoto and Ishihara) who have a similar populist and nationalist political style but who also differ on some policy questions and could come to see their ambitions clash. During the campaign, internal divisions between the “Hashists” and Ishihara’s supporters had already come to light and weakened the party. Furthermore, many of the JRP’s new members are unknown quantities who have not really been vetted by the media and could hide a few skeletons of their own which will come to light later. If the DPJ is able to get its act together and reassemble itself – which is not an unreasonable idea despite its disastrous result (given how Japanese voters are notoriously swingy and given the historical presence of a left-of-centre opposition to the LDP since 1955) – the JRP could see its star fade. On the other hand, if the DPJ does collapse further, the JRP would be in a strong position to build itself on the ruins of the DPJ.

The other success of these elections was Yoshimi Watanabe’s Your Party, which had already done well in the 2010 upper house elections. The YP gained 10 seats and won 8.8% on the list vote, likely benefiting from its attractively populist platform and relative novelty.

The other major loser of the election, besides the DPJ, was the Tomorrow Party (TPJ), Governor Kada’s party which was basically co-opted by Ichirō Ozawa’s own party and transformed into a vaguely left-wing machine for Ozawa (Kada, for some weird reason, allowed herself and her party to be coopted by Ozawa and banked everything on his damaged goods figure). From a strong bench of 61 members in the old house, most of them from Ozawa’s old DPJ faction which had left the DPJ this summer, the TPJ was crushed and returned only 9 members. Following the election, all but one of the TPJ’s much-reduced caucus proceeded to abandon ship with Ozawa and create a new political faction, which might now rejoin the DPJ (the DPJ’s new leader, Banri Kaeida, is considered closer to Ozawa and was backed by Ozawa’s faction over Noda and others in the 2011 leadership election, placing second in the final ballot).

Ichirō Ozawa, once a strong political strategist and mastermind, badly misread the political situation and his own political future when he left the DPJ this summer. He is no longer the flamboyant and somewhat smug ex-LDP reformist that he was back in 1993, years of hounding by the media and prosecutors over corruption scandals and allegations have destroyed his political capital and turned him into a damaged goods figure. By and large, voters perceived the TPJ’s anti-nuclear (hence quite ‘green’), anti-TPP and anti-consumption tax as mere political expediency by Ozawa and his crowd.

On his own, without a strong political party, Ozawa was crushed. His political career is wrapping to a close. Kaieda may conceivably let Ozawa return to the DPJ, as part of the re-consolidation of the DPJ and the centre-left which seems crucial to the DPJ’s continued existence.

On the left, the JCP and SDP both lost seats. The disorganized SDP, which held one single-member seat (in Okinawa Prefecture) and saved one block seat, has fallen even further down and is now on life support. The JCP lost slightly on the list vote, falling to 6.2%; however, the JCP made significant gains in the single-member vote, where it had won only 4% in the 2009 election, victim of tactical voting by left-wing voters for the DPJ’s district candidates. This year, the absence of tactical voting on the left further weakened the DPJ and allowed the JCP to recoup loses on that front, receiving protest votes from left-wing voters in the FPTP districts.

The PNP, a anti-Koizumi LDP splinter turned into a very close DPJ ally, was obliterated, managing to win only a single district seat (actually a pick up from the LDP which had gained it from the PNP in an October 2012 by-election).

The LDP, like the proverbial phoenix rising from the flames, has reemerged from the 2009 disaster stronger than ever. Shinzō Abe, the new Prime Minister at the helm of a huge lower house supermajority, has a hawkish and nationalist reputation. His first stint in office, between 2006 and 2007, is widely seen as a disaster with ended with his resignation for a stress-related illness. During his term, he squandered most of his initial popularity by needlessly alienating China and South Korea and seemingly focusing on nationalistic rhetoric. He comes into office following a territorial dispute with China over the Senkaku island, which the LDP accused Noda’s DPJ of mismanaging and which might have inspired hawkish responses by Japanese voters which benefited the LDP.

Unlike in 2009, when the DPJ’s striking victory was greeted in Japan and abroad with widespread enthusiasm and excitement, little fanfare and no enthusiasm has accompanied the LDP’s return to power this year. Markets reacted favourably to Abe’s victory, but the bad taste left by his short term has worried others. While in opposition, the LDP did not chose to renew itself or find a new, charismatic and inspiring reformist leader (a la Koizumi) and instead stuck with the old guard and its old ways.

However, Abe has stated that his top focus would be the economy and Japan’s deflation problem. He wants to further loosen monetary policy, inject perhaps $120 billion in the economy in the form of public works spending (an LDP specialty) and actively pressure the Bank of Japan to set a hard target for inflation (at 2%) rather than its current loosely defined 1% inflation goal. The public works spending projects and a possible move to curb the central bank’s independence has ruffled feathers and was criticized by the other parties during the campaign. Abe’s finance minister will be another former LDP Prime Minister, Tarō Asō (who also had a hardline and nationalist reputation).

Abe will face conflicting pressure from various groups over economic policy and other hot-button issues such as the TPP. The business lobby strongly supports the TPP and would want Abe and the LDP to further deregulate the economy, but other LDP support bases – including farmers – oppose the TPP and economic deregulation.

The LDP will have to tread carefully between now and next summer, when it faces a first election with upper house elections (the DPJ still holds a bare plurality there). It will likely focus on the economy and lead a moderate course between now and the upper house elections, in the hope of conquering a plurality or majority there too.

While the LDP has returned to power, it is longer the unshakable political beast it was between 1955 and 1993. Japanese voters are no longer loyally drawn to any party, and constantly float between the various parties and since 2006 have proven more than ready to abandon a governing party in droves. If the LDP government(s?) turns out to be similar to the hapless, directionless and hopelessly divided DPJ and LDP governments which have ruled Japan since 2006, it could conceivably collapse back into opposition by the time of the next general election (by 2016).

Romania 2012

Legislative elections were held in Romania on December 9, 2012. All seats in the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate, which hold over 500 seats together, were up for reelection. Prior to 2003, the two houses held identical powers, since a constitutional reform in 2003 both houses still have to approve a law but each house has designated fields of policy over which it has the final decision. The bicameral system and the large size of the country’s Parliament are often subjects of political debate in Romania. In 2009, voters approved a proposal to adopt a unicameral system and reduce the number of MPs to a maximum of 300, but there does not seem to have been movement on that front since then.

Romania’s electoral system for both houses is infinitely confusing and complex, though luckily enough nobody in the world seems to understand it either. The Chamber of Deputies has 315 single-member constituencies (called ‘electoral colleges’) to begin with, with each county having a variable number of seats. The Senate is elected with the same electoral system, there are just fewer seats, starting off at 137 seats – with each county also having a variable number of seats. The Chamber of Deputies has seats for ‘national minorities’ (except the larger Hungarian minority), which are constitutionally reserved for them, but minority parties, from my understanding, still need to clear some sort of special threshold. In 2008, 18 minority parties won seats – representing Germans, Romas, Macedonians, Armenians, Bulgarians, Albanians, Jews, Tatars, Czechs/Slovaks, Russians/Lipovians, Serbs, Poles, Italians, Ukrainians, Turks, Croatians and Ruthenians.

From my understanding, voters cast their votes in single-member constituencies for the lower house and the upper house, like in an FPTP system. In a constituency where a candidate wins over 50% of the vote, he or she is automatically elected to represent that constituency in Parliament. For example, in Teleorman County this year (which has 6 constituencies), in all 6 seats a candidate was elected because they had won over 50% of the vote. But the Romanian electoral system includes an element of proportional representation (with a 5% threshold, higher for alliances). In each county, the county’s seats are distributed proportionally to parties based on their share of the vote (rounding down). In the of Teleorman County, even if the county’s 6 seats were all won outright, two other parties qualified for a seat each. In this case, the candidates who did not win over 50% of the votes are ordered by the number of raw votes they polled (this discriminates in favour of candidates in constituencies with more voters, even if they received a smaller percentage of the vote than a fellow candidate in a constituency with less voters). If a party is entitled to 3 seats, then the 3 candidates polling the most votes for that party are elected. In constituencies where no candidate won over 50% of the vote, there can only be one representative from the constituency in Parliament, so the candidate who polled the most votes does not necessarily get to win the seat. This was the case, among many others, in Arad County’s 5th district – a candidate won 49.2% but because his party had already gotten 3 seats off the bat by taking over 50% in those, he did not win his district because it was given to another party’s candidate who won 33.9% and the most raw votes of his party’s constituency candidates (and the party was entitled to 2 seats, so he got one of them). In cases like Teleorman County, however, the requirement for proportional representation still holds even if one party has won all seats. In this case, the number of seats for said county is automatically increased, so a single-member constituency may end up having 2 MPs. This is followed by a national redistribution process which I won’t even pretend to understand.

Get it? No, I don’t either. In fact, most voters in Romania probably don’t understand the system, and even parties might have a hard time explaining the weird intricacies of this system. The government passed a law to change the voting system to FPTP (with a small bonus for national minorities), but it was rejected by the President and the courts invalidated the law.

Romanian politics have become increasingly depressing in recent years, and most Romanians have become extremely cynical with their country’s politics. This, in good part, explains the huge decrease in voter turnout since the fall of communism, from about 80% in the first elections to barely below 40% in the most recent legislative election (in 2008). Political parties in Romania have become perceived as corrupt, opportunistic and power-hungry empty shells, devoid of ideology, running solely on the desire to take the reins of power and patronage for themselves. This has become exceptionally true this year, as I explained this summer when Romanians were called to vote on the impeachment of the President, Traian Băsescu. As I posted back then:

Since January, Romania has been rocked by major political instability. The country’s politics have been bitter and sulfurous since at least 2009, and at the root of it all is Băsescu himself. The President quickly alienated most of his former political allies after being elected to the presidency on a centre-right, anti-corruption platform in 2004. Băsescu has a very hot temper and is well known for his erratic and off-the-cuff style, which sometimes degenerates into foul-mouthed tirades against his opponents. He has not lived up to expectations on the matter of corruption, and he has been criticized for his authoritarian penchants.

Băsescu survived a first attempt by the opposition to impeach him on fairly flimsy grounds in 2007, when three-quarters of the 44% who turned out voted against removing him from office (even if the referendum had been valid – it had a 50% turnout threshold – Băsescu would not have been removed from office). Relations between Băsescu’s centre-right Democratic Liberal Party (PDL) and the opposition – both the Social Democrats (PSD) and the National Liberals (PNL) worsened following Băsescu’s narrow reelection in 2009 with only 50.3% of the votes in a disputed runoff election.

Romania is a semi-presidential republic, with the President holding responsibility over foreign affairs as well as the power to appoint judges or to delay legislation. Between 2008 and 2012, his Prime Minister was Emil Boc, a member of the PDL. Boc governed in coalition with the PSD until 2009, when his first government was taken down by a no-confidence motion backed by the PSD, the PNL and the Hungarian minority party (UDMR). Following Băsescu’s reelection, he renominated Boc instead of nominating a candidate backed by the three parties which had voted the no-confidence motion. However, Boc managed to obtain Parliament’s confidence in December 2009, thanks to the support of the UDMR and dissidents from the PSD.

In office, Boc wrestled with the economic crisis. Romania fell into recession in 2009 and again in 2010, and since then the country’s economic recovery has been slow. While Romania remains the second poorest country in the EU, its economic situation – in a comparative perspective – is not all that bad. However, in 2009 Romania received a $27 billion bailout from the IMF, which came with strings attached. The Boc government implemented and became extremely unpopular for austerity measures, including budget cuts, wage cuts in the public sector and a sales tax hike. The government is committed to reducing the country’s budgetary deficit from 4.4% of the GDP in 2011 to 1.9% this year.

The austerity measures associated with the PDL and Băsescu were extremely unpopular. Voters in the EU’s second poorest country were tired of tax hikes, wage cuts and decling public services; all with the backdrop of politicians and political parties which are widely seen as lining their pockets. Maybe austerity would have been better received if voters did not feel that their representatives were stealing their money. Several PDL politicians, including Băsescu himself, are suspected of corruption; but the opposition hardly has a better reputation. The PNL’s ranks include a corrupt oil magnate/billionaire, while the ex-communist PSD is seen as the epitome of the old corrupt clique – a coalition of old communist party bosses and security employees.

There were major protests earlier this year, which ultimately forced Boc to resign on February 6. A few days later, he was replaced by a cabinet led by Mihai Răzvan Ungureanu, a former boss of the foreign intelligence services. However, on April 27, his government was voted down by a motion of no-confidence backed by the opposition. In February 2011, the three main opposition parties (the ex-communist centre-left PSD, the liberal PNL and the small right-wing Conservative Party) formed an electoral coalition, the Social Liberal Union (USL).

Initially, in February, after Boc resigned, the leader of the PSD (and USL), 39-year old Victor Ponta, refused to become Prime Minister. However, after the Ungureanu cabinet fell, Băsescu was compelled to name Ponta, his top political rival, as Prime Minister. Romania was thus thrown into a French-like situation of cohabitation between an opposing President and government. However, unlike in France, Romanian politics – especially with a President like Băsescu who is known to be a prick – are far less consensual.

Since taking office, Ponta and Băsescu have been embroiled in a bloody schoolyard fight. Things got extremely ugly at the end of June, after the courts – which Ponta claims are stacked with Băsescu’s allies – found Ponta’s political mentor and former PSD Prime Minister Adrian Năstase guilty in a corruption and fraud case. It was after this incident that the Parliament voted to impeach the President, accusing him of using the secret services against political enemies, refusing to appoint cabinet ministers, trying to influence prosecutors in criminal cases and engaging in illegal phone tapping. Băsescu has flatly denied these allegations, and regardless of their veracity, the case for his impeachment is constitutionally flimsy and is definitely politically motivated. In this schoolyard brawl, Ponta’s allies claims that Băsescu struck back by leaking a plagiarism scandal in which Victor Ponta is accused of plagiarizing his doctoral thesis. Ponta had the commission in charge of academic integrity dissolved and has said that he will not resign regardless of what happens in this case.

After a fight with the courts and Băsescu over who from Ponta and Băsescu should have represented the country at a European summit, Ponta made his most controversial moves. He threatened to fire constitution court judges (he claims that they are Băsescu loyalists), fired and replaced the ombudsman with a party loyalist, seized control of the official journal and replaced the heads of both chambers of Parliament. These measures, which opponents claim are clear moves to weaken the country’s independent institutions, sent a chill down the spine of the European Commission and most EU grandees. The EU has struggled in the past year with the issue of Hungary – which presents a similar case of a European elected government disrespecting the rule of law and liberal democratic values. In Budapest, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán made controversial changes to the Hungarian constitution which has limited media freedoms and judicial freedom.

The EC issued a stark warning to the Romanian government in early July, and Germany’s Angela Merkel minced no words in condemning Ponta’s actions. The EC has debated which sanctions, if any, should be adopted against Romania. A freeze in EU transfers was seriously considered, but the crisis has likely derailed or at least significantly delayed Romanian attempts to join the Schengen area. Unlike Orbán however, Ponta has not been defiant of  European institutions and moved to soothe fears that he was staging something akin to a coup d’état. Ponta claimed that there had been misunderstandings, and reassured that he would withdraw his controversial laws if they were to cause any trouble for Romania in the EU.

In 2007, the previous referendum on Băsescu’s impeachment was deemed invalid because turnout was below the 50% threshold required to validate it. Ponta tried to remove this quorum and allow for the referendum to be valid even if less than 50% of voters turned out. After protests by the courts and the EU, he was forced to reinstate the turnout requirement. Băsescu, denouncing a constitutional coup d’état and a grave threat to democracy, called on his supporters to boycott the referendum (with the hope that less than 50% of voters would turn out and invalidate whatever the verdict was). However, Băsescu was far more popular in 2007 than he is today. Local elections held in June saw his party, the PDL, win only 15% of the vote against 49.7% for the USL.

In the end, however, Ponta and the USL lost their gamble. Even if those who turned out overwhelmingly approved the turnout fell short of the 50% threshold required for the referendum to be valid (it was 46.5%). Ponta argued that the court should validate the result anyway, but ultimately – as expected – the courts invalidated the results before turnout was below 50%. As I said back then, the referendum proved a no-win result which has only extended the schoolyard brawl between Ponta and Băsescu.

Romania has major economic problems. Most notably, the country took out a  €20 billion loan with the IMF and the EU, in exchange for austerity measures which Ponta and the USL are now pledging to roll back somewhat. The government must reduce the deficit to the 3% threshold (which it still seems a good way off from doing) and privatize some failing state companies. However, even if economic issues explain why Băsescu and his party have become so deeply unpopular, they did not really play a central role in the campaign. Once again, the campaign was marked by the subsequent acts in the Ponta-USL/Băsescu conflict. Both sides in the dispute appear more interested in the personal vendetta than actually governing the country, or when they do govern the country it is to shore up their own personal (or business) interests. For example, even if Ponta learned his lessons and shied away (somewhat) from overly controversial measures, his government recently rammed through a media bill which makes changes to the national council which regulates the mass media (considered as right-leaning); the bill seems destined at shoring up the business interests of one of the USL’s most prominent backers: Dan Voiculescu (the founder of the small ‘Conservative Party’), a former Securitate (communist secret police) informer and a media mogul behind two major TV channels in the country.

The USL is a big tent coalition of parties (or what passes as political parties) who are united by their common dislike (if not hatred) of Băsescu. It includes Ponta’s Social Democratic Party (PSD), the descendants of the old communist party; the purportedly liberal National Liberal Party (PNL), led by the President of the Senate Crin Antonescu (who served as interim President during the impeachment procedure); the small Conservative Party (PC), founded by Dan Voiculescu and the new National Union for the Progress of Romania (UNPR). All of these parties are widely regarded as corrupt, the PSD has often been described by its opponents as a corrupt coalition of old communist bosses and Securitate officials, with authoritarian leanings. The USL unites parties which all oppose Băsescu, but it is noteworthy to say that both the PSD and PNL at various times governed with Băsescu’s PDL.

The USL’s campaign promised to roll back some of the austerity policies and lower taxes. Notably, it wants to replace the country’s 16% flat tax with a graduated progressive income tax, reducing the VAT back down to 19% (Emil Boc’s government increased it to 24%) and increase the minimum wage from €154.70 (700 lei) to €265.4 (1200 lei) over four years. Ponta also signaled his intention to revise the constitution, notably to change Article 103 which sets out the procedure for the nomination of the Prime Minister.

Ponta enjoys, at best, very frosty relations with the EU. His government claims to be pro-European, but the PNL’s leader Crin Antonescu made some controversial nationalistic statements during the campaign, alleging that Băsescu’s right-wing allies in Europe (notably Merkel) were discussing plans to ‘federalize’ Romania and stating that Romania’s leaders would not be the ‘servants’ of EU institutions. The EU remains popular in Romania, but significantly less popular than it once was. The close alliance and association between prominent centre-right EU leaders (Angela Merkel), and the unpopular President and his austerity policies have hurt the EU’s image in the country.

Băsescu’s party, the PDL, attempted to rebrand itself. The party formed a coalition, known as the ‘Right Romania Alliance’ (ARD – Alianța România Dreaptă; from my understanding of Romanian the ‘dreaptă‘ probably refers to the concepts of righteousness, truth, fairness, straight like the word droit in France). The ARD was basically an attempt to rebrand the toxic PDL by creating a few sidekick parties (such as ‘Civic Force’, led by former Prime Minister Mihai Răzvan Ungureanu) for the purposes thereof.

The ARD, just like the USL, virulently attacked its opponents. Since Ponta came to power and started taking measures aimed at reducing the power of democratic institutions (such as the Constitutional Courts) which he didn’t like, Băsescu and his allies have claimed to be the defenders of Romanian democracy against a corrupt and authoritarian government (somewhat hypocritically, it’s not like the PDL doesn’t have any authoritarian or centralizing tendencies of its own when it is in power). The ARD’s platform included reducing the flat tax from 16% to 12%, increasing the minimum wage to 850 lei and a new law on healthcare. Earlier this year, when the PDL was still in power, the controversy sparked by a new healthcare law which opponents claimed was opening the way to privatizing healthcare led to major protests and badly hurt the PDL’s popularity.

During the campaign, Băsescu indicated that he would not appoint Ponta as PM again. He said that he wanted a ‘pro-European’ Prime Minister without ‘shady spots’ on his CV. Ponta, on the other hand, said that he was confident that Băsescu would appoint him again.

There was a new party on the scene, the People’s Party – Dan Diaconescu (PP-DD), which, as its name indicates, is led by Dan Diaconescu, a wealthy media magnate who owns one TV station and hosts a popular TV show. Backed by his personal wealth, Diaconescu’s party ran a populist campaign which included promises such as giving €20,000 to Romanians who start a business, raising all salaries and pensions and cutting salaries for MPs and top officials.

Turnout was 41.76%, slightly higher than in 2008 (around 39%) though of course still very low turnout, which reflects both the collapse of Băsescu’s party (many of his former voters not turning out this year) and the continued cynicism of most voters towards Romanian party politics.

