Monthly Archives: December 2009

Croatia (President) 2009

Croatia held the first round of a presidential election on Sunday, December 27. Croatia’s President occupies a largely ceremonial role, though he commands the armed forces, generally leads the country’s foreign policy and is in charge of nominating the Prime Minister following elections. Incumbent President Stjepan Mesić was first elected in 2000 and easily re-elected in 2005 and is not eligible to seek a third term.

Croatia’s President cannot be a member of any political party while in office, and these elections are much less ‘partisan’ than regular legislative elections. For example, Mesić was originally a member of the liberal centre-right Croatian People’s Party (HNS), which is a rather weak party in Parliament.

The Social Democrats (SDP), currently the main opposition to the right-wing government of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), nominated Ivo Josipović, a rather moderate law professor at the University of Zagreb. Josipović has the support of the SDP’s leader, Zoran Milanović and was the party’s leadership preferred candidate over the controversial populist Mayor of Zagreb, Milan Bandić, re-elected earlier this year. Bandić has had very poor relations with Milanović, and he did not even run as a candidate in the SDP primaries. Instead, he announced his candidacy independently of his party, which led him to be expelled from the party. Ivo Josipović campaigned on an anti-corruption platform, and also attacked the government’s economic policies. Bandić, on the other hand, led a traditional populist campaign stressing that he focused on ‘work’ (his excuse for not attending a debate, the real reason being he’s a bad debater) and that he was not a traditional politician. Bandić also attacked Josipović as a the tool of Milanović, the SDP leader.

The nomination of the right also led to expulsions. The HDZ, which forms government nationally, has been hurt by the economic crisis and most recently the sudden resignation of Prime Minister Ivo Sanader in July 2009. Sanader, prior to his resignation, was considered a likely candidate for President, but following his resignation he endorsed former HDZ cabinet minister Andrija Hebrang. While there were no primaries per se, many analysts believed that Nadan Vidošević, a HDZ businessman, was also considering a run. Dragan Primorac, former Minister of Education, also resigned from cabinet in July 2009, apparently because he was not the party’s candidate. Vidošević announced his candidacy in September, and Primorac announced his candidacy in November 2009. Both were expelled from the party, and Hebrang later called them traitors to their party.

Other candidates included Vesna Pusić, the leader of the liberal pro-European Croatian People’s Party–Liberal Democrats, Miroslav Tuđman, son of former nationalist (HDZ) President Franjo Tuđman. Damir Kajin was the candidate of the Istrian Democratic Assembly, a regionalist party demanding a special status of autonomy for Istria. Josip Jurčević, a far-right candidate; Boris Mikšić, a right-wing populist who ran in 2005 (17.78%); Vesna Škare-Ožbolt, a former HDZ Justice Minister now a member of the Democratic Centre; and Slavko Vukšić of the Democratic Party of Slavonia Plain also ran.

Ivo Josipović (SDP) 32.42%
Milan Bandić (Ind-SDP diss) 14.83%
Andrija Hebrang (HDZ) 12.04%
Nadan Vidošević (Ind-HDZ diss) 11.33%
Vesna Pusić (HNS-LD) 7.25%
Dragan Primorac (Ind-HDZ diss) 5.93%
Miroslav Tuđman (Ind) 4.09%
Damir Kajin (IDS) 3.87%
Josip Jurčević (Ind) 2.74%
Boris Mikšić (Ind) 2.1%
Vesna Škare-Ožbolt (Ind-DC) 1.89%
Slavko Vukšić (DSSR)

Turnout was 43.96%.

The election is a strong victory for the SDP, whose vote share is similar to its current share of the vote in polls for the 2011 legislative election. While Hebrang’s third-place is a strong showing compared to polls showing him in fourth or even fifth, his 12% result is an absolute low for the HDZ nationally. Of course, his showing should not be spun into a massive defeat of the right: the three HDZ candidates together polled 29.3%. Furthermore, adding the results obtained by small right-wing (and far-right) candidates as well as the HNS-LD gives the ‘large right’ around 47.4% of the vote. Bandić, with 14.8%, performed relatively well, but he only won 15.6% in Zagreb, his electoral base.

