Category Archives: Finland

Local elections galore: Brazil, Chile, Finland and Sicily 2012

A whole slew of local (or regional) elections were held on October 28. There were mayoral runoff elections in Brazil, municipal elections in Chile and Finland and a regional election (for governor and regional legislature) in Sicily (Italy). This post tells you everything you need to know about these elections and what they mean for each of these countries.

Brazil

The first round of municipal elections were held in Brazil on October 7, 2012. I covered the first round in lots of details here. On October 28, there were mayoral runoff elections in all those municipalities with over 200,000 voters where no mayoral candidate had won 50%+1 of the vote two weeks before. Municipal city councils (câmaras municipais) and mayors in all cities with less than 200,000 voters and a few major cities (Rio, Belo Horizonte, Recife, Porto Alegre) were elected on October 7.

Here is the updated table of parties, with mayors (after the second round) and municipal councillors across Brazil:

PMDB 1,025 mayors (-176) and 7,963 councillors (-512)
PSDB 702 mayors (-89) and 5,255 councillors (-641)
PT 635 mayors (+77) and 5,181 councillors (+1,013)
PSD 497 mayors (+497) and 4,662 councillors (+4,662)
PP 468 mayors (-83) and 4,932 councillors (-197)
PSB 440 mayors (+130) and 3,555 councillors (+599)
PDT 314 mayors (-38) and 3,660 councillors (+135)
PTB 295 mayors (-118) and 3,571 councillors (-363)
DEM 278 mayors (-218) and 3,272 councillors (-1,529)
PR 276 mayors (-109) and 3,190 councillors (-344)
PPS 123 mayors (-6) and 1,861 councillors (-298)
PV 96 mayors (+21) and 1,584 councillors (+347)
PSC 83 mayors (+26) and 1,468 councillors (+322)
PRB 78 mayors (+24) and 1,204 councillors (+423)
PCdoB 56 mayors (+15) and 976 councillors (+364)
PMN 42 mayors (nc) and 605 councillors (+15)
PTdoB 26 mayors (+18) and 534 councillors (+205)
PRP 24 mayors (+7) and 581 councillors (+177)
PSL 23 mayors (+8) and 761 councillors (+241)
PTC 18 mayors (+5) and 484 councillors (+153)
PHS 17 mayors (+4) and 544 councillors (+193)
PRTB 16 mayors (+5) and 418 councillors (+157)
PPL 12 mayors (+12) and 176 councillors (+176)
PTN 12 mayors (-4) and 429 councillors (+29)
PSDC 9 mayors (+1) and 446 councillors (+95)
PSOL/PCB/PSTU 2 mayors (+2) and 56 councillors (+16) incl. 49 PSOL, 5 PCB, 2 PSTU
Others 240 mayors (-2)

The most important mayoral runoff battle was in São Paulo, Brazil’s largest city and economic capital. The incumbent mayor, Gilberto Kassab (PSD) was retiring. The battle opposed José Serra (PSDB), a former mayor/governor/cabinet minister and two time presidential candidate and education minister Fernando Haddad (PT), handpicked by former President Lula. In the first round, Serra won 30.8% against 29% for Haddad, relegating one-time favourite Celso Russomano (PRB) into third with 21.6% support. Russomano did not endorse any candidate, while fourth-place finisher Gabriel Chalita (PMDB) backed Haddad.

Fernando Haddad (PT) 55.57%
José Serra (PSDB) 44.43%

As predicted by the polls, Haddad won by a significant margin. His victory is the result of a number of factors: Lula’s popularity, even in traditionally right-leaning  middle-class São Paulo (in this case, Haddad’s moderate image and Dilma’s large popularity with middle-class Brazilians likely helped too) and Serra’s unpopularity stemming from his inability to accept that maybe it’s time for him to leave politics. While the PT had fairly mixed results in other large cities and state capitals across the country, they did win the race which in the end mattered the most: São Paulo. Lula’s ability to get his candidate elected – because Haddad’s success is in large part due to his mentor (he started out at 5% in the polls) – is a major success for the former President who was turned into the behind-the-scenes boss of the PT.

The PSDB had good results in small and medium-sized towns in the state of São Paulo, but the loss of the state capital must still be a major blow to the party. It is a particularly severe blow to José Serra, whose presidential ambitions for 2014 were likely killed by his defeat (though he is more and more delusional that we shouldn’t put it past him to run for something again, even if under his friend Kassab’s PSD banner rather than the tucano banner). The PSDB chose a poor candidate in Serra, when they had a fairly strong and talented bench. The country’s largest centre-right opposition party will need to find new blood, new talents and new ideas if it is to stand a chance in 2014 and beyond.

O Globo has an interesting map with results by precinct in São Paulo. The patterns are unsurprising: Haddad utterly dominated the traditionally petista working-class and low-income outskirts/suburbs of the city, while Serra was strongest in the upper middle-class bourgeois areas downtown. In the first round, Russomano and Chalita’s strength in the petista outskirts of the city had held down Haddad’s vote share, but in the runoff he certainly really maximized his votes. Compared to the 2010 presidential election, he improved on Dilma’s showing in the petista areas and made sizable gains in more middle-class areas where the centre-right is usually quite strong.

Salvador (Bahia), however, was a major blow for the PT. The state of Bahia has been governed for two terms by a PT governor, which has allowed the party to gain a strong institutional base at all levels of government in the state. However, governor Jaques Wagner (PT)’s approval ratings have been down recently. Holding a narrow advantage in the first round, federal deputy ACM Neto – the grandson of the state’s former conservative dynastic boss – won the runoff by a sizable margin over PT candidate Nelson Pelegrino. This victory, however, is certainly the only source of comfort for the crippled right-wing Democrats (DEM) in this election. They suffered embarrassing defeats almost everywhere else, putting the party’s continued existence into serious doubt.

ACM Neto (DEM) 53.51%
Nelson Pelegrino (PT) 46.49%

The first round in Curitiba (Paraná) saw the surprising defeat of incumbent mayor Luciano Ducci (PSB), backed by the state’s ambitious PSDB governor Beto Richo (himself a former mayor of Curitiba). The runoff opposed Ratinho Jr. (PSC), the son of a popular talk show host and TV personality and former federal deputy Gustavo Fruet (PDT), backed by the PT (despite being a former tucano). Fruet, backed by Dilma and her popular chief of staff Gleisi Hoffmann (the PT’s likely gubernatorial candidate in the state in 2014), handily defeated Ratinho Jr. and his anti-establishment campaign.

Gustavo Fruet (PDT) 60.65%
Ratinho Jr. (PSC) 39.35%

Manaus (Amazonas) had fairly interesting results in the first round, largely because of the unexpected strong showing from former PSDB senator Artur Virgílio Neto (PSDB) who placed way ahead of senator Vanessa Grazziotin (PCdoB, backed by the PT). After a strong first round, Artur Neto – who lost reelection to the senate in 2010 – was easily elected. This is a fairly unwelcome defeat for the PT.

Artur Virgílio Neto (PSDB) 65.95%
Vanessa Grazziotin (PCdoB) 34.05%

The runoff in Fortaleza (Ceará), which opposed Roberto Cláudio (PSB) – the candidate backed by governor Cid Gomes (PSB) and his brother Ciro Gomes (PSB, a former presidential candidate/governor/mayor/cabinet minister) – and Elmano de Freitas (PT), backed by term-limited PT mayor Luizianne Lins was one of the most closely disputed battles between the PT and the PSB in Brazil. The PT and PSB, traditional allies for over twenty years, are slowly drifting away from one another. The PSB governor of Pernambuco, Eduardo Campos, is often talked about as a potential presidential candidate in 2014 – perhaps even in a super-ticket with the opposition PSDB. Strong from a big victory in Recife in the first round, this race as well as that in Cuiabá were major tests for the PSB and Eduardo Campos’ presidential ambitions. The PSB emerged victorious in a close race.

Roberto Cláudio (PSB) 53.52%
Elmano (PT) 46.98%

Boosted by the support of popular state governor Simão Jatene (PSDB), federal deputy Zenaldo Countinho (PSDB) emerged victorious in Belém (Pará). He defeated popular state deputy and former mayor Edmilson Rodrigues (PSOL) by a nice big margin.

Zenaldo Countinho (PSDB) 56.61%
Edmilson Rodrigues (PSOL) 43.39%

As mentioned above, Cuiabá (Mato Grosso) was another major PT-PSB battle with clear national implications. Again, it was the PSB, whose candidate benefited from the backing of powerful senator Blairo Maggi (PR) and senator, which emerged victorious against the PT candidate, backed by the PMDB governor.

Mauro Mendes (PSB) 54.65%
Lúdio (PT) 45.35%

As expected, former mayor Carlos Eduardo Alves (PDT) easily regained his old seat in Natal (Rio Grande do Norte). One of the countless scions of a very powerful and influential oligarchic dynasty in the state – his cousin Garibaldi Alves Filho (PMDB) is a cabinet minister and his uncle is a former governor – he was opposed to Hermano Moraes, the PMDB candidate backed by his other cousin, PMDB house leader Henrique Eduardo Alves.

Carlos Eduardo Alves (PDT) 58.31%
Hermano Moraes (PMDB) 41.69%

Teresina (Piauí) mayor Elmano Férrer (PTB), backed by the PMDB, lost reelection to former mayor and state deputy Firmino Filho (PSDB).

Firmino Filho (PSDB) 51.54%
Elmano Férrer (PTB) 48.46%

São Luis (Maranhão) mayor João Castelo (PSDB) lost reelection to Edivaldo Holanda Jr. (PTC), a result which is a good post for Embratur president and former federal deputy Flávio Dino (PCdoB), a major rival of the local Sarney dynasty.

Edivaldo Holanda Jr. (PTC) 56.06%
João Castelo (PSDB) 43.94%

In other races across the country:

The PSB’s Jonas Donizette (backed by the PSDB) defeated the PT’s Marcio Pochmann with 57.69% in Campinas, the third city in the state of São Paulo. In Ribeirão Preto (São Paulo), incumbent mayor Dárcy Vera (PSD, backed by the PMDB) narrowly defeated the PSDB’s Darcy Nogueira with 51.97%. In other cities in the state, the PT enjoyed a solid win over the PSDB in Guarulhos and gained Santo André – though on the other hand, it lost its traditional stronghold of Diadema and the PSDB won a significant victory in Taubaté.

In Florianópolis, the capital of the southern state of Santa Catarina, state deputy César Souza Jr. (PSD) – backed by PSD governor Raimundo Colombo – defeated Gean Loureiro (PMDB), the candidate backed by the city’s two-term PMDB mayor and senator and former governor Luiz Henrique da Silveira (PMDB). He won 52.64% against 47.36% for Loureiro. However, the PMDB was successful against the PSD in the state’s largest city, Joinville, where the PMDB’s Udo Dohler won 54.65%. The PSDB enjoyed a landslide over the PSD in Blumenau.

What do these results mean for the 2014 presidential and federal elections in Brazil? The PT itself comes out strong, especially with Haddad’s victory in São Paulo even though its record elsewhere is more disappointing. President Dilma retains very strong approval ratings and she would probably enter a reelection campaign in 2014, even against strong PSDB and PSB candidates, as the favourite. Lula’s hand was strengthened by the results in São Paulo, but to date there have been no public spats between Lula and his former protege (Dilma) and a Lula primary challenge in 2014 remains unlikely.

The opposition remains weak and the PSDB is in dire need of newer generations or new(er) ideas, but it does have some strong hopes for 2014. The early favourite for the opposition is Minas Gerais senator Aécio Neves (PSDB), who was boosted by the victory of his ally Márcio Lacerda (PSB) in Belo Horizonte by the first round and whose candidates were otherwise quite successful in the state (with a few exceptions). His defeat in São Paulo means that José Serra will probably not run for president in 2014, and Paraná governor Beto Richa (PSDB)’s potential ambitions took a hit with his candidates’ defeats in Curitiba, Londrina and other cities in Paraná. São Paulo’s governor Geraldo Alckmin, who ran for president against Lula in 2006, is popular but he will certainly prefer to run for reelection in his state, where he would be the favourite to win a second term.

The PSB emerged much stronger from these elections, and the party won almost all its high-profile targets: Recife, Belo Horizonte, Fortaleza, Cuiabá and Campinas. These results will serve to boost Pernambuco governor Eduardo Campos’ presidential ambitions for 2014. It is not yet certain whether or not the PSB will break all bridges with the PT in 2014 and endorse Eduardo Campos for president (or if he will prefer to wait until 2018, for example); but the odds seem to be that Campos will run in 2014. Again, there has been talk of the PSB and PSDB forming some sort of super-ticket with Campos and Aécio (though the ‘order’ of the ticket could be a source of division between the two) in 2014. Regardless, the 2014 election promises to be an exciting and closely disputed election.

Chile

Municipal elections were held in Chile on October 28. All mayors and municipal councillors are directly and separately elected to serve four-year terms, there are no term limits. Mayors are elected by FPTP, while the municipal councils – which are composed of 6, 8 or 10 councillors based on the size of the city, seem to be elected through some kind of open-list PR. There are 345 mayors and 2,224 municipal councillors.

In 2010, Sebastián Piñera became the first right-of-centre candidate to be elected president of Chile since the end of Augusto Pinochet’s military dictatorship in 1990. His election ended twenty-years of rule by the centre-left coalition, namely the broad-based and heterogeneous Concertación coalition which is composed of christian democrats, social democrats and liberals. However, more than halfway into his term (he cannot seek immediate reelection in 2013-2014), Piñera’s approval ratings languish below 40%. The successful rescue of 33 trapped miners in a mine in northern Chile back in August 2010 had made his approvals go through the roof, but over two years later, the shine has definitely worn off.

In 2011, Piñera faced a major student movement which protested the country’s free-market and for-profit secondary and post-secondary education system. Chile’s education system, which dates back to Pinochet’s regime, is dominated by the private sector which runs most high schools and universities. Government spending on education accounts for only 4.4% of the GDP (the UN recommends 7% for developed nations), the limited public education system is run by individual municipalities and the government makes wide use of school vouchers. The protests demanded the end of profit in higher education, currently banned by the law but nonetheless widespread; increased state support for universities; more state spending in education; tougher state supervision and control of secondary education and limiting the extent of the voucher system. Piñera’s government handling of the student crisis proved unpopular and he appeared hostile to the movement’s demands – in fact, he proposed to legalize for-profit post-secondary education. By now, the student movement has dissipated somewhat, though the remnants of the movement have apparently radicalized.