The results were:

Chamber of Deputies

USL 58.61% (+6.95%) winning 273 seats (+94)
ARD 16.52% (-15.84%) winning 56 seats (-59)
PP-DD 13.98% (+13.98%) winning 47 seats (+47)
UDMR 5.15% (-1.02%) winning 18 seats (-4)
Minorities 2.6% (-0.85%) winning 18 seats (nc)
PRM 1.24% (-1.91%) winning 0 seats (nc)
PER 0.78% (+0.52%) winning 0 seats (nc)
PPMT 0.64% (+0.64%) winning 0 seats (nc)
Others 0.32% (-2.48%) winning 0 seats (nc)

Senate

USL 60.07% (+7.17%) winning 122 seats (+45)
ARD 16.72% (-16.85%) winning 24 seats (-27)
PP-DD 14.63% (+14.63%) winning 21 seats (+21)
UDMR 5.25% (-1.14%) winning 9 seats (nc)
PRM 1.47% (-2.1%) winning 0 seats (nc)
PER 0.78% (+0.09%) winning 0 seats (nc)
PPMT 0.79% (+0.79%) winning 0 seats (nc)
Others 0.2% (-2.63%) winning 0 seats (nc)

The results of this election could probably have been predicted months ago. Victor Ponta’s USL won a huge victory, a massive landslide which has given the coalition a two-thirds majority in both houses, which can allow them to amend the constitution (which they apparently wish to do). It is somewhat doubtful that a huge majority of the 42% of Romanians who bothered to vote voted for the USL because of its own policy proposals. Instead, the USL’s victory, which was one of the most predictable political events of the year, is the product of the President’s unpopularity and how his unpopularity (and that of the Boc governments until this year) have destroyed the PDL. The very tough austerity measures which Băsescu and Emil Boc implemented were unpopular, as was the PDL’s attempt at healthcare reform earlier this year.

The PDL’s last-ditch attempt at rebranding itself as the ‘ARD’ and creating various spinoff parties in the process went horribly wrong. Some voters did not recognize the name ‘ARD’, and the ARD led a very lackluster campaign which did not help matters. The result is that the PDL lost over half of its support from the 2008 election, apparently losing the most support with lower-income and middle-aged voters who flocked either to the USL or to Diaconescu’s new populist party. As mentioned above, other PDL voters did not vote at all.

The USL’s landslide and the quirks of Romania’s electoral system has increased the size of Parliament to a record-high 588 members. Because so many USL candidates in the Senate and in the Chamber won their constituencies outright with over 50% of the vote, the size of both houses increased pretty significantly. The Chamber has 412 seats and the Senate has 176 seats now. Romanians have tons of representatives, but not a lot of Romanians seem to care about their representatives. Deep cynicism has taken root in Romanian society, and citizens have given up on politics and focused on issues closer to them. Politicians are seen as corrupt power-hungry oligarchs squabbling amongst themselves for a share of the pie. Ponta and Băsescu’s behaviour in the last few months seem to have confirmed this view.

Where does this leave Băsescu and what does this result mean for Romania? After a huge defeat, Băsescu’s position is weaker than ever. His second term draws to a close only in December 2014, but many question whether Băsescu will be able to survive until then. He is extremely strong-will and vindictive, which makes it doubtful that he would resign before then. However, Ponta and the USL have often implied that a third impeachment procedure against him is not off the table. If Băsescu did fail to appoint Ponta as Prime Minister (which would probably be unconstitutional, as the President must appoint a PM candidate ‘as a result of his consultation with the party which has obtained absolute majority in Parliament’), the USL would probably waste no time in impeaching him again. One of the USL’s objectives is amending Article 103 of the constitution, which deals with the designation and confirmation of the PM by Parliament.

Many draw parallels between Victor Ponta’s government in Romania and Viktor Orbán in Hungary, whose government (with a similarly huge majority) managed a constitutional power-grab and has curbed the powers of independent institutions. However, the two cases are different and Ponta does not seem to be an authoritarian strongman a la Orbán. To begin with, the USL is a heterogeneous and disparate negative coalition built on common enmity towards Băsescu. On election night, Ponta indicated that he would like to form a coalition with the UDMR, a decision which had apparently not been discussed with or approved by the PNL’s leaders in the coalition. Crin Antonescu and other PNL leaders vocally criticized the decision to bring the UDMR into government (governing with an ethnic minority party is also another thing which the very nationalistic Orbán would never do). The governing coalition does not seem to be on the same page, which is hardly surprising given that little seems to unite the PSD and PNL besides a temporary agreement on dumping Băsescu and putting their hands on the state apparatus. Many are concerned that the USL will use its two-thirds majority to stage a constitutional power-grab like Orbán did in Budapest, but given that cracks between the PSD and PNL are already visible in the USL, will it really succeed in doing so?

The government’s cohesion will be tested by the tough economic and fiscal decisions which lie ahead of it. Some seem to think that Romania will need to seek another bailout from the IMF/EU, and it has to fulfill its obligations to these institutions on its current loans. The USL’s platform promised to tone down the austerity and cut taxes, but it would hardly be surprising if it did neither of those things.

Finally, Ponta does not seem to be of the same caliber as Orbán. At home, he does not seem to be perceived as an authoritarian strongman and he does not have the reputation of being a particularly strong leader. At the head of a disparate and diverse coalition, it is therefore doubtful – for now – that he will be able to go as far as Orbán has gone.

Ghana 2012

Presidential and parliamentary elections were held in Ghana on December 7, 2012. The President of Ghana, the country’s head of state, is elected for a four year term, renewable once. The unicameral Parliament, after this election, will have 275 members, 45 more than it currently does. They are elected in single-member constituencies by FPTP.

Ghana is a success story in a troubled and unstable region prone to political and ethnic violence, the most notable and recent example being Ghana’s unlucky western neighbor, Côte-d’Ivoire. Today, Ghana is regarded as a successful and stable democratic state with remarkably little violent ethnic conflict and a strong economy.

The former Gold Coast, one of Britain’s most cherished colonial possessions, was the first sub-Saharan colony to win independence in 1957. The country’s father of independence and head of state between 1957 and 1966 was Kwame Nkrumah, a figure who is widely known in the rest of Africa and recognized as a leader of the ‘pan-Africanist’ movement which sought African political unity. In power, Nkrumah grew authoritarian and followed a socialist and pro-Moscow policy which destroyed the country’s cocoa industry.

The period immediately prior to independence laid the bases of Ghana’s modern political system, which unlike in surrounding West African nations is much more ideological and less ethnic, even if it is still influenced by ethnic differences and tensions. In 1949, the pro-independence United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC) split after Nkrumah, an intellectual, founded his own party, the Convention People’s Party (CPP) on a more radical nationalist platform than the UGCC, perceived as closer to the colonial power. Indeed, Joseph B. Danquah’s UGCC was an elite group tied closely to the Ashanti ethnic group and Ashanti chiefs (the Ashanti in southern Ghana have tended to form the country’s economic elite and tend to be more educated and wealthier than other ethnic groups). Following independence, the ideological divide between Nkrumah’s pan-Africanist socialist CPP and Danquah’s UGCC (renamed NLM) continued; the NLM finding support in the Ashanti regions with cocoa growers, local chiefs and the elites.

Nkrumah was overthrown in a coup in 1966, which led to a period of political instability, economic chaos and military coups throughout the 1970s which lasted until 1981. In these years, Ghanaian politics was generally dominated by Nkrumah’s opponents who pursued a more conservative policy, closer to Washington and to the cocoa industry. Flight Lieutenant Jerry Rawlings led a successful coup in 1979, but Rawlings stepped down n favour of a democratically elected President, Hilla Limann, who professed to represent the inheritance of Nkrumah’s CPP. But facing social unrest, economic chaos and widespread discontent, Rawlings stepped back in, seizing power for himself in 1981.

Rawlings was authoritarian, but fairly ‘tame’ and moderate compared to other West African dictators of the era. At the outset, Rawlings made gestures towards the revolutionary Nkrumahists, but seeing the Nkrumahists as a threat to his power, he quickly sidelined them and successfully reshaped the ‘left’ (represented in the past by the Nkrumahists CPP) to his own mold. Rawlings was thus able to progressively replace Nkrumahism with his own brand of left-of-centre politics, which came to agreements with the Ashanti-dominated Danquah/Busia centre-right tradition on the need for structural adjustment, international openness and liberal economic policies.

After sidelining the revolutionary left and toning down his own revolutionary rhetoric, Rawlings moved towards a liberal economic policy and implemented structural adjustments recommended by the IMF and the World Bank. These policies were successful in restoring economic growth, and may eventually have promoted the move towards multi-party democracy in 1992.

The first free election since 1979 was held in 1992. Jerry Rawlings was the candidate of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), challenged by the National Patriotic Party (NPP), the latest incarnation of the country’s right-wing Danquah/Busia tradition and still largely dominated by Ashanti/Akan economic elites (while Rawlings found support with other groups, but most notably his own people – the Ewe in the Volta region bordering Togo). Rawlings won the first election, recognized by observers as free and fair, with 58% against 30% for the NPP and about 7% for former President Hilla Limann, standing on a Nkrumahist platform. Claiming the election was stolen, the NPP boycotted the subsequent parliamentary election.

The 1996 election confirmed the bipolarization of Ghanaian politics, with the progressive marginalization of the anti-system Nkrumahist left, which won only 3% of the vote in 1996 and whose decline was in part precipitated by its unnatural alliance with its historical rivals, the centre-right NPP. Rawlings won a second term with 57% of the vote in 1996. These second elections also consolidated multi-party democracy, with the entrance of the opposition into Parliament.

The 2000 election saw the peaceful transfer of power between the NDC and the NPP, a sign of the country’s matured democracy. John Kufuor of the NPP defeated John Atta-Mills of the NDC in a runoff election with 57% of the vote. In a 2004 rematch, Kufuor defeated Atta-Mills with 52.5% against 44% of the vote. Kufuor’s two terms were marked by rapid economic growth and low inflation, although poverty and political corruption remained major issues.

In 2008, the NDC’s John Atta-Mills narrowly defeated the NPP’s candidate, Nana Akufo-Addo (the son of a former president) in a closely fought election, prevailing with 50.2% in the runoff. Atta-Mills died on July 24 this year, at age 68. By his death, Atta-Mills had become fairly unpopular despite strong economic growth and record-low inflation because of corruption, the devaluation of the currency and new oil contracts in the country’s nascent oil industry which gave the government fewer royalties than before. Atta-Mills was succeeded by Vice President John Dramani Mahama.

After Atta-Mills’ death, Mahama replaced him as the NDC’s presidential candidate. Atta-Mills had defeated a primary challenge from Jerry Rawlings’ wife, Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings, late last year. The former president had his differences with Atta-Mills and was widely seen as being behind his wife’s candidacy, and later by his wife’s new splitoff political party. She had tried to run in this election, but her candidacy was rejected due to errors in her documentation. The NPP candidate was Nana Akufo-Addo, the party’s 2008 presidential candidate.

Turnout was 79.43%, much higher than in 2008. Results for the presidential race were:

John Dramani Mahama (NDC) 50.70%
Nana Akufo-Addo (NPP) 47.74%
Papa Kwesi Nduom (PPP) 0.59%
Henry Herbert Lartey (GCPP) 0.35%
Hassan Ayariga (PNC) 0.22%
Michael Abu Sakara Foster (CPP) 0.18%
Jacob Osei Yeboah (Ind) 0.14%
Akwasi Addai Odike (UFP) 0.08%

This website has presidential results by parliamentary constituency.

The parliamentary results do not seem to be finalized as of now, according to this website the NDC has 120 seats against 95 for the NPP as things currently stand.

Mahama prevailed in another closely fought election. However, Nana Akufo-Addo claims that glitches which prolonged voting allowed the incumbent government to tamper with the votes. He has refused to concede defeat, unlike after the 2008 election, and urged his supporters to take to the streets (although he will be contesting the result in courts, not through violence). But international observers say the vote was free and fair, and the few glitches along the way were not enough to change the result.

Mahama likely benefited from the remarkably smooth transition after Atta-Mills’ death in July, and perhaps from a lingering sympathy vote for the deceased president. In his campaign, he promised to tackle corruption – which is one of the biggest political issues in the country, reduce youth unemployment and use wealth generated by the new offshore oil industry to develop infrastructure. The NPP promised largely the same thing, albeit with a slightly more liberal bent than the social-democratic NDC.

Although Ghana’s politics are less ethnic than in other countries and elections are more complex than the ‘ethnic census’ elections in other West African countries (or even South Africa), ethnicity does remain a major factor. The NPP, heir of the Danquah/Busia right-wing tradition, is a predominantly Ashanti elite party which is led by Ashanti leaders and which finds its strongest support in the Ashanti/Akan regions of Ashanti, Brong-Ahafo or Eastern Region. It is also strong with the more educated and affluent sectors of Ghanaian society. Akufo-Addo won over 70% of the vote in the rural Ashanti constituencies of the Ashanti Region this year, and the NPP has been dominant in that region since 1992.

On the other hand, part of the NDC’s success in 2008 and again in 2012 lays with its ability to build a strong, multi-ethnic base of support. The NDC finds very strong support in the Volta Region, where it has consistently won over 80% of the vote since 1992. Rawlings was a native Ewe, an ethnic group which is split between Togo and Ghana and which has historically been quite opposed to the Ashanti elites in Accra ever since it voted against joining Ghana in 1956 (the Volta Region was British Togoland). Mahama himself is from the Northern Region, and Atta-Mills was from the southwest. The NDC has found strong support in these regions as well, including in the northern parts of the country which, like in the Côte-d’Ivoire are traditionally Muslim in contrast to the Christianized or animist south.

Although the opposition has not conceded defeat, this election confirmed Ghana as a bright spot in West Africa and a stable, democratic success story in Africa.

The disintegration of the French right? – UMP Congress 2012

What is happening to the French parliamentary right? The party congress of the main party of the right in France, Union for a Popular Movement (UMP), organized to elect a new leadership after Nicolas Sarkozy’s defeat in May, has triggered the first open internal conflict in the UMP since its foundation ten years ago and may yet lead to its disintegration in the near future.

The foreign press has touched on these events and the crisis of the right in France, but this post aims to provide a much more thorough analysis of the lead-up and background to the crisis, the chronology of the crisis and the future of the French right.

Background: The ‘Families’ of the Right

The Union for a Popular Movement (Union pour un mouvement populaire, UMP) was founded in 2002 with the aim of uniting the disparate forces of the right and centre-right in French politics and to provide then-President Jacques Chirac with a solid party machine. Until the creation of the UMP, the French right had been divided between various “families”.

Chirac, since 1976, had been the dominant figure of the neo-Gaullist family, organized in the Rally for the Republic (Rassemblement pour la République, RPR). The Gaullist movement, founded by General Charles de Gaulle, has seen its ideological direction change over the years as its self-proclaimed leaders reinvented Gaullism to their advantage and their liking  The original Gaullist movement had hoped to transcend the left-right cleavage, and to some extent it did because it attracted a fair number of left-wing Gaullists (Gaullistes de gauche) who came from the social-Christian tradition, the Radical Party or even the socialist tradition. However, by and large, Gaullism quickly became an ideology of the right; though it represented a brand of right-wing politics which is unique to France and rather different from the dominant conservative or liberal-conservative ideologies of other major right-wing parties in Europe. At its heart, Gaullism believes in the ‘greatness of France’ and from this observation stemmed its attachment to the independence of France – refusing its subordination to supranational organizations (EU, NATO), superpowers (the US and the USSR) and global economic powerhouses. Domestically, Gaullism supports a strong state, with a strong and stable executive branch playing a central role. Economically, traditional Gaullist dogma rejected economic liberalism and preferred an interventionist (dirigiste) state. It claimed to represent a third way to liberal capitalism and Marxist revolutionary socialism.

Gaullism retained its influence after de Gaulle’s resignation in 1969 and his death the following year, originally due to the leadership of his movement by his allies and lieutenants (Georges Pompidou, Pierre Messmer, Jacques Chaban-Delmas). In 1976, Chirac, a young Gaullist who had sunk Chaban-Delmas’ 1974 presidential candidacy in Giscard’s favour, managed to seize control of the Gaullist movement, create the RPR and transform the new RPR into his own personal machine. In the process, he sidelined the old guard. Chirac reinvented Gaullism several times, moving from his 70s reformist social democracy (the so-called travaillisme à la française) towards Chicago School monetarism (imitating Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher) and euroscepticism in the 1980s before shifting back leftwards after 1995, with his campaign theme of fracture sociale.

The Gaullist movement was never a homogeneous family. Internal divisions increased in the late 80s and throughout the 1990s, and while ideological direction differentiated some of the emergent factions, personality played a large role. In 1990, Chirac’s leadership (like that of Giscard in the UDF) faced challenges from a young generation of “renewers” (les rénovateurs) and then faced an organized opposition led by Philippe Séguin and Charles Pasqua – representing more orthodox and eurosceptic Gaullism – at a 1990 congress (the opposition won around 31%). In 1995, the RPR split between Chirac and Prime Minister Édouard Balladur ahead of the presidential election, and if Balladur’s unsuccessful presidential candidacy received most of its support from the UDF it also received support from certain non-aligned figures of the RPR, notably Sarkozy. In 1999, the first and only direct elections for the leadership of the RPR, Chirac’s candidate (Jean-Paul Delevoye) was defeated by Michèle Alliot-Marie, nowadays seen as one of the last standing chiraquiennes but in 1999 a non-aligned contender opposed to Chirac’s inner circle. In the first round, two other candidates had stood: François Fillon, a protégé of Séguin and the candidate of “social Gaullism” (a more centre-left faction hostile to neoliberalism and supranationalism and supportive of a stronger government defending the welfare state); and Patrick Devedjian (backed by Jean-François Copé), a balladurien from 1995 who represented the liberal and pro-European centre-right within the RPR.

Against Gaullism, the dominant family after 1981, stood other families: the Christian democrats or démocrates sociaux, the liberal “Orléaniste” right and the right-wing radical tradition. In 1978, these families united to form a broad decentralized party, the Union for French Democracy (Union pour la démocratie française, UDF), which included the Christian democratic CDS, the liberal PR and the right-wing Radical Party (PRV), among others.

The Christian democratic family finds its roots in the Catholic Church’s social teachings and it is the direct heir of the post-war Popular Republican Movement (MRP) and the distant heir of the pre-war social Christian tradition of Albert de Mun or the interwar PDP. The Christian democratic tradition actively supports European federalism. Leaders of this family included, at the outset, Jean Lecanuet, who was progressively replaced by a young generation led, most notably, by François Bayrou.

The liberal family, whose most notable leader was Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, finds its roots in the so-called Orleanist tradition of the right. As such, it represents an internationalist and pro-European brand of liberal-conservatism which actively supports economic liberalism, while also being fairly liberal on moral issues.

In his seminal work on the French right, René Rémond differentiated between the three main families of the right: the Bonapartist tradition, the Orleanist tradition and the legitimst tradition. The remnants of the legitimist tradition – ultra-conservative – are found outside the parliamentary right. Gaullism, with its populist appeal (notably through the active use of referendums to legitimate its power and policies) and authoritarian undertones (favouring a strong, centralized and executive-dominated state), represented the Bonapartist family. Liberalism, on the other hand, with its internationalist and economically liberal orientation, is the pure avatar of the Orleanist family. Furthermore, the liberals/Orleanists represent a more ‘elitist’ faction of the right, more reticent towards populist and plebiscitary appeals and more supportive of parliamentary government, a less centralized state and less dominant executive.

The right-wing radical tradition stems from the majority faction of the old Radical Party which did not support the Common Programme of the left in 1972. Born on the far-left in the 1870s, the Radical Party shifted towards the centre throughout the course of the Third and Fourth Republics. Within the right, the radical tradition is a fervent supporter of key radical principles such as separation of church and state and secularism, but also humanism and internationalism. The right-wing radical tradition supports economic liberalism, but less passionately than the liberals. They are the most liberal on moral issues, and they are strong supporters of European federalism.

Bayrou’s CDS, transformed into the ‘FD’ in 1995, took the leadership of the UDF in 1998. His centralist tendencies within the new party and his desire to create a UDF more independent vis-a-vis the RPR led to split in 1998, following the regional elections. Several liberal UDF regional presidents were reelected with the support of the far-right, which Bayrou refused. This event triggered the division of the UDF between Bayrou’s independent and centrist New UDF, and the liberal centre-right known as Démocratie libérale (DL). Bayrou’s aim of pushing the UDF away from the RPR was met with the disapproval of certain factions of the UDF, which remained true to the ‘presidential majority’ and supported closer cooperation with the RPR. In 2002, a minority of the UDF endorsed Chirac’s reelection bid by the first round over Bayrou’s candidacy (which took 6.8%). For the DL, Alain Madelin, the party’s leader, also ran (and won 3.9%); but a majority of the DL caucus endorsed Chirac by the first round.

Chirac’s reelection in special circumstances (against the far-right) and the need for him to win a majority in the legislative elections led to the creation of the UMP. Following the UMP’s success in the June 2002 legislative elections, the UMP was created as a formal political party. The RPR and DL dissolved into the UMP, while a majority of the UDF joined the new party, leaving Bayrou with a rump of 30 or so deputies loyal to his independent centrist strategy.

The Right’s Leadership

Despite its ideological diversity, the French right lacks a tradition of institutionalized/organized ideological debate and has always been marked by the leadership of strong personalities, all quite fond of ‘democratic centralism’. This differentiates the right from the left (particularly the Socialist Party, PS) which has a long tradition of organized internal debate in party congresses (through the votes on ‘motions’) and a reputation for open factionalism and consistent leadership intrigues. The French right is naturally inclined to a strong leader and in turn reticent towards any institutionalized or organized internal factions or movements, fearing that they could lead to internal conflict and factionalism like within the PS.

