Monthly Archives: July 2009

Bulgaria 2009

Bulgaria voted today to renew its 240 seat-unicameral legislature. The electoral system, however, was changed to botched MMP with 31 FPTP seats, which double up as provinces (except Sofia City, with 3 seats, and Plovdiv City with one seat). This awful FPTP method was introduced by the Socialists to boost their vote (and votes for major parties, though it obviously helps regionalized parties) The remaining seats are allocated through PR (Hare-Niemeyer method) at a national level with a 4% threshold for seats.

Bulgaria is extremely anti-incumbent. It has never re-elected an incumbent government, and this time seems no different. Here are, for starters, the 2005 results:

Coalition for Bulgaria (BSP) 31% winning 82 seats (+34)
National Movement Simeon II 19.9% winning 53 seats (-67)
Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms 12.8% winning 34 seats (+13)
Attack 8.1% winning 21 seats (+21)
United Democratic Forces 7.7% winning 20 seats (-31)
Democrats for a Strong Bulgaria 6.4% winning 17 seats (+17)
Bulgarian People’s Union 5.2% winning 13 seats (+13)

The Socialists under Sergey Stanishev (BSP) formed a coalition with the Turkish DPS and the liberal party led by former King (and Prime Minister) Simeon II Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. Since then, however, you’ve had a new party emerge on the ruins of a collapsing Simeon II Movement (now known as NDSV): Citizens for the European Development of Bulgaria (GERB) led de facto by the former Mayor of Sofia, Boyko Borisov (formerly NDSV). GERB, as you may recall, won the 2007 European by-election and the 2009 Euros last month. Other new outfits include the Blue Coalition, formed between the very right-wing economy-destroying Union of Democratic Forces (UDF) and the Democrats for a Strong Bulgaria; the Lider party, an industrialists’ personal machine; and the conservative Order, Lawfulness, Justice.

Bulgarian elections are never very clean, due to a huge vote buying market as well as the DPS’ various fraudulent methods at boosting its vote, including electoral tourism (shipping Turkish citizens to Bulgaria to vote DPS – that’s why it almost won the 2007 by-election – Bulgarian turnout was very low), voting intimidation, double voting and strategical moving of voters.

So far we only have exit polls and rumours, which give GERB winning a quasi-landslide with over 40% of the vote compared to 18% for the BSP.

GERB 41.8% winning 90-106 seats
BSP 17.1% winning 56-68 seats
DPS 11.6% winning 32-36 seats
Attack 8.8% winning 21 seats
Blue Coaltion 7.9%
Order, Lawfulness and Justice 4.4%
Lider 3.9%
NDSV 2.9%

The BSP’s introduction of FPTP has proved to be an epic fail for them:

GERB 27
DPS 4

This landslide-esque victory for GERB probably ensures that Borisov will become Prime Minister in a coalition including GERB, obviously, but also the Blue Coalition, which has already declared its intentions to support a Borisov government. Remains to be seen if GERB can break the curse set upon Bulgarian governments. Knowing them, probably not.

Election Preview: Mexico 2009

Mexico is holding mid-term elections today for half of the Mexican Congress – the Chamber of Deputies are up for re-election. In addition, there are a number of gubernatorial and state/local elections also being held. These are the first nationwide elections since the election of President Felipe Calderón in the disputed 2006 election.

Mexico is ruled since 2000 by the conservative National Action Party (PAN), a social conservative Christian democratic-type party. It’s generally free market, but it doesn’t seem to place as much emphasis on economic liberalism compared to other conservative parties in the world.

PAN was founded in 1939 and became one of the major opposition parties to the Institutional Revolution Party (PRI), Mexico’s ruling party and institution between 1929 and 2000. The PRI, despite the appearance (it’s a member of Socialist International), is not much of a left-wing party. It’s a collection of bureaucrats, technicians, power-hungry officials and family dynasties whose ideologies range from left-wing nationalist (Lázaro Cárdenas) to rightist NAFTA-IMF liberals (Carlos Salinas). Unlike other one-party states, Mexico between 1929 and 2000 was not a show party for an autocrat (like ARENA was for the military in Brazil) but rather a very structured official institution. The PRI made sure that no one person became too powerful and became the institution himself. For that reason, Mexican Presidents, despite having power similar to Obama’s power in the US, are elected for 6 years but they cannot run for re-election. Under the PRI system, the incumbent President chose his successor at the end. The PRI regime laid its foundations on a carefully-crafted and carefully-worked network of peasants, workers and “populars” (middle class).