Kajin’s strong showing, especially in Istria (35%) is rather interesting given that the IDS only won 18% in Istria in the 2007 election. Probably a result of turnout differences, since regionalist parties in Eastern Europe are largely dependent upon turnout for a good or poor showing.

Josipović goes into the January 10 runoff with an heavy advantage, piling up the endorsements, including incumbent President Mesić and Vesna Pusić. Bandić will likely continue his anti-SDP populist campaign, but he has limited reserves. Polling indicates that Josipović has 53.5% of voting intentions against 33.7% for Bandić, whose only hope is to pick up more right-wing support.

Chile 2009

Chile voted yesterday to elect its new President, renew the entirety of the Chamber of Deputies and 18 out of 38 Senators. The results were tallied very quickly, so I’m able to post the results:

No major surprises in the race for President, where the centre-right candidate Sebastián Piñera is far ahead of former centre-left President Eduardo Frei and the centre-left Independent Marco Enríquez-Ominami. Piñera faces Frei in a runoff in which he is the early favourite.

Sebastián Piñera (RN-CC) 44.05%
Eduardo Frei Ruiz-Tagle (PDC-CPD) 29.60%
Marco Enríquez-Ominami (Ind) 20.13%
Jorge Arrate (PC-JPM) 6.21%

Piñera’s strong showing is not unexpected, and with nearly 45% he goes into the runoff with a non-negligible advantage over Frei. He only needs around 6% more votes, and he wins, while Frei would need the support of the quasi-entirety of Marco and Arrate’s voters to win.  The right’s strong showing shows a definite swing to the right, but the left or Concertación isn’t worth only Frei’s votes, as there has been a split in the left’s votes between Marco and Frei. One of the results of this split is that Piñera came out on top in all regions – in some, such as the traditional left-leaning regions of the Atacama in northern Chile (the 30% regions), it’s the result of the split on the left.

While Piñera goes into the runoff with a definite advantage, it would be foolish and premature for the right to start the celebrations, given that there’s over a month of campaigning left (though some falls during Christmas/New Year’s, where nobody cares for politics) and that Frei’s ability to capture a lot of Marco voters hasn’t been tested yet. However, I’m still predicting a Piñera victory in the end, though the margin between him and Frei will be much smaller than it was yesterday.

If Piñera is elected President, he will face a tougher time in Congress, where the right and left are roughly tied.

The results of the lower house elections. As a reminder, the CPD has won 65 seats in 2005 against 54 for the right and one regional-independent, now a member of the heterogeneous Chile Limpio Vote Feliz, which includes the centrist/centre-right Regionalist Party of Independents and the hard-left Broad Social Movement (MAS).

Concertación and Juntos Podemos 44.36% winning 57 seats
Coalition for Change 43.44% winning 58 seats
Chile Limpio Vote Feliz 5.40% winning 3 seats
New Majority for Chile 4.56% winning 0 seats
Independents 2.21% winning 2 seats

Within coalitions, the PDC remains the largest party of the CPD with 19 seats (-1) followed by the centrist PPD with 18 seats (-3), the Socialists with 11 seats (-4), the Radicals with 5 seats (-2) and CPD-Independents with 1 seat (-1). The Communists, affiliated with the CPD, has won 3 seats. On the right, the UDI is the largest group with 36 seats (+3) while Piñera’s RN has 19 seats (+1). There are 3 right-Independents, up 1 from 2005. The 3 members of the Chile Limpio etc outfit are members of the Regionalist Party of Independents, some of whose parliamentarians have in the past aligned with the right and will likely do so this time again.

In the Senate, where the right held 17 seats at dissolution against 18 for the left and 3 Independents, here are the results overall to begin with:

Coalition for Change 45.07% winning 9 seats > total 16 seats
Concertación and Juntos Podemos 43.37% winning 9 seats > total 19 seats
Chile Limpio Vote Feliz 6.40% winning 0 seats > total 0 seats
New Majority for Chile 4.91% winning 0 seats > total 0 seats
Independents 0.24% winning 0 seats > total 3 seats

Some of the most notable results:

In the 6th constituency, where UDI leader Joaquín Lavín was running for Senate against Ricardo Lagos Weber (PPD) and his ‘running mate’ Francisco Chahuán (RN); the results are quite interesting. While Lagos got in fine with 33.18% of the vote (with the left’s second candidate, a Christian Dem, winning only 6.02%), the tough race was on the divided right. In the end, Chahuán won 28.21% against Lavín’s 27.85% giving Chahuán the final seat. This is probably a local rejection of Lavín’s carpetbagging to the region.