The neo-Gaullist/ex-RPR family, predominant within the UMP at the expense of the centrists or liberals, have the strongest tradition of strong leadership. Charles de Gaulle did not tolerate dissent and had the remarkable ability to play his potential rivals off one another and checking their individual ambitions. He was the uncontested leader of his movement, and the Gaullist parties – the UNR and UDR – were notorious for being empty shells which served as his personal vehicles. UNR/UDR deputies, under de Gaulle, had little autonomy and many of them were merely loyal party stalwarts. In 1976, when Chirac seized control of the Gaullist movement and created the RPR, he sidelined the old guard and quickly built up the RPR as a formidable political machine and personal political vehicle. Until the challenges from the rénovateurs and Pasqua-Séguin in 1990, the RPR’s sole raison-d’être was to advance its leaders political career and lifelong goal (winning the presidency). Jacques Chirac tolerated little organized dissent and he was quite vindictive towards those who crossed his path, often excluding them from power while rewarding loyal allies. The best example is, of course, Chirac’s relations with Sarkozy after Sarkozy endorsed Balladur in 1995. Even if he did keep some balladuriens within his cabinet after 1995, Sarkozy himself was pushed out and forced into the political wilderness until 1999 (and, following the rout of the Sarkozy-Madelin list in the Euros that year, until 2002). Even if he was forced to place Sarkozy, popular with the electorate and within the UMP, into senior cabinet positions, Chirac always refused to name Sarkozy as Prime Minister (which is what Mitterrand, finer that Chirac when it came to personal political vendettas, would have done to sink a rival).

The UDF, until 1998, was a decentralized coalition of separate, independent parties (CDS, PR etc) and thus lacked the RPR’s political strength. Yet, the UDF was also marked by strong leaders, even they were not as dominant as Chirac within the RPR or were more prone to internal squabbles. Giscard and later François Léotard predominated the PR, while Bayrou slowly asserted his control of the CDS/FD/New UDF beginning in 1994. The rénovateurs experience was not unique to the RPR: the original team, composed of 12 young ‘rising stars’, included 6 members of the RPR and 6 members of the UDF. The UDF’s six members opposed Giscard and the old guard’s leadership of the party.

As a parti de notables (a party of elected officials rather than a mass party), however, the UDF’s strong leaders most often came in the form of local ‘barons’ (the name given in France to local/regional party bosses, both on the left and right) in departments or regions: Méhaignerie, Gaudin, Barrot, Barre, Monory or Millon. The UDR/RPR also had a strong network of local party bosses, from the earliest days of the Gaullist movement in the 1960s.

At its foundation, Jacques Chirac had envisioned the UMP to be subservient to his own political schemes. Chirac sought to place his longtime ally and protégé, Alain Juppé, as his heir apparent for 2007. Juppé was the first president of the UMP, elected in November 2002 at a party congress with 79.4% of the vote. However, Juppé was found guilty in a chiraquien corruption scandal in 2004 and he was declared ineligible for elected office for a year. This temporarily halted his political career and destroyed both his and Chirac’s plans for 2007. Sarkozy maneuvered to seize control of the UMP, similar to how Chirac had seized control of the UDR in 1976. Chirac was unable to stop Sarkozy’s takeover of ‘his’ party. Sarkozy was elected president of the UMP in November 2004, with 85.1%. Sarkozy quickly transformed Chirac’s party into Sarkozy’s party, with everything centered around the 2007 presidential election.

The UMP statutes allowed for the organization of ‘movements’, representing various ideological factions within the party, which would receive funding in proportion to the votes they received at the congresses. Fearing factionalism, these movements were never put in place.

Even if Sarkozy’s election to the presidency in 2007 vacated the presidency of the UMP for the duration of his term, Sarkozy remained the de facto leader of the UMP, running it from behind. He named the ‘secretary-general’ of the UMP to ensure  the official leadership of the party. In 2009 he named Xavier Bertrand, but Bertrand is not fit for the leadership of a party. In late 2010, he was replaced as secretary-general by Jean-François Copé, who had been the leader of the UMP caucus in the National Assembly.

The 2012 UMP Congress

Nicolas Sarkozy’s defeat at the hands of now-President François Hollande on May 6, 2012 placed the UMP in a funny situation. After his defeat, Sarkozy bowed out of active politics – but he did not indicate that he intended to retire permanently from active public life in France. In doing so, he closed the 2007-2012 era in the UMP’s history, where he served as the party’s de facto leader despite being President of France. However, Sarkozy did not leave office reviled by his own party’s base. The UMP rank-and-file, by and large, remains fondly Sarkozyst. Furthermore, Sarkozy is still relatively young and given that French politicians rarely bow out entirely after one defeat, it is quite possible (though not a certainty) that he could seek to return in 2017.

The UMP needed to choose a new leader, while learning to live in opposition (for the first time in its history) and settling on a political and electoral strategy which could allow it to regain power by 2017. However, the UMP was quite keen on making clear that this congress would not double-up as an early presidential primary (the president elected at the congress would only serve until 2015). Pushed by the success of the PS’ open primaries in 2011, the UMP has signaled numerous times that they will organize an open primary in 2016 to choose its presidential candidate for 2017.

As I had noted right after the legislative elections, the UMP had two options to choose from in terms of political strategy. The French right must now live with a revitalized far-right (FN), stronger than ever and steaming full-steam ahead through clear waters following the presidential election; but at the same time some of the UMP’s troubles since Sarkozy’s ascent comes from its gradual loss of moderate and centrist voters. Therefore, the question is whether the UMP will seek power on a centre-right platform or if it will seek power on a more right-populist/droite décomplexée/Patrick Buisson type of platform, similar to that adopted by Sarkozy in his reelection campaign. The centre-right strategy aims at appealing to moderate centre-right voters which Jean-Louis Borloo now seeks to attract with his new independent centre-right confederation (the UDI); the right-populist strategy aims at reassembling Sarkozy’s 2007 coalition which included a fair number of old FN voters.

The UMP thus needed to choose a new leader and decide on its political future, while remaining – at least the party’s rank-and-file – very loyal to and fond of the ‘outgoing leader’ (Sarkozy), who may yet decide to return to electoral politics in 2017. The most ambitious UMP elites all praise Sarkozy’s presidency and seek to attach themselves to his legacy, but in reality most of them are quite happy that he is gone and they probably would not be too happy if he came back (because he would break their own presidential ambitions). As a result, very few leaders within the UMP dare to publicly signal their disapproval of Sarkozy’s term or their desire to move the party away from his legacy. Whether this is good or bad for the party is a matter of debate, Sarkozy left office rather unpopular with part of the electorate (but not with his own electorate) but French voters are notorious at falling in love with their ex-presidents once they have left office (but Sarkozy’s continuing legal problems and the judicial investigations surrounding old scandals will come back to haunt him). Furthermore, as President Hollande is already very unpopular (with disapprovals over 60%, especially with non-leftists) and his presidency is off to a ominously bad start, some voters might start to reminisce Sarkozy.

This congress was a decentralized congress, with no large partisan rally in a single location. Instead, each departmental federation organized and supervised the election of the president.

The vote was open to party members, those who had joined in 2012 before June 30, 2012 or those who had joined in 2011 and paid their updated membership fees up till election day. The party reported that 324,945 members were eligible to vote in the congress, or about 0.5% of the French population. The largest federation in terms of voters was Paris, which had 26,457 registered members. The Hauts-de-Seine had 17,919 registered members, the Alpes-Maritimes had 15,436 members and the Bouches-du-Rhône had 12,964 members. My friend, on his French blog Sondages 2012, put together a map showing the percentage of UMP members in each department (compared to the total population). The largest proportions are found in Paris’ affluent western suburbs (Paris, Hauts-de-Seine, Yvelines) or the Mediterranean riviera. In good part, the UMP’s membership is made up of politicized right-leaning suburban professionals in the Parisian region on the one hand, and retirees or notoriously conservative small business owners and entrepreneurs (petite bourgeoisie) along the Mediterranean riviera.

Presidential candidates needed to gather support from at least 3% of UMP members (as of June 30) – or 7924 endorsements from members – coming from at least 10 departmental federations. Three prominent candidates (Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, Bruno Le Maire and Henri Guaino tried and failed to gather these 7.9k signatures). Ultimately, only two candidates managed to run: Jean-François Copé and François Fillon.

Jean-François Copé, aged 48, was the incumbent party boss (secretary-general). Copé has been mayor of Meaux, a fairly low-income suburban town in the Seine-et-Marne, since 1995 and deputy for the Seine-et-Marne’s 6th constituency since 2002 (and between 1995 and 1997). Copé is a cunning, ambitious and crafty politician. He made his first steps in politics as a close young ally of Jacques Chirac, and gained a reputation as a chiraquien which allowed him to rapidly gain notoriety under Chirac’s second term (serving as the government’s spokesperson for five years and as junior minister). His relations with Sarkozy, however, were frosty at best. He never served in cabinet under Sarkozy, but he managed to gain the leadership of the UMP’s parliamentary group in the National Assembly. In 2010, Sarkozy named him to the party’s leadership, in return for his support in the 2012 presidential election – Copé’s very public presidential ambitions are for 2017.

Traditionally seen as a chiraquien liberal within the RPR, Copé had backed Patrick Devedjian’s candidacy for the presidency of the RPR in 1999 (Devedjian won 8.9%). During Sarkozy’s term, despite the frosty nature of the relations between the presidency and Copé, he publicly claimed to be a Sarkozyst. Freed by Sarkozy’s departure, the ambitious Copé eyes the 2017 election and has defined himself as the leader of the “droite décomplexée” (a right freed of its taboos and ‘leftist’ political correctness), and he has a straight-shooting and straight-talking political style.

François Fillon, aged 58, was Sarkozy’s Prime Minister for the duration of his five-year term and was elected as deputy for Paris’ 2nd constituency in June. Fillon’s political career, as a parliamentarian, began in 1981 when he succeeded his political mentor, Joël Le Theule, following his sudden death. Fillon’s original political base was the Sarthe – specifically the department’s fourth constituency and the city of Sablé-sur-Sarthe. He served as mayor of Sablé-sur-Sarthe between 1983 and 2008, and served in the department’s general council between 1981 and 1998, including six years as president of the general council between 1992 and 1998. In contrast to Copé who began his political ascension in the shadows of the RPR’s patriarch, Fillon was never a loyal chiraquien. He was a protégé of Philippe Séguin, the leader of the “social Gaullist” and eurosceptic faction of the RPR, which joined with Charles Pasqua to oppose Chirac’s leadership at the Bourget congress in 1990. That same year, Fillon, alongside other young politicians (Michel Noir, Alain Carignon, Michel Barnier, François Bayrou or Philippe de Villiers) was one of the twelve rénovateurs who opposed Chirac-Giscard’s leadership of the right. In 1992, Fillon opposed the ratification of the Maastricht treaty. In 1995, with Sarkozy, he backed Balladur over Chirac. Unlike Sarkozy, however, Fillon managed to save his seat in cabinet (thanks to Séguin’s backing).

Fillon ran for the presidency of the RPR in 1999, as the séguiniste/gaulliste social candidate. Placing third with 24.6% in the first round, he was eliminated from the runoff. Following this defeat, Fillon slowly mended bridges with Chirac and regained the President’s confidence. In 2002, he became minister of social affairs and spearheaded a controversial pension reform. However, Fillon found himself excluded from Dominique de Villepin’s new cabinet in 2005, which deeply angered him. He rushed towards Nicolas Sarkozy, the new president of the UMP, who had previously opposed. By 2007, he had become one of Sarkozy’s closest allies, and he was named Prime Minister. Staying in office for five years, he became one of the longest-serving Prime Ministers in a position which is usually politically fatal to its holder. However, relations between Sarkozy and Fillon soured during the course of Sarkozy’s term. Sarkozy centralized decision making and political leadership in his office, relegating Fillon to the lower position of a “collaborator”.

Leaving behind him his home turf in the Sarthe, Fillon sought and won a new seat in downtown Paris in June.

There are ideological differences between both candidates, but they should not be overstated. The major differences are in terms of personality and political style. The difference is indeed largely stylistic, between on the one hand Copé’s décomplexée populist rhetoric, which targets right-wing/far-right voters; and Fillon’s more consensual and centre-right rhetoric of rassemblement (rally) on the other hand. On issues such as immigration, the economy or labour laws both candidates have broadly similar political positions, their differences again are predominantly stylistic. Copé’s right-populism is bold and muscular – with rhetoric such as “anti-white racism” or the voyous (thugs) who steal the French kid’s pain au chocolat outside the school. In contrast, Fillon’s discourse was more measured.

Copé was boosted by his control of the party apparatus, and his tireless ambitious and political talent. However, Copé is a polarizing figure, widely disliked by left-wing voters and more moderate voters, who perceive him as being too right-wing, too liberal or too rash. Fillon’s advantage was his  stronger standing in political opinion and electability. Fillon remained fairly popular throughout his tenure as Prime Minister, largely because he was more in the background while the flamboyant Sarkozy stole the limelight (hence eroding his political capital). Moderate voters prefer him, they like his calm, measured and reserved personality, which is reassuring and moderate. However, Fillon doesn’t have Copé’s political drive. His image is more that of a “good family man”, calm and reserved, and he has not shown ambition or political skill similar to Copé.

Both candidates ran with two running-mates, forming a presidential ‘ticket’ with candidates for vice-president and secretary-general. Copé’s vice-presidential nominee was Luc Chatel, the former education minister and a liberal within the UMP. His candidacy for secretary-general was Michèle Tabarot, the mayor and deputy for Le Cannet in the crucial Alpes-Maritimes fed. Fillon’s vice-presidential nominee was Laurent Wauquiez, the former higher education minister and leader of the moderate ‘droite sociale‘ (social right) faction; his candidate for secretary-general was Valérie Pécresse, the former budget minister and a former chiraquienne.

Copé’s prominent supporters included leaders of the UMP’s right-wing faction including Lionnel Luca, Thierry Mariani, Éric Raoult or Guillaume Peltier; some leaders of the UMP’s centrist faction including former Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin (for reasons largely related to a long-standing spat with Fillon), Marc-Philippe Daubresse, Marc Laffineur or liberal standard-bearer Hervé Novelli; his inner circle including Christian Jacob (the UMP’s parliamentary leader), Roger Karoutchi and Franck Riester; local barons including Jean-Claude Gaudin (mayor of Marseille, along with other bigwigs from the local UMP including  Bernard Deflesselles, Dominique Tian or Renaud Muselier); Valérie Rosso-Debord and Nadine Morano, the party’s top two media-savvy ‘attack dogs'; or again Sarkozysts such as Patrick Balkany (one of the leaders of the Sarkozyst clan in the Hauts-de-Seine’s fractious right-wing politics), Rachida Dati, Brice Hortefeux or even Jean Sarkozy (Sarkozy’s politically ambitious son).

Fillon’s prominent supporters some other members of the UMP’s centrist faction including Gérard Longuet, Jean Leonetti (leader of the anti-borlooiste wing of the PRV),  Pierre Méhaignerie or the party’s Senate leader Gérard Larcher; local barons including – most crucially – the boss of the Alpes-Maritimes fed, Christian Estrosi (mayor of Nice) and his close ally Éric Ciotti, the mayor of Toulon Hubert Falco or Dominique Bussereau; the surprise support of former chiraquiens such as Valérie Pécresse, Patrick Ollier or even François Baroin (the latter especially thought to be more pro-Copé); the late endorsement of Xavier Bertrand (though largely because he hates Copé) or the juppéiste Benoist Apparu; some members of the party’s right including Claude Guéant (though largely for reasons related to the 92 right’s clan politics), Valérie Boyer or Jacques Myard; or the ‘rebel’ Patrick Devedjian, the main rival of the Sarkozy-Balkany clan in the Hauts-de-Seine (92).

At the same time, UMP members were also called to vote on “declarations of principles” (often called ‘motions’ by the media, like in the PS) which would organize movements. ‘Declarations of principles’ needed to gain the support of at least ten parliamentarians from ten departments in order to be put on the ballot, those motions who got over 10% of the votes at the congress would become recognized ‘movements’ and be eligible for funding. Six motions were placed on the ballot: France moderne et humaniste (Modern and humanist France), La Boîte à idées, la motion anti divisions ! (The ‘box of ideas’ – the anti-division motion), La Droite forte – Génération France Forte 2017 (Strong Right), La Droite populaire (Popular Right), La Droite sociale (Social Right) and Le Gaullisme, une voie d’avenir pour la France (Gaullism – a way forward for France).

The France moderne et humaniste was a centrist and liberal motion signed, notably, by Jean-Pierre Raffarin, Luc Chatel, Hervé Novelli, Jean Leonetti and Marc Laffineur. The motion’s aim was to create a sort of UDF faction within the UMP, representing the various political families of the old UDF including the liberals and the Christian democrats (though much more of the former). Despite its centrist platform, the motion was dominated by the copéistes - Raffarin, Chatel, Novelli, Laffineur but also Daubresse, Tabarot, Riester, Claude Goasguen and Sébastien Huyghe. This motion received the most endorsements from UMP parliamentarians.

The Boîte à idées was a fairly vague motion led by, among others, Benoist Apparu, Chantal Jouanno, Bruno Le Maire or Hervé Gaymard and endorsed by Xavier Bertrand and Alain Juppé. The motion did not appear to have any clear-cut ideological direction, though most of its leaders are moderates. Instead, it placed emphasis on internal democracy and debates.

The Droite forte motion was spearheaded by two thirty-something rising stars – Guillaume Peltier, a former young frontiste and a villieriste (MPF) until he joined the UMP in 2009 (because that’s where you go when you’re really ambitious) and Geoffroy Didier, a young UMP regional councillor who had defined himself as a ‘left-wing Sarkozyst’. The Droite forte defined itself as the ‘Sarkozyst’ motion, and as a more socially acceptable and tamer version of the very right-wing Droite pop. Its proposals included getting the public media to hire “right-wing journalists”, cutting legal immigration by half, restoring the 40-hour workweek, constitutional recognition of France as a secular country with ‘Christian tradition’ or the old vague idea of European protectionism. The motion was backed by Sarkozysts including Bernard Accoyer, Brice Hortefeux, Édouard Courtial, Pierre Charon and Jean Sarkozy; and it was largely copéiste.

The Droite populaire was organized as a parliamentary caucus within the UMP in 2010, representing the most right-wing, populist and nationalist faction of the UMP (often accused by the left of being FN lite). The Droite pop was the most well known (and also controversial) of all the main UMP factions, but it lost a good number of its members in the June legislative elections and it was weakened by the creation of the Droite forte, which, again, has that novel ‘young’ and slightly less tainted twist to it. The Droite pop’s leaders include Thierry Mariani and Lionnel Luca, two copéiste.

The Droite sociale is also an older faction, led by Laurent Wauquiez, a former cabinet minister and the new right-wing baron in the small Haute-Loire department. Wauquiez has built his faction and his political ambitions on the ‘defense of middle-classes’ and ‘la lutte contre l’assistanat‘ (basically a right-wing catchphrase which is roughly translated to ‘fighting welfare dependency’). Thought the ‘anti-welfare’ rhetoric might associate it with the party’s right, Wauquiez’s faction is often defined as being one of the party’s moderate factions, following in the tradition of social Gaullism and Christian democracy. The motion emerged as a catch-all filloniste motion, led by Wauquiez (who holds presidential ambitions for 2017 and is a talented young politician who can go places) and backed by a lot of fillonistes, including more right-wing members backing Fillon such as Brigitte Barèges or Valérie Boyer.

The Gaullist motion is led by Michèle Alliot-Marie (MAM), Henri Guaino, Roger Karoutchi and Patrick Ollier (MAM’s husband). Alliot-Marie and Ollier are former chiraquiens (despite MAM’s 1999 candidacy as the non-aligned anti-Chirac candidate), while Guaino and Karoutchi – who both backed Copé – are both former séguinistes. 

Polling these type of internal party primaries is notoriously difficult, because of the limited size of the electorate. However, polling – which targeted all UMP “sympathizers” rather than only UMP “members” (which would be very difficult for any pollster to accurately poll) – consistently showed Fillon with a large lead over Copé, most often over 20 points with polling averages most often over 60%. Every one knew that they needed to take these polls with a truckload of salt, but nobody expected what came on November 18.

The Civil War

Turnout was reported to be about 54% of the party’s 324,945 members – roughly 176.6k voters participated. On November 18, both the Copé and Fillon campaigns claimed victory and both candidates later proclaimed that they had won, the Copé camp claimed a 1000 vote edge while Fillon’s supporters claimed a narrow 224-vote margin. Throughout the evening, both sides exchanged accusations of fraud and vote rigging.

The next day, late in the evening of November 19, the UMP’s internal commission in charge of organizing the vote (the Commission d’organisation et de contrôle des opérations électorales or COCOE) declared Copé the winner by 98 votes:

Jean-François Copé (UMP) 50.03% (87,388 votes)
François Fillon (UMP) 49.97% (87,290 votes)

Copé +98 votes

A glacial Fillon recognized his defeat and conceded victory to Copé, even if he denounced irregularities in the election and talked of a ‘political and moral fracture’ within the party. The next day, Copé offered Fillon the party’s vice-presidency, an offer which Fillon immediately refused. However, Fillon urged his supporters to recognize his defeat and move forward with grudges to maintain the party’s unity. He did not close doors on a presidential candidacy in 2016-2017, but most assumed, on November 20, that the kerfuffle had been resolved and that Copé was accepted as the legitimate winner by the whole of the party.

The situation took an explosive turn on November 21, when the fillonistes took the offensive and proclaimed that they had won. Their claim was that the COCOE had “forgotten” to include 1,304 votes cast in three overseas federations (New Caledonia, Fillon won 643-535; Mayotte, Fillon won 68-41 and Wallis-et-Futuna, Copé won 14-3) in their official results. Their numbers, with the three federations included had Fillon as the winner by 26 votes.

François Fillon (UMP) 50.01% (88,004 votes)
Jean-François Copé (UMP) 49.99% (87,978 votes)

Fillon +26 votes

At the same time, however, Fillon announced that he was renouncing the presidency of the UMP but calling on the ‘truth’ to be established. He called on Alain Juppé, a non-aligned party founder, to become the interim leader of the party and negotiate a way out of the crisis with the Copé faction. On his side, Copé dared Fillon to bring the case to an internal party commission in charge of hearing complaints (commission nationale des recours, known officially as CNR or commonly as CONARE – which sounds like the French word for ‘idiot’ or ‘moron’ or even worse…) and noted that they would need to re-examine all results, including contested results in Nice where the Copé faction accused the Fillon faction of fraud.