No left-wing opposition to the PRI was able to impose itself as viable alternative to the PRI’s omnipotence until 1988. In 1988, the labour unions, formerly a rather solid part of the PRI coalition, showed its displeasure with the choice of free-marketer Carlos Salinas as the PRI’s candidate. The party’s left, led by Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas, the son of President Lázaro Cárdenas (who governed on the left), formed the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) with the support of the PRI’s left and smaller perennial left-wing groups such as the Mexican Communist Party (PCM). Unlike the PRI, the PRD can be classified as left-wing. It’s economically left-wing and quite liberal socially. The PRD declined after winning 31% in 1988 to around 15-20% of the vote. Until 2006, that is. In 2006, the PRI’s presidential candidate, Roberto Madrazo, was opposed by a large faction in the party which turned to the PRD candidate, Andrés Manuel López Obrador. As you all know, the PAN candidate, Felipe Calderón, won 35.89% of the vote against 35.31% for López Obrador.

López Obrador never accepted the result and installed a parallel government. He built a Broad Progressive Front (FAP) with two smaller left-wing party, the Labour Party (PT) and Convergencia. Both the PT and Convergencia have grown closer to López Obrador. However, the PRD descended into open war between López Obrador’s United Left faction (the PRI’s old left) and the New Left faction (those who came from smaller left-wing non-PRI parties) opposed to him. The New Left’s candidate won the party’s chaotic leadership election, though the Lópezobradoristas control the PRD’s wing in Mexico City (a PRD stronghold).

For example, in the capital city’s borough of Iztapalapa, the United Left candidate narrowly defeated the New Left candidate, though the electoral commish forced the PRD to name the New Leftist as candidate. López Obrador was rabid and endorsed the PT candidate. Not out of love for the candidate or the PT, he ordered the candidate to resign if elected so the Mayor of Mexico City (loyal, kind of, to the United Left) could appoint to United Left’s primary candidate. The official PRD leadership is now openly rabid too. They’ve made it heard that party members who support candidates of other parties are supposed to be expelled from the PRD. López is ready to go, with his supporters, if forced. Thereby destroying the party. The electoral situation in Iztapalapa is extremely confusing: it was too late to reprint ballot, so the United Left’s candidate will be on the ballot, but votes for her will go to the New Left PRD “official candidate”. Despite having her name on the ballot, if you want the United Left candidate, you should vote for the PT candidate who will resign in the hope that the Mayor will appoint the United Left candidate.

Other parties include the nominally liberal New Alliance Party (PANAL), which is owned by the powerful teacher’s union and/or a former ally of Roberto Madrazo within the PRI; the Ecologist Greens (PVEM), a corrupt very right-wing green conservative party; and the Social Democratic Party (PSD), a socially liberal and economically centrist party.

Now to the elections. The Chamber of Deputies has 500 members, 300 of which are elected in single-member electoral constituencies and the remaining 200 in a nationwide constituency using 2% proportional representation.

Here are the 2006 results, data from the Federal Electoral Institute (IFE)

Chamber of Deputies (FPTP)

PAN 33.39% winning 137 seats
PRD+PT+Convergencia 28.99% winning 98 seats (PRD 90, Convergencia 5, PT 3)
PRI+PVEM 28.21% winning 65 seats (63 PRI, 2 Green)
PANAL 4.54%
PSD 2.05%

Results by FPTP constituency

Results by FPTP constituency (source: IFE)

Chamber of Deputies (PR)

PAN 33.41% winning 69 seats
PRD+PT+Convergencia 28.99% winning 60 seats (PRD 41, Convergencia 11, PT 13)
PRI+PVEM 28.18% winning 58 seats (41 PRI, 17 Green)
PANAL 4.55% winning 9 seats
PSD 2.05% winning 4 seats