He also faced unexpectedly strong public discontent over the HydroAysén hydroelectric project in Patagonia. This huge energy project plans to build five new hydroelectric dams in Patagonia, aiming to meet the country’s rising energetic needs. The public has been largely opposed to this project, decrying the environmental and agricultural impacts of the huge project on the region’s fragile ecosystem and local agriculture.

However, the opposition – the Concertación coalition – is not in the best of shape. The old disparate coalition is increasingly divided and lacks new ideas. The student movement could be seen as being indicative of a larger desire for major sociopolitical change in Chile, where the negotiated transition from military rule to multi-party democracy allowed strong economic growth and development but kept intact some vestiges of the old regime: the Senate’s composition, the electoral system or the education system. Many on the left are eager for more profound change including a constituent assembly and a new “socioeconomic model”. The Concertación, while in power, proved either unable or unwilling to confront issues such as education, energy or economic inequalities.

The Concertación, as in the 2008 municipal elections, was divided going into the election. The Socialists (PS) and the Christian Democrats (PDC) remained united under the banner of the Concertación, but the two other parties of the old coalition – the liberal PRSD and the centre-left PPD – allied with the Communist Party (PCC) under the coalition Por un Chile Justo. The PRSD has openly stated that it believes that the Concertación coalition has done its time and that it is time to move on. The PPD and PRSD had already fought the 2008 elections separately from the PS and the PDC. The left, since the 2009-2010 election, must now wrestle with a new actor: the El Cambio por Ti coalition and the Progressive Party (PRO) of former left-wing independent presidential candidate Marco Enríquez-Ominami. Marco won over 20% in the first round of the 2009 presidential election, though he has largely been unable to translate his personal votes into strong support for his new coalition.

The governing centre-right coalition, the Coalición, composed of Piñera’s RN and the formerly pinochetista right-wing UDI, remained united.

This was the first election in Chile were voting was no longer mandatory. In the past, registration was voluntary but voting was mandatory; now registration is automatic (the result has been the registration of 4.5 million Chileans, largely young who had not registered to vote in the past) but voting is voluntary. Turnout was very low, around 40-45%. This low turnout reflects, again, growing dissatisfaction with politics. Few voters trust their politicians, institutions and political parties; the youth feeling particularly left out and disappointed by politics.

Results of the 2012 Chilean mayoral elections by municipality (source: uselectionatlas.org)

The government website is a horrible mess, but it appears that, nationally, the right won 37.5% of the vote and 121 mayors while the Concertación won 29% and 106 mayors. The PPD-PRSD-PCC coalition won 13.7% and 62 mayors. Enríquez-Ominami’s coalition won only 3% and 7 towns. Independents accounted for 11% of the national vote and were victorious in 40 municipalities. In 2008, the right won 40.7% against 28.7% for the Concertación and 9.7% for the PPD-PRSD.

These results are an unexpected success for the opposition, despite its disunity; and a setback for the governing right-wing coalition. The right was likely hurt by the low turnout, the opposition’s base being far more motivated to turn out. Prominent right-wing incumbents were defeated in high-profile races in major municipalities, including a lot in the Santiago metropolis.

In Santiago itself, incumbent mayor Pablo Zalaquett (UDI) was defeated by Carolina Tohá (PPD), the daughter of a former Allende cabinet minister and herself chief of staff to President Michelle Bachelet. Zalaquett, formerly mayor of the suburban town of La Florida, had won a first term in 2008. His management of the 2011 student protests in the city had been controversial. He won 43.89% against 50.63% for Carolina Tohá.

The middle-class suburb of Providencia in the Santiago metropolis had been the stronghold of Cristián Labbé (UDI), who had been a close ally of Augusto Pinochet, since 1996. Voters had backed him because of his reputation as a good administration, despite his close association with the military regimne. His defeat this year in the hands of an independent backed by the Concertación, Josefa Errázuriz, was a major symbolic defeat for the right. Errázuriz won 56.06% against 43.93% for Cristián Labbé, who was seeking a fifth term in office.

Another upper middle-class suburb of Santiago, Ñuñoa, also saw the defeat of a four-term right-wing incumbent, Pedro Sabat (RN). Maya Fernandez Allende (PS), a granddaughter of Salvador Allende, won 44.9% against 44.7% for Pedro Sabat.

In Recoleta, Daniel Jadue (PCC) defeated the incumbent UDI mayor and a former right-wing mayor, Gonzalo Cornejo, who ran as an independent.

In Concepción, the major city of southern Chile, held by a retiring right-wing incumbent, Álvaro Ortiz (PDC) won 55.15% against only 37.25% for the UDI candidate. The opposition also gained Punta Arenas in the far south of the country.

The right held Valparaíso (UDI), Puento Alto (RN), Las Condes (UDI) and La Florida (UDI). The opposition held Maipú (PDC) and Peñaloén (PDC).

Speculation about the 2013-2014 presidential election has been building up for quite some time. The Concertación, unwilling to confront its internal problems and high risk for more divisions in 2013, has been playing a game of wait-and-see until former President Michelle Bachelet (PS), Piñera’s predecessor who left office with sky-high approval ratings, decides whether or not she wants to run for another term. Bachelet remains very popular, even if some of her record is now being criticized. She would certainly be capable of holding the Concertación together for another go-through and polls indicate that she would be the favourite for the presidency. If she does not run, the opposition does have other fairly strong candidates but no clear frontrunners. Some of these other names include Andrés Velasco, an economist and Bachelet’s popular finance minister; the new mayor of Santiago Carolina Tohá and the PDC mayor of Peñaloén Claudio Orrego. Some senators are also lining up.

The right has four potential candidates: defense minister Andrés Allamand (RN), economy minister Pablo Longueira (UDI), labour minister Evelyn Matthei (UDI) and public works (former mines and energy) minister Laurence Golborne (independent). Allamand and Golborne are the two most prominent candidates in this field, and probably the two who stand the best chances in a presidential election. Golborne, an independent figure, became very popular following the rescue of the 33 miners trapped underground in August 2010, and he remains one of the most popular ministers in the government. If he did run, Golborne would likely be the favourite in a primary and could potentially stand a good chance against the opposition in the presidential race.

Finland

Municipal elections were held in Finland on October 28. There are are 9,674 seats in 304 municipalities. These elections come after legislative elections in April 2011 which saw a very strong result by Timo Soini’s right-populist and eurosceptic True Finns (PS) party, which won 19%. PS was excluded from government, but the new six-party coalition led by Jyrki Katainen from the centre-right/liberal KOK has taken a hardline in Eurozone negotiations, a clear result of PS’ growing power. Finland has gained a reputation as a “hardliner” in the Eurozone when it comes to Greece and Spain, it was the only country to demand collateral in exchange for helping to rescue Greece and Spain and it favours rigid requirements for the use of the new European Stability Mechanism (ESM). The SDP, the main junior partner in the six-party government, which had been hurt – like other parties – by PS in 2011, has now adopted a much tougher stance on the euro. Most Finns remain supportive of the EU and the euro, but there is rising frustration and dissatisfaction with European integration. Some feel that they are punished at home by austerity measures while rewarding profligate countries like Greece or Spain.

Finland’s economy remains stronger than other economies in the EU: it still has an AAA credit ranking, its deficit is much smaller than the EU’s 3% deficit limit and the country’s debt (around 45-50%) is better than a lot of other European countries. However, growth has slowed – almost to a halt in 2012 (+0.2%) – in part because of Nokia’s troubles; and it is set to remain rather low in coming years. Some have urged the government to reevaluate its austerity (spending cuts, tax increases) policy in the wake of slow growth, but the government appears unwilling to deviate from its path.

In the context of these municipal elections, the government – the KOK in particular – has been pushing a municipal reform which would greatly reduce the number of municipalities by merging a lot of them, arguing that such a reform is needed to create more efficient larger units. At the same time, however, the government parties have reiterated that there would be no forced mergers, but the threat is still lingering out there. The principle of municipal autonomy is dear to many voters, especially those in rural areas who fear that rural areas will be hollowed out by the government’s policies (which would impact local services such as healthcare). The opposition Centre Party (KESK), whose support comes predominantly from rural Finland which would probably stand to lose the most from any reform, has opposed the government’s municipal reform. However, a number of KOK mayors from affluent suburbs have opposed the mergers of their own municipalities. This indicates a small NIMBY phenomenon at work in municipal reform: politicians broadly agree that larger units would be more efficient, but few are keen on having their own municipalities be merged into a larger unit.

Turnout was 58.3%, down from around 61% in the 2008 local elections. The results table below compares the party’s results to their 2008 local election result and then their 2011 legislative election result.

KOK 21.9% (-1.6%, +1.5%) winning 1,735 seats (-286)
SDP 19.6% (-1.7%, +0.5%) winning 1,729 seats (-337)
KESK 18.7% (-1.4%, +2.9%) winning 3,077 seats (-440)
PS 12.3% (+7%, -6.7%) winning 1,195 seats (+752)
Green 8.5% (-0.4%, +1.3%) winning 323 seats (-47)
VAS 8% (-0.8%, -0.1%) winning 640 seats (-193)
SFP-RKP 4.7% (nc, +0.4%) winning 480 seats (-30)
KD 3.7% (-0.4%, -0.3%) winning 300 seats (-51)
Others 2.5% (-0.9%, +0.8%) winning 195 seats (-103)

The governing parties all won fairly good results in these elections, even if slightly down on the last local elections in 2008. The True Finns (PS), compared to the 2008 local elections, are the clear winners. While the PS is well on its way to establishing itself as a major player in Finnish politics in the years to come (if that was not already obvious), its result in these elections are a far cry from the 19% the party won in the 2011 legislative elections but also fall short of what polls had predicted. While there are grounds for calling PS the big “winners” of this election – which is what most foreign media outlets have done – it should certainly be noted that these results are quite underwhelming for the party. The party’s leader, Timo Soini, admitted that these results were not what he had hoped for though he said that he would keep fighting and that the Eurozone meltdown would eventually “prove him right.”

The country’s three traditional parties – KESK, SDP or KOK – which had all suffered (especially KESK) from PS bursting onto the scenes in 2011 – recovered some of their lost support. KESK itself reestablished itself as one of the three major parties in Finland, and it held its solid rural base. It is the largest party in around 200 of the 304 municipalities and it has – by far – the most local councillors (over 3,000), most of them from small rural municipalities. KESK’s traditional support and strength in most small towns in rural Finland likely hurt PS a bit – some potential voters (and maybe PS voters in 2011) preferring to back the traditionally dominant party in local elections.

The government’s tough (“hardline”) policies in the Eurozone, such as demanding collateral from Greece and Spain, might have successfully checked the rise of the populist eurosceptic right, for the time being. A series of controversial homophobic or racist statements by PS MPs and candidates has also been cited as a reason for PS’ relatively “weak” result this year. Again, while PS has established itself as a major player in Finnish politics, its momentum from 2011 might have been stopped by the government parties and the KESK (which has moved towards more Euro-critical stances since 2011) successfully regaining lost support.

The other, smaller, parties had fairly good results. The Greens suffered some loses but largely did fairly well, and their support did not collapse in Helsinki as it had been expected. The left (VAS) lost some ground, especially in their traditional working-class strongholds in northern Finland, but it retained over 600 councillors and did well in Helsinki. The Swedish party (SFP-RKP) managed to mobilize their base and retain their base in the predominantly Swedish municipalities on the western and southern coast. The Christian Democrats (KD) lost some ground, but they still have 300 seats.

Stability prevailed in most major cities. In Helsinki, KOK won 26.9% and 23 seats (down 3) while the Greens did not collapse as some had predicted: they remained second with 22.3% (down about 1%) and 19 seats (-2). The SDP won 15 seats (16.8%, losing 1 seat) while VAS and PS both made gains, winning 10.1% and 9.4% respectively. In Finland’s second-largest city, the affluent Helsinki suburb of Espoo, KOK won 36% against 16.7% for the Greens. The KOK and SDP tied with 18 seats apiece in Vantaa, a less affluent suburban town north of Helsinki.

Outside of metro Helsinki, the KOK was the largest party in Tampere and Turku while KESK remained on top in the northern city of Oulu. In Tampere, the KOK and SDP ended up nearly tied (17 and 16 seats respectively) with the Greens suffering some loses. In Turku, KOK won nearly 26% against a bit over 20% for the SDP, though both lost ground compared to 2008. In Oulu, KESK won 27% against roughly 20% for KOK and 14% for VAS.

You can explore results in all other municipalities on this website.

Sicily (Italy)

Regional elections were held in Sicily on October 28, 2012. Since 2001, the regional President is directly elected by popular vote. The Regional Assembly of Sicily is composed of 90 members, 80 of which are elected through the largest remainders method of PR in Sicily’s 9 provinces with a 5% thresholds. The other 10 members are elected on a “regional list” (a kind of general ticket/plurality at-large voting), the regional president gets one seat and the runner-up in the presidential ballot gets a seat – the other 8 are usually given to the winning presidential ticket as a sort of “majority bonus”; if the presidential ticket has already achieved a majority (as was the case in 2008 in Sicily), the eight seats are given to the runner-up’s presidential ticket.

Sicily is an autonomous region with a special status, granted immediately after the war in 1946 (other Italian regions without a special statute only received an elected legislature in 1970). This means that the Sicilian regional government keeps 100% of the taxes it levies, though it must fund healthcare, education and public infrastructure by itself (Sicily does get some additional central government funding to help it out). In a context of debt/economic crisis in Italy, Sicily has been pointed out as a bad example: its regional government is notoriously bloated and profligate; spending tons, paying generous pensions, employing (directly or indirectly) over 100,000 of the population’s 5 million inhabitants. Sicily’s economic situation is catastrophic, the region is teetering on the verge of default because of its huge debt. This article from the New York Times back in July is particularly interesting.

Sicily is a conservative stronghold in Italy. Since 1947, the centre-right has held the regional presidency for all but two short years (1998-2000, during a particularly divided and unstable regional legislature), and it national elections it has backed the right – most recently Silvio Berlusconi – by big margins. In the 2001 Italian elections, Berlusconi’s right-wing coalition had swept the entirety of the island’s 61 seats. In the 2008 regional elections, the right-wing candidate for president won 65% against barely 30% for the centre-left.