But the next day (November 22), seeking to regain the initiative, Copé announced that he would be going to the CNR, alleging fraud by the Fillonistes in Nice and New Caledonia. At the same time, however, he accepted the idea of a Juppé-led mediation in the conflict. However, Fillon’s faction rejected the legitimacy of the CNR, which they deemed to be controlled by the copéistes (indeed, the president of the CNR, Yannick Paternotte, endorsed Copé) while the copéistes insisted that Juppé associate his work to that of the CNR, which they deemed the sole body with the power to handle such issues. Copé’s response thus meant that Juppé would not be able to mediate the dispute. On November 25, Juppé announced that he was giving up while the CNR began its meetings, in the absence of the Fillon camp whose leader announced that he would be taking the matter to court to “reestablish the truth”.

On November 26, Sarkozy intervened in the matter, discretely meeting with Fillon. From the lunch between the former President and his old Prime Minister it was revealed that Sarkozy would not be against the organization of another election, which henceforth became a major issue in the crisis.

The same day, the CNR announced its own, revised, results of the November 18 vote. The CNR invalidated the election in New Caledonia, which they deemed was marred by irregularities in the process which affected the fairness of the vote; they also invalidated some polling stations in Nice (Alpes-Maritimes), where the Copé faction had accused their opponents of fraud. As a result, Copé was proclaimed the winner – again – but with a 952 vote majority.

Jean-François Copé (UMP) 50.28% (86,911 votes)
François Fillon (UMP) 49.97% (85,959 votes)

Copé +952 votes

Party congresses in France, both within the UMP this year and within the PS (in 2008, at the Reims Congress), are prone to manipulation and fraud. The votes are organized by departmental federations, and these federations are often led by powerful local parliamentarians or local barons who endorse a particular candidate. For example, the Alpes-Maritimes fed is led by Christian Estrosi, the mayor of Nice and one of Fillon’s most prominent backers. The Bouches-du-Rhône fed on the other hand is led by Jean-Claude Gaudin, one of Copé’s biggest backers.

As the leader of their own federations, these local party bosses are often able to organize the vote as to benefit their chosen candidate and often provide their chosen candidate with the backing of their departmental federation. Some kind of manipulation, fraud or even intimidation or vote rigging is prevalent within both the UMP and PS, and it is silently accepted by the national party leaders who could not do without the backing of these powerful party bosses and their big federations.

But when, as was the case for the PS in Reims in 2008, the vote ends up extremely close, then both sides accuse one another of having ‘stolen’ the election. In the 2008 PS vote for first-secretary between Aubry and Royal, it is quite clear that there was flagrant fraud and rigging on both sides: manipulation and fraud organized by local boss Jean-Noël Guérini allowed Royal to win 72.5% in the Bouches-du-Rhône, while similar irregularities in Aubry’s native department (Nord) allowed her to win 76% of the vote there.

If anything, the UMP’s vote this year seems a bit cleaner than the Reims Congress, if judging by the disparities in the results from one neighboring department to another. However, there were irregularities on the UMP vote on November 18 and both sides are guilty. The Copé faction and the CNR might have had a point about Nice, where Estrosi and Ciotti controlled the organization of the votes and probably organized it in a fairly unholy way which favoured their candidate. But the Copé faction is also guilty of irregularities, as the fillonistes allege. The wide use of ‘proxy votes’ (vote par procuration) in some departments was muddy and likely stacked in Copé’s favour, the Fillon faction claimed that Copé had rigged the vote with over 30,000 proxy votes. Furthermore, I’m certain that looking through the results in some of those departments where the Copé faction controlled the vote would also reveal interesting thing.

The CNR, in proclaiming Copé the winner by 952 votes after invalidating the results in three places where Fillon had won (even if not fair-and-square in some cases), lost all legitimacy. You can’t pick-and-choose cases of fraud in such a way. It is clear, again, that there was fraud on both sides, but if you’re going to start quashing results for fraud, then you can’t stop with two polling stations in Nice. However, the CNR was presided by a man who had attended Copé’s campaign announcement in August and it had no filloniste representatives present when it took a decision.

Things became crazy on November 27. In the morning, Fillon and Copé met – apparently at Sarkozy’s insistence – and both sides discussed the organization of a “referendum” where UMP members would be asked if they wanted to vote again. The same day, Fillon announced that he would be creating his own parliamentary group in the National Assembly. A parliamentary group in the National Assembly holds seats in the parliamentary commission and the rules of the legislature give it certain advantages, notably an allocated time for questions and interventions. The UMP parliamentary group is controlled by the Copé faction – led by Christian Jacob, another Seine-et-Marne deputy and one of Copé’s closest allies. Fillon hence created his own group, the Rassemblement-UMP (R-UMP or RUMP) – the same name as the local section of the UMP in New Caledonia, and took 68 of the UMP group’s 196 members.

The creation of the R-UMP complicated the situation and killed the debate on the ‘referendum’ option. Fillon accepted a referendum if Copé stood down and the party was led by an independent interim leadership until the new election, an unpalatable option for the copéistes because it would be a tacit recognition that Copé lacked the legitimacy to remain as the party’s leader. Copé’s faction agreed to a referendum but they set an ultimatum to Fillon: withdraw your group before 3pm on November 28 or there is no referendum. The ultimatum expired, Fillon maintained the R-UMP and the copéistes announced that they would be ending negotiations.

The same day, a group of “non-aligned” UMP deputies led by Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet and Bruno Le Maire launched a petition which called on the dissolution of the R-UMP as per Copé’s ultimatum but also the creation of some kind of Comité des Sages (wise men/elders committee) at the UMP to organize the referendum before January 31, 2013. 72 parliamentarians signed the non-aligned petition, but 27 of them were copéistes (judging that the status-quo favours Copé) and 12 of them were fillonistes, including 3 who had actually joined the R-UMP! (two of those three signatories later unsigned, apparently, because their names no longer appear on the petition). On November 29, everybody and their grandmother in the UMP seemed interested in setting up a commission to organize a vote, an election, a referendum or something: a working group, an independent commission, a commission of elders and so forth. Sarkozy re-intervened  meeting both rivals and demanding that they come to an agreement before December 4.

Both candidates signaled that they favoured the organization of a new vote, but the Copé faction said that a new vote would not be held until after the 2014 municipal elections while the Fillon faction demanded a new vote as rapidly as possible. Today, the crisis remains unresolved and blocked. Both factions are sticking to their guns. Fillon still threatens to take the matter to court, but it is unclear how the courts would rule on an internal partisan matter and how the lengthy judicial process would affect the party’s situation.

The UMP is stuck in a weird and confusing situation as things currently stands. It remains united as a political party, but only half or so of the party recognizes the party’s de facto leader as the legitimate leader. The other half of the party remains in the party, but still does not recognize the legitimacy of the party’s de facto leader. What is the way forward?

Many will ask why the fillonistes, who already have their own caucus in the lower house, don’t just pack their bags and create their own party. The creation of a new political party is a tricky matter in France because of public financing (state funding of political parties) laws. This public funding is based on two ‘fractions’. The first fraction is given to parties who have obtained over 1% in at least 50 constituencies (the law is less rigid for purely overseas parties, they need 1% in all constituencies they ran in). Candidates choose to affiliate with a particular party or funding entity (not necessarily their own political party!) for the first fraction, and parties meeting these conditions receive €1.68 per vote. In 2012, the UMP received about 11-12 million euros, but they also received a 5 million euro penalty for not respecting gender parity laws which means they will receive about 7 million euros from the first fraction. For the second fraction, parliamentarians affiliate themselves with one of the parties/funding structures eligible under the first fraction, who then receive about €42,000 by parliamentarian.

This law makes it difficult for new parties keen to receive public funding to be created. Fillon’s hypothetical party cannot receive funding under the first fraction, but there is an ingenious and commonly-used way around the second fraction. Parliamentarians can affiliate with another party, most often an overseas party, which then transfers the entirety of its public funding to the new party. The New Centre (NC) deputies and senators used this method in 2007, when they had not been eligible for funding under the first fraction. They affiliated with a friendly party in French Polynesia, Fetia Api, which received funding equivalent to the size of the NC’s caucus and then gave it back to the NC.

The name of the R-UMP is perhaps not a random coincidence. If they chose to do so, Fillon’s parliamentarians could affiliate themselves to the New Caledonian section of the UMP, also named the R-UMP, and receive their public funding through the intermediary of that party (which is eligible for funding under the first fraction. However, the second fraction affiliations were due on November 30. As this article explains, only one of the R-UMP deputies (Jean-Pierre Decool, who is only divers droite and not officially UMP) did not affiliate with the UMP under the second fraction. The UMP will thus receive its 20 million euros from the state, crucial for a party deep in debt.

Fillon did not seem willing to signal that he was breaking all bridges with his party. But, in the long-term, the option remains on the table. These affiliations are only valid for a year, so by next year, if nothing has changed, Fillon still has the option of going forward with a split.

It is hard to envision either side changing their positions as things currently stand. Short of a party split, which would be a major thing, one of the only realistic option is that both sides agree to disagree, and find some kind of temporary arrangement whereby Copé can retain the presidency but Fillon saves face by remaining in a prominent position. A solution which would probably last until after the 2014 local elections or the potential 2016 presidential primary. Fillon is in a more difficult position, because Copé retains control of the apparatus and as such he has wider access to the medias in his role as the leader of the main opposition party. The current status-quo favours Copé, and Fillon risks losing the initiative (if he has not lost it already) in the situation and could slowly see the crisis fade away (as is already slowly the case), which would weaken his standing.

Will the UMP’s crisis benefit other parties? Observers have said that the main winners of the crisis are the PS (and the government), Borloo’s new centrist confederation (the UDI) and Marine Le Pen’s FN. Both the UDI and FN have claimed that their membership numbers have increased a lot because of the UMP crisis, though there is always a big difference between what parties say about their membership numbers and the actual reality.

As a sort of indicator, three legislative by-elections were held on November 9 – one of them in the Hérault where the PS had defeated a UMP incumbent (pro-Copé) in June by only 10 votes in a triangulaire with the FN; another in the Hauts-de-Seine where Patrick Devedjian (UMP pro-Fillon) had narrowly defeated a left-wing candidate in the runoff. The results do not seem to indicate that either the PS or the FN benefited from the UMP crisis. In the Hérault, the former UMP deputy is far ahead with 42.6% against 27.7% for the PS incumbent, while the FN – which had been in a position to benefit from the UMP crisis and the unpopularity of the government – fell flat on its face, winning 23.4%, barely up since June. In the Hauts-de-Seine, where the PS and Greens united behind a single candidate (in June, they had been divided in the first round, hurting them in the runoff) and had hoped of toppling Devedjian, they won only 32.5% (when their two candidates had won over 40% in June by the first round) against a big 49.82% for him. In the Val-de-Marne, the runoff will oppose the UDI/UMP incumbent and a UMP dissident with the PS eliminated by the first round (only 19%). Turnout was low, making it hard to draw conclusions, but the left appeared demobilized while the right was more successful in mobilizing its voters. Neither the FN nor the FG were able to profit from the political situation, which should – one assumes – benefit them.

Internal Geography of the UMP

After all, one of this blog’s purpose is to look at the geographic structure of the vote in elections. Given the crisis which ensued, the geographic analysis of both the presidential vote and the motions vote was largely forgotten. Yet it does reveal many interesting things about the “internal geography” of the UMP and the mindset of its members.

The map of the presidential results below  is based on the work of two journalists who compiled national results based on unofficial public sources (including local UMP federations, UMP parliamentarians or the local print media), available here, and the COCOE results. None of the colours or the shades on the map, however, would change if I used solely the COCOE or even the CNR’s official results. However, at a national level, it is interesting to point out that the compilation of results from local sources (including the 3 ‘forgotten’ overseas feds) has Fillon ahead by 248 votes. And indeed, the COCOE’s first results (Copé +98) ‘forgot’ the three overseas feds (1,304 votes total) and their inclusion does indeed bring Fillon ahead by 26 votes.

UMP P2012

Many had tried to summarize the Fillon/Copé battle to a straight fight between the UMP’s moderate wing (Fillon) and the UMP’s right-wing (Copé). There is some truth to this, but again the actual ideological differences between both candidates were fairly sparse and both candidates attracted prominent endorsements from the ‘opposite side’ of the party (some of the UMP’s right for Fillon, a good number of UMP moderates and ex-UDF/DL for Copé). The map confirms that the battle was not purely a moderate vs right-wingers affair.

The internal geography of political parties in France, at least the UMP and the PS, has long been structured by the “favourite son”/”friends and neighbors” effect and the influence of local barons – rather than any sociological or demographic factors. This election was no different, but unlike with the PS, the support of local barons cannot explain the entire map. They can still explain a good deal of it, however.

Both candidates did best in their home turf, their political bases (even if Fillon has now ‘abandoned’ his original political turf in the Sarthe). Fillon won 81.9% in the Sarthe and Copé won 78.4% in the Seine-et-Marne. Fillon also won Paris, his adopted political base since June, with a far more modest (but still hefty) 58.5%. To a certain extent, Fillon’s old favourite son appeal in the Sarthe might have carried over to neighboring departments: he won 69.7% in the Orne and 62.4% in the Mayenne.

The impact of ‘local barons’ was quite important to both candidates in a number of departments. The Alpes-Maritimes, one of the biggest UMP feds and one of the most disputed federations on November 18, gave Fillon about 59.9% (including the polls invalidated by the CNR). Even though Copé’s second running-mate, Michèle Tabarot, is the departmental secretary of the federation; the department’s federation is largely dominated and led by Christian Estrosi, the mayor of Nice, and his sidekick Eric Ciotti (both of whom, of course, were part of Fillon’s inner circle during the campaign). Fillon was also endorsed by all but two (Tabarot and Lionnel Luca) of the department’s parliamentarians. In the Haute-Loire, Laurent Wauquiez’s support and presence of the Fillon ticket allowed Fillon to win 65.6%. In the Yvelines, Valérie Pécresse’s federation, Fillon won decisively with 59.3%. In the Aube, François Baroin’s backing certainly helped Fillon to win 63.9% in the department. Xavier Bertrand likely swung the Aisne (54.6%) and might even have had an impact in the Somme and the Ardennes.

For Copé, Luc Chatel brought the Haute-Marne to the fold, with 62.9% for Copé. In the big Bouches-du-Rhône federation, led by Gaudin and dominated by the copéistes, Copé won 62.1%. In the Vienne, former Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin’s native department, Copé won 61.2%. It is likely that Raffarin’s regional influence also swung the Charente (61.6%), the Deux-Sèvres (52.9%) but also the Charente-Maritime (57%) where the UMP barons split between Copé (Didier Quentin) and Fillon (Dominique Bussereau). In the Oise, Olivier Dassault/Edouard Courtial (pro-Copé) prevailed over Eric Woerth and Caroline Cayeux (pro-Fillon), giving Copé 57.8% in the department. In the Nord, Marc-Philippe Daubresse’s support certainly played a major role in Copé’s victory, with 53.2%.

Other departmental results can also be explained by the backing of the local party establishment. In Brittany, for example, Copé carried only the Côtes-d’Armor, where he was endorsed by local bigwig Marc Le Fur. In Ille-et-Vilaine and Loire-Atlantique, where Fillon had the backing of all local parliamentarians, Fillon won over 55% of the vote. In the Finistère and Morbihan, ‘neutral’ federations held by neither candidate, the vote was closer (52.7% and 50.9% for Fillon respectively). The Meuse, where Fillon took 57.1%, is the home turf of Gérard Longuet, one of Fillon’s backers. In the Marne, Benoist Apparu’s supported boosted Fillon to a narrow win with 51.5%.

The Hauts-de-Seine was disputed between the pro-Fillon clan (led by Devedjian, Ollier, Guéant) and the old Sarkozyst-Balkany clan which backed Copé (Balkany, Jean Sarkozy, Solère, Karoutchi). The former prevailed, with 54.9%. In Paris, Fillon’s adopted political base since June, the former Prime Minister benefited from a strong base of support with the local establishment (Goujon, Lamour, Lellouche) and a weaker local pro-Copé bench (Dati, Charon, Goasguen).

However, local barons cannot explain everything. The Lozère, where local deputy Pierre Morel-à-L’Huissier endorsed Copé, Fillon was victorious with 51.1%. In the Var, the backing of all but three of the department’s 11 parliamentarians including Toulon mayor Hubert Falco was not enough for Fillon: Copé was victorious with 51.5%. In the Manche, both deputies endorsed Copé but Fillon won by a hair (51%). In the Bas-Rhin, 8 of the department’s 10 parliamentarians including André Reichardt (plus regional president Philippe Richert) backed Fillon, but Copé won narrowly with 50.5%; on the other hand, Fillon won 60.1% down the road in the Haut-Rhin.

Generally, local barons prevailed over local sociological/demographic considerations. However, some sociological lessons can be drawn from the map. Copé did very well on the Mediterranean coast, besides the Estrosian Alpes-Maritimes, with over 60% in the Bouches-du-Rhône, Gard, Vaucluse or the Aude and nearly 60% in the Hérault (plus a surprise win despite local barons in the Var). This region, where the UMP draws the bulk of its support from ‘heliotropic’ coastal retirees, small business owners, the petite bourgeoisie or conservative entrepreneurs, is also one of the FN’s original bases since the 1980 (and it is a region where the FN’s electorate is fundamentally right-wing rather than apolitical/protest-driven) and it is a region where immigration is a major issue. The UMP base in this region, demographically and ideologically, is naturally inclined to Copé’s tough right-populist/résistance/décomplexée rhetoric over Fillon’s more moderate and reserved style.

On the other hand, in Paris’ western suburbs – affluent, white-collar, professional and politically moderate – Fillon’s victory owes in part to this favourable demographic makeup (as well as establishment backing). On the other hand, in the Seine-Saint-Denis or the Val-de-Marne, where the UMP’s membership base is likely more concerned by issues such as immigration or public safety, Copé played well: 54.8% in the Seine-Saint-Denis (where the UMP establishment is also very rightist), about 52% in the Val-de-Marne and the Val-d’Oise. Copé’s victory in the Oise but also the Yonne, Eure-et-Loir and Eure also owes a bit to local sociology: in these more distant and less affluent outer exurban conservative regions, the local UMP membership is probably naturally inclined to Copé’s muscular right-populist message (the backing of Orléans mayor Serge Grouard for Fillon explains the Loiret).

In the inner west (Pays-de-la-Loire, Orne, Manche) and Brittany, the region’s historically moderate and Christian democratic political bent likely explains – at least in part (most of the local establishments, except for Laffineur in the Maine-et-Loire backed Fillon) – why Fillon did well. In the southern Massif Central, centered around Wauquiez’s Haute-Loire and Marleix’s Cantal, also has a similar Catholic/centrist political history, and might explain – in part – why Fillon did well (including a surprising win in the Lozère). In the Savoie, local establishment support (Dord, Gaymard, Accoyer) for Fillon added to a favourable sociology: affluent and more politically moderate retirees, ski bunnies or suburbanites.

One surprise was the solidly left-wing Southwest, where Copé did very well: over 60% in the Haute-Garonne, Gers, Lot and over 55% in the Gironde or the Aveyron. The UMP’s local establishment in these departments is generally quite weak, and the UMP was in good part decimated there in June. The only exceptions to the rule are the Pyrénées-Atlantiques (historically Catholic and centrist), Ariège, the Tarn-et-Garonne (Brigitte Barèges, mayor of Montauban, was backing Fillon) and the Dordogne. In his article on the geography of the presidential vote, my friend over at Sondages2012 mentions a few interesting factors: Fillon did not campaign much in the region; the local right-wing electorate, a minority in a sea of red, perhaps being more aggressive (hence pro-Copé) because they are keen on resisting the left. To these interesting hypothesis, I might add another one: the right-wing electorate, and probably UMP membership, in these secular and small-town departments, draws heavily from small business owners/petite bourgeoisie and is, in some aspects, fairly exurban and lower middle-class (in the Garonne valley) – demographic realities favourable to Copé.

The Lorraine was fairly interesting, especially with Fillon’s huge win in the Vosges (65.1%) and Moselle (60.8%). This is a region where the FN is strong, and where the FN’s electorate is also fairly structurally right-wing/conservative rather than apolitical. It is true that the local establishment, outside of the copéiste Meurthe-et-Moselle (Morano, Rosso-Debord), largely backed Fillon. This is also a historically social Gaullist/séguiniste region where the 1999 ‘social Gaullist’ Fillon had done very well (45% in Séguin’s Vosges, wins in Haute-Marne – the General’s historical turf with Colombey, Moselle and a tie in the Meuse); some of Fillon’s 1999 social Gaullist/rénovateur (Isère, Rhône) support evaporated this year, but he seems to have retained the séguiniste/Gaullist base in Lorraine, with the exception of the Haute-Marne where Luc Chatel swung the department heavily to Copé.

The R-UMP Caucus

The R-UMP group in the National Assembly now includes 73 members. The map below shows the current composition of the National Assembly by parliamentary group:

Groupes AN

 

The R-UMP rallied the majority of the filloniste deputies within the UMP caucus in the lower house. Prior to November 18, Le Monde‘s investigation with UMP parliamentarians had revealed that 155 of the 194 UMP deputies had taken position in the presidential race and 83 of them had backed Fillon (against 73 for Copé). UMP Senators were far more filloniste, the UMP’s senate group did not split and it is led and dominated by fillonistes.