Chamber of Deputies (Overall)

PAN 206
PRD 126
PRI 104
Green 19
PT 16
Convergencia 16
PANAL 9
PSD 4

Gubernatorial and state legislative elections are being held in Campeche (PRI incumbent), Colima (PRI), Nuevo León (PRI), Querétaro (PAN), San Luis Potosí (PAN), and Sonora (PRI). Local elections in the states of Guanajuato, Jalisco, México and Morelos. Also notable are the borough elections in the Federal District, and the confusing race in the borough of Iztapalapa between the PRD and PT (PRD).


Europe 2009: Final Parliamentary Groups

Well, the parliamentary groups have been formed, and we have seven groups. Though there were also seven groups for most of the 2004 legislature (except for the ITS interlude in 2007), there have been new groups, dead groups and so forth.

Firstly, here is the final distribution of MEPs by parliamentary group.

EPP 265
PASD 183
ALDE 84
ECR 55
Greens-EFA 55
EUL-NGL 35
EFD 30
NI 29

The European People’s Party will form a group on its own, without the European Democrats sub-group (which is dead). The EPP has MEPs in all member countries except the United Kingdom, and the largest party within the EPP remains the German CDU with 34 MEPs (+8 CSU MEPs). Few surprises in the member parties, except for the Flemish N-VA which will sit with the Greens-EFA. In addition, all French MEPs elected on UMP lists will sit in the EPP group, including the 3 New Centre MEPs and 2 Modern Left. The Romanian Magyar László Tőkés, elected in 2007 as an EFA independent, has joined the EPP group like all Romanian Magyar MEPs. After all, Tőkés was the top candidate.

The Socialist group, renamed Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (PASD) to accommodate the Italian PD, has MEPs in all member countries except Latvia (the Harmony Centre, which I predicted would join PASD, has joined the EUL-NGL). In the end, all MEPs elected on the PD list in Italy (except for one South Tyrolean who joined EPP) will sit in the PASD. PASD has also welcomed former ALDE member DIKO (Democratic Party) from Cyprus, giving the PASD two MEPs from Cyprus (there is one Social Democrat, EDEK).  The PASD’s largest party is the German SPD with 23 MEPs. The PD is the second-largest with 21 MEPs.

No major changes for the Liberals, except for the negligible loss of Cypriot DIKO to PASD. ALDE has MEPs in all countries except Austria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Malta, Poland and Portugal. The German FDP, a right-liberal party, replaces the British Liberal Democrats, a left-liberal party, as the largest member party with 12 MEPs. As known before the elections, the Irish FF has joined ALDE. The European Democratic Party (EDP), which includes the French MoDem, has 9 MEPs (including 6 French MoDemers).

The Greens-EFA, with 55 MEPs, has actually more MEPs than in 2004, even when the 2004 parliament had more MEPs. The Greens-EFA have members in 14 countries, and the largest parties are the German Greens and French Greens with 14 MEPs each. The European Free Alliance has 7 MEPs: one Flemish (the conservative N-VA has joined the EFA), one Corsican (PNC), one Latvian-Russian (PCTVL), one Catalan (ERC), two Scots (SNP) and one Welsh (Plaid). The Estonian Independent Indrek Tarand has joined the group, as well as the Swedish Pirate Party.

The European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) has only 55 MEPs, quite smaller than I would have predicted. It has MEPs from 8 member states, and the British Conservatives (and Ulster Unionists) are the largest with 26 MEPs. The Polish PiS, with 15 MEPs, is the second-largest. Here is a list of members:

1 Flemish (Lijst Dedecker)
9 Czechs (ODS) from ED
1 Hungarian (MDF) from EPP
1 Latvian (TB/LNNK) from UEN
1 Lithuanian (Polish LLRA)
1 Dutch (ChristianUnion) from IND/DEM
15 Poles (PiS) from UEN
26 British (25 Conservatives and 1 Ulster Unionist) from ED

The Dutch CU-SGP electoral alliance, which elected two MEPs has one MEP (ChristianUnion) joining the ECR. Surprisingly, the Polish LLRA from Lithuania has also joined the ECR. The EUDemocrats Europarty has two MEPs, both from UKIP.