Sicily is a poor region, even today. Its unemployment rate, probably nearing 15% even on official records, is much higher than the national average. During the twentieth century, Sicily was a land of emigration - North Americans (and South Americans) can certainly attest to the huge number of Sicilians (and other southern Italians) who immigrated to the United States or Canada. Until the 1960s, the island’s economy was predominantly based around agriculture (fruits, wines) and structured around large estates led by distant bosses and employing throngs of poor landless labourers. After Italian unification at the end of the nineteenth century, the central government – allied with the local landowners – resisted moves towards any kind of agrarian reform. To defend themselves against rural banditry and their own landless labourers, the landowners employed local thugs to protect their property – the roots of the modern mafia.

The mafia grew in power and influence in Sicily, and they filed the vacuum between the people and the state. During Benito Mussolini’s fascist regime, the mafia was chased into hiding by Mussolini’s regime, which saw the mafia as a threat to its power. However, when the Allies invaded Sicily (and Italy) in 1943, they allied with the mafia and allowed the mafia to return to a prominent role in the immediate post-war era. The dominant force of centre-right politics during the ‘First Republic’, Christian Democracy (DC), allied itself with the powerful Catholic Church, the conservative landowners and the mafia and became the dominant party in Sicilian politics. The alliance between the DC and the mafia created a clientelistic system of political patronage which has survived to this day in Sicily and elsewhere in southern Italy. The mafia ensured the success of the DC at the polls and checked the rise of the Communist Party (PCI), which in Sicily organized restless landless peasants by demanding wide-reaching social and agrarian reform. In return, the DC state made sure that the mafia’s business interests were protected and supported. The ‘First Republic’ and the close alliance between the DC and the Sicilian mafia collapsed with the Tangentopoli scandals and Mani Pulite investigations of the early 1990s in Italy.

While the PCI had some success in coastal municipalities with fishermen and in some rural communities with more radical landless peasants, Sicily has been a conservative stronghold and has consistently voted for right-wing parties. The roots of this conservatism comes from the lack of strong communities and communitarian feelings in southern Italy. Until 1946, southern Italy had been ruled almost exclusively by autocratic regimes who maintained formal feudal structures into the early nineteenth century and which subsequently based their power on support from the rural landowning elite. This history, compounded with the emergence of the mafia as a potent force in the 1850s, diluted any feelings of society. Southern Italy society is fairly atomized and individualistic, there is a strong “anti-cooperative” mindset which has kept the PCI and other left-wing parties traditionally weak. The relation of the average Sicilian or southern Italian with corruption and the mafia is different than in other places. To a certain extent, corruption is accepted as part of the political process.

In the ‘Second Republic’ era of Italian politics, which is coming to an end as we speak, Sicily has remained true to its conservative traditions. In 1994, Berlusconi’s new right-wing anti-establishment party, Forza Italia, found strong backing in Sicily and the island has since been one of the Berlusconian right’s strongholds. However, other centre-right players are important in Sicily. The old DC tradition has not entirely died out in Sicily, which has given strong results to the various centre-right successor parties of the DC – Casini’s UDC won over 9% of the vote in Sicily in the 2008 elections, well above its national result. Between 2001 and 2008, Sicily’s regional president was a right-wing Christian democrat, Salvatore Cuffaro, who is currently living in jail (for aiding the mafia). As the ‘First Republic’ faded away, the DC and its venal allies had seen their support shift to the south, where the networks of political patronage and clientelism had built a resilient electoral clientele.

There is a small regionalist movement in Sicily, though it is debatable to what extent these parties are actually fundamentally ‘regionalist’ or autonomist and to what extent they are merely empty kleptocratic shells founded by political bosses to further their political interests. Sicily’s post-war separatist movement, the MIS, has certainly died out. Nevertheless, Sicily’s regional president between 2008 until his resignation this year, Raffaele Lombardo, is the leader of one of these confusing regionalist parties – the Movement for Autonomies (MPA). In 2008, Lombardo and the MPA were allied with Berlusconi’s centre-right coalition (the PdL) but relations quickly turned sour. The MPA left the Berlusconi government in November 2010, prior to that point Lombardo had already pushed the PdL and the UDC out of his government (in 2009). The MPA is currently aligned with the UDC and Gianfranco Fini’s FLI, as part of the vague centrist ‘pole’ which seems increasingly stillborn.

Raffaele Lombardo’s resignation because of his suspected ties to the mafia and other corruption scandals earlier this year forced this snap regional election. Sicily, again, is a conservative region where the right has dominated regional politics since World War II. However, Italy’s political system – the ‘Second Republic’ – is going through a period of radical change, similar to that period between 1992 and 1994 which saw the old ‘First Republic’ system collapse. Silvio Berlusconi and his countless run-ins with the law meant that he had no credibility in the eyes of his European partners to deal with Italy’s huge debt problem which has brought the country to the verge of bankruptcy. He resigned in November and Italy has been governed by Mario Monti, a “non-party technocrat” since then, with the lukewarm support of the left and the right until general elections in April 2013. Monti’s government has implemented stringent austerity measures and made some steps towards necessary reforms.

Berlusconi has been in-and-out of politics since November 2011. A few weeks ago, he said that he would not run in the 2013 election (after saying that he would) but shortly thereafter he denounced Monti, Germany and the judges who sentenced him for tax fraud and indicated that he would remain the playing field and threatened to bring down the government. His party, the PdL, has been ripping itself apart. Centrists including Angelino Alfano, Berlusconi’s anointed successor, are eager to get Berlusconi out of the picture. But there are rumours that Berlusconi could stage a return, leading a new anti-establishment populist/eurosceptic party along the lines of Forza Italia in 1994.

The opposition Democratic Party (PD) is hardly in better condition. It has struggled in opposition because of lacklustre old leaders who lacked charisma or even political talent; but also because of its very disparate and heterogeneous nature as a big tent anti-Berlusconi coalition uniting former communists and former left-leaning Christian democrats. To the left, it has faced a re-energized post-communist coalition – the SEL (Left, Ecology and Freedom) led by the popular and charismatic Nichi Vendola, the regional president of Apulia. The PD and the SEL will hold a primary in late November to determine who will lead the coalition into the 2013 elections, and the race is very tight between the current PD leader, Pier Luigi Bersani (ex-PCI) and the young centrist mayor of Florence Matteo Renzi.

Since this summer, Italian politics have been shaken up by the 5-Star Movement (M5S), a populist movement led by popular comedian Beppe Grillo. A popular and powerful rabble-rousing orator, Grillo has lashed out at the “corrupt political establishment” and branded all parties and politicians as crooks. In the polls, the M5S has surged to nearly 20%, often placing second ahead of the PdL (the PD retaining a lead with an anemic 25% or so). The M5S’s roots are on the far-left, but it has de-emphasized traditional ideology in favour of populism and a broad anti-establishment rhetoric. The party has also positioned itself against austerity and has taken to fairly virulent eurosceptic/anti-EU rhetoric. In the process, it has certainly attracted the votes from many unhappy right-wingers, including supporters of the Lega Nord (LN) who feel disgusted with the LN after corruption scandals touching the old boss, Umberto Bossi.

The Sicilian regional election opposed some interesting characters. The PD’s presidential candidate was Rosario Crocetta, a MEP since 2009. Crocetta is openly gay and a former communist (he was a member of the hardline PRC until 2000 and the moderate PdCI until 2008), and became famous as a courageous anti-mafia crusader. He has faced numerous threats on his life from the mafia. The PD, however, formed an alliance with the centre-right UDC rather than Vendola’s SEL in Sicily.

The PdL candidate was Nello Musumeci, a former MEP. Musumeci is not a member of the PdL, his political roots lay with the old post-fascist National Alliance (AN) and with a small right-wing autonomist party in Sicily. The candidate of the incumbent right-wing autonomist administration was Gianfranco Micciché, who is the former leader of the local branch of PdL in Sicily who decided to break with the national party. Lombardo later broke with Micciché’s party, the Great South/Force of the South, as well.

The M5S candidate was Giancarlo Cancelleri. Beppe Grillo campaigned actively, notably by swimming across the straits from Calabria to Messina. The party claimed that it spent only

Turnout was only 47.41%, down from 66.68% in the 2008 regional elections. 47% is extremely low turnout for Italian standards, and likely indicates that the right (PdL primarily) have lost a lot of former suppporters to the ranks of abstention (in addition to parties such as the M5S). The low turnout must also reflect disgust with politics from many voters, who resent the tough austerity and have seen their share of corrupt politicians lining their pockets, politicians engaging in orgies and wild festivities and old party hacks with the charisma of wet pizzas. The results in Sicily were:

President

Rosario Crocetta (PD-UDC) 30.48%
Nello Musumeci (PdL) 25.73%
Giancarlo Cancellieri (M5S) 18.18%
Gianfranco Micciché (MPA-GS) 15.42%
Giovanna Marano (SEL-IdV) 6.06%
Others 4.13%

Regional Assembly

Crocetta Regional List 30.4% winning 39 seats (30 provincial, 9 regional)
PD 13.4% (-5.4%) winning 14 seats (-5)
UDC 10.8% (-1.7%) winning 11 seats (nc)
Crocetta List 6.2% (+6.2%) winning 5 seats (+5)

Musumeci Regional List 24.4% winning 21 seats (20 provincial, 1 regional)
PdL 12.9% (-20.6%) winning 12 seats (-23)
Popular Constructions (PID) 5.9% (+5.9%) winning 4 seats (+4)
Musumeci List 5.6% (+5.6%) winning 4 seats (+4)

M5S 14.9% (+13.2%) winning 15 seats (+15)

Micciché Regional List 20% winning 15 seats
PdS-MPA 9.5% (-4.3%) winning 10 seats (-5)
Great South 6.0% (+6%) winning 5 seats (+5)
FLI 4.4% (+4.4%) winning 0 seats (nc)
Ppa – Piazza Pulita 0.1% (+0.1%) winning 0 seats (nc)

Marano Regional List 6.6% winning 0 seats
IdV 3.5% (+1.7%) winning 0 seats (nc)
SEL-PRC+PdCI-Greens 3.1% (-1.8%) winning 0 seats (nc)

All others 3.5% winning 0 seats

Results of the regional list/presidential vote by commune (source: it.wikipedia)

The Sicilian election was quite something. Rosario Crocetta’s victory means that conservative Sicily will have a gay communist (who hates the mafia) as President, which is something. On a more serious basis, Crocetta’s victory is an historic victory for the left in Sicily, which has practically never governed the island’s regional government since it was created in 1947. However, Crocetta’s victory, while still remarkable, is more a reflection of the utter disarray and chaos of the Sicilian – and Italian – right rather than the phenomenal success of the left. Crocetta’s vote share, 30.5%, is roughly on par with the 30.4% won by the PD’s Anna Finocchiaro in the 2008 election, an election which had been a total disaster for the Sicilian left (its candidate had won 41.6% in the 2006 regional election). This very underwhelming and anemic result for both the centre-left coalition and the PD in particular (it won only 13% on the party-list vote, down from an already awful 18.8% in 2008) reflects the state of the Italian left: a favourite to win the next election, but only because the right is sinking faster than the Titanic hitting the iceberg. The PD’s lackluster job in opposition, its uncharismatic leaders and its own internal divisions have meant that it has not benefited much from Berlusconi’s departure and the subsequent disintegration of the once-mighty Italian right.It has been asked by some observers if the victory of a PD-UDC rather than a PD-SEL coalition in these elections will have an impact on the direction of the PD, which is currently committed to an alliance with Vendola’s SEL rather than the UDC. It remains to be seen, but it must be noted that the UDC and the PD have practiced different alliance strategies from region to region, notably in the 2010 regional elections. In some places, the UDC allies with the right, in others it goes its own way and in other regions it allies with the PD. The PD, in some places, goes with the left and SEL but in other places it goes without SEL.

The right, particularly the PdL, was the clear loser of this election. It entered the race divided, and the division of the vote was one of the factors which allowed the left to score an historic victory which is a very, very embarrassing defeat for the right. Together, the two candidates won 41.15% – which would still be terrible for the right which had won all of 65% (!) in the 2008 regional election. The PdL suffered a huge defeat, winning only 13% on the party-list vote, which is down nearly 21 points on what it had won on the 2008 list-vote. This result reflects the collapse of Berlusconi’s once-mighty party as Berlusconi’s successive shenanigans (economic crisis/near default, style of governance, series of corruption scandal, underage sex) finally took their toll on the PdL, beginning in 2011 and accelerating to a point of no-return over the past year. The PdL’s disastrous result in Sicily probably does not help out Angelino Alfano, who is from Sicily, in these PdL primaries scheduled for December.

The M5S and Beppe Grillo, despite a shoestring campaign and a little-known candidate, were the major winners in Sicily. The M5S topped the poll in a very divided party-list vote and its candidate won third place with a very strong 18.2% (it seems like it placed first in the city of Palermo). Grillo’s party, regardless of whether one loves them or hates them, is definitely here to stay. In Sicily, they proved that their support is, for the moment, fairly deep and solid; showing up even in a regional election with very low turnout. Crocetta lacks a majority in the new Regional Assembly, which will make governing difficult for him. The M5S has refused to work with the new majority, in keeping with Grillo branding all exisiting parties as corrupt entities which should be swept away.

Italy’s economic/debt crisis has proven to be the trigger to the collapse of the ‘Second Republic’ party system as we know it. This exciting (or depressing, your choice!) era in Italian politics is similar to the previous political revolution which brought down the First Republic between 1992 and 1994: the Tangentopoli. Old parties are discredited and unappealing, the right and the left are both trying to totally revinvent themselves, old politicians are all seen in a very negative light and new parties led by inflammatory populists and powerful orators are bursting onto the scene. The M5S is following in the footsteps of Umberto Bossi’s Lega Nord in the early 90s and Silvio Berlusconi himself in 1994. It is feeding off the carcasses of the old parties, and presenting itself as a brand-new, anti-establishment/anti-corruption party which promises a radical break with the old system of Italian politics. 2013 may prove to be, nineteen years after Berlusconi’s first big victory in 1994, the birthdate of a ‘Third Republic’ in Italy.

Happy U.S. election day (and night) to all readers!