It is interesting to quickly point out those filloniste UMP deputies who did not join the R-UMP group, led by Fillon himself. They include Xavier Bertrand, Benoist Apparu, Bernard Accoyer, David Douillet, Gérald Darmanin and Jacques Myard. Bertrand, Apparu, Accoyer and Douillet could be called ‘soft’ fillonistes, they only endorsed Fillon fairly late in the campaign and were less connected to the Fillon team than, say, Estrosi/Ciotti but also Baroin. Bertrand probably backed Fillon only because of his deep personal enimity with Copé, rather than any personal connections with Fillon. The juppéiste Benoist Apparu was also a late endorser. Accoyer, the former president of the National Assembly, was very reticent to the idea of forming a dissident parliamentary group, probably because a loyal party man and old Sarkozyst, he is attached to the unity of the UMP. Gérald Darmanin and Jacques Myard are two members of the UMP’s right-wing who endorsed Fillon, it would seem that Fillon’s weak support with the right-wingers of the party was also pretty soft. Guy Teissier and Valérie Boyer, two marseillais deputies who joined the R-UMP after its initial creation are both seen as being on the party’s right, though perhaps their membership in the R-UMP as more to do with their personal enmity with the city’s copéiste patriarch, mayor Jean-Claude Gaudin (Boyer is a potential mayoral candidate). Naturally, the UMP’s non-aligned members stayed with the UMP group led by Jacob.

The filloniste inner guard – Pécresse, Wauquiez, Chartier, Baroin but also Estrosi/Ciotti who despite their reputation as Sarkozysts on the right of the party have become very closely tied to the filloniste faction. The Estrosian bench of UMP deputies in the Alpes-Maritimes (all but Luca and Tabarot) joined the R-UMP, as did all Fillon supporters in the Var, Paris or Hauts-de-Seine (Devedjian, after his victory next week, will certainly join the R-UMP too).

Prominent members of the R-UMP caucus include, in addition to the aforementioned names: Dominique Bussereau, Bernard Debré, Dominique Dord, Hervé Gaymard, Philippe Goujon, Serge Grouard, Jean-François Lamour, Pierre Lellouche, Jean Leonetti, Alain Marleix, Patrick Ollier, Camille de Rocca Serra, Lionel Tardy and Éric Woerth.

 

The Motions Vote: a Sarkozyst party

The motions vote did not interest many people during the Fillon/Copé campaign, and they were forgotten in the aftermath because of the crisis. But they too provide interesting numbers and lessons about the UMP’s 2012 membership base.

Members had the option of not choosing any motion, but only 4% or so of voters did not choose a motion (but altogether, 11% of members either chose a blank ballot choosing no motions or cast an invalid/blank vote). The results were as follows, on the 89% of valid votes:

Droite forte 27.77%
Droite sociale 21.69%
France moderne et humaniste 18.17%
Gaullisme 12.31%
Droite populaire 10.87%
Boîte à idées 9.19%

UMP M2012

The big winner of the motions vote was Guillaume Peltier and Geoffroy Didier’s La Droite forte motion, which won 27.8% of the motions vote. This is a remarkable victory for a young motion led by two thirty-something aspiring politicians who do not hold any major elective office and whose motion was backed by only a select few prominent UMP parliamentarians or national leaders. Their victory and success is the product of a well-orchestrated campaign which seized on the strong appeal of ‘Sarkozysm’ and Sarkozy’s legacy with the UMP’s base. To compensate for their weak establishment support, the motion’s leaders ran a media-savvy campaign with controversial proposals prone to receive attention and a large number of public meetings throughout the campaign.

The motion, although led by copéistes, had a fairly homogeneously appeal which transcended the Fillon/Copé battle. While the motion performed slightly better in those departments where Copé did best (30%), it also did almost just as well in those departments where Fillon won (25.5%). It was the only motion which managed to get over 10% of the vote in every single department. 37 of the departments it won went for Copé, and 23 went for Fillon.

The Droite forte did best in departments which were not ‘held’ by the national leaders of the other motions. Peltier did have a friends and neighbors effect in the Indre-et-Loire (44.9%) which might have spilled over to the Loir-et-Cher (36.5%); but otherwise their map is remarkable by the weak incidence of any friends and neighbors/favourite son effect on its support. Along the Mediterranean coast, again, the very right-wing and Sarkozyst nature of the motion appealed to a UMP electorate made up of retirees, conservative small business owners and the petite bourgeoisie; a region where Sarkozy had done particularly well for a right-wing candidate in both 2007 and 2012. The Droite forte got 50.4% in the Aude, 41.8% in the Gard, 37.5% in the Hérault and 31.9% in the big Bouches-du-Rhône fed. Like Copé, it also did well in the left-wing southwest, where the UMP’s base is demographically similar. In both regions, the Droite forte short circuited the Droite pop.

Slightly more surprising is the motion’s appeal in Mayenne (39%), Manche (36.7%) but also parts of Brittany; all in departments which Fillon carried over Copé and where the right has historically had a moderate and centrist reputation. None of these departments are ‘held’ by the national leaders of the other motions, which appears, again, to be one of the commonalities between all the departments where it did well.

Laurent Wauquiez’s Droite sociale, with 21.7%, was the other good performer. In contrast to the Droite forte, however, the motion’s success was far more localized. It did best in Wauquiez’s home turf, the Haute-Loire (66.2%), where his native son appealed carried over to other departments in the Auvergne – notably the Cantal (44.5%) but also the Allier (37%), the Puy-de-Dôme (34%) but also some neighboring departments outside the region: the Ardèche (55.6%) or the Creuse (43.8%). In internal party votes where ideological differences are present but fairly sparse compared to normal elections, a local leader’s friends and neighbors appeal is very important – not only in his/her native region, but also in neighboring departments. Given the reduced electorate, the proximity of a candidate or a candidate’s strong local implantation is a major factor.

The Droite sociale‘s ranks were heavily dominated by the fillonistes with barely any copéiste parliamentarians backing the motion. Unsurprisingly, the motion did markedly better in departments carried by Fillon (32% in those departments where Fillon took over 60%; 13.7% in those departments where Copé took over 60%). This heavily filloniste appeal is visible in the inner west, where the motion also did very well. It won 34.5% in Fillon’s native Sarthe, 35.8% in the Vendée, 32.5% in the Ille-et-Vilaine and 29.2% in the Loire-Atlantique. It also did rather well in the Moselle (33%), Vosges (29.9%) and the Indre (33.6%) – all three departments where Fillon did very well in the presidential vote. The motion’s vote, with some exceptions, follows the traditional implantation of the Christian democratic and centrist tradition fairly well.

More disappointing for its leader, however, was the performance of Raffarin/Chatel/Leonetti/Daubresse’s France moderne et humaniste (FMH) motion, which sought to represent the old liberal and Christian democratic traditions of the former UDF, DL and parts of the RPR. The FMH motion had received strong support from UMP parliamentarians, totalling 39% support within the ranks of the party’s parliamentarians (against only 8% for the Droite forte motion), but only 18.2% from member. The FMH, with its weak result, did not profit from its strong backing by the party’s parliamentarian elites, but its map heavily reflects the local appeal of its main signatories.

It dominated the Poitou-Charentes, Raffarin’s native region, taking 39.2% in the Vienne (his department) and doing even better in the Deux-Sèvres with 44.4%. Its best result, however, came from the Haute-Marne (it won 48.4%), which is Luc Chatel’s department. Backed by Leonetti but also Copé’s second running-mate Michèle Tabarot, the FMH carried the Alpes-Maritimes with 26.8%. In the Drôme, the support of local parliamentarian Hervé Mariton pushed it over the top, taking 30.1%. In the Meuse, Gérard Longuet’s department, the FMH won 30.4% thanks to his support. In the Aveyron, backed by Yves Censi, it won 30.3%. In Copé’s native turf, the Seine-et-Marne, where it was backed by loyal Copé stalwart Franck Riester, it won 32.6%. Its performance in the Nord (22.7%), Daubresse’s fed, was more disappointing. The FMH’s map reflects no political traditions, rather it is a mish-mash of favourite son effects for its main leaders in their own departments.

Also in the disappointments category, the Gaullist motion’s weak result (12.3%), again despite some strong support with UMP parliamentarians (about 18%) with some big name backers (MAM, Larcher, Accoyer). The Gaullist or neo-Gaullist family had been one of the founding families of the UMP in 2002, the dominant stream within the RPR at the moment of the UMP’s foundation. Once again, the motion’s map is largely a collection of favourite sons/daughters effects. It carried only two departments, the Pyrénées-Atlantiques (26.4%) and the Territoire de Belfort (29.6%) and in both cases these victories owe to the backing of a local leader: Alliot-Marie in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques and Damien Meslot (a deputy) in Belfort.

It did well in the Hautes-Alpes (25.1%), which was Patrick Ollier’s (who is MAM’s husband) department before he moved politically to the Hauts-de-Seine in 2002; it seems as if he might have retained some local influence in a department which otherwise has no major national leaders. In the Vaucluse, where it took 21.1%, its support is due to Julien Aubert, a young deputy who endorsed the motion. In the Marne, where it took 20.8%, it is again due to local support (Catherine Vautrin). Slightly more interesting in the Dordogne (20.6%) and the Lot-et-Garonne (21.4%). The Dordogne is the old stronghold of Yves Guéna, an old Gaullist baron, and the department had an anti-Sarkozyst and fairly Gaullist/villepiniste deputy, Daniel Garrigue until June but Garrigue left the UMP a few years ago on bad terms with Sarkozy. The Lot-et-Garonne is a mystery.

Once again, a map reflecting contemporary personalities and barons rather than any historical traditions. The motion won only 9.8% in Chirac’s Corrèze, and the old Gaullist strongholds of Lorraine (notably Haute-Marne), northern France or the Atlantic seaboard are basically absent or unremarkable.

The Droite populaire, the representative of the party’s right-wing since 2010, did poorly, with only 10.9% of the vote, barely qualifying for recognition as a movement and financial autonomy. The Droite pop, born in 2010 as a very vocal parliamentary caucus within the UMP for the party’s most nationalist and populist right-wing deputies, had been severely weakened after the legislative elections in June when a good number of its members lost reelection (going from 42 to 19 members). As a result, the motion received the support of only 18 parliamentarians. Furthermore, the Droite pop was the main victim of the Droite forte‘s success, which is ideologically broadly similar to the Droite pop and shares with it a knack for provocation, but it also had the added advantages of novelty, charismatic and media-savvy young ambitious leaders and the big appeal of ‘Sarkozysm’ as a brand name within the UMP.

The Droite pop carried a single department, the Vaucluse (30.7%) – a very right-wing (if not far-right) department where the demographics of the UMP membership lean heavily to the right, but also the base of one of the motion’s leaders – Thierry Mariani (even if he is now elected for French citizens in Asia/Oceania). It also did well in the Tarn (26.3%), a federation led by former Droite pop deputy Bernard Carayon. The motion also had some success in the Bouches-du-Rhône (18.5%) where it has a strong bench of current and former deputies (Reynès, Deflesselles, Tian, Diard, Joissains-Masini, Mallié); the Pyrénées-Orientales (18.3%) where it had two parliamentarians until June; the Gard (17%) where it also had parliamentarians until June; the Alpes-Maritimes (15.9%) backed by Lionnel Luca; the Aube (19.4%) backed by Nicolas Dhuicq and the Rhône (16.5%) where it has a few parliamentarians.

Only one motion did not break the 10% threshold to qualify as a motion, the vague ‘Boîte à idées‘ led by some non-aligned and moderate UMP parliamentarians (Le Maire, Apparu) and with some prominent supporters (Juppé, Balladur, Bertrand). The motion had taken a strong stance against the Droite forte. With 9.2% however, it does not qualify as a movement.

The motion won a single department, Bruno Le Maire’s Eure with 26.9%. It won 22.1% in the Haute-Marne, likely due to the support of the department’s other UMP deputy, François Cornut-Gentille. In the Marne, where it was backed by Benoist Apparu, it won 14.3%. It performed well in the Vienne (20%), Saône-et-Loire (19.2%), Seine-Maritime (17.4%), Loiret (17.4%) and Jura (15.3%). In the Jura, Loiret, Seine-Maritime and Saône-et-Loire it was backed by local UMP parliamentarians.

The results of the motions vote carries an important lesson. Nicolas Sarkozy has left a profound mark on the party, and was able to successfully shape it to his liking. Most notably, he shifted the UMP to the right. From a party which at its foundations was dominated by the fairly moderate and ‘Orleanist’ traditions of liberalism, Christian democracy or late-90s chiraquien neo-Gaullism (whose nature as some kind of RadSoc pragmatism and moderation makes it more Orleanist than Bonapartist) from the UDF and RPR, it has become a far more right-wing party, more inclined towards populism or the ‘Bonapartist’ tradition of the right. The membership of the party even appears to be the right of its leaders.

The UMP’s rightward shift at the expense of the old dominant ideologies of the UDF, DL and RPR is visible in the failure of the two motions which had aimed to represent the historical tradition of the UDF, DL and RPR – the FMH and Gaullists, who won only 30.5% together against 38.7% for the Droite forte and Droite pop, two byproducts of the Sarkozyst transformation of the UMP into a far more right-wing ‘Bonapartist’ party. Even the party’s moderate wing preferred the newer Droite sociale led by Laurent Wauquiez to the more traditional and old-style FMH; and it is notable that Wauquiez’s motion, although clearly representing the moderate wing of the party, carries certain right-wing undertones (lutte contre l’assistanat) which are not reflective of the old social Christian tradition and are instead closer to the New Right’s emphasis on personal responsibility and individual initiative.

The acrimonious battle for Sarkozy’s succession has opened a deep crisis, if not civil war, within the UMP which could yet lead to the party’s explosion. With the party’s rank-and-file but also elites shifting to the right since Sarkozy seized control of the UMP from Chirac in 2004, the UMP leadership is finding it increasingly tough to create a synthesis between the different families of the right which have coexisted within the big-tent UMP. Particularly, the party’s ex-UDF centrist wing which finds its roots in the CDS is feeling more and more out of place in the UMP, and are increasingly attracted back towards their traditional home on the centre-right, a home which Borloo, Lagarde and others are trying to recreate in the form of the UDI. Pierre Méhaignerie, a former leader of the CDS and one of the prominent ex-UDF centrists within the UMP (he was Sarkozy’s secretary-general between 2004 and 2007), joined the UDI in the aftermath of the UMP crisis. Others of his political affiliation may follow in his footsteps. The UMP faces difficult days ahead, even if the rapidly growing unpopularity of the PS government provides it with an opening to regain the initiative and recover lost strength.

Slovenia 2012: A rare victory for austerity?

A presidential election was held in Slovenia on November 11 and December 2, 2012. The President of Slovenia holds a mostly ceremonial office, with powers limited to commanding the armed forces. The President is directly elected by universal suffrage to a five-year term, and the President is limited to two consecutive terms in office. Eligible candidates must receive the support of 10 MPs or 5,000 voters or a political party with 3 MPs and which received over 3,000 votes in the last election.

Until recently, Slovenia – a member of the EU and the Eurozone – was seen as one of best performing states out of the new eastern members of the EU with strong economic growth and healthy public finances. However, since 2009, Slovenia is in the midst of a major economic crisis because of its dependence on foreign capitals and exports. The country’s GDP shrunk by nearly 8% in 2009 and it drifted back into recession, with growth projected to recede by 2.2% this year and by 0.4% in 2013. Unemployment has increased from 4% in 2008 to over 8% this year, and it is projected to reach 9% in 2011. The country’s credit rating was decently downgraded, and its debt has grown rapidly from 22% of the GDP in 2008 to nearly 47% of GDP in 2012. The country’s current government (like the previous one) is committed to austerity measures in a bid to revive the economy.

One year ago, on December 4, an early general election was held in Slovenia. Ultimately, a centre-right government was formed with Janez Janša, who had previously served as Prime Minister between 2004 and 2008, at its helm. Janša’s government has passed several austerity measures including cuts in public sector wages, pensions and social benefits, a new law which will make it easier for employers to hire and fire employees and pushing back the retirement age. Janša has not excluded a “Greek-type scenario” – asking for a European bailout.

These policies, and alleged corruption at the highest levels, have created social discontent and unrest. Demonstrations against austerity and corruption in Maribor and Ljubljana at the end of November turned violent.

Elected President in 2007, Danilo Türk has become a noted critic of the centre-right government. He has opposed the inclusion of a “golden rule” in the constitution and he opposed the pension reform, the new labour market law and other austerity policies. Janša, during his first term as Prime Minister between 2004 and 2008, had already had confrontational relations with the then-President, Janez Drnovšek.

There were three contenders in the first round, in early November. Incumbent President Danilo Türk, a left-wing independent, was endorsed by the largest opposition party – Ljubljana mayor Zoran Janković’s Positive Slovenia (PS) and five other parties (including the moribund LDS and Zares and the governing pensioners’ party). Prime Minister Janez Janša’s conservative SDS endorsed Milan Zver, a SDS MEP and former cabinet. A small coalition partner, the right-wing NSi, also endorsed Zver. The third candidate was former Prime Minister Borut Pahor (Social Democrats, SD), the centre-left Prime Minister defeated in the 2011 elections (the SDs fell from 29 to 10 seats in that election). Pahor, who lost the SD leadership in June, was endorsed by another junior partner, Gregor Virant’s centre-right Civic List. Türk was the anti-government and anti-austerity candidate – painted by the right as a far-leftist. Zver was the most pro-government candidate. In the middle, Pahor, whose government between 2008 and 2011 had also supported austerity measures similar to those being implemented by Janša, backed the government’s economic policies and promised to be an independent, ‘bipartisan’ president who would work with both sides, seeking ‘national unity’ to surmout Slovenia’s economic challenges.

Turnout in the first round was an all-time low, at 48.2%. The results of the first round, on November 11, were as follows:

Borut Pahor (SD) 39.93%
Danilo Türk (ind) 35.9%
Milan Zver (SDS) 24.18%

Danilo Türk had been widely expected to win fairly easily, making the results of the first round a major surprise. Pahor was likely boosted by strong performances in several debates against his two opponents, and his adroit sugar-coating of the bitter austerity message by appealing to national unity and promising to restore peace if not prosperity by working with, rather than against, the government. Pahor was able to draw cross-ideological support, drawing from the ranks of both the left and the right. Zver did not endorse any candidate after his defeat in the first round, the result of a poor campaign. However, if Janez Janša stopped short of explicitly backing Pahor, he implicitly endorsed him when he urged voters to vote for the candidate who supported reform.

Türk was taken aback by his first round defeat. He warned that the low turnout in the first round, an all-time low, represented growing discontent and apathy towards the political system and political elites, increasingly seen as corrupt.

Turnout in the runoff was 41.95%. The results were:

Borut Pahor (SD) 67.44%
Danilo Türk (ind) 32.56%

Borut Pahor was elected President with over two-thirds of the vote, soundly defeating the incumbent. Unable to check Pahor’s post-first round momentum, Türk even lost some his own voters – he had won 292.5k votes on November 11 but only 228.9k voters showed up in his favour in the runoff. Pahor’s appeal to national unity and peaceful relations with the government might have been boosted by the violent anti-austerity and anti-corruption demonstrations in Maribor and Ljubljana.

On maps (available here), Pahor’s (and Zver’s) support is largely rural or from small-towns, while Türk dominated – in the first round – in the urban centres of Ljubljana, Maribor and Koper, more left-wing and socially liberal. Rural areas tend to be more right-leaning, but Pahor’s support was more than exclusively right-wing rural areas – he also did well in urban areas where the SDs are strong (Nova Gorica) and more swingy rural areas. In the runoff, Türk only held on to a few core districts in central Ljubljana.

Borut Pahor’s victory, which almost came out of the blue, is a rare electoral victory for austerity policies in Europe (along with the Netherlands in September). In recent elections, parties and governments which have supported austerity policies have either lost power or done fairly badly. Pahor, endorsing the government’s economic policies and running on a platform of national unity to restore prosperity and surmout tough times, proved succesful. The presidency is a largely symbolic post in Slovenia, and Pahor’s election will not change government policies or significantly alter the course the country’s politics, but perhaps his campaign style and rhetoric will influence other parties and candidates in Europe, in upcoming elections?

Canadian federal by-elections Nov 2012

Three federal by-elections were held in Canada on November 26, 2012. These three by-elections were to fill vacancies in the federal constituencies of Durham (Ontario), Calgary Centre (Alberta) and Victoria (British Columbia).

Durham (Ontario)

Durham is a large exurban constituency east of Toronto which includes the municipalities of Clarington, Uxbridge and Scugog (plus a small first nations community). Major communities include Courtice and Bowmanville, two major towns along the 401 east of Oshawa, and the smaller towns of Uxbridge and Port Perry in the north of the riding. Durham is nearly homogeneously white (95%) and predominantly Protestant (52.5%).

There are some local industries and employers in the constituency, including a nuclear power plant in Darlington, but the demographics of the constituency reflect a largely exurban population, which commutes to work in Oshawa or Toronto. The constituency has a large percentage of married individuals (57.2%, 31st in Canada), a lower percentage of people aged over 15 (79.9%), a fairly high median household income ($77,210 – 19th in Ontario) but a fairly low percentage of highly educated residents (12.7% of residents have a university certificate or degree) and a very high proportion of homeowners (88.2%). Only 22.5% of residents work in the municipality where they live, the 9th lowest in Ontario.

White, English and Protestant, Durham has historically been fairly Conservative. The Uxbridge and Scugog (Port Perry) areas, historically part of Ontario County, have a Liberal tradition while parts of former Durham County were more Conservatives. The Tories won handily in 1988, but throughout the 90s (from 1993 to 2004), the Chrétien Liberals held the seat with comfortable majorities although only because of the division of the right. The Liberals never won over 50% of the vote, and in all three elections the combined right-wing vote was higher than the Liberal vote. In 2004, Conservative journalist Bev Oda regained the seat, earning a small 2.5% majority over the Liberals. With the slow collapse of the Liberal Party in the exurban GTA in 2006, 2008 and 2011 Oda was reelected with larger majorities -17% in 2006, 31% in 2008 and 33% in 2011. In 2011, the NDP – which had placed fourth behind the Greens in 2008 – placed a distant second, ahead of the Grits.