The European Left have 35 MEPs from 13 countries and the German Linke is the biggest party with 8 MEPs. Unsurprising composition, except for one of the two Latvian Harmony Centre MEPs joining the group. The Nordic Green Left (the NGL part of the EUL-NGL abbreviation) has 3 MEPs, though two of them (the Danish Socialist People’s Party) sit in the Green-EFA group, since they refuse to flirt with hardline old Communists like the Greek KKE or Czech KSČM.

Two groups have died, the UEN and Independence/Democracy. The member parties have gone different ways, although a few have formed a 30-member group – Europe of Freedom and Democracy – with MEPs from 8 different countries. The British UKIP, with 13 MEPs, is the largest party. Here is the composition of EFD:

2 Danes (DFP) from UEN
1 Finn (True Finns)
1 French (Libertas-MPF) from IND/DEM
2 Greeks (LAOS) from IND/DEM
9 Italians (Lega Nord) from UEN
1 Dutch (SGP) from IND/DEM
1 Slovak (SNS)
13 British (UKIP) from IND/DEM

As aforementioned, the Dutch CU-SGP electoral alliance split with one MEP joining ECR, the other, from the ultra-Protestant SGP joining the EFD. There is a slim chance the far-right Austrian FPÖ could join the group (giving it 32 MEPs).

The Non-Inscrits include the far-right [FPÖ, VB, Ataka, FN, Jobbik, TT, PVV, PRM, BNP] (23 from 9 countries), the Austrian anti-corruption MEP Hans-Peter Martin and his 3 MEPs, the sole Democratic Unionist from Northern Ireland, one of the two Latvian Harmony Centre MEPs, and the Spanish nationalist-liberal UPyD (they aren’t in ALDE since ALDE includes their enemies, EAJ and CiU).

Once again, awful predictions from yours truly, though I’m proud of my call on UPyD. Many thought they’d join ALDE.

Obituaries go out for Independence/Democracy, though the most important passing is that of the Union for a Europe of Nations (UEN). The UEN, the latest in a series of names, was founded by the French RPR as a Gaullist national-conservative group before 1979 and briefly included Berlusconi’s Forza Italia and the SNP from Scotland during its existence.  The major members of the UEN were Lega Nord from Italy, PiS from Poland and Fianna Fáil from Ireland. The Europarty Alliance for a Europe of Nations, AEN, has 18 MEPs (15 PiS, 2 TT, 1 TB/LNNK).

Talking of other Europarties, the Anticapitalist Left (EACL) has 4 MEPs (3 from the Portuguese Left Bloc and one Irish Socialist). The Christian Political Movement (ECPM) has only one MEP, the Dutch ChristianUnion. The far-right Euronat has 5 MEPs (3 French FN, 2 BNP); the National Front has none.

Libertas, as mentioned earlier, has one MEP, Philippe de Villiers from France. Very far from the 100 or more Declan Ganley predicted. Ganley must also be very unhappy at wasting so much money on electing only an obnoxious French.

Albania 2009

Albania held a legislative election for its 140 legislature on June 28. The current government is led by Prime Minister Sali Berisha of the right-wing Democratic Party (PD). The Socialist Party (PS), which used to be Albania’s sole legal party under communist madman Enver Hoxha, is in opposition. After massively disproportionate results last time, due to massive tactical voting, the voting system has been changed from MMP (100 FPTP, 40 PR) to proportional representation using Albanian counties as constituencies. There is a 3% threshold for parties and a 5% threshold for coalitions.

While Berisha was a total incompetent as President, presiding over massive corruption, electoral fraud and a Ponzi scheme; he has had a decent term with good economic growth and stable foreign relations. He has gathered a coalition including his PD, and the smaller Republican Party (PR, nationalist) and the Party for Justice Integration (PDI), a Cham minority party. Opposed to this coalition (known as Alliance for Changes) is the Unification for Changes around the PS and the Greek minority party (Unity for Human Rights Party, PBDNJ). There are two smaller coalitions, the Socialist Movement for Integration (LSI) and the Christian Democratic Party (Albania, however, is majority Muslim with a sizable Catholic and Greek Orthodox minority).