Finland 2012

The second round of presidential elections were held in Finland on February 5. The President of Finland is directly elected for a term of six years and is immediately re-eligible once. Interestingly, as Finland amended its constitution to make the President directly elected (in 1994), it went in suit with a significant reduction in the President’s powers, transforming Finland from a French-like semi-presidential system to a rather parliamentary system with a ceremonial presidency. While the President retains power over appointments, defense and foreign policy, the presidency’s powers vis-a-vis legislation has been curtailed and a veto can be overridden very easily. Despite the limited powers, the President is still a fairly prestigious position and the Presidents in recent years have become seen as sources of stability. Presidential elections also attract very heavy turnout, often 80% or more of voters, who are said to appreciate the personal nature of the election in contrast to party-list parliamentary elections.

I covered the details and results of the first round on January 23 here. The runoff opposed Sauli Niinistö of the ruling centre-right KOK, a former finance minister, party leader and 2006 presidential runner-up to Pekka Haavisto of the Green League, a former cabinet minister and UN diplomat. Niinistö, who narrowly lost the 2006 race to term-limited SDP President Tarja Halonen has been the runaway favourite for 2012 ever since he did so well in 2006, and he emerged from the first round with 37% against 18.8% for Haavisto. Besides Haavisto’s historic feat in placing the Greens in the runoff, the first round was marked by two other factors: for the first time since 1982, the President will not be from the left-wing SDP after the SDP’s candidate, former Prime Minister, Paavo Lipponen, placed fifth with 6.7% of the vote. Secondly, eurosceptic candidates did poorly and neither of the two big eurosceptic contenders – former Centre Party (KESK) Prime Minister Paavo Väyrynen or populist right-winger Timo Soini of the True Finns (PS) – were able to make it into the runoff. Soini’s 9% performance was about 10% below that his party had garnered in the 2011 legislative elections, and it won his fourth place, while Väyrynen narrowly lost out second place to Haavisto with 17.5%, slightly above his party’s disastrous 2011 results. As such, the runoff was unique in that it was not a traditional left-right contest as all presidential runoffs since 1994 have been, nor was it even a pro-European/eurosceptic matchup either. It was probably closest to a liberal (Haavisto)-conservative (Niinistö) matchup, but even then the ideological differences between the two pro-European, ‘tolerant’, socially liberal candidates were sparse.

Turnout was exceptionally low at 68.9%, the lowest ever turnout in a type of election which has usually interested Finnish voters. Invalid or spoiled ballots also reached a high.

Sauli Niinistö (KOK) 62.6%
Pekka Haavisto (Green) 37.4%

Despite Haavisto’s last-minute success in the first round which made his distant second the sensation of the day, Niinistö actually remained the favourite throughout. Honestly, against a very popular, well-funded and well known major party candidate, a “gay liberal” like Haavisto barely stood a chance. Niinistö has been the runaway favourite since 2006 or so, and he has led in all/the vast majority of polls. He also entered the runoff with 37%, in a much better position than Haavisto whose core was only 19%. Niinistö probably had a wider appeal to traditional voters than the maverick liberal Haavisto did. While Niinistö is a liberal pro-European too, he has built up a base which far surpasses the narrow bases of his own party, and he likely has a more natural appeal to more culturally conservative KESK voters or older retired working-class SDP voters. In fact, one of his main strengths has been his wide base with older voters, a traditional core SDP electorate in Finland. With 63%, Niinistö trounces Haavisto by a crushing 26-point margin, by far the widest gap in any presidential runoff election in Finland (the previous record was set by Martti Ahtisaari in 1994 when he beat Elisabeth Rehn by 8 points in the runoff). Niinistö becomes the first president since 1956 to hail from KOK’s ranks, but he will be required to give up his party membership upon taking office. Furthermore, his relations with KOK Prime Minister and party leader Jyrki Katainen, who is much younger than Niinistö, have not been particularly warm.

Pekka Haavisto was badly defeated in the runoff, but for an “unusual” candidate starting out from such a narrow base in the first round, Haavisto’s performance is still rather remarkable. It is also, in the wider realm of things, something for the Greens to take pride in and perhaps a base for them in future elections. Even if we assume that Haavisto won the support of all those who had backed the left-wing candidate Lipponen and Arhinmäki in the first round and those who backed Swedish candidate Eva Biaudet (which would be a total of 33.6%), he still obviously won pretty significant support from those who had backed the eurosceptic candidates Paavo Väyrynen and Timo Soini in the first round. Given how Haavisto is basically presented to the world as an openly gay pro-European liberal, it is quite remarkable that he has been able to win at least some sort of support from those voters. In the end, Haavisto managed to close the gap from 74-26 before the first round to 63-37 on election day, but it was always an uphill fight for him.

It is important to extend our previous comments on turnout. At only 68.9%, turnout is the lowest in any presidential election and even lower than turnout in the last legislative election, a type of election which attracts slightly less voters than presidential ballots. Invalid votes, 0.7% of the total, were also quite high. Only 32% of voters actually turned out on election day, while another 36% voted by advance ballot – quite prevalent in Finland, especially in isolated rural areas. Haavisto won 41% on election day, against 34.5% in advance ballots, which reflects the lesser prevalence of advance voting in Haavisto’s core urban strongholds. Climatic conditions explain part of the low turnout – weather was horrible in Finland on election day – but a good part of it likely stems from a good number of conservative KESK or PS voters who opted to stay home rather than vote in a contest between two pro-European ‘liberals’. Turnout was lowest in Åland (56%) and Lapland (62%) – the latter of which voted heavily for KESK’s Paavo Väyrynen in the first round. Turnout is naturally lower in all presidential elections in self-governing Swedish-speaking Åland, where voters probably feel less connection with mainland Finnish politics.

Åland, incidentally, stands out on the map as the only county to give Haavisto a majority (he won 60%), after having voted for Swedish candidate Eva Biaudet in the first round. However, Swedish voters along the coast in Vaasa seem to have voted for Niinistö by pretty significant margins. Åland benefits from extensive autonomy, and it has always shown a preference for left-wing candidates who tend to be more supportive of its autonomous status. He also came very close in Helsinki, where he won 49.8% – and 54% of election day voters. He failed to break 40% in any other county in the mainland besides Keski-Suomi, where he won 42%, probably because of his strong result (47%) in the big university town of Jyväskylä. Otherwise, Haavisto seems to have won mediocre results in working-class or industrial towns which usually vote SDP.

Finland 2012

The first round of presidential elections were held in Finland on January 23, with a runoff scheduled to take place on February 5. The President of Finland is directly elected for a term of six years and is immediately re-eligible once. Interestingly, as Finland amended its constitution to make the President directly elected (in 1994), it went in suit with a significant reduction in the President’s powers, transforming Finland from a French-like semi-presidential system to a rather parliamentary system with a ceremonial presidency. While the President retains power over appointments, defense and foreign policy, the presidency’s powers vis-a-vis legislation has been curtailed and a veto can be overridden very easily. Despite the limited powers, the President is still a fairly prestigious position and the Presidents in recent years have become seen as sources of stability. Presidential elections also attract very heavy turnout, often 80% or more of voters, who are said to appreciate the personal nature of the election in contrast to party-list parliamentary elections.

Since 1982, the Presidency has been held by the Social Democratic Party (SDP). Presidential elections since 1994 have all been decided in fairly close runoffs, and they have been straight left-right contests with the left united behind the SDP while the ‘non-socialist’ parties unite behind whichever of their candidates placed second in the first round. For example, in 2006, incumbent President Tarja Halonen of the SDP (backed by the Left Alliance, VAS) won 46% in the first round against only 24% for conservative candidate (National Coalition, KOK) Sauli Niinistö, but in the runoff Niinistö won 48% as he received the backing of other candidates including then-Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen of the Centre Party (KESK).

This year’s presidential election follows a legislative election in April last year which saw the emergence of Timo Soini’s populist True Finns (PS) as the third largest party with 19%, closely behind KOK (20%) and the SDP (19%) and ahead of former Prime Minister Mari Kiviniemi’s Centre Party (15.8%). Mari Kiviniemi’s party paid a heavy price for the government’s support of the EU bailout of Ireland and Greece. Soini’s agenda, mixing left-wing rhetoric on economic and welfare issue with Euroscepticism, nationalism, anti-parliamentarianism and isolationism proved popular with voters in an election fought around the bailout and political-financial scandals in the Finnish political class. However, differences on European policy were far too vast to bridge and PS ended up staying outside government, joining KESK in opposition. All other parties – led by Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen’s National Coalition – are in government which thus includes the SDP, the Left Alliance (VAS), the Greens, the Swedish People’s Party (SFP-RKP) and the Christian

Since his surprising strong showing in the 2006 election, Sauli Niinistö of the governing KOK has been something of a “President in waiting” or at least runaway favourite for this year’s election. Niinistö served as Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister between 1995 and 2001 (actually, he was Justice Minister between 1995 and 1996) and as Speaker between 2007 and 2011. Like most of his party, Niinistö is rather libertarian: right-wing on economic issues, but liberal on moral issues. Niinistö and KOK are both pro-European, and Niinistö says that only inflation will help Europe’s indebted countries settle their problems. Niinistö’s appeal breaks that of his party as he already seems to have a personal stature and a reputation as a competent and independent politician.

The race featured several other big names. The SDP nominated former Prime Minister (1995-2003) Paavo Lipponen is suspected of being an East German agent of influence and has been criticized – notably by EU milieus – because of his ties to Nord Stream, a Russian gas project. Lipponen ran a very pro-European campaign, supporting greater European integration. The True Finns (PS) nominated their leader, Timo Soini, who ran for President in 2006 winning only 3% of the vote. Soini, obviously, ran a Eurosceptic campaign, arguing that Greece’s departure from the Euro-zone is inevitable. He has warned against what he says is growing centralization in financial decision making in the EU behind the ECB.

The Centre Party (KESK) nominated former Foreign Minister and longtime politician Paavo Väyrynen. Väyrynen, who has served in various cabinets since the mid-1970s, already ran for President in 1988 and 1994, both times without success. On European policy, KESK has usually been divided, historically being rather Eurosceptic but moving towards more pro-European positions under the leadership of Matti Vanhanen and Mari Kiviniemi. Since their defeat, KESK seems to have moved back towards more Euro-critical positions, likely in a bid to woo those Centre voters who voted for PS in the April 2011 election. Since Finland joined the EU in 1994, Väyrynen has always been critical of EU membership and then Eurozone membership, and has thus been a thorn in the side for his party’s leadership. He returned to government in 2007 as Foreign Trade Minister, but was defeated running in a new constituency in 2011. Väyrynen ran a Euro-critical campaign, joining Soini in saying that the Eurozone would dissolve and in criticizing the pro-European Lipponen and Niinistö of misleading the public and the legislature when Finland joined the Euro. He supports leaving the Euro.

The Greens nominated Pekka Haavisto, an openly gay MP and former Environment Minister in the 1990s. After his tenure in government, Haavisto worked for the UN and the EU, notably serving as the EU’s representative in Sudan during the Darfur peace negotiations. Haavisto is liberal and pro-European. The Left Alliance (VAS) nominated its leader and incumbent Culture Minister Paavo Arhinmäki, who ran as the ‘anti-NATO’ candidate. The Swedish People’s Party nominated Eva Biaudet, a former MP and cabinet minister and incumbent Ombudsman for Minorities. The Christian Democrats nominated Sari Essayah MEP, a former world and European race walking (10km) champion.

Turnout was 72.7%, down a bit from 2006 but up from 70.5% in the 2011 election. Results were:

Sauli Niinistö (KOK) 37%
Pekka Haavisto (Green) 18.8%
Paavo Väyrynen (KESK) 17.5%
Timo Soini (PS) 9.4%
Paavo Lipponen (SDP) 6.7%
Paavo Arhinmäki (VAS) 5.5%
Eva Biaudet (SFP-RKP) 2.7%
Sari Essayah (KD) 2.5%

The runaway favourite and leader in all polling since day one, Sauli Niinistö predictably came out on top. With 37%, he far outruns his party’s showing in the last election – just a tad above 20% – which really shows how Niinistö has built a large personal vote for himself which far surpasses the traditional base of KOK. Of course, his support is not so overwhelming that he could win by the first round, but no candidate has done that since the Finnish President has been directly elected. He enters the runoff, which will be held on February 5, as the favourite but like every other runoff contest since 1994 it is inevitable that the race will narrow considerably. What makes this election particularly interesting, however, is not Sauli Niinistö’s victory – that was predictable – but rather who placed second.

Pekka Haavisto had been surging in polls in the last few days, placing him in contention for the runoff. On election night, early returns initially placed him behind the KESK’s Paavo Väyrynen but as votes piled up from urbanized Helsinki and southern Finland, he ran past Väyrynen and placed himself into second. While polls had picked up Haavisto’s surge in the last few days, advance voting (11-17 January) indicates that he had a rather important surge in the final stretch: he won 14.6% of the advance votes, quite a bit behind Väyrynen (18%) and Niinistö (39.6%). On election day votes only, he won 22% against 17% for Väyrynen and 34.7% for Niinistö. Niinistö had a similar late surge in the 2006 runoff: if I recall correctly, he only lost because he had done poorly in advance voting. Haavisto’s support, of course, like that of Niinistö, far surpasses that of his party which won 7.3% in the 2011 election. Haavisto built a strong campaign in part through the use of social media, but he has always been popular as a person because of his character: he is said to treat all equally, regardless of rank, and places emphasis on the power of dialogue and reconciliation. Haavisto – who is openly gay – recently met with a particularly anti-gay PS MP and the meeting ended quite successfully for both involved. Finnish media has also talked of Haavisto’s success as some sort of “counter-jytky” – a backlash by liberal voters following the PS’ success in 2011.

As in 1994, Paavo Väyrynen was ultimately unsuccessful in making it to the runoff despite having been seen by the media as the likely runner-up even in the final days. With 17.5%, he builds a bit on KESK’s terrible 15.8% in the 2011 election. For KEKS, Väyrynen can be credited for at least one thing: attracting back some of the traditional rural KESK voters who had abandoned the party in favour of Timo Soini’s True Finns in the 2011 election. Väyrynen’s Euro-critical campaign, quite similar to Soini’s campaign on European issues in fact, was the perfect fit for that type of rural, conservative voter who have formed the backbone of KESK but whose preference for Soini’s PS in the 2011 election destroyed KESK, which lost over 7% of the vote in that election.