Oda, who served as Minister for International Cooperation in the Harper government between 2007 and 2012, was compelled to resign in June 2012 after ethics scandals (in 2011, she had directed staff to add a handwritten annotation to a CIDA memo which resulted in a funding request from an NGO being ignored; in 2012, at a conference she turned down staying at the conference hotel and preferred a more costly hotel).

Oda won every poll in 2008 and she lost only one poll in 2011 (a mobile poll covering seniors’ residences). The Tories tend to perform best in the more rural parts of the riding, while the Liberals and NDP find some stronger support in urban areas – especially Courtice and Bowmanville, where the NDP broke 30% in a few polls in 2011 (including, interestingly, some newer middle-class subdivisions). The Liberals, in 2011, performed best in Uxbridge.

The Conservatives nominated Erin O’Toole, a local lawyer whose father is the incumbent PC MPP for Durham. The NDP unearthed a strong candidate, Larry O’Connor, the former mayor of Brock (a township which is outside of the riding) and a NDP MPP for the area between 1990 and 1995. The Liberals renominated their 2011 candidate, Grant Humes, while the Greens nominated Virginia Mae Ervin, who had run in 2006 and 2004.

Erin O’Toole (Con) 50.72% (-3.83%)
Larry O’Connor (NDP) 26.26% (+5.16%)
Grant Humes (Lib) 17.28% (-0.57%)
Virginia Mae Ervin (Green) 4.07% (-1.32%)
Andrew Moriarity (CHP) 1.28% (+0.49%)
Michael Nicula (OP) 0.39%

The Tories held Durham with a large, although slightly reduced, majority, as was expected. Turnout was 35.8%. The results in Durham are good for the Tories, who broke 50% and especially for the NDP, which maintained and improved on its second place showing in the riding. Prior to the Orange Crush in 2011, the NDP could only dream of finishing second in a riding like Durham (although it did have a few good results in the 70s and 80s). The next NDP breakthrough obviously won’t come from the exurban GTA, which remains a wasteland for the NDP; but that such ridings which had previously been Tory-Grit battles are becoming Tory-NDP places is good news for the NDP.

Calgary Centre (Alberta)

Calgary Centre covers downtown Calgary south of the Bow River. Major neighborhoods in the riding include the Beltine, Mount Royal and some surrounding suburban neighborhoods. Calgary Centre remains largely white (78.8%), with the largest visible minorities being Chinese (5.9%). Religiously, Protestants make up a narrow plurality (32.6%) of residents while 24.5% are Catholics and 30% claim no religion.

There is a fairly big contrast between the downtown core areas of the riding – neighborhoods such as Beltline, Cliff Bungalow, Connaught, Downtown East Village or Lower Mount Royal – and the suburban parts of the riding. The downtown, particularly the aforementioned neighborhoods, have a younger, more ethnically diverse and less affluent population. Most downtown residents are renters, living in apartments or some of the newer high-rise condos close to the Bow River. The downtown neighborhoods, particularly the Beltline, have pockets of deprivation and have struggled with poverty and social problems. On the other hand, the suburban portions of the riding tend to be more affluent. Upper Mount Royal, Scarboro, Elbow Park, Rideau Park, Britannia, Bel-Aire and Mayfair are all very affluent and educated residential suburban neighborhoods. Some of the riding’s outer suburban neighborhoods (Glenmorgan, Glenbrook, Rosscarrock, Killarney etc) are slightly less affluent, made up in good part of older post-war lower middle-class bungalow housing. The riding’s demographics reflect its diverse social makeup. It is the Albertan riding with the highest percentage of never married individuals (48.4%), there are not many households with children (only 14%, one of the lowest in all of Canada), it is highly educated (33.6% with a university certificate, diploma or degree) but not extremely affluent (median HH income is $49,042, the second lowest in Alberta) and a narrow majority of individuals rent their household (53.8%, the second highest in Alberta).

It has been said that a riding like Calgary Centre, if located anywhere outside of Alberta, would vote Liberal or NDP. In the context of Albertan federal politics, heavily dominated by the Conservatives (and their predecessors) due to the toxicity of the Liberal Party post-NEP, Calgary Centre is solidly Tory. The last time the seat went Liberal was in 1963, for a single term and the last time parts of the ridings were represented by a Liberal was in 1968. The Tories have held the seat with large majorities since then, taking over 50% of the vote in the 1970s and 1980s. The Reform Party won the seat in 1993 and 1997. The riding was closely contested in 2000, when former Prime Minister Joe Clark, a Red Tory who was the leader of the remnants of the PCs in the 2000 election, ran in Calgary Centre against the Canadian Alliance. The Liberal vote, which fell to only 9.8%, coalesced around Clark, allowing him to win 46-38.5 over the Alliance.

In 2004, former PC MP Lee Richardson won the seat for the new Conservative Party, with a 21% majority over the Liberals. Richardson, who had a moderate and pragmatic reputation as a Tory MP, retained the seat in subsequent elections with ever-larger majorities. In 2011, he won a 40% majority taking 57.7% against a paltry 17.5% for the Liberals and 14.9% for the NDP. The Greens have been strong in the riding, taking second with 16.6% in 2008 but dropping to right below 10% in 2011. At the provincial level, Liberals have been more successful – they hold the seat of Calgary-Buffalo. Richardson did very well in the suburban parts of the riding, especially the most affluent residential suburbs – where he took about 70% of the vote. The non-Tories (Liberals, NDP, Greens) have done best in the downtown area – the NDP won 2 polls there in 2011, the Greens won 3 polls in 2008 and the Liberals won a bunch of downtown polls in 2004 and a few in 2006 (and one in 2008).

Lee Richardson’s retirement to take up a job with Alberta Premier Alison Redford led to a crowded contest for the Tory nomination. Ultimately, Joan Crockatt, a journalist who was viewed as Prime Minister Harper’s favourite candidate and one of the more right-leaning candidates, won the Tory nod. For some reason, her choice went down pretty badly in Calgary Centre – was it because she was perceived as the candidate imposed by the PMO, because of her proximity to the Wildrose Alliance rather than the PCs in provincial politics or just other unsuccessful CPC nomination candidates who were particularly bitter? Polls showed the Liberal candidate, Harvey Locke (a conservationist and former provincial party president), within striking distance of the Tories and the Greens (their candidate was Chris Turner, a journalist and author) pulling over 20%. Crockatt retained a small lead in later polls, but this was the most closely watched by-election of the three. Liberals feared that their momentum might have been brutally halted late in the campaign, following the comments made by Liberal MP David McGuinty (he said that Alberta Tories should “go back to Alberta” and that they have a ‘protectionist’ view of the energy industry) and even Liberal leadership candidate Justin Trudeau (in 2010, he said that Canada was not doing well because Albertans control “our community and socio-democratic agenda”).

Joan Crockatt (Con) 36.89% (-20.79%)
Harvey Locke (Lib) 32.67% (+15.14%)
Chris Turner (Green) 25.64% (+15.73%)
Dan Meades (NDP) 3.84% (-11.02%)
Antoni Grochowski (Ind) 0.51%
Tony Prashad (Libertarian) 0.44%

The Conservatives retained the seat, although with a 4.2% majority which is a very far cry from Lee Richardson’s 40 point margin in May 2011. However, what counts for them is that they retained the seat and averted a huge PR disaster – which the Harper government is always very keen on avoiding. Of course, the fact that they came within 4% of losing a seat which has been solidly Conservative for ages should be worrying for the Tories, though it would still be risky to extrapolate any provincial (let alone) national trends from this result. Crockatt was probably a bad candidate, despite being rather well known on the Calgary media circuit, and she is probably to the right of her fairly socially liberal and ‘Red Tory’ constituents. The Tories will need to dissect what happened, but I would wager that this by-election is one of those fluke by-elections which don’t portend any future trends.

The Liberals had a good result, but because they had focused their sparse resources on the riding to the exclusion of the two other ridings, a defeat – even if it is by a very close margin – will be disappointing for them. The Liberals have shown that, under particular circumstances and low turnout, they can come close to the Tories even in solidly blue Calgary. With such a close race, Liberals will be left wondering if they could have won the seat if McGuinty had not said what he said and the 2010 Trudeau tape had not been put back in the front light. However, no polls showed the Liberals actually leading in CC – even prior to the McGuinty/Trudeau comments – and their 32-33% of the vote on November 26 is basically where the polls had placed them.

Yet, the Liberals are not on the verge of breaking through Harper’s “Alberta Firewall”. Polls do show that Tory support has dropped from the 67% they won in the province in May 2011, but at 58-60%, it’s not really catastrophic for them and the fact that both the Liberals and NDP have definite problems in reaching out to Albertans makes it easier for the Harper Tories in Alberta. The Greens were the true winners, taking a very big 25% of the vote.

The NDP did very badly, which could be a reflection of the local unpopularity of Thomas Mulcair’s comments about the “Dutch disease” in relation to Alberta’s oil sands, but it is probably more a reflection of the fact that the NDP didn’t bother contesting the by-election, certainly not with a strong candidate like the Grits or the Greens.

Interestingly, turnout in CC was the lowest of the three by-elections at only 29.4%. As a urban core riding, it has always tended to see lower turnout levels, but one would have expected heavier turnout considering the high stakes and close contest. Did Tories unhappy with Crockatt choose to stay home? This seems likely a good explanation, considering the Tory raw vote dropped from 28.4k in 2011 to 10.1k in this by-election while the Liberals won about 400 more votes and the Greens took an extra 2.2k votes. The Greens, who have proven that they can attract ‘Red Tory’ voters with some success in the past, likely took votes away from the Tories and the NDP (they lost about 6.2k votes). This is one of those by-elections where poll-by-poll data will be warmly welcomed.

Victoria (British Columbia)

The riding of Victoria includes the city of Victoria, the provincial capital, the suburban district of Oak Bay and parts of the district of Saanich. The riding is predominantly white (85%) with the largest visible minorities being Chinese (4%). In Victoria, the largest religion is the lackthereof: in 2001, 40.5% of residents claimed no religious affiliation while 35.4% were Protestant.

Victoria is a popular tourist destination and an attractive city, with a growing lucrative high-tech sector. Home to the University of Victoria (UVic), the city has a large non-local student population. Like most of coastal Vancouver Island, the Victoria region is particularly attractive for affluent retireees who enjoy the temperate climate and the city’s usually relaxed pace. The city of Victoria itself has a diverse mix of unionized civil servants in neighborhoods such as James Bay and Fairfield, artists and students in Fernwood or downtown and young professionals who were drawn by the new high-tech sector in the city. Despite being a popular tourist destination and largely white-collar city, Victoria has pockets of deprivation and homelessness, loitering, panhandling and drug use continue to cause problem in some lower-income areas in downtown Victoria. Oak Bay, an old streetcar suburb, is wealthier and older. Parts of Oak Bay, notably Uplands and Ten Mile Point, are very affluent and popular with retirees. Some other parts of Oak Bay have some students, academics and public sector professionals. Parts of Victoria have seen pricey high-rise condo towers spring up, attracting more previleged retirees.

Demographically, this is a fairly old riding with the median age being 45 and the percentage of individuals over 15 being one of the highest in Canada (90%). Victoria has high percentages of widows and divorcees, but also a fairly large percentage of singles who never married (39%). There are relatively few households with children. The riding, unsurprisingly, falls in the upper tier of ridings in terms of education: 31% of residents have a university degree. In terms of income, however, the riding is generally ‘poor’ with a median HH income of $43,045, the second lowest in BC. 52% of residents rent their household.

Once upon a time, the famously monarchist and old English Protestant city of Victoria was a Tory stronghold. The Conservatives held both seats in the two-member riding between 1882 and 1902, in 1878 Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald won the seat (despite having never even been to Victoria) following his defeat in his native riding of Kingston. The Tories held the seat again between 1908 and 1937. In later years, the Liberals and Conservatives played back-and-forth over the seat, with the Liberals holding the seat from 1937 till 1957 and again between 1963 and 1972. The Tories held the seat under Diefenbaker and then between 1972 and 1988, when they lost it to the NDP.

In the space of six years, Victoria has become a solid NDP seat, but 1988 was the only time prior to 2006 that the NDP held the seat. Between 1993 and 2006, David Anderson, a popular Liberal who served as Minister of the Environment between 1999 and 2004 held the seat with comfortable majorities. In 2004, Anderson defeated David Turner (NDP), the former mayor of Victoria, by 4 points. However, the Liberals failed to hold the seat in 2006, when the NDP’s Denise Savoie won the seat with an 11% majority over the Liberals. Since then, the Liberal vote has collapsed in Victoria, bleeding votes left and right. Savoie was reelected in 2008 and 2011 (with a 17% and 27% majorities respectively) but in both elections, the Tories placed second while the Liberals were relegated to third (with only 14% in 2011). The Greens have polled strongly in Victoria since 2004, most recently winning 11.6% in 2011.

In the 90s and early 2000s, the Liberals were dominant throughout the quasi-entirety of Oak Bay, doing very well in the most affluent areas, but they also had strength in parts of Victoria – including Fairfield and parts of James Bay. The NDP’s base was and remains the lower-income neighborhoods of Fernwood or North Park. Since then, however, the Liberals lost votes to the Conservatives in the affluent parts of Oak Bay and in the condo polls along the coast, while the NDP has secured very strong support throughout Victoria. In 2011, the Tories won the Uplands and Ten Mile Point neighborhoods of Oak Bay along with a few condo polls, while the NDP won practically everywhere else.

This by-election followed Denise Savoie’s resignation for health reasons. The NDP candidate was Murray Rankin, an environmental lawyer. The Liberals nominated Paul Summerville, who had ran for the NDP in St. Paul’s (Toronto) in 2006. The Conservative candidate was Dale Gann. Victoria is next door to Saanich-Gulf Islands, held since May 2011 by the Green leader, Elizabeth May. The Greens nominated Donald Galloway, a UVic professor. The Greens have targeted Victoria as a potential riding for a “second Green MP” in the 2015 election, and ran a strong campaign in this by-election.

Murray Rankin (NDP) 37.23% (-13.55%)
Donald Galloway (Green) 34.28% (+22.67%)
Dale Gann (Con) 14.44% (-9.19%)
Paul Summerville (Lib) 13.06% (-0.92%)
Art Lowe (Libertarian) 0.50%
Philip Ney (CHP) 0.49%

The NDP held the seat, but with a 2.9% margin it is too close for comfort. The NDP had been expected to retain the seat despite a strong Green challenge, but the Greens got closer to actually winning the seat (on election night, early results had the Greens leading) than anyone had expected. The NDP had likely not invested as much in this campaign as it should have, while the Greens – boosted by the presence of their colourful and energetic next door in SGI – targeted the seat and apparently ran a very strong campaign locally. The Conservatives and Liberals, who in the past had fought for the seat, fought for distant third and fourth place in this by-election. We should not read too much into the horrible Conservative result, given that the Tories generally see their vote share collapse in by-elections which they do not bother seriously contesting all while being able to poll very strongly in by-elections which they invest significant resources in. The Liberals should be worried by their result, but they too did not run a very active campaign.

Victoria had the highest turnout of the three seats contested, at 44%.

We hoped that a clear message could be drawn from these 3 by-elections on November 26, but as in so many by-elections it ended in an inconclusive night and mixed messages for all parties.

The one thing which is clear is that the Greens won the by-elections. Their vote share dropped in Durham, but they did extremely well in both Calgary and Victoria. Since 2011, the Greens have abandoned their old strategy of contesting every single seat and spreading their sparse resources across Canada. In the 2011 federal election, the Green Party’s campaign was basically all about electing Elizabeth May in SGI, and they were successful – but it was at the cost of losing support in almost every single other riding in the country. That strategy worked in 2011, and the Greens have opted to prioritizing and focusing their resources in the seats where they feel that have a solid shot at winning, even if that means seeing Green support drop even further in the other seats which they do not seriously contest. The Greens ignored Durham – their vote dropped – but they focused on Calgary Centre and especially Victoria. In both of these cases, their investments paid off. Victoria is now a prime Green target in the 2015 election, and Calgary Centre could potentially be promising. These by-elections will not lead to a sustained Green surge in the polls (besides – there’s no federal election until 2015), but the fact that the Greens have chosen to focus their efforts in a few ridings could be bad news for Harper’s opponents, who could see the centre-left/anti-Harper vote divided even further.

Could we count the Tories or the Liberals as ‘winners’ in these three by-elections? On the one hand, the Tories did well in Durham (showing that Fortress Rurban Ontario is still very solid) and they averted a PR disaster in Alberta but on the other hand, their vote collapsed in Victoria and CC was unacceptably close for them. Similarly, while the Liberals can pride themselves in a (very) strong result in CC, but on the other hand they did horribly in the other two seats and considering that CC had turned into a must-win for them, a loss stings. The Conservatives remain in a relatively solid position, even if Harper’s government is fairly unpopular and Tory support nationally is only a bit above their traditional floor (30-33%). The Liberals have lots of work ahead of them if they want to regain second place, let alone win power.

The NDP had a tough night. Victoria almost created a PR disaster for them, while their support fell off in CC. On the other hand, they did do quite well in Durham – maintaining a respectable second in a seat where second place for the NDP would have been unimaginable prior to the 2011 Orange Crush.

Catalonia 2012

General elections were held in Catalonia on November 25, 2012. There are 135 seats in the Parliament of Catalonia (Parlament de Catalunya/Parlamento de Cataluña), elected by d’Hondt closed list proportional representation in the region’s four provinces. There is a 3% threshold in each province to win seats.

The province of Barcelona elects 85 deputies while the provinces of Girona, Lleida and Tarragona elect 17, 15 and 18 deputies respectively. The province of Barcelona, where some 73% of the region’s population lives, is underrepresented to the benefit of the three, smaller, provinces who hold 41% of the seats in the Parliament but only 27% of the region’s population. The Catalan Parliament elects the President of the Generalitat, the government of the autonomous community.

The last regional elections took place in fall 2010 and they resulted in the victory of the Convergence and Union (CiU), a centre-right Catalan nationalist party led by Artur Mas, who became President of the Generalitat. Mas’ CiU had won 62 seats and a healthy plurality of seats, but they fell short of the 68 seats required for an absolute majority.

My Guide to the 2011 Spanish Election offers some background on Catalonia and its history, of particular relevance to the current situation.

Catalonia is Spain’s second most populous community and has long been the industrial motor of Spain, to this day it accounts for 18.6% of the Spanish GDP. Catalonia, which has a strong national identity, is often portrayed as the “civilized” counterpart to Euskadi: Catalan nationalism is expressed peacefully and politically, while Basque nationalism is expressed (in part) through terror and violence. Catalan nationalism is one of the most enduring and potent political issues in Spain and Catalonia is a key piece in the economic, political and social makeup of Spain. The population of Catalonia is 7,535,251 (INE 2011). The capital of Catalonia is Barcelona and the community is composed of the provinces of Barcelona, Girona, Lleida and Tarragona.

Catalonia has never been a kingdom or a powerful empire of its own, but its language alongside a long history of cultural splendor, political power and prominent role in what became Spain has been a key element in the construction of a Catalan national identity, a national identity which is shared by the vast majority of Catalans to this day. As the Franks pushed the Muslims back in the 8th and 9th centuries, a plethora of vassal counties emerged in present-day Catalonia, with the county of Barcelona becoming the leading force of these increasingly independent counties. In 987, the Count of Barcelona’s refusal to swear loyalty to Hugh Capet of France sealed the division of Catalonia from the Frankish realms. Under the reign of Ramon Berenguer I, Barcelona rose to a position of economic and political prominence in the region. In 1137, the marriage of Ramon Berenguer IV with Petronilla of Aragon (well, technically, she was one year old. Royals were sickos) united the crowns of Barcelona with that of Aragon. While the future ‘counts’ were known as kings of Aragon, Catalonia was very much the driving force. Catalonia’s rising embryo of a future urban bourgeoisie became a very potent political force, organized in parliament (the Corts, a kind of Estates-General) and a governing body, the Generalitat. Catalonia’s economic opulence and cultural influence during this era (13-14th century) was a contributing factor in the early development of a sort of proto-national identity. However, the accession to the Aragonese throne of a Castilian branch in 1410 led to the slow decline of Catalan influence and political power and most of the region’s initial rights were surrendered to the growing power of Castile – especially after the dynastic union of 1469. In 1652, a Catalan revolt aided by France was crushed. In the War of Spanish Succession, the Catalans sided with Archduke Charles, the Habsburg claimant, over the eventual winner, Philip V of Bourbon. Catalonia chose the wrong side and was totally destroyed. In 1716, the institutions of Catalan self-government were abolished. In the next hundred years and more, Catalans showed extraordinary resilience despite losing their particularities, power, influence and wealth. During the nineteenth century, Catalonia experienced rapid industrialization based around the textile industry. Textile production started inland in mills powered by mountain rivers, and later expanded into a large, sprawling textile empire in and around Barcelona. Until the development of Basque industry in the late nineteenth century, Catalonia was the only part of Spain which had entered the new world order of industrialization and even after Basque industrialization it remained an industrial powerhouse in a feudal country where most lived lives of misery in unprofitable and nonviable agriculture. Is it a surprise that Catalans increasingly started perceiving Madrid and the rest of Spain as an uncivilized feudal backwater which seemed to be controlled by creaking old nobles in cahoots with the landed class which profited from the super-protected nonviable feudal agrarian Spanish economy?