The election is probably the first real free and fair election and the first one where voters have a real choice (because the government hasn’t been a complete and utter failure, like all governments have in the past).

Alliance for Changes 46.83% winning 70 seats (PD 39.99% and 68 seats, PR 2.1% and 1 seat, PDI 0.95% and 1 seat)
Unification for Changes 45.39% winning 66 seats (PS 40.85% and 65 seats, PBDNJ 1.18% and 1 seat)
Socialist Movement for Integration 5.56% winning 4 seats
Christian Democrats 1.82%

The PD has claimed victory, but it only has exactly half the seats, so it’s position is uncertain. The PS coalition has fewer seats, but with probable support from the LSI, it ties with the PD. Who knows how this will end up, but it certainly isn’t good for Albania’s political and economic stability. We might see an election in the next few months.

Argentina 2009

Argentina held legislative elections for half the seats in the lower house (Chamber of Deputies) and a third of seats in the upper house (Senate), as well as one gubernatorial election, local elections, and legislative elections in the City of Buenos Aires. Argentine politics and political parties are quite confusing, mainly because there are no real parties per se – political parties operate roughly as confederation of elected officials, similar to the French Third Republic.

In addition, Argentine politics have been dominated for a long time by a local ideolgy, Peronism. Peronism is a pragmatic ideology which is very hard to pin down. Under Juan Perón, the founder of the ideology, it could be classified as a Argentine application of Italian fascism. Others have compared it to Gaullism in France or Franquism in Spain. Overall, a populistic-nationalistic ideology. Peronist tenets include “social justice” (the current Peronist party is the Justicialist Party), strong centralized government, nationalism, a fascist-like mix of capitalism and socialist in a corporativist fashion. Perón and Peronism was widely supported in the general working-class population, and still has a relatively solid base of real popular support. It was opposed, under Perón, by the UCR-led bourgeoisie (the liberal Radical Civic Union, UCR, is Argentina’s oldest party), communists, and Catholic fundies. The current President, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, and her predecessor (and husband), Néstor Kirchner, are classified as Peronist (though neither can be classified as fascist admirers, but rather run-of-the-mill centre-leftists).

Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s government got into a major conflict with farmers over the rise of export tariffs in 2008. Since then, she has been generally unpopular, add to that the worldwide economic crisis.

The best results I could find are from Clarín, a Peronist-leaning newspaper.

Chamber of Deputies (all seats)

Kirchneristas (PJ and Front for Victory) winning 96 seats (-20)
Kirchnerist allies winning 17 seats (-4)
Civic Coalition (UCR, social democrats, liberals) winning 77 seats (+16)
Union PRO (right-liberals) winning 26 seats (+12)
PJ dissidents winning 17 seats (+1)
Others winning 24 seats (-5)

In notable result, Néstor Kirchner, the husband of the President and current leader of the Peronist party (PJ), was “defeated” in the province of Buenos Aires (not the city, mind you) by a wealthy right-wing businessman, Francisco de Narváez of Union PRO. de Narváez took 34% (13 seats) against 32% (12 seats) for Kirchner. While Kirchner has “won”, obviously, he “lost” by virtue of this race being turned into a referendum on him, his wife and so forth.

Overall, the Kirchners have lost their overall majority in the Chamber.

Senate (all seats)

Kirchneristas (PJ and Front for Victory) winning 36 seats (-4)
Civic Coalition (UCR, social democrats, liberals) winning 23 seats (+7)
PJ dissidents winning 9 seats (nc)
Others winning 4 seats (-3)

The Kirchners have exactly 50.00% of the seats, and the non-Kirchners have 50.00%.

City of Buenos Aires Legislature (all seats)

Union PRO winning 26 seats (-1)
South Project (democratic socialists) winning 9 seats (+7)
Civic Coalition winning 8 seats (+2)
Kirchneristas winning 7 seats (-4)
Dialogue for the City winning 5 seats (+1)
Others winning 5 seats (-5)