Timo Soini’s result is about 10% less than what his party won in 2011. It has been said that PS’ true focus this year are the fall local elections, but it is still a fairly weak showing for the sensation of the 2011 election. Väyrynen likely won the support of quite a few PS voters. It has also been written that Soini’s personal support is weaker than that of his party, which might sound bizarre given how Soini is the party and all, but it is not too uncommon. In Austria at least, Heinz-Christian Strache’s personal ratings on suitability for Prime Minister are much lower than that of his party – and Strache is becoming as closely connected to his party as Soini is with his.

Paavo Lipponen and the left in general had a horrible night. The next President of Finland – for the first time since 1982 – will not be a Social Democrat (and for the first time since 1956, will not be a centrist) and the SDP will not be in the runoff. The Finnish left as a whole has won a horrible result, barely above 12% of the total vote. Lipponen’s popularity was probably hit a bit by the Nord Stream case, but he was not a particularly horrible candidate and the SDP is not in horrible shape (16% in polls, down from 19% in 2011). Lipponen is a very right-wing Social Democrat, so those who liked him voted directly for Niinistö, who also enjoyed strong support with old voters – a key SDP constituency. On the other hand, Haavisto likely took a look from traditional left-wing SDP voters. The VAS’ Paavo Arhinmäki also did pretty poorly – his party had won 8% in 2011. VAS has been hit by entering the right-leaning government and it has also been a source of division inside the party: a few MPs walked out from the party following VAS leadership’s decision to join cabinet. Haavisto probably took support from some VAS voters, after VAS had took some votes from the Greens in 2011.

Biaudet and Essayah did pretty poorly compared to the 4% their parties won in 2011, though in both their cases they did better than their parties candidates in 2006.

The map of the result shows us a pretty interesting north-south split, with Niinistö’s support concentrated in the urbanized, more industrialized regions of southern Finland and Väyrynen sweeping the sparsely populated rural areas up north, the traditional bedrock of KESK support. Niinistö appears to have won some traditionally left-leaning working-class cities in southern Finland, in addition to the more conservative Helsinki suburbs or Turku. Haavisto’s support, unsurprisingly, was also heavily concentrated in the urbanized south. He took 22% in Uusimaa and 34.5% in Helsinki – and he actually won election day votes in the Finnish capital with 39% against 34% for Niinistö. While Väyrynen, placing third, won a ton of municipalities – rural, northern for the most part – Haavisto, placing second, won nothing. Eva Biaudet, of course, won the Swedish-speaking municipalities of coastal Finland and the Swedish-speaking Åland Islands (though by no means was the vote in the homogeneously Swedish Åland Islands homogeneously behind the Swedish candidate; Lipponen did very well with 25% and second place). A similar thing had happened in 2006, when Niinistö far outran the KESK’s Vanhanen for second but ended up winning only two towns (two affluent Helsinki suburbs) while Vanhanen swept a bunch of rural Centre strongholds in religious Oulu country (but nobody lives there).

The runoff will be particularly interesting, as instead of being an old-style left/right contest or even a straight pro-EU/anti-EU contest, it opposes a ‘conservative’ to a ‘liberal’ who are both pro-European and fairly centrist, Haavisto being the most left-wing of the two. Anti-European voters who backed Soini and Väyrynen may choose to opt out from the runoff, but those who do vote will need to choose between two pro-European centrists. Niinistö remains the favourite, but if he wins it will not be a landslide (polls say 74-26, which obviously won’t happen). Haavisto is going to get serious momentum out of his result and if he replicates his first round campaign in the runoff, he could prove a match to Niinistö. Niinistö will likely grasp conservative voters, those who backed the PS, KESK and KD candidates in the first round. Haavisto will take heavy support from VAS voters and probably a good share of SDP voters and a fair share of Swedish voters. YLE had a rumour that Soini had said he could back Haavisto in the runoff, which is interesting and while he has said he has not indicated his preference at this point, it might be indicative of something. The overlap between PS and KOK is usually pretty thin, but the overlap between PS and Green is almost in-existent as the two parties traditionally hate each other. The race is on.

Finland 2011

A parliamentary election was held in Finland on April 17, 2011. I talked briefly about all this in a preview post and Who rules where had a great guest post about it as well. This was a very interesting election which ended in Finnish style of having the three main parties in a statistical tie. Here are the results:

National Coalition 20.4% (-1.9%) winning 44 seats (-6)
Social Democratic Party 19.1% (-2.3%) winning 42 seats (-3)
True Finns 19% (+14.9%) winning 39 seats (+34)
Centre 15.8% (-7.3%) winning 35 seats (-16)
Left Alliance 8.1% (-0.7%) winning 14 seats (-3)
Green League 7.2% (-1.3%) winning 10 seats (-5)
Swedish People’s Party 4.3% (-0.3%) winning 9 seats (nc)
Christian Democrats 4% (-0.9%) winning 6 seats (-1)
Others 0.4% (-0.1%) winning 1 seat (nc) – the Åland seat

Turnout was 70.4%, up 2.5% from 2007 to reach the highest turnout level since 1995.

It was, overall, a pretty bad night if you were a party other than the True Finns. Remarkably, all but one of the parliamentary parties lost votes. The National Coalition emerged as the largest party for the first time in its history and will most likely lead the next government for the first time since the 1987-1991 Holkeri KOK-led coalition. But KOK’s victory is somewhat Pyhrric, in that it lost votes and seats from its high-water mark in 2007. But considering KOK is the junior partner in the governing coalition, they didn’t lose all that badly. This may speak about the competence and skills of KOK leader and Finance Minister Jyrki Katainen. KOK didn’t lose as much support as, say, the governing Centre Party (KESK).

Prime Minister Mari Kiviniemi’s governing Centre Party (KESK) won its worst showing since the 1917 election and fell to fourth place (not for the first time, however). While she herself was popular and her support outstripped that of KESK, her party clearly paid the heavy price for the unpopular EU bailout of failing economies in Ireland and Greece, a major issue in this election. Kiviniemi has already announced that KESK will head back to the opposition benches after being in power since 2003.

The Social Democrats (SDP) performed relatively well, although they lost seats and votes, when you consider their leadership woes and the talk that the SDP’s leader, Jutta Urpilainen, is a poor leader. With a better leader, it could very well have done better but after the 2009 disaster (the EU elections) for the SDP this is a decent showing. The SDP likely benefited from a more populist and Euro-critical campaign, led in response to the rise of the True Finns. Still, this is SDP’s worst showing in a general election (somewhat surprisingly).

The Left (VAS) won its worst showing ever, although again after the 2009 disaster for VAS their vote held up remarkably well. The Greens were overestimated by pollsters and probably ended up paying a price for their participation in an unpopular government. The Greens will be headed to the opposition benches as well.

If there’s only one winner in this election, it has got to be the True Finns. Underestimated by pollsters, Timo Soini’s right-wing populist party has boosted its support by nearly 15% since 2007 and 9% since its previous high-water showing in the 2009 European elections. Timo Soini won the most votes of an individual candidate in this election, and has placed his party into a very strong third place. The True Finns benefited from a plethora of factors. In terms of issues, they were the main beneficiaries of the popular opposition to the EU bailouts of Greece and Ireland which was spearheaded by the KESK-KOK government and supported by the four-party government though opposed by the SDP. The potential bailout for Portugal – strongly opposed by PS – may have been a late boost to the True Finns who have made opposition to the bailouts and the European Stability Mechanism the universal cornerstone of their campaign. Immigration may not have been a major issue – PS candidates in rural areas didn’t talk about it (though they did in urban areas) but there is a growing and underlying fear in Finland that immigration is breaking the nation’s homogeneity and the PS was able to make issues out of Somali and Iraqi asylum seekers.

The True Finns’ eclectic platform mixing economic nationalism with social conservatism was a winning recipe in this election. PS’ defense of the welfare state and support for higher spending on social programs helped it significantly in a country with nearly 12% unemployment.

PS’ breakthrough is also a major defeat for the traditional system of Finnish politics. The three main parties, all moderate and traditional parties of government, have usually alternated in power. All three, plus the Swedes and others including the Greens have been in government at least once in the last ten years. There is little discernible difference between either of the three major parties, and such setup always benefits the populist right who can present themselves as a credible alternative and as a “people’s” alternative to the parties of the “elite”.

The above map, showing results by municipality, gives the impression of a KESK landslide. Despite coming fourth, KESK seems to have won most if not a majority of the 300-some municipalities in Finland and certainly won the most land area. Of course, KESK is an agrarian party and its roots remains in the sparsely populated municipalities of rural Finland. As such, it invariably dominates a map. KOK, on the other hand, is a ver urban party with strength in major cities and their suburbs. Most notably Helsinki, where KOK took 27% to the SDP’s 17.5% and the Greens’ 16.7%. KESK, meanwhile, took a paltry 4.5% in the Finnish capital. Interestingly, VAS did well in Helsinki (+3.6%) and may have taken some left-wing Green voters unhappy about their party’s participation in a centre-right coalition. The SDP is also a urban party, with most of its strength lying in small industrial towns or villages mostly in the south of Finland. The SFP, finally, have a strong and stable base in the Swedish municipalities along the coast. Åland is not included on this map because the mainland parties don’t run there.

I haven’t run through the towns where PS topped the poll, but overall they seem to be small suburban or exurban towns/villages outside a regional urban centre. Some of these towns seem to be unilingual Finnish towns close to Swedish-majority towns, areas where PS’ opposition to bilingual education might play well. PS’ electorate is largely male, poorly educated and more often than not working-class or lower middle-class. As mentioned in the preview post, PS drew votes from voters who previously did not vote as well as KESK voters in the rural north, old working-class SDP voters, some VAS voters and fewer KOK voters. PS likely drew very few old Green or SFP voters.

Now comes the tough part, forming a government. KESK and the Greens have already excluded themselves by saying that it’s back to the opposition for them (which is the best strategy for both if they want to regain lost support). KESK’s decision makes forming a coalition harder. Then there are the other issues. KOK is a strongly pro-European campaign and its leader Jyrki Katainen supports the bailouts, saying that is a common European cause. However, his two most likely partners – the SDP and PS – both oppose the bailouts and, in PS’ case, does so very strongly. Timo Soini has already made it clear that he’ll impose his veto on any bailout to Portugal. Jyrki Katainen, however, said that he didn’t want a party which opposes a potential Portuguese bailout in his cabinet. That was before the election, so nobody can really count this as set in stone. At any rate, media speculation is that the most likely outcome is a KOK/SDP/PS/SFP coalition. Outside the aforementioned issues with bailouts, SFP’s surprising inclusion in such a coalition shows that they’re a) whores but also says b) that this isn’t going to work too well. The SFP are whores, yes, in that they’ll work with anybody including Nazis if they’re bilingual. But PS isn’t too keen on the bilingual education issue (to say the least) and this might finally ruffle SFP’s feathers a bit. But at the end of the day, SFP might just be there for show in that it is not needed for anything (KOK/SDP/PS has a 125/200 majority). A cordon sanitaire is not a real option in Finland, and KESK’s decision makes one even more unlikely. A KOK/SDP coalition has 86 seats and, stretching it, an anti-PS coalition of KOK, SDP, VAS and SFP have a majority. But that isn’t speculated by anybody. Coalition talks begin on Thursday, and it’s too early to speculate. But Jyrki Katainen will most likely end up as Prime Minister.

PS is a party of big personalities; Timo Soini certainly shows that well as does the party’s eccentric mix of weird candidates. Its parliamentarians tend to be very independent personalities who invariably butt head with each others and seem to create a broad coalition rather than a cohesive parties. As thus, a party with big clashing personalities entering government may find it hard to prosper any further. Its anti-establishment rhetoric will certainly have to be toned down if it participates in the “establishment” that is government. It will risk association in the long term with unpopular policies the government will inevitably make. PS risks if not destruction than at least cloudy days from its internal incoherencies, diverse personalities and clashing platforms if it enters government. That may be one of the reasons why the establishment parties seem so eager to welcome PS into government.

Finland’s election might have a negative effect on Portugal and other struggling EU nations. PS’ victory and their likely inclusion in government throws a Portuguese bailout into doubt:  already interest rates on Portuguese bonds are ballooning.

Election Preview: Finland 2011

Parliamentary elections will be held in Finland on April 17, 2011. This election will likely get some attention in the world media, and it is an interesting election in a generally interesting country, so I’ve decided to do a brief preview of it. I don’t know enough about Finnish political history to do a traditional run-through of the recent political history, but instead I’ll spend more time on the parties.

How does it work?

Finland’s unicameral Parliament, the Eduskunta or Riksdag has 200 seats elected by proportional representation in 15 electoral districts. Wikipedia has a nice map of these districts which often correspond to the boundaries of one or two regions. Each district has a varying number of seats, except for the small islands of Åland who are automatically entitled to a single seat. At each election the number of citizens in each constituency is divided by the country’s total population and the result is then multiplied by 199 to get the number of seats in each district. In this election, this number varies between 6 (Southern Savonia, North Karelia) and 35 (Uusimaa). There is no threshold, but in practice districts with fewer seats have a higher informal threshold and bigger districts have a lower one. Voters cast their vote for a candidate within a party list.

The Parties

Finland has had a remarkably stable political system with three parties of roughly equal size – in the last election, the top three parties won 23%, 22% and 21% of the votes respectively. These three main parties are all old parties and have all been in power at least once in the past ten years.

The largest party in 2007, with 51 seats and 23% of the vote was the Centre Party (KESK). KESK is a centrist party of the Nordic agrarian tradition, founded in 1906. KESK is traditionally the dominant party, and is a generally a rather ideology-free party of power though not as much as the textbook examples of such parties. For example, KESK never won over 30% of the vote and its vote has been steady in the lower 20 range for most of its existence which is quite remarkable. KESK’s dominant figure of the Cold War era was Urho Kekkonen, who served as president between 1956 and 1982. Kekkonen and his predecessor as President, Juho Paasikivi, were caught between a rock and a hard place as Finland shared an extensive border with Soviet Union and had just lost a war to the Soviets during the course of World War II. The Soviets came to impose their will on Finland without turning it into a full satellite state, doing so through a 1948 treaty which recognized Finland’s ‘neutrality’ while the Finnish government engaged itself to supporting the Soviets if Moscow was attacked. This type of policy, derogatorily styled ‘finlandization’ consisted of not doing anything which might ruffle Moscow’s feather and taking pro-Soviet stances as part of ‘active neutrality’ such as defending a denuclearized zone in northern Europe (which would have, coincidentally, excluded the Russian Kola Peninsula). Incidentally, this policy allowed Finland to industrialize (the Soviets demanded reparations through metallurgical products or naval construction) and have full access to the Soviet market to sell its goods (and importing Soviet oil) while also trading with its western partners (passing a free trade deal with the EEC in 1973 and joining the EFTA in 1985).