Influenced by European Romanticism, Catalonia underwent a cultural rebirth in the late nineteenth century – the Renaixença. The Renaixença represented the creation by the Catalan intelligentsia of a Catalan national identity distinct from Spain, which they viewed with much frustration. The Renaixença placed a role in the birth of Catalan nationalism (sometimes called ‘Catalanism’) as a political movement. The main actors of Catalan nationalism at the turn of the century were Catalonia’s middle-class industrialists, the Catalan elites who aspired to expand their industrial empire to the rest of Spain. Their goal was to increase the power and prestige of Catalonia and Catalan industry within Spain, eventually taking the reins of power in Madrid from the hands of the landed gentry whose interests laid primarily in the feudal agrarian system. Regionalism was used as political tool to gain power and extract concessions from the dominant interests. For obvious reasons, they were certainly not separatists and in fact the Lliga Regionalista used to talk in terms of a “greater Spain”. This moderate, pragmatic stream of Catalan nationalism which seeks power and influence for Catalonia, not separation, and values compromise and dialogue with Madrid exists to this day in the form of the Convergence and Union (CiU) coalition. However, this moderate “we only care about your cash”-type of nationalism did not appeal to the more radical intellectuals, who would slowly go on to form a far more radical, sometimes separatist or sometimes federalist, republican stream of Catalan nationalism which exists to this day in the form of the Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC). The ERC was the driving force of Catalan nationalism during the Republic and Civil War, but the moderate stream emerged victorious as soon as 1977 under what would become the CiU, the heir to the Lliga.

Catalonia accounts for 18.7% of Spain’s GDP, making it the second largest economy in Spain after the Madrid region. Historically, of course, industry was the motor of the Catalan economy and by consequence a motor for a lot of the Spanish economy. Under the inspiration and leadership of Catalonia’s industrious middle-class, the region developed a booming secondary sector based around the production and entire industry of textile. The Catalan textile world used to be concentrated up in the valleys, far inland; but in the 1800s it took its present base in and around Barcelona along the Mediterranean coast. It later diversified beyond textiles into automobiles, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, foodstuffs or shipbuilding. While industry used to account for up to 40%, it accounts for only 18% of Catalonia’s GDP today. Like most western economies, services (72%) now concentrate most employment. Catalonia is a major financial and banking centre and it is a prized tourist destination (specifically the coasts). Catalonia has long turned industry into wealth, and it has historically been a “shining beacon” of prosperity within a feudal Spain. The region’s GDP per capita of €27,053 places it in fourth place.

As much as Catalonia was a “shining beacon” of prosperity in Spain for a very long time, that shouldn’t be tailored to mean that Catalonia enjoyed wonderful social peace. It didn’t. Influenced by Barcelona’s history of federalism, Barcelona and Catalonia was an anarchist bastion for most of the first half of the twentieth century and Catalonia was often at the heart of labour disputes, notably between 1916 and 1923. Socialism never really gained a foothold in Catalonia until the transition, in fact (when it gained a stronghold).

But to many poorer Spaniards, Catalonia was a ”shining beacon” of prosperity and hope. Its industrial sector needed cheap labour, so it attracted a lot of internal migrants mostly from Andalusia and the poor regions of southern Spain. Immigration from southern Spain to Catalonia was particularly important under Franco’s regime, at the end of which one could talk of Barcelona as “Andalusia’s ninth province”. The Andalusian Party (PA) ran in the 1980 Catalan elections and actually won two seats (and 3% of the vote in Barcelona province). Today, there is little immigration into Catalonia from within Spain. Rather, immigration to Catalonia these days is mostly foreign. Besides South American and Romanian immigration, Catalonia has a very large Muslim North African (Moroccan) community. Many Moroccan and North African youths are attracted to Barcelona by the fabled FC Barcelona (and also economic reasons, of course). 16% of the Catalan population is foreign-born. Today, most Catalans are born in Catalonia itself (77% in a 2010 study). But when Catalans are asked where their parents were born, that same study showed that only a minority – 44-45% – said that their parents were born in Catalonia. Up to 27% said that their parents were born in Andalusia. These people have integrated in Catalan society and culture remarkably well, but it is still common to speak of their parents as “other Catalans” – Catalans, yes, but different. Most of the “other Catalans” came to work in the industrial suburbs of Barcelona and settled in the industrial ‘C’ which surrounds Barcelona.

Catalanism as an ideology whose basis is the recognition and promotion of Catalan national ideology is embraced by a vast majority of Catalan voters and all but two of the current parties in the Catalan Parliament (PP and C’s). The Catalan Socialists (PSC) by far and large embrace the Catalan national identity and support a federal vision of Spain which includes national recognition for Catalonia and Senate reform. It was the PSC-led government of Pasqual Maragall who spearheaded the ambitious 2006 reform of Catalonia’s Statute of Autonomy. The PSC, however, is unambiguously against Catalan independence. The governing CiU is in practice a pragmatic, moderate nationalist party whose goal is to give Catalonia full fiscal autonomy (like Euskadi) and self-determination within Spain, not independence. Of the parliamentary parties, only the ERC and Joan Laporta’s SI support Catalan independence from Spain. In contrast to Euskadi, the expression of Catalan nationalism has rarely taken a violent form. The terrorist organization Terra Lliure dissolved itself in the early 1990s and it never carried out acts of violence equivalent to ETA’s actions. That is why Catalan nationalism is always described as a “civilized” thing, whose expression is democratic and political. One of the reasons for this is that the issue of nationalism (though obviously not the issue of independence) is not as polarizing in Catalan society as it is in Basque society. ‘Catalanism’ has long been supported by a huge majority of Catalans, and there is a long history of national identification in Catalonia – unlike in Euskadi.

The official languages of Catalonia are Catalan and Spanish. Catalan is, like Spanish, an Ibero-Romance language. It is easy to pick up for a Spanish-speaker and quite similar to Spanish overall. Catalan is close to Occitan, which was spoken in southern France, and as such it appears as an intermediate language between Ibero-Romance languages (Spanish, Portuguese) and Gallo-Romance languages (Occitan, French). Roughly 95% of Catalans understand Catalan and around 75% of them can speak it (a lower percentage can write it too). However, Catalan is the primary language of identification for only 32% of Catalans: 50% identify with Spanish, 7% with both Catalan and Spanish and 9% with another language. The use of Spanish, understandably, remains pervasive in media and business. However, the Catalan government is extremely stringent on linguistic policy. Catalan is defined as the “preferred” language of administration, public business, education and cultural activities. All city names are official only in their Catalan forms (for example, Gerona become Girona and Lerida became Lleida). Public servants must speak Catalan and it is the preferred language of business in government. All students must be proficient in both Catalan and Spanish in order to graduate, and Catalan is by far the top language of education in Catalan schools. The government also spends large sums of money on promoting Catalan culture in movies, television, radio or print media. There is some opposition to the very stringent pro-Catalan policies of the Generalitat: the PP and C’s both oppose the current state of language legislation and instead lobby for ‘bilingualism’ which means full equality between both languages, as well as equal education in both Spanish and Catalan. The former leader of the PP in Catalonia and incumbent MEP Alejo Vidal-Quadras described the linguistic policies as some sort of ‘apartheid’. On the other hand, Catalan nationalists claim that tough promotion of Catalan in the public sphere is necessary to preserve the language and prevent Spanish from gaining the upper-hand in everyday life. Spanish is already preferred over Catalan in everyday life situations. Some of the most radical nationalists are opposed to bilingualism. Rather, they would want to see Catalan recognized as the sole official language with the use of Spanish being a “right of individual citizens”.

It is important to note that this system of bilingualism is not universal in Catalonia. The mountainous northwestern territory of the Val d’Aran speaks Aranese, an variant of Occitan. The Val d’Aran has its own directly-elected legislature (general council) and a special status of autonomy. Aranese is co-official there with Catalan and Spanish.

Catalans are ticket-splitters. In general, municipal and European elections they are loyal to the Socialists (PSC). The PSC has been the largest party in all general elections, and has been the largest party in all but one municipal and European election (2011 and 1994 respectively). In 2008, the PSC won 46.1% of the vote against 21.26% for the CiU, 16.65% for the PP, 7.95% for the ERC and 5% for the ICV. The PSC’s landslide – beating even its previous high in 1982 – played a major role in the reelection of the Zapatero government in Madrid. Catalans, also worried in large part of the effects of a new PP government (the PSC did similarly and abnormally well in 1996), rewarded the Socialists for their role in the reform of the Statute in 2006. The CiU’s utter weakness and pitiful state in general elections is a new phenomenon, however. In 2004, the 5.4% margin between the PSC and CiU turned into 18.9% margin in the PSC’s favour and increased to a record-high 24.8% margin in 2008. Between 1986 and 2004, however, the CiU had a high stable vote ranging between 29% and 32%, with the margin between them and the PSC being between 5% and 9%. The PSC also has the edge in municipal and European elections. Most importantly, the PSC has controlled Barcelona’s city hall between 1979 and 2011. During the 1990s, the Socialist-controlled Barcelona was a major counterweight to Jordi Pujol’s control of the Generalitat. Pasqual Maragall was mayor of the Catalan capital between 1982 and 1997.

In elections to the Catalan Parliament, however, voters are far more likely to support the CiU (and to a lesser extent the ERC) at the expense of non-nationalist parties like the PSC or PP. In 1980, despite a poor performance in the 1977 and 1979, Jordi Pujol’s newly-founded nationalist coalition CiU emerged as the strongest force to the PSC’s dismay with 27% and 43 seats against 33 seats for the PSC and 25 seats for the communist PSUC. Pujol, an intelligent, charismatic, competent and shrewd politician would go on to become the embodiment of Catalonia and Catalan nationalism. In 1984, the CiU won 46.8% and an absolute majority in the Parliament which it held on to in 1988 and 1992. By 1995, Pujol’s star had begun fading and he was reduced to a minority. In 1999, Maragall’s PSC won slightly more votes (37.9% vs. 37.7%) though Pujol won more seats. Pujol held on for a final term with the votes of the PP. In 2003, support for both the CiU (now led by Artur Mas) and the PSC fell but Maragall took power from the CiU with an historic tripartite coalition with the ERC and ICV. This coalition was reelected in 2006, though the CiU won more votes and seats. In 2010, the PSC collapsed to a record-low 18.4% and 28 seats, while Artur Mas’ CiU won 62 seats – almost an absolute majority.

The PSC’s base in Catalonia is Barcelona province, which concentrates 73% of the region’s population (though only 63% of seats in the Catalan Parliament). Barcelona has the heaviest concentration of so-called “other Catalans” – Catalans whose parents (oftentimes) were born outside Catalonia and came to work in the industrial hinterland of Barcelona. These voters, though they may feel Catalan, do not identify with Catalan nationalism. Besides, most of them being poor and working-class do not naturally identify either with a right-wing party like the CiU. Industrial suburbs of Barcelona or old working-class towns like L’Hospitalet de Llobregat, Badalona, Terrassa, Sabadell, Santa Coloma, El Prat or Manresa are some of Catalonia’s largest cities and strongholds of the PSC (over 50% in good years). The CiU’s vote is concentrated in rural areas, where Catalan remains the dominant language, and in affluent towns (most of the Catalan middle-class is nationalist) like Sant Cugat. The CiU was the largest party in general elections between 1986 and 2004 in the provinces of Girona and Lleida. Perhaps a trend which should worry the PSC (or is it an ephemeral fad linked to the poor state of the Socialists?) is the rise of the PP and the far-right in its working-class strongholds. Most PP gains in 2010 came from these type of areas, where the economic crisis has prompted anti-immigration feelings (immigrants to Catalonia being largely North African) which are exploited by the PP but also the PxC, a far-right party based in the old textile town of Vic (where it is the second largest party on council behind the CiU). In 2011, the PP won Badalona, the region’s third-largest city and a PSC stronghold.

Catalan politics have evolved rapidly and dramatically since this profile was written last summer. Catalan nationalism, which for decades had been seen as the “civilized” and consensual peripheral nationalism (the so-called seny catalá) in contrast to the Basque Country’s acrimonious, polarizing and violent brand of nationalism. Today, the situation has been reversed. Even as Euskadi elected a nationalist regional government last month, the new Basque government seems to prefer consensus and accommodation rather than confrontation with Madrid over a nationalist agenda. On the other hand, the Catalan government has moved towards is actively pushing a nationalist – many would say downright separatist – agenda, in the process creating a polarizing and divisive national debate within Catalonia and Spain as a whole.

The backdrop to the new crisis between the Generalitat and la Moncloa is the economic crisis, which has played a huge role in the revitalization of Catalan nationalism. Spain’s central government has a big public debt and deficit, but many of the country’s 17 autonomous communities – Catalonia included – have also contracted large debts through years of reckless and profligate spending by careless governments. Their huge debts are coming back to haunt them, and nowhere is this truer than in Catalonia; Spain’s economic powerhouse and traditionally the wealthiest region in Spain.

The central government has pressured regional governments to dramatically reduce their debts and deficits, given that the debt contracted by Spain’s regional governments is one of the major factors weighing on the country’s economic and fiscal situation. The regions, notably Catalonia and Andalusia, have argued that they cannot cut their debt to the threshold imposed by Madrid.

Catalonia’s debt was 21% of the GDP in the first quarter of 2012, up from 14% in the first quarter of 2010; this the largest debt both in raw and percentage terms for any region in Spain (the Valencian Community’s debt is 20.2%). In response, the Generalitat passed strict austerity measures, which aim at reducing the region’s deficit from 4.22% in 2010 to the 1.3% deficit threshold in 2012. These austerity measures have included deep spending cuts, major job cuts in the public sector (notably in education, healthcare or social services), a 5% pay cut for regional government employees, some tax hikes and a commitment to sell public assets. While the government has been fairly successful in its attempts to reduce the deficit, the region’s debt has kept growing because markets have lost trust in Catalonia (a credit rating agency recently downgraded the region’s credit rating). Asphyxiated by debt, the regional government was forced to seek a bailout from the autonomous liquidity fund to stay afloat. The CiU’s campaign promise to reduce unemployment has amounted to hot air, given that the region’s unemployment rate has increased from around 17.5% when the CiU was elected in 2010 to 22.56% today (still below the national average of 25%).

The economic crisis has reignited Catalan complaints about the “fiscal deficit” – the idea that Catalonia pays more to the central government (in taxes) than it gets back (in investments), which means that Catalan taxpayers are “subsidizing” the poorer regions of Spain. The central government has recognized the existence of the fiscal deficit and it has been evaluated at 6 to 9% of the region’s GDP.

Artur Mas’ austerity measures have been fairly unpopular, but they have not caused the same level of social unrest and discontent as the PP government’s similar measures in Madrid. Additionally, Mas’ popularity did not fall significantly, quite unlike Mariano Rajoy. There are two explanations for his party’s resilient support. The first explanation is used by most governments around the world these days: blame the bad stuff on the guys who were there before you. In Catalonia, the CiU government has claimed (with good reason – to an extent) that the tripartite PSC-ERC-ICV coalition which was in power between 2003 and 2010 was a disaster which left a huge deficit.

The other claim which the CiU has made in order to justify its policies is that, as noted above, the current financing of autonomous communities is unfair. The Catalan nationalists have been very good at exploiting the idea that Catalans are getting robbed by Spain (their tax money being used to “subsidize” the poorer regions in the south). These feelings were, of course, present long before the economic crisis but there has unarguably been a surge in nationalist sentiments in Catalonia. People have offered differing explanations to account for this surge, though most will agree that the economic crisis and the ‘fiscal deficit’ have played a major role.

Catalan nationalists, again, have been successful at presenting the situation in simple terms: Catalans are being robbed because of a broken and unfair regional financing model, and that Catalonia, one of Spain’s richest regions, could recover very quickly if its taxes weren’t being used by Madrid to subsidize poorer regions (and if it was an independent country within the EU). With the economic crisis, people have lost their bearings while a lot of Catalans – most of whom are very attached to their cultural identity and proud of it – are seeing Spain as a broken and decadent state. In this context, the offer of independence as an easy fix-all solution to Catalonia’s catastrophic economic situation has proven quite attractive.

The size of the pro-independence rally on the Diada (Catalonia’s national day on September 11, which commemorates the day in 1714 when the pro-Habsburg Catalan forces were defeated by the Spanish Bourbons during the Spanish War of Succession; a symbol for the loss of Catalan autonomy) this year surprised both the CiU and the opponents of Catalan independence. The organizers estimated that around 1.5 million turned out to march in support of Catalan independence, opponents said the number was below 1 million (but still quite high).

Whether or not Mas supports the independence of Catalonia as a nation-state is not entirely clear, because he has a noted aversion to the use of the word ‘independence’ but it is nonetheless quite clear that Mas’ tends towards full independence, or falling short of that, very extensive autonomy for Catalonia in Spain. The days when the CiU sought to extract advantages (some kind of “devo max” similar to what Alex Salmond’s SNP might be aiming for in Scotland) from Madrid while standing as a bulwark against the radical separatists are gone. Mas and the CiU argues that circumstances have changed because of the economic crisis and the Spanish government’s “recentralist” attitudes (for example, the courts striking down the controversial parts of the 2006 reform of Catalonia’s Statute of Autonomy).

The economic crisis has exposed flaws and cracks in the country’s 1978 constitution which had been the product of careful compromise between conflicting groups. Peripheral nationalists, primarily Catalan nationalists, have long been clamoring for extensive constitutional reforms. Now, several mainstream Spanish politicians on the left (notably the PSOE’s hapless boss, Alfredo Peréz Rubalcaba) have converted to federalism. On the other hand, any reform of the constitutional model remains unacceptable for the Spanish right. For them, the economic crisis has revealed that regional governments are careless toddlers who cannot be trusted with the purse.

Mas’ core demand is a new “fiscal pact” which would allow Catalonia to raise and manage its own taxes (paying Madrid only for the services provided by the central government in the region), an arrangement which would be akin to that which Euskadi and Navarre currently have (the Concierto Económico). In Euskadi and Navarre, this constitutionally-entrenched concierto has allowed the regional government to keep more of its taxes and invest them in the region (they also do not participate in the Spanish form of equalization payments).

Negotiations between Rajoy and Mas on the fiscal pact foundered in September. The PP is ideologically inclined towards centralization rather than devolution, so it had no appetite for Mas’s schemes – which Rajoy rejected as being unconstitutional. Rajoy agreed to a renegotiation of the autonomous financing system, last negotiated in 2009, but he also vowed to oppose any moves contrary to the constitution or actions which would disturb the country’s political stability. Even if Rajoy has carefully eschewed provocative language, many in his entourage and his party have a knack for such language. Martin Prieto, in the very conservative La Razón newspaper, recently accused Mas of “high treason”.

Mas was surprised by the strength of the Diada rallies, and he chose to latch on to the nationalist train. He announced early elections September 25, and stated that he would hold a referendum within the term of the next legislature on Catalonia’s institutional future. Prior to its dissolution, the Catalan Parliament voted a motion calling for a consultation on Catalonia’s future. Mas said that he would seek to hold a referendum within the legal framework, but he would still hold a referendum even without legal backing. The referendum, he argued, should go forward regardless.

The Spanish constitution is not clear about many things when it comes to regional autonomy, but it does make clear that only the Spanish Parliament has the authority to organize a referendum (Article 149.1) and that sovereignty resides in the Spanish people (Article 1.2). Some feel that Mas could settle for a “devo max” arrangement with Madrid, because he has shied away from using the word independence. However, the way in which he talks about the referendum makes it is clear that his goal would be Catalan statehood. In this election, for example, Mas said that he was seeking a mandate to turn Catalonia into “a state within Europe”. Catalan nationalists have insisted that if all went well, the new Catalan state would automatically become a member-state within the EU. The reality is not as straightforward  Most feel that Catalonia would not automatically retain EU membership if it became a “state”.

It is unclear whether Mas supports sovereignty in the traditional sense of the term, or if his scheme is closer to that proposed by Juan José Ibarretxe, the former Basque regional president, in 2003. Ibarretxe’s plan would have created a sort of confederal Spain in which Euskadi would hold a statute of free-association with Spain and would have very wide powers, including representation in EU institutions. He too had sought to hold a referendum on his plan, but the Spanish parliament rejected his demand as unconstitutional and the plan collapsed after he failed to win a popular mandate for it in snap regional elections. Ibarretxe’s plan represented an unusual and novel notion of “post-sovereignty” which sees many sources of sovereignty and authority rather than a single source, as in traditional definitions. By some of his statements, Mas has given hints that his project falls in this category. He noted that “independence” and “sovereignty” are outdated concepts, because of supranational structures such as the EU. Some in the CiU have also stated that their goal would be similar to that of the United States, with the EU being the US federal government and Catalonia being a state within the larger confederation. On the other hand, he has been much clearer than Ibarretxe was in some of his statements and it appears as if he favours independence.

In the short-term, both the CiU and the PP saw a debate over Catalonia’s institutional future as a politically lucrative solution. By placing the referendum and the issues it entails at the core of the campaign, the CiU (and the PP) could distract attention away from the economic crisis. The CiU could awake nationalist sentiments and ensure that voters were not reminded of its unpopular austerity measures. The PP could use the CiU’s nationalist campaigns to mobilize anti-nationalist energy against the CiU, while also ensuring that voters forgot about Mariano Rajoy in Madrid and the PP’s support for the Generalitat’s austerity policies in Barcelona.