In the 5th constituency, where the adoptive father of Marco was running for re-election as an Independent (New Majority coalition), he was surprisingly defeated by a large margin. He comes in fifth, with 16.74%, behind the right’s Lily Pérez (RN) and Ignacio Walker of the PDC who surprisingly got the Concertación in.

In the 3rd constituency, the notable result is the predictable election of Salvador Allende’s daughter, Isabel Allende (PS), who was previously a deputy. She won 26.79%, but the RN’s candidate came first with around 33% of the vote.

Overall, the right will have some troubles in the Senate but the support of the PRI in the Chamber should provide the right with a theoretical majority, but in the Senate, the left controls exactly 50% of the seats. More analysis and possibly maps should be posted, depending on time and other elections.

Election Preview: Chile 2009

Chile will elect a new President, all 120 deputies and 18 out of 38 Senators on December 13. Incumbent President Michelle Bachelet, elected in a runoff in January 2006, is ineligible to run for a second consecutive term, but theoretically allowed to run again in 2013. If no candidate for President wins more than 50% of the valid vote tommorrow, a runoff is scheduled since January 17, 2010. In reality, it is quasi-certain that the presidential race will go to a runoff, like in 2006 and 2000.

The Chamber of Deputies and Senate are elected using the binomial electoral system. In the Chamber, there are 60 two-seat electoral districts, in which each coalition runs two candidates. These two seats are usually split 1-1 between the two main coalitions, unless the winning coalition beats the other by more than two-to-one. The Senate uses the same electoral system, except that elections take place in 19 constituencies and Senators serve eight-year terms. Life Senators were abolished in 2005.

Political History

Although Chile is a culturally conservative and Catholic country, Chile has had a recent political history marked by left-wing (and right-wing) governments. In 1970, Salvador Allende, the candidate of the Popular Unity (UP) coalition between the Socialist Party (PS) and the Communist Party (PCCh), became President in his third attempt at the Presidency, defeating former right-wing President Jorge Alessandri and left-leaning Christian Democrat (PDC) Radomiro Tomic in a close race. Allende’s election to the Presidency was notable not because he was left-wing, as Chile had already elected centre-left leaders, but because Allende was classified by a Marxist and led a very left-wing economic and foreign policy. The success of Allende’s economic policies is very disputable, and his foreign policies distanced Chile from the US. In a bloody and controversial coup in 1973, right-wing General Augusto Pinochet seized power, with the backing of the United States and other western bloc nations. While Pinochet undid most of Allende’s left-wing policies and led a very right-wing economic policy, he was a ruthless dictator. He finally fell in a 1988 plebiscite, planned under the 1980 constitution, in which over 55% of Chileans voted against granting Pinochet another eight-year term in office.

In the 1989 elections, the first free elections since 1970, the candidate of the centre-left Concertación coalition – Patricio Aylwin, won the election and the candidates of the Concertación have won the 1993, 1999-2000 and 2005-2006 elections. The Concertación had been originally formed to oppose Pinochet in the 1988 plebiscite.

Political Parties and Leaders

The Concertación is not a coalition similar to the UP. While it includes the Socialist Party, the PS is the second largest party in the coalition behind the old Christian Democrats, who in Chile are more notably centre-left and supportive of what they call a ‘social market’ economy. The coalition also includes the Party for Democracy (PPD), a centrist party recently hurt by corruption scandals; and the Social Democrat Radical Party (PRSD), a party formed in 1994 by the merger of the old Radical Party (a centre-left old anti-clerical party) with a small Social Democratic Party.

The opposition on the right has, since 1988 until very recently, been led by supporters of the defeated YES side in the 1988 plebiscite, and its close relation to Pinochet in the minds of voters has played an extremely large role in its failure to win nationally. The parties of the right have been worth between 34% and 44% of the vote, 36-38% on average. The electoral coalition of the right is known since 2001 as the Alliance for