KESK’s current leader and Prime Minister is Mari Kiviniemi, who took office in June 2010. She replaced Matti Vanhanen, the KESK Prime Minister between 2003 and 2010. Vanhanen fell over a financial scandal which involved KESK and the conservative KOK. Prominent businessmen were accused of having financed 53 politicians from KESK and KOK.

KOK’s support base is predominantly rural, which harks back to KESK’s place in the political spectrum as the traditional agrarian party. This old base includes large swathes of rural Finland’s small holders as well pietist religious movements within the Church of Finland. It has since expanded somewhat to include middle class small businessmen and some urban liberals though KESK remains particularly weak in Helsinki (7% in 2007) and in a lot of larger urban areas. Most of its support comes from northern remote areas where few people live, but where KESK has built up a strong machine over the years. Such things may help explain why KESK, which remains a traditional rural party in voter base and practice, has survived when its sister parties in Sweden and Norway struggle.

The National Coalition Party (KOK [yes, I know, cue the bad jokes]) with 22.3% and 50 seats in the 2007 election is the junior governing party, led by Jyrki Katainen. KOK originally emerged in 1918 as a coalition of monarchists, and has transitioned into a moderate conservative-libertarian party. Its hostility to Moscow and Kekkonen kept KOK out of all governments between 1966 and 1987, though since then it has been in all but two cabinets and led one of them between 1987 and 1991. The modern KOK is a modern European liberal party, supporting low taxes and low regulation. Strongly pro-European, the party has also become socially liberal – endorsing gay marriage at its 2010 convention.

KOK draws its support mostly from the middle-class and wealthy in densely populated southern Finland, and is the dominant centre-right force in Helsinki. KOK’s support is remarkably stable, moving in a 10% range between 13% and 23% since the war.

The Social Democratic Party (SDP) won 21.4% and 45 seats in 2007, making it the third largest party and the dominant opposition party. Very strong during the Russian era, it has oscillated between 19.5% and 27% of the vote since the war. Under the leadership of Väinö Tanner, the SDP attempted to regain the credibility it had lost in the eyes of moderates during the 1918 Finnish Civil War. This included taking a strong nationalist line and slightly less left-wing line compared to its Nordic neighbors. In the post-war era, the SDP adopted a staunchly pro-democracy line which put it on Moscow’s black list but which allowed it to generously supported by the CIA. Moscow’s influence kept the SDP out of cabinet for some stretch of time in the early Cold War days. It was in constant and active competition with the Communists for control of trade unions, whose electoral clientele remains important to the SDP to this day.

The SDP is strong in working-class areas, especially the lumber areas of southeastern Finland. The SDP won its worst electoral result ever in the 2009 European elections (17.5%) and its leader Jutta Urpilainen seems to be facing internal wrangling.

The Left Alliance (VAS) was the fourth party in 2007, with 8.8% and 17 seats in 2007. VAS emerged in 1990 from a merger of the Finnish People’s Democratic League (SKDL), the old Communists (SKP) and a ragtag bunch of smaller parties ranging from feminists to Stalinists. The SKDL emerged in 1944 as a ‘front’ of sorts for the SKP though the SKP didn’t control the entire SKDL machinery. The SKDL as a communist party of sorts was one of Europe’s strong communist parties during the Cold War, winning between 17% and 23.5% between 1945 and 1979 before declining to 9.4% in 1987 – the SKDL’s last election before it folded into the VAS. Though SKDL was expelled from cabinet in 1949, it participated in governments in the late 60s and 70s. The SKP, under Moscow’s influence, never moderated because it was unable to expel the orthodox pro-Soviet taistoists less it wanted to lose Moscow’s support. VAS managed 10-11% of the vote in the 90s, but has since declined constantly since its 1995 high of 11.2%.

The Left is particularly strong in remote northern Finland, where the SKP was usually strong with local lumberjacks or workers. VAS won a paltry record low of 5.9% in the 2009 European elections, losing its sole MEP. VAS participated in the SDP Lipponen cabinets between 1995 and 2003, working, notably, alongside KOK.

The Green League (Vihr) was founded in 1987 and entered cabinet in 1995. Its vote share has constantly increased since 1995, peaking at 8.5% and 15 seats in the 2007 elections. The Greens currently participate in government, with its leader Anni Sinnemäki serving as Labour Minister in the Kiviniemi cabinet. The Finnish Green are to the right of the Swedish Greens and most European Greens.

The Greenies are remarkably strong in Helsinki, where they have established themselves as the second largest party (behind KOK) in the 2008 local elections. The EU elections of 2009, where they won 12.4% and 2 seats was very successful for them.

Finland is a bilingual country, with Swedish, despite being spoken by only 5% or so of the population, being co-official alongside Finnish which is an isolated Finno-Ugric language. Swedish Finns form roughly 5.5% of the population and are represented by the Swedish People’s Party (SFP-RKP) which has been around since 1906. The SFP is a liberal party, which reflects the classical liberal nature of the elitist pro-Swedish Svecoman movement during Finland’s language strife during the latter part of the Russian era in Finland. SFP’s power has declined as the Swedish minority in Finland got smaller. It won 4.6% in the 2007 election, which seems to be the SFP’s stable base since the 1990s. Swedish is mandatory for Finnish-speakers (and vice-versa) in schools, although the requirement for Swedish was dropped from the high school matriculation exam recently. The SFP is often and easily derided as a single-issue party which is after power. It has, after all, been a coalition member of a vast number of governing coalitions since the war and didn’t even leave the government when the Vanhanen’s government made Swedish option on the high school matriculation exam.

SFP’s support is drawn overwhelmingly from Swedish-speaking areas in coastal Finland (Wikipedia has a map here) although interestingly SFP, as a liberal party (the only, arguably, liberal party in Finland), gets some support from Finnish-speaking urban liberals. Voters on the island of Åland, which is a unilingual Swedish autonomous region, vote for their own political parties but the representative for Åland will invariably sit with the SFP’s caucus.

Next we have the Christian Democrats (KD), founded from a split in KOK in 1958 which won 4.9% and 7 seats in the 2007 election. The KDs are a run-of-the-mill social conservative Christian democratic party very similar to those found in Norway and Sweden. The KDs have been in government only once (between 1991 and 1994). The party’s leader, Päivi Räsänen, got media attention last year when she said that gays had a psychological disorder and were against the Bible. Her comments led to a ‘Church exodus’ of thousands of Finns from the Church of Finland, the Church for 78% of Finns.

The True Finns (PS) won only 4.1% and 5 seats in 2007, but they are likely to be the sensation of this election. The True Finns are a continuation of the Rural Party (SMP) which won 10.5% and 18 seats in 1970 (and later 9.7% and 17 seats in 1983). The SMP, originally led by Veikko Vennamo, emerged as an anti-Kekkonen split from KESK and was successful in the 70s and early 80s as a protest movement for small farmers and the unemployed. When Vennamo retired and when SMP entered government in 1983, the party’s fortunes declined and the party died out in 1995, when PS was born. PS’s main asset is its leader, Timo Soini, a charismatic Catholic populist and an MEP since 2009. PS has been an a roll since 2007, when it saw its vote share increase from 1.6% in 2003 to 4.1%. In 2008 local elections, PS won 5.4% and in the 2009 European elections PS won a record 9.8% of the vote (in alliance with the KDs) and elected Timo Soini to Strasbourg with the highest individual vote for a candidate. Since then, its polling numbers have been quasi-consistently on the upswing, peaking at 18% in March.

PS’s policies are an eclectic mix of social conservatism and economic nationalism. Their left-wing economic policies include increased state investment in industry and infrastructure, state support for rural regions and a passionate defense of the welfare state. As such, PS has been described in the past as ‘non-socialist populist left’ party. Their more right-wing policies include opposition to the EU and NATO, abolition of mandatory Swedish on all levels of education, reduction in foreign aid, limits on asylum seekers, law-and-order crime policies and support for those promoting “Finnish identity”.

The inevitable question is whether PS is really a party of the far-right. It is a subjective question, but I believe that the term ‘populist right’ is more applicable to the party. While it does campaign on strict limits for asylum seekers, Finland has one of the lowest foreign-born populations in the EU27 and as such can’t form the dominant theme of the party. In addition, unlike parties such as the PVV, FN or FPÖ the PS does not campaign heavily on rejection of Islam.

PS takes its voters from all political parties. A good share of its new voters are people who used to abstain from voting. Another share of its electorate used to the support the SDP, but in mill towns with high unemployment the PS is the main party of left-wing workers’ discontent. It takes a good bulk of its vote from KESK’s old base in northern rural Finland, where PS and the SMP had always been strong with smallholders. It takes some votes away from KOK (but less from them than from the two other big parties) and from VAS.

Issues and Campaign

The PS has also thrived on two other potent issues: the financial scandals and the government’s European/economic policy. On the first issue, the campaign finance scandal has practically affected all major political parties and all parties – even those in opposition such as the SDP or VAS – have lost a good share of their credibility as governing alternatives. After all, they’ve all been in government in the recent past. Finally, all three major parties are in practice very similar to each other.

Finland played a major role in the EU-led bailout of Greece and Ireland, a policy actively supported by the four-party governing coalition although opposed by all opposition parties, including the traditionally pro-European SDP. The True Finns want Helsinki to lower its financial contribution to the EU and a right to veto any increase in the current total of the European Financial Stabilisation Fund. Soini has done very well as an opponent of the EU-led bailouts, saying that the Finnish taxpayers were unjustly burdened by reckless spenders and squanderers within the Eurozone such as Greece, Ireland and now Portugal.

Finland’s economy has weathered the recession particularly well, with the GDP growth recovering to 3% in 2010 after shrinking in 2009 and growth of roughly 3% is again expected this year. The state deficit is also decreasing, due to decrease 8 billion € this year after decreasing by 10 billion € in 2010. However, unemployment – at nearly 12% in January – remains high and inflation is projected to increase this year.

Here are Taloustutkimus’ latest party rankings:
KOK 21.2%
Centre 18.6%
SDP 18%
PS 15.4%
Greens 9%
VAS 8.2%
SFP-RKP 4.2%
KD 4.2%

It is interesting to note that most pollsters have had PS’ support dropping off in the final stretch, after having risen constantly since last year. The National Coalition remains the largest party, but the support for the three major parties is down since 2007 with KOK suffering the least of the three. KESK took particular hits for the campaign finance scandal, while the SDP has suffered significant bleeding of its working-class base to the PS. It is hard to estimate a seat count from this, given that smaller parties tend to be hurt somewhat by the electoral system.

The idea of isolating the populist right from cabinet does not really exist in Finland. Soini has said that he is open to working with any party, except for the Greens. Both Mari Kiviniemi and Jyrki Katainen have publicly said that a coalition with PS was a possibility to be explored among others. However, certain of PS’ policies may prove to be significant roadblocks to a formation of a coalition including PS. Firstly, Soini imposes as a precondition to participation his party’s opposition to a new constitutional clause which stipulates that Finland is a member of the EU. The new clause was approved by the outgoing Parliament but requires approval by the new Parliament to be approved. Constitutional reform and the EU is a consensus between the main parties. PS has said that it would oppose any bailout to Portugal or an increase in guarantees, something which may hurt its chances of entering government given that KOK’s leader Jyrki Katainen has said that he would not allow governmental participation by any party which opposes the European Stability Mechanism. Finally, PS’ opposition to bilingualism would probably exclude SFP from any government in which PS is in, but PS’ stance on Swedish breaks a pro-bilingualism consensus between the larger parties, though some people within those parties have made some moves away from that – Kiviniemi recently talked about replacing Swedish with Russian in eastern Finland schools.

The main parties might, however, like to accommodate PS into cabinet for this one time remembering how SMP’s participation in cabinet in the 1980s hurt it and eventually led to its collapse later on.

Finland’s election will certainly be quite interesting. It could lead to the destruction, in parts, of the very stable party system which has prevailed since the 1990s. In addition, PS’ entry into a new government coalition could make it the first populist right party to enter government in northern Europe.

Europe 2009: Results

Here is the first post in a series of posts concerning the various Euro results from June 7. The results for the major parties winning seats (or not, in a few cases) are presented here, along with a very brief statistical analysis of what happened. If applicable, a map of the results is also presented. Again, except for the Germany map, all of these maps are my creations.

Austria

ÖVP 30% (-2.7%) winning 6 seats (nc)
SPÖ 23.8% (-9.5%) winning 4 seats (-3)
HP Martin’s List 17.7% (+3.7%) winning 3 seats (+1)
FPÖ 12.8% (+6.5%) winning 2 seats (+1)
Greens 9.7% (-3.2%) winning 2 seats (nc)
BZÖ 4.6%

As I expected, the junior partner in government, the centre-right ÖVP came out on top but the most surprising was the ÖVP’s decisive margin of victory over its senior partner, the social democratic SPÖ. In fact, the SPÖ, like the German SPD, has won its worst result since 1945. This is probably due to a poor campaign a poor top candidate – Hannes Swoboda. Swoboda ranted against job losses and outsourcing when he himself did the same thing to his employees at Siemens. The good result came from Hans-Peter Martin’s anti-corruption outfit, which got a third seat and increased it’s vote. While improving on its poor 2004 result, the far-right FPÖ is far from the 17.5% it won in the 2008 federal elections. A lot is due to abstention (anti-Euro voters being a large contingent of the abstentionists) and also Martin’s success. The Greenies have unsurprisingly fallen, though they held their second seat due to late (and still incoming) postal votes. The BZÖ of the late Jorg Haider fell just short of the threshold, and it did not win Haider’s Carinthian stronghold. Turnout was 45.3%, slightly up on 2004.