The campaign turned into a polarized debate on Catalonia’s future, with the economy and the crisis being relegated to a secondary role. The polarization of the debate favoured the parties with strong and clear positions on the issue, while hurting those parties whose standing was more ambiguous. On the nationalist side of the equation, the CiU’s objective was to win an absolute majority in Parliament which would give it a strong mandate to hold a referendum, even over Madrid’s refusal (there is basically no chance that Rajoy would let a Catalan referendum go ahead). The party’s campaign took a clearly nationalist tone, with Mas’ messianic promise to lead Catalonia to the promised land of statehood within the EU. At his huge rallies, the senyera - the traditional Catalan flag which is the official flag of Catalonia – was replaced by the estelada - the senyera defaced with a star in a blue triangle, and a flag associated with separatism. At the outset, it appeared as if the CiU would be successful. It was helped out, unintentionally, by the Rajoy government. José Ignacio Wert, the PP education minister, said that he wanted to “hispanicize” (españolizar) Catalan children; a provocative statement which fanned the flames of Catalan nationalism.

The CiU is not the only avatar of Catalan nationalist. The Catalan Republican Left (ERC), which had experienced a huge surge in support in 2003-2004 but who had seen its support go down fairly dramatically since that high point (only 10 seats in 2010), openly supports independence. Under a new leader, Oriol Junqueras (a local mayor and former MEP), and an even more nationalist orientation, the ERC’s platform included a road map towards independence including a referendum on independence in 2014 to be followed by a ‘constituent phase’. On other issues, the ERC’s platform was social democratic and used keywords such as reindustralization, the knowledge economy and the green economy. During the campaign, Junqueras and the ERC avoided direct criticism of Mas.

The Initiative for Catalonia Greens-United and Alternative Left (ICV-EUiA), a permanent coalition of the smaller EUiA (which is the IU’s local branch) and the ecosocialist ICV (a successor of the old PSUC, refounded in the late 1990s as a New Left ecosocialist party), has often been considered as a nationalist party. The party supports “plurinational” federalism and rejects what it calls the PP’s “recentralization”, but it also strongly supports the Catalan people’s “right to decide” of their institutional future – including independence – in a referendum. It does not see independence and federalism as competing projects, because it views them as two models which recognize the right to self-determination. The common enemy is centralism. As such, ICV’s 10 deputies backed the CiU motion calling for the organization of a referendum. Agreement with the CiU, however, stops there. ICV, led by Joan Herrera, campaigned under the slogan “right to decide, yes; social rights too!”. It presented itself as the strongest left-wing opposition to the “right’s” (CiU and PP) austerity policies.

On the left, ERC and ICV faced competition from the Candidatura d’Unitat Popular (CUP), an old medley of left and far-left nationalist independents. The CUP, which has no party hierarchy or leadership but is rather a broad assortment of local assemblies functioning on the base of participative democracy, has been around since the 1980s but it had never run in elections above the municipal level. In the May 2011 local election, the CUP did very well – taking over 2% of the vote and 104 seats. The CUP strongly supports the independence of the “Catalan Countries” and is far to the left on economic issues, supporting a “planned economy based on solidarity” and nationalization of public utilities, transportation and communication networks. The CUP’s candidate, David Fernández, said that he wanted a “Trojan horse for the lower classes” in Parliament.

At the other end of the spectrum, the PP and the Citizens (C’s) represented the staunch opponents of Mas’ nationalist gamble. The Catalan PP, led by Alicia Sánchez-Camacho, sought to benefit from a polarized campaign fought around the divisive idea of Catalan independence. The Rajoy government’s austerity policies are unpopular and the PP voted in favour of the CiU’s austerity policies at the regional level, so the PP ran a more low-key campaign which focused its attacks on Mas, whom they presented as a ‘coward’ who was dead-set on the divisive idea of separation and was unwilling to deal with urgent social and economic problems, including unemployment. Sánchez-Camacho presented her party as the only national party “which defends without shame that Catalonia is part of Spain”.

The Ciudadanos-Partido de la Ciudadanía (C’s) was founded in 2006 and it obtained only 3 seats in both the 2006 and 2010, with about 3% of the votes nationally. In the same ideological tradition as UPyD, the C’s are a centre-left liberal party viscerally opposed to further decentralization, let alone independence. In the liberal tradition, C’s places emphasis on individual rights and claims that only individuals have rights, not political territories. In the past, the C’s, led by Albert Rivera, had functioned as something of a one-issue for anti-nationalists, placing most emphasis on the government’s linguistic policies (active promotion of Catalan in the media, education, public sector etc) and called for ‘equal’ bilingualism. In this campaign, the C’s broadened their focused and discovered a new, more left-wing side. To differentiate themselves from the PP, with which they share their attachment to the current Spanish constitution and their opposition to Catalan nationalism, they took strong positions on corruption (Mas and Jordi Pujol have been accused of having Swiss bank accounts;the C’s criticized CiU the most while castigating the PSC and PP for their passivity) and launched attacks on banks and austerity measures. For example, the party’s program talked of “rescue the citizens, not the banks” or “healthcare, education and social services are right, not a business”.

Stuck between these two poles is the Socialist Party (PSC), traditionally Catalonia’s dominant non-nationalist party and one of the most powerful and important federations in the Spanish Socialist party (PSOE). In 2010, weakened by seven years in government (the tripartito), the PSC won only 18% and 28 seats – its worst result. Its troubles did not end there. The party has been divided between its federalist faction, which opposes independence but supports federalism; and the more nationalistically-inclined catalanista faction, which is sympathetic to some of the nationalist left’s (ERC and ICV) ideas. Pere Navarro, the mayor of Terrassa and a member of the ‘federalist’ faction, won the internal primary and was the PSC’s candidate. Navarro and the PSC platform defended a vague brand of federalism and opposed Mas’ referendum idea. The PSC’s federalist proposal is fairly vague, but it seems to propose some kind of symmetric federalism with a federal Senate which represents the constituent units of the federation. Notably, the party drew on Germany and Canada as examples (Canada is often used by both sides in Catalonia, with the nationalists drawing on the experience of the Canadian federal government recognizing the legitimacy of Quebec’s referendums on independence). However, with a vague and middle-of-the-road federalist proposal, the PSC tried to focus the campaign on economic and social issues – it has called Mas’ referendum gambit a smokescreen to hide its ‘failures’ on economic policies (austerity, unemployment etc).

Turnout was 69.56%, up over 10 points since 2010 (58.78%) and the highest turnout in Catalan regional elections since the advent of democracy. Voters were motivated and mobilized by the high stakes of the campaign, in which most parties – CiU and PP most notably – had stressed that these were the most important elections ever. The results were:

CiU 30.68% (-7.75%) winning 50 seats (-12)
ERC-Cat Sí 13.68% (+6.68%) winning 21 seats (+11)
PSC 14.43% (-3.95%) winning 20 seats (-8)
PP 12.99% (+0.62%) winning 19 seats (+1)
ICV-EUiA 9.89% (+2.52%) winning 13 seats (+3)
C’s 7.58% (+4.19%) winning 9 seats (+6)
CUP 3.48% (+3.48%) winning 3 seats (+3)
PxC 1.65% (-0.75%) winning 0 seats (nc)
SI 1.28% (-2.01%) winning 0 seats (-4)
Others 2.78% (-1.68%) winning 0 seats (nc)

CiU won the election on paper, but in reality it lost the election. This result is very far from the strong mandate which the CiU had set at its objective, but even when the CiU’s chances of obtaining an absolute majority looked dim in the last days of the campaign, most had predicted that the party would win a strong result – at least similar to or only minimally less than its 2010 result. Mas had sought a strong mandate from voters to push for his referendum, but he received a stark rebuke from voters. The CiU lost 12 seats and its vote share fell by nearly 8 points compared to the 2010 election, leaving the CiU far ahead of the pack but also with a much smaller and weakened minority in Parliament.

What happened? In the final days of the campaign, the CiU and Mas had been facing an onslaught of corruption allegations concerning secret offshore (Swiss) bank accounts held by Mas and Jordi Pujol, Mas’ political mentor. These allegations are linked to the old Palau case and the recent allegations were spearheaded by El Mundo, Spain’s main conservative newspaper. The newspaper cited a police report linking him and other high-ranking figures in his party (the CDC, which is the dominant component of the CiU) to secret offshore bank accounts where they received illegal funding from Catalan entrepreneurs and businessmen. The CDC has claimed that it is the victim of a dirty war led by its opponent, and Mas is suing El Mundo for libel. Did the controversy related to the case of the allegations of a ‘dirty war’ against the Catalan nationalists influence voters in the final days?

Did voters reject Mas’ nationalist/separatist schemes and his referendum agenda? While the CiU did badly, the broader nationalist constellation (CiU, ERC, ICV, CUP) nonetheless won the elections and together they still retain over three-fifths of the seats (87 seats, up 1 from 2010). The election can hardly be described as a rebuke of the broader Catalan nationalist agenda.

In the obligatory “where did we cock up?” article (see here), pollsters lay the blame on the unexpectedly huge increase in turnout (which favoured the anti-nationalists) and the buzz related to the offshore accounts scandal/anti-CiU ‘dirty war’.

The CiU suffered its heaviest loses in the greater Barcelona area – the city’s working-class and historically Socialist hinterland. Turnout was particularly strong in the area (over 10 points higher than in 2010), and CiU suffered some very heavy loses in the area (where it has historically been weak, outside a few cities) – between 10 and 14 points lower than in 2010. In L’Hospitalet de Llobregat, the second largest city in Catalonia, the CiU’s vote share fell by over ten points from 24.7% to only 14.3% while the PSC lost 5 points (from 29.6% to 24.8%). In Badalona, the CiU lost almost 12 points (31% to 19%) while the PSC lost about 3, down to 19.5% (regaining first place, but with an all-time low result). The PSC was able to hold up better in Terrassa, where Pere Navarro has been the mayor since 2002. The PSC vote increased by 3 points (to 23.5%) while the CiU lost nearly 13 points (down to 24.8%).

In the comarca of Baix Llobregat (Barcelona’s western working-class suburbs), the CiU vote fell 12 points to a mere 19.8%, collapsing to its lowest point since 1980 while the PSC lost about 3 points, falling to 20.1% (also an all-time low for the party, which had won 48% there in 1999…). Turnout increased by 11 points.

In all of these cases, the beneficiaries of the CiU (and, to a lesser extent, the PSC)’s collapse were the smaller parties – ERC, ICV and C’s – while the PP’s support remained stable at fairly high levels. The ERC gained, on average, a bit more than 5 points and was victorious in Sant Vicenç dels Horts (with 23.5%), the town where Oriol Junqueras is the mayor. The ICV, traditionally strong in Barcelona’s proletarian hinterland on the traces of the old PSUC, gaining about 2-4 points and winning 13% in Baix Llobregat, 12.3% in Barcelonès comarca and 11.6% in the Vallès Occidental. Undoubtedly, however, the most impressive gains were made by the vehemently anti-nationalist C’s, whose support increased from 4.9% to 10.8% in Baix Llobregat and from 4.2% to 9.8% in the Vallès Occidental. The C’s, likely feeding off the PSC’s decline (in part) and reaping the electoral benefits of their new left-wing political orientation, won strong support in Barcelona’s proletarian suburbs: 13.6% in Viladecans, 11.6% in Cornellà de Llobregat, 11.4% in Santa Coloma de Gramenet, 10.6% in L’Hospitalet and 10.1% in Badalona etc.

Outside of the greater Barcelona conurbation, the CiU’s loses are smaller. While it did lose a fairly substantial amount of support around the city of Tarragona, in the heavily nationalist rural areas of Lleida and Girona (the CiU vote fell by 3.9 and 2.1 points respectively in these provinces, against -7.6 in Tarragona and -8.7 in Barcelona). In some small and solidly nationalist comarcas, the CiU vote even increased by a tad. Throughout these rural and Catalonophone nationalist comarcas, the CiU and ERC took first and second while the PSC and PP placed distant thirds or fourths with single-digit results.

The ERC (and also ICV)’s gains in Barcelona’s working-class hinterland make it hard to attribute the CiU’s collapse to a broader collapse of the nationalist brand in regions which have been the most reticent towards Catalan nationalism in the past. The turnout surge in these places certainly benefited the anti-nationalists, but rather than a substantial collapse in the broader nationalist vote there was instead a strong mobilization and motivation of the anti-nationalist vote. The CiU’s collapse can be attributed to either unease with Mas’ referendum plan or discontent with the Generalitat’s austerity policies (these lower-income towns have been hit the hardest by the austerity policies) – though the latter option appears more likely.

The ERC was the biggest winner of the night. They won 21 seats, which far surpassed even their wildest expectations, and stole the symbolic second place from the PSC (but only due to malapportionment which favours the smallest provinces). The party had been fairly optimistic of its chances to regain the ground it had lost in 2010, which had marked the lowest ebb for the party since the 1980s; despite fears that Mas’ nationalist campaign could hurt them.

By playing up nationalist rhetoric, Mas had certainly hoped to capitalize on the nationalist mobilization which followed the Diada, in an attempt to win an absolute majority to pursue his own agenda (despite his weak economic record and the unpopularity of his austerity policies). It almost worked, but the ERC, by expanding its campaign to talk about social issues, was able to reach out to nationalist voters who flirted with Mas in the first days of the campaign but who remained uneasy with the Generalitat’s austerity policies. In the final stretch, the possible corruption cases surrounding the CiU likely also took their toll on the CiU and encouraged a large transfer of votes from the CiU to the ERC.

Oriol Junqueras, the new leader of the ERC, was able to inject new energy and hope in a party organization which had been demoralized by a series of electoral humiliations in 2010-2011 and internal squabbles between its hapless leadership. The ERC’s result this year is similar to what it had won in 2006 and a bit below its historic 2003 result, but nonetheless an excellent performance.

The PSC’s result cannot be described as anything other than catastrophic. In 2010, with only 18% and 28 seats, it had already won its worst result ever. This year, it managed to do even more pitifully than in 2010, with barely 14% and 20 seats. True enough, the election could have been even more disastrous for the PSC, which had polled as low at 16 or so seats during the course of this campaign. Strong turnout in its old strongholds and the successful motivation and mobilization of the anti-nationalist electorate probably allowed it to save face with the best possible performance, though it remains a catastrophe. In a polarized campaign which profited to the ‘extremes’ of both the nationalist and anti-nationalist coalitions, the PSC, with a vague and unappealing ‘federalist’ proposal, was squished in the middle and its voice muted by the confrontation between the nationalists and their most vocal opponents (PP, C’s). A vague and unappealing platform, a national party which is going down the drain, a party wracked by very public internal divisions as of late and a bad campaign led by a man with little charisma: all factors which sealed the PSC’s fate.

The PSC’s annihilation in its old strongholds – Barcelona’s working-class suburbs (a region with a large population of migrants from other regions of Spain or their descendants) – is quite something. In places such as L’Hospitalet, Badalona, Terrassa, or Sabadell, the PSC used to regularly win over 40-50% of the vote in most elections. Now, the PSC has now collapsed to the low 20s (or even lower in certain cases) in these towns. It placed second in Barcelona province but placed a distant third in Girona and fourth in Tarragona. In the city of Barcelona – which they governed for over 30 years until 2011 – the PSC placed fourth with 12.2%.

The PP added an extra seat to the 18 they held after the 2010 election, and although this is a good result for Alicia Sánchez-Camacho’s party, it falls below their expectations. The PP had hoped to capitalize on the polarization of the electorate in the wake of Mas’ new nationalist agenda, with the stated aim of becoming the second largest party in Parliament (to form the largest opposition party). Although the PP’s result is the party’s best result in a type of election which is usually the most difficult for the PP (it polls much better, up to 20%, in general elections), it had been hoping for a clearer success. The party was likely dragged down by the unpopularity of Mariano Rajoy’s austerity policies in Madrid. The C’s, with their similarly strong anti-nationalist message plus its leftist anti-austerity stance, profited the most from the polarization of the electorate.

The PP were nonetheless very pleased by Artur Mas’ major setback, who they accuse of having paralyzed and divided Catalonia with his nationalist agenda.

ICV-EUiA, like the PP, did quite well – taking 13 seats and nearly 9% of the vote, its best result since 1995 – but again, like the PP, it found its result slightly disappointing. Presenting itself as the strongest voice on the left against Mas’ economic policies, as the party which participated in every protest against cuts in social services or education, Joan Herrera’s party had hoped to capitalize on social discontent against Mas’ austerity policies. To a certain extent they did so, regaining votes from the PSC or other parties in Barcelona’s working-class suburb – the traditional base of the post-communist left in Catalonia. However, they had likely hoped for a slightly stronger performance.

The C’s, however, can hardly be disappointed by their tremendous performance. As noted above, the party, which in the past had focus its virulently anti-nationalist campaigns on narrow issues such as the government’s linguistic policies and the “positive discrimination” in favour of the Catalan language, expanded its message to talk about corruption (which the main parties – CiU, PSC and PP – were reluctant to mention) or the effects of the austerity policies implemented by the Generalitat and la Moncloa. Albert Rivera’s unambiguous anti-nationalist rhetoric, combined with his criticism of the banking system or the austerity policies, allowed him to make major inroads in the PSC’s old turf in suburban Barcelona. The C’s won 8.5% in the province of Barcelona (8 seats), up from 3.8% in 2010. However, the party, which in the past had been confined to the Barcelona metro area, expanded its support to Tarragona province, where it won one seat and 7.3% of the vote (up from 2.7%). In the traditionally anti-nationalist Tarragonès comarca, it won 11.6% of the vote, even reaching over 15% in Vila-seca.

The very left-wing and nationalist CUP, in its first regional electoral participation, broke the 3% barrier in seat-rich Barcelona province, which gave it 3 seats. With an unusual low-scale and grassroots-based campaign, it built on its fairly substantial base in some local councils and benefited from social discontent on the nationalist left.

Where does this result leave Catalonia? Artur Mas’ plan had been for him to win an absolute majority on the back of the post-Diada nationalist mobilization, and used his strong mandate from the Catalan electorate as a bargaining card against Rajoy to push for his referendum, on his own terms. Even as the CiU’s chances of conquering an absolute majority started dropping, they had hoped – and predicted – a fairly strong minority mandate which would still Mas with sufficient legitimacy to push his referendum on his terms. The whole thing backfired badly against him, leaving Mas with a smaller minority than in 2010 and a fairly uncertain mandate from voters. While voters returned a majority of deputies favourable to the “right to decide” (derecho a decidir), nationalist voters preferred “the original” (ERC) to “the copy” (CiU).

The CiU’s result was so bad for the party that there was some speculation that Mas could be compelled to step down. The PP and C’s both claimed that Mas had lost his legitimacy with the election results, Albert Rivera (the C’s leader) even called him to step down. Those rumours passed, and Mas will remain in power, but what seems to be clear is that Mas’ very disappointing showing on 25-N has reopened internal divisions in the CiU coalition between Mas/Pujol’s more nationalist CDC and Josep Antoni Duran i Lleida’s more pragmatic and right-leaning UDC. Duran’s smaller UDC had been quite uneasy with Mas’ bombastic nationalist rhetoric, when they have always favoured a ‘confederal’ Spain and have traditionally been very much against any rapprochement with the ERC (they would rather prefer to work with the PP). Duran was fairly silent during the campaign, but since 25-N he has publicly broken ranks with his senior partners in the CiU by expressing his concerns over Mas’ nationalist agenda and his desire to see better relations re-established with the PP.

Between his election in 2010 and this summer, Mas had enjoyed fairly cordial working relations with the PP. The two parties agreed to disagree on institutional issues, but the two parties share much common ground when it comes to economic policy. The PP voted in favour of the CiU’s austerity policies in Barcelona. However, the cordial relationship between the CiU and PP rapidly collapsed after Mas started taking a confrontational position against Madrid and pushing for his referendum. The PP focused most of its artillery fire on the CiU and Mas during the campaign, branding him as a divisive and polarizing “coward” who did not have the courage to take on ‘urgent’ issues (the economy, jobs) and preferred to take cover with his nationalist agenda. Following the elections, the PP expressed satisfaction at Mas’ setback. The CiU ruled out collaborating with the PP.

Will Mas’ plan go the way of the Ibarretxe election following Juan José Ibarretxe and the PNV’s failure to win a strong popular mandate to push for the Ibarretxe plan in the 2005 Basque elections? The situation is slightly different. Following the 2005 Basque elections, it was clear that the Basque nationalists had lost ground and that they had not received any mandate from the voters to push for the Ibarretxe plan, meaning that the elections dealt Ibarretxe’s ambitious plan a mortal blow. This year, the Catalan elections did not provide Mas and the CiU with a popular mandate for their agenda, but it would be wrong to claim that voters rejected the entire premises of the nationalist agenda (even if there was no substantial increase in nationalist support). The ERC, which ran on a platform calling for a referendum on Catalan separation as early as 2013, did very well.

Mas indicated that the ERC was his preferred coalition partner, even offering them to participate in his cabinet. Oriol Junqueras finally turned down Mas’ offer, but he did promise strong support for Mas (una solidez gigantesca to use his terms), including support for his government’s budgets. The basis for this tacit deal between Mas and the ERC is their common agreement on institutional issues. Mas’ post-electoral statements about the future of his referendum were a bit all over the place, but he said that the Parliament retained a strong majority of deputies in favour of the derecho a decidir (87/135 including ICV) and that the referendum remained on the table. It is a bit unclear what the ERC demanded in exchange for this legislative support, though it seems to be on some budgetary issues and on an agreement to keep pushing for a referendum.

With his government likely to be dependent on support from the left-leaning and strongly nationalist ERC, will Mas be pushed by the ERC to maintain confrontational and nationalist positions, including to keep pushing for a referendum? If he does continue pushing for a referendum but then finds himself blocked (as is certain to happen) by Madrid, will he do like Ibarretxe had done and quietly drop his plans, or will he push forward to organize an “illegal” referendum, not legitimized or recognized by Madrid? The results of these elections only provide more headaches for both Rajoy and Mas. Both may have reason to be satisfied by the results of 25-N, but in the long run the results do not satisfy either of their agendas.

Next: Canadian by-elections (Nov 26) and the disintegration of the French right (Nov 18 onward).

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 555 other followers