Bulgaria

GERB 24.36% (+2.68%) winning 5 seats (nc)
BSP 18.5% (-2.91%) winning 4 seats (-1)
DPS 14.14% (-6.12%) winning 3 seats (-1)
Attack 11.96% (-2.24%) winning 2 seats (-1)
NDSV 7.96% (+1.89%) winning 2 seats (+1)
Blue Coalition (UDF and DSB) 7.95% (-1.14%) winning 1 seat (+1)
Lider 5.7%

The pro-European centre-right GERB won, as in 2007, defeating the Socialists (BSP, officialy grouped with smaller parties in the ‘Coalition for Bulgaria’). The Turkish minority party DPS fell significantly compared to its surprisingly excellent 2007 result. This is due to higher turnout and to competition (by Lider) in the very active vote buying market in Bulgaria. The liberal NDSV led by former Bulgarian monarch Simeon II came back from the dead to win 2 seats and increase its vote share – all this due to a top candidate who had a high personal profile and popularity in an election where person and popularity are very important.

Cyprus

Democratic Rally 35.7% (+7.5%) winning 2 seats
AKEL 34.9% (+7%) winning 2 seats
Democratic Party 12.3% (-4.8%) winning 1 seat
Movement for Social Democracy 9.9% (-0.9%) winning 1 seat (+1)
European Party 4.1% (-6.7%) winning 0 seats (-1)

To my surprise, the opposition centre-right (albeit pro-reunification) DISY defeated the governing communist AKEL. However, both parties increased their share of the vote compared to 2004, mainly on the back of the centrist anti-reunification DIKO and the Social Democrats (who won a seat due to the collapse of the liberal European Party).

Czech Republic

Civic Democrats (ODS) 31.45% (+1.41%) winning 9 seats (±0)
Social Democrats (ČSSD) 22.38% (+13.6%) winning 7 seats (+5)
Communist Party (KSČM) 14.18% (-6.08%) winning 4 seats (-2)
KDU-ČSL 7.64% (-1.93%) winning 2 seats (±0)
Sovereignty 4.26%

Of the shocking results of the night, the Czech result was a shocker to me. I had predicted the Social Democrats to win all along (most polls agreed, albeit very late polls showed a narrow ODS lead), and you have this very large ODS victory that really comes out of the blue. This is really quite a piss poor result for the ČSSD and its controversial and, in my opinion, poor, leader, Jiří Paroubek. I wasn’t surprised by the results of either the Communists (on a tangent, the KSČM is the only formerly ruling communist party which hasn’t changed it name and it remains very much stuck in 1950) or the Christian Democrats (KDU-ČSL). The KSČM’s loses were predictable because 2004 was an especially fertile year for them (the ČSSD was in government, a very unpopular government). Two small parties which won seats in 2004 – the centre-right SNK European Democrats (11.02% and 2 seats) and the far-right populist Independents (8.18% and 2 seats) suffered a very painful death this year. The SNK polled 1.66%, the Independents (most of which were Libertas candidates) won 0.54%. The Greens, a parliamentary party, won a very deceiving result – 2.06%. This is probably due to turnout, which remained at 28%.

Denmark

Social Democrats 21.49 % (-11.1%) winning 4 seats (-1)
Venstre 20.24% (+0.9%) winning 3 seats (nc)
Socialist People’s Party 15.87% (+7.9%) winning 2 seats (+1)
Danish People’s Party 15.28% (+8.5%) winning 2 seats (+1)
Conservative People’s Party 12.69% (+1.3%) winning 1 seat (nc)
People’s Movement Against the EU 7.20% (+2.0%) winning 1 seat (nc)
Social Liberal Party 4.27% (-2.1%) winning 0 seats (-1)
June Movement 2.37% (-6.7%) winning 0 seats (-1)
Liberal Alliance 0.59%

Denmark EU 2009

Red: SD, Blue: Venstre, Purple: SF, Green: DF

No real surprise in the Danish results, which were as I expected them to be. The Social Democrats drop compared to their superb 2004 showing was to be expected, obviously. Obviously, these loses were profitable not to the government (Venstre, Liberals) but to the Socialists (SF) and the far-right (DF). SF and DF have won their best result in any Danish election, either European or legislative. The June Movement, the second anti-EU movement which is in decline since it’s shock 16% in 1999, has lost its sole remaining MEP. The older (and leftier) People’s Movement has picked up some of the June Movement’s vote, though its results are far from excellent. Despite an electoral alliance with the Social Democrats, the Social Liberals (Radikal Venstre) lost its MEP.

Estonia

Centre 26.1% winning 2 seats (+1)
Indrek Tarand (Ind) 25.8% winning 1 seat (+1)
Reform 15.3% winning 1 seat (±0)
Union of Pro Patria and Res Publica 12.2% winning 1 seat (±0)
Social Democrats 8.7% winning 1 seat (-2)
Estonian Greens 2.7%

Estonia 2009

Turnout was up 17% in Estonia over 2004, reaching 44% (26.8% in 2004), correcting the weird result of 2004 which saw the normally weak Social Democrats come out on top. However, the surprising result here was Reform’s rout (compared to the 2007 general elections) at the profit of Indrek Tarand, a popular independent. The opposition Centre Party, however, came out on top. However, the map clearly shows that Tarand took votes from all places – Centre, Reform, right, Greenies (winning a very deceiving 2.7%), and Social Democrats. The Centre came out on top purely due to the Russian vote in Ida-Viru and in Tallinn, the capital (despite the name, the Centre performs very well in urban areas – it’s not at all a rural centrist party a la Finland).

Finland

National Coalition 23.2% (-0.5%) winning 3 seats (-1)
Centre 19% (-4.4%) winning 3 seats (-1)
Social Democratic Party 17.5% (-3.7%) winning 2 seats (-1)
Greens 12.4% (+2%) winning 2 seats (+1)
True Finns 9.8% (+9.3%) winning 1 seat (+1)
Swedish People’s Party 6.1% (+0.4%) winning 1 seat (nc)
Left Alliance 5.9% (-3.2%) winning 0 seats (-1)
Christian Democrats 4.2% (-0.1%) winning 1 seat (+1)

Finland EU 2009

No surprises from Finland, which came out roughly as expected. The junior partner in government, the centre-right National Coalition (Kok) defeated its senior partner, the agrarian liberal Centre Party. However, the Finnish left (SDP and Left) suffered a very cold shower, winning its worst result in years. The Left even lost its sole MEP. A lot of that left-wing vote probably went to the Greenies (who won a very good result) and also the anti-immigration True Finns (in coalition with the Christian Democrats, which allowed the Christiandems to get one MEP). The Swedish People’s Party ended up holding its seat. The map is quite typical of Finnish elections, with the agrarian Centre dominating in the sparsely populated north and the National Coalition dominating in middle-class urban (Helsinki, where they narrowly beat out the Greenies for first) and suburban areas. The Swedish vote is concentrated on the Åland islands (over 80% of the vote for them) but also in small fishing communities on the west coast of Finland (which does not show up on the map).

Germany

CDU/CSU 30.7% + 7.2% (-6.6%) winning 42 seats (-7)
SPD 20.8% (-0.7%) winning 23 seats (nc)
Greens 12.1% (+0.2%) winning 14 seats (+1)
Free Democrats 11% (+4.9%) winning 12 seats (+5)
The Left 7.6% (+1.5%) winning 8 seats (+1)

In the EU’s most populated country, the Social Democrats took a major hit by failing to gain anything after the SPD’s horrible (worst since 1945) result in 2004. Overall, the Christian Democrats (CDU) of Chancellor Angela Merkel and its Bavarian sister, the CSU, won as in 2004 but their vote also took a hit (the CDU/CSU was a popular opposition party then, they’re the senior government party now). The winners were of course the Greens, who held on to their remarkable 2004 result and in fact gained a 14th MEP, but certainly the right-liberal Free Democrats (FDP). The Left also gained slightly compared to 2004. The Left’s map remains largely a map of the old DDR but, for the first time, you have darker shades appearing in the West – specifically in the industrial regions of the Saar, the Ruhr and Bremen city. In the end the CSU had no problems with the 5% threshold and they won a relatively decent (compared to most recent results, not 2004 or 2006) result – 48% – in Bavaria. Frei Wahler took 6.7% in Bavaria, and 1.7% federally.

Greece

PASOK 36.64% (+2.61%) winning 8 seats (nc)
New Democracy 32.29% (-10.72%) winning 8 seats (-3)
Communist Party 8.35% (-1.13%) winning 2 seats (-1)
Popular Orthodox Rally 7.14% (+3.02%) winning 2 seats (+1)
Coalition of the Radical Left 4.7% (+0.54%) winning 1 seat (nc)
Ecologist Greens 3.49% (+2.88%) winning 1 seat (+1)
Pan-Hellenic Macedonian Front 1.27%

Greece EU 2009

No Greek surprise overall, though the Greenies’ poor result could be one. As expected, the opposition ‘socialist’ PASOK defeated the governing unpopular and corrupt right-wing New Democracy. However, there remains no great love for PASOK, partly due to the fact that both ND and PASOK are very similar. The Communist Party (KKE), one of Europe’s most communist communist parties (it still lives in 1951, decrying bourgeois and capitalists), won 8.35%, slightly above its 2007 electoral result but below the KKE’s excellent 2004 result (over 9%). The surprise came from LAOS and the Greens. The Greenies, who were polling 8-11% in the last polls, fell to a mere 3% partly due to a controversial video by the Green Party leader who said that Macedonia (FYROM, the country) should be allowed to keep its name (s0mething which does not go down well in Greece). Most of the Green strength in polls came from disenchanted ND supporters who ended up voting LAOS (the ultra-Orthodox kooks). The Radical Left (SYRIZA) won a rather poor result, probably due to the fact that it is seen as responsible for the violence and lootings during the 2008 riots in Athens.

Hungary

Fidesz 56.36% winning 14 seats (+2)
Socialist 17.37% winning 4 seats (-5)
Jobbik 14.77% winning 3 seats (+3)
Hungarian Democratic Forum 5.31% winning 1 seat (nc)

The surprise in Hungary came from the spectacular result of the far-right quasi-Nazi Jobbik (which has its own private militia), which did much better than any poll or exit poll had predicted. Jobbik’s results significantly weakened the conservative Fidesz which won “only” 56% (down from 65-70% in some polls). The governing Socialist MSZP took a spectacular thumping, as was widely expected. While the right-wing MDF held its seat, the liberal SZDSZ (f0rmer coalition partner in the MSZP-led government until 2008) lost both of its seats.

Ireland

Fine Gael 29.1% (+1.3%) winning 4 seats (-1)
Fianna Fáil 24.1% (-5.4%) winning 3 seats (-1)
Labour 13.9% (+3.4%) winning 3 seats (+2)
Sinn Féin 11.2% (+0.1%) winning 0 seats (-1)
Libertas 3.1% (new) winning 0 seats (new)
Socialist 1.5% (+0.2%) winning 1 seat (+1)
Green Party 1.1% (-3.2%)

As expected, Fine Gael came out on top of FPVs in Ireland, inflicting a major defeat on the governing Fianna Fáil. Fianna Fáil, did not, however, slip to third behind Labour as some pollsters made it seem. This is due in a large part due to Labour’s complete lack of organization in most rural areas. In Dublin, both Fine Gael and Labour incumbents made it through without much sweat. The race, as expected, was for the third seat between the Fianna Fáil incumbent (Eoin Ryan), Socialist leader Joe Higgins and the Sinn Féin incumbent (Mary Lou McDonald). Surprisingly, Sinn Féin was the first out leaving the final seat between Ryan and Higgins. In the end, Higgins got the quasi-entirety of McDonald’s transferable votes and defeated Ryan with 82,366 votes against 76,956 votes for Ryan on the 7th count. Former Greenie (against the party’s participation in government) Patricia McKenna won 4.3% on first preferences against 4.7% against the official Greenie (however, further transfers from joke candidates got McKenna all the way to count 5, while the Greenie got out by count 3). In the East, Fine Gael’s Mairead McGuinness got elected on the first count, quite the feat indeed. However, no luck for Fine Gael’s second candidate in holding the third seat held by a retiring Fine Gael incumbent. Labour’s Nessa Childers, second on first prefs, far outpolled John Paul Phelan (FG’s second candidate) and got the second seat. Fianna Fáil held its seat. In the North-West, all incumbents (1 Independent ALDE, 1 FF, 1 FG) held their seats with Marian Harkin (Ind-ALDE) topping the poll (however, both Fianna Fáil candidates combined outpolled him and Fine Gael’s MEP). The founder and leader of Libertas, Declan Ganley polled a respectable 13.66% on FPVs and held out till the last count but lost out to Fine Gael due to rather poor transfers from the other anti-Lisbon outfit, SF. In the South, FF incumbent Brian Crowley topped the poll and won easily, as did Sean Kelly (FG). The third seat was between the incumbent Independent (eurosceptic and social conservative) Kathy Sinnott and Labour’s Alan Kelly. Kelly won.

In the local elections, the final seat share is as follows:

Fine Gael 340 seats (+47)
Fianna Fáil 218 seats (-84)
Labour 132 seats (+31)
Others and Indies 132 seats (+40)
Sinn Féin 54 seats (nc)
Socialist 4 seats (nc)
Green Party 3 seats (-15)

Full breakdown by county and city

Italy

People of Freedom 35.26% winning 29 seats
Democratic Party 26.13% winning 21 seats
Lega Nord 10.20% winning 9 seats
Italy of Values 8.00% winning 7 seats
Union of the Centre 6.51% winning 5 seats
Communists (PRC+PdCI) 3.38% winning 0 seats
Sinistra e Libertà 3.12% winning 0 seats
Italian Radicals (Bonino-Pannella List) 2.42% winning 0 seats
Pole of Autonomy (La Destra+MPA) 2.22% winning 0 seats
South Tyrolean’s People Party 0.46% winning 1 seat
Berlusconi Coalition (PdL+LN+Autonomy) 47.68% winning 38 seats
PD Coalition (PD-SVP+IdV+Radicals) 37.01% winning 29 seats

Italy EU 2009

Red: PD, Blue: PdL, Green: Lega Nord, Yellow in Aosta Valley: Valdotanian Union (PdL ally), Yellow in Sudtirol: SVP (PD ally)

The Italian results were certainly a setback for Silvio Berlusconi and his “party”, the PdL, which performed a bit lower than what he and polls had expected (38-41% range). The centre-left PD did relatively well, and this will atleast keep the party from splitting up into the old Democrats of the Left and the Daisy. In terms of coalitions, the two large parliamentary blocs stand almost exactly where they stood overall in 2008, with a very very slight improvement for Berlusconi’s coalition. The marking result of this election is probably that of Lega Nord, which has won its best result in any national Italian election (narrowly beating its previous record, 10.1% in the 1996 general election). The Lega has expanded its support to the “south” (north-central Italy), notably polling 11% in Emilia-Romagna and 4% in Tuscany. The support and future of Lega Nord is to be watched closely in the future, due to a potential new electoral law which could significantly hinder it’s parliamentary representation (more on that later). The other good result is from Antonio di Pietro’s strongly anti-Berlusconi and anti-corruption populist Italia dei Valori, which has won its best result ever, by far. It has almost doubled its support since last year’s general election. After being shutout of Parliament in 2008, the Communists and other leftie parties (Socialists and Greens) are now out of the European Parliament, depsite improving quite a bit on the Rainbow’s 2008 result. Of the two coalitions, the old Communist one made up of the Refoundation Commies and the smaller Italian Commies polled slightly better than the Sinistra e libertà, the “New Left” coalition (Greenies, Socialists, moderate “liberal” Commies). Such was to be expected, but the irony is that both leftie coalitions were formed to surpass the new 4% threshold, and none did. However, if there had been a new Rainbow coalition (the 2008 Rainbow included both the hardline Commies and the New Left), they would have made it. As expected, those small parties which won seats in 2004 due to the old electoral law have been eliminated. These include the fascists, La Destra-Sicilian autonomists/crooks, and the Radicals. The South Tyrolean SVP only held its seat due to an electoral clause which allows these “minority parties” to ally with a party to win a seat. The SVP was the only one of these which was successful in doing so. Two smaller Valdotanian parties (one allied with PdL, the other with IdV) failed to win a seat. In provincial elections held the same days, the right was very successful and of the forty provinces decided by the first round, they had won 26 against 14 for the left. 22 provinces will have a runoff. I might do a post on that if I have time.

Latvia

Civic Union 24.33% winning 2 seats (+2)
Harmony Centre 19.57% winning 2 seats (+2)
PCTVL – For Human Rights in United Latvia 9.66% winning 1 seat (nc)
Latvia’s First Party/Latvia’s Way 7.5% winning 1 seat (nc)
For Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK 7.45% winning 1 seat (-3)
New Era 6.66% winning 1 seat (-1)
Libertas.lv 4.31%

Latvian politics are very confusing, mostly due to the huge swings. This time was no different. A new party, Civic Union (probably EPP) topped the poll over the Harmony Centre, a Russian minority outfit. The PCTVL, another Russian outfit, fell slightly compared to its 11% result in 2004, but remained remarkably stable. TB/LNNK, a UEN party which topped the poll in 2004 fell down three seats. The conservative New Era, senior party in the governing coalition, won only 7% (a lot of its members, along with TB/LNNK members apparently joined the Civic Union). The People’s Party, the senior party in the old coalition which fell apart this year due to the economic crisis won barely 2%. The Union of Greens and Farmers, which won something like 16% in the 2006 election polled a mere 3.7%.

Lithuania

Homeland Union-LKD 26.16% winning 4 seats (+2)
Lithuanian Social Democrats 18.12% winning 3 seats (+1)
Order and Justice 11.9% winning 2 seats (+1)
Labour Party 8.56% winning 1 seat (-4)
Poles’ Electoral Action 8.21% winning 1 seat (+1)
Liberals Movement 7.17% winning 1 seat (+1)
Liberal and Centre Union 3.38% winning 0 seats (-1)

Remarkable stability for a Baltic nation in Lithuania. The winner of the 2008 election, the Homeland Union (TS-LKD) won a rather convincing victory, improving on its 2008 result (only 19.6%) and obviously on its 2004 Euro result (12.6%). The LSDP has picked up an extra seat and has cemented its place as the opposition to the TS-LKD, along with the third-placed populist Order and Justice. Labour, the centrist party which won the 2004 Euro election has seen its seat share cut down from 5 to one, a logical follow-up to its collapse in 2008. The Poles have probably benefited from low turnout (21%) to motivate their base and won an outstanding 8.2% and elected one MEP. I don’t really follow Baltic politics, but if I remember correctly, a government rarely wins re-election, so if that’s true, the result of the TS-LKD is even more remarkable.

Luxembourg

Christian Social Party 31.3% (-5.8%) winning 3 seats
Socialist 19.5% (-2.5%) winning 1 seat
Democratic Party 18.6% (+3.7%) winning 1 seat
The Greens 16.8% (+1.8%) winning 1 seat
Alternative Democratic Reform 7.4% (-0.6%)
The Left 3.4% (+1.7%)
Communist Party 1.5% (+0.3%)
Citizens’ List 1.4%

Remarkable and unsurprising political stability in Luxembourg, with no changes in seat distribution. While the CSV and LSAP suffer minor swings against them, the DP and Greens get small positive swings. The Greens’ result is their best ever and one of the best Green results in European elections.

On election night last week, I also covered the simultaneous general election. Here are, again, the full results.

CSV 38% (+1.9%) winning 26 seats (+2)
LSAP 21.6% (-1.8%) winning 13 seats (-1)
DP 15% (-1.1%) winning 9 seats (-1)
Greens 11.7% (+0.1%) winning 7 seats (nc)
ADR 8.1% (-1.8%) winning 4 seats (-1)
Left 3.3% (+1.4%) winning 1 seat (+1)
KPL 1.5% (+0.6%)
BL 0.8%

Malta

Labour 54.77% winning 3 seats (nc)
Nationalist 40.49% winning 2 seats (nc)

Obviously no surprise in tiny Malta, where the opposition Labour Party has defeated the governing Nationalist Party. Both sides made gains in terms of votes, feeding off the collapse of the green Democratic Alternative (AD), which won a remarkable 10% in 2004 but a mere 2.3% this year.

Poland

Civic Platform 44.43% (+20.33%) winning 25 seats (+10)
Law and Justice 27.4% (+14.73%) winning 15 seats (+8)
Democratic Left Alliance-Labour Union 12.34% (+2.99%) winning 7 seats (+2)
Peasant Party 7.07% (+0.67%) winning 3 seats (-1)

Poland EU 2009

Map by electoral constituency. Key same as above table

Polish politics move quickly, but it seems that this ‘setup’ is here to stay, atleast for some time. The governing right-liberal pro-European Civic Platform (led by PM Donald Tusk) has won a crushing victory over the national-conservative eurosceptic Law and Justice of President Lech Kaczyński. PO’s margin of victory is slightly larger than its already important victory in the 2008 elections. The SLD-UP electoral alliance, which is what remains of the Left and Democrats (LiD) coalition of the 2008 election (encompassing SLD-UP but also a small fake liberal party), won 12%, the average result of the Polish left these days. The Peasant Party, PO’s junior partner in government, won slightly fewer votes than in 2008 (or the 2004 Eur0s). The 2004 Euros, marked by the excellent result of the ultra-conservative League of Polish Families (LPR, now Libertas) and the left-wing populist Samoobrona saw both of these parties collapse. Libertas-LPR won 1.14% and Samoobrona won 1.46%. Smaller ultra-conservative jokes also did very poorly. After the 2004-2006 episode, sanity seems to have returned to Polish politics.

Portugal

Social Democratic Party 31.7% winning 8 seats (+1)
Socialist Party 26.6% winning 7 seats (-5)
Left Bloc 10.7% winning 3 seats (+2)
CDU: Communist Party-Greens 10.7% winning 2 seats (nc)
Democratic and Social Centre-People’s Party 8.4% winning 2 seats (nc)

Portugal EU 2009

Blue: PSD, Red: PS, Green: CDU (PCP-PEV)

Cold shower for the governing Portuguese Socialists after the huge victory of the 2004 Euros. The centre-right PSD has won a major victory by defeating the PS, albeit a relatively small margin between the two. The lost votes of the PS flowed to the Left Bloc (the Trotskyst and more libertarian component of the far-left) and the CDU (the older and more old-style communist component of the far-left), both of which won a remarkable 21.4% together. These voters voted BE or CDU due to the PS’ economic policies, which are far from traditional left-wing economic policies. The PS will need to fight hard, very hard, to win the upcoming general elections in September.

Romania

Social Democratic Party+Conservative Party 31.07% winning 11 seats (+1)
Democratic Liberal Party 29.71% winning 10 seats (-6)
National Liberal Party 14.52% winning 5 seats (-1)
UDMR 8.92% winning 3 seats (+1)
Greater Romania Party 8.65% winning 3 seats (+3)
Elena Băsescu (Ind PD-L) 4.22% winning 1 seat (+1)

Romania EU 2009

The close race in Romania between the two government parties ended in the victory of the junior partner, the PSD with a rather mediocre 31%. The PDL’s 30% was also rather mediocre. The PNL also did quite poorly. The two winners are the Hungarian UDMR, which won a rather remarkable 9%, probably benefiting from high Hungarian turnout in a very low turnout election. The far-right Greater Romania Party overcame past setbacks and won three seats and a surprisingly good 8.7%. This is due in part to the participation of the far-right quasi-fascist PNG-CD  on its list (the party’s leader, the very controversial Gigi Becali, was the party’s second candidate on the list). László Tőkés, an Hungarian independent elected in 2007 (sat in the Green-EFA group) has been re-elected as the top candidate on the UDMR list.

Slovakia

Smer-SD 32.01% winning 5 seats (+2)
Slovak Democratic and Christian Union–Democratic Party (SDKÚ-DS) 16.98% winning 2 seats (-1)
Party of the Hungarian Coalition 11.33% winning 2 seats (±0)
Christian Democratic Movement 10.87% winning 2 seats (-1)
People’s Party–Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (ĽS-HZDS) 8.97% winning 1 seat (-2)
Slovak National Party 5.55% winning 1 seat (+1)

Smer’s result is definitely deceiving for them and possibly a sign that their past stellar poll ratings will slide to the benefit of the opposition SDKÚ-DS. However, the SDKÚ-DS (but also the KDH and obviously the ĽS-HZDS) have slid back compared to their 2004 Euro results. While the collapse of the ĽS-HZDS (formerly led by former quasi-dictator Vladimír Mečiar) is good news, the entry of the quasi-fascist Slovak National Party, Smer’s charming coalition partners, is not. However, the SNS’ 5.6% is not the 10% it used to poll and hopefully they stay low.

Slovenia

Slovenian Democratic Party 26.89% winning 2 seats (nc)
Social Democrats 18.48% winning 2 seats (+1)
New Slovenia 16.34% winning 1 seat (-1)
Liberal Democracy 11.52% winning 1 seat (-1)
Zares 9.81% winning 1 seat (+1)
DeSUS 7.19%

In Slovenia, the oppostion centre-right SDS has defeated the ruling Social Democrats. Here again, the current political setup between SDS on the right and SD on the left, a rather new setup, seems set to stay for a few years. The NSi, which won the 2004 election, and the LDS, which used to dominate Slovenian politics, have both slumped back. The new liberal Zares won 9.8%, roughly its level in the 2008 election.

Spain

People’s Party42.23% (+1.02%) winning 23 seats (-1)
Socialist 38.51% (-4.95%) winning 21 seats (-4)
Coalition for Europe (EAJ-CiU-CC) 5.12% (-0.03%) winning 2 seats [1 EAJ, 1 CiU] (±0)
The Left 3.73% (-0.38%) winning 2 seats (±0)
Union, Progress and Democracy 2.87% winning 1 seat (+1)
Europe of Peoples 2.5% (+0.05%) winning 1 seat (±0)

Spain EU 2009

As expected, the conservative PP defeated the governing PSOE, but due to the polarized nature of Spanish politics, no landslide here. However, the PSOE definitely polled poorly, though the PP didn’t do that great either. The regionalists held their ground well, and CiU got some little gains going in Catalonia. Aside from UPyD’s narrow entry and the obvious PP gains, it was generally status-quo.

Sweden

Social Democrats 24.41% (-0.15%) winning 5 seats (nc)
Moderate Party 18.83% (+0.58%) winning 4 seats (nc)
Liberal People’s Party 13.58% (+3.72%) winning 3 seats (+1)
Greens 11.02% (+5.06%) winning 2 seats (+1)
Pirate Party 7.13% (new) winning 1 seat (+1)
Left 5.66% (-7.14%) winning 1 seat (-1)
Centre 5.47% (-0.79%) winning 1 seat (nc)
Christian Democrats 4.68% (-1.01%) winning 1 seat (nc)
June List 3.55% (-10.92%) winning 0 seats (-3)
Sweden Democrats 3.27% (+2.14%)
Feminist Initiative 2.22%

Sweden EU 2009

First map: Parties (SD in red, M in blue) – Second Map: Coalitions (Red-Green in red, Alliance in blue)

The Swedish results must come as a major deception for both major parties, the Social Democrats and the governing Moderates. Both had done horribly in 2004 and the 2009 results are no improvements for either of them. In fact, the opposition SD has in fact dropped a few votes more from the 2004 disaster. These loses profit to the smaller parties in their respective coalitions (Red-Green for the SD, Alliance for M). The Liberals did very well, unexpectedly well in fact, and elected a third MEP. The Greens drew votes from Red-Green voters dissatisfied by the unpopular SD leader, Mona Sahlin, and its vote share increased by 5%. Of course, Sweden is now famous for electing one Pirate MEP, and even a second MEP if Sweden gets additional MEPs as planned by the Treaty of Lisbon. The Left’s vote fell significantly from its good showing in 2004, while the vote for smaller coalition parties – the Centre and Christian Democrats also slid a bit. The eurosceptic June List, which had won 14% in 2004, fell to a mere 3.6% and lost its 3 MEPs. However, this result might have prevented the far-right Sweden Democrats from picking up a seat. The Feminists, who had one MEP after a Liberal defection, won a surprisingly decent 2%, far better than what polls had in store for them. In terms of coalitions, the governing Alliance actually won with 42.56% against 41.09% for the opposition Red-Greens.

Longer, special posts concerning the Euro elections in Belgium, France and the UK will be posted in the coming days.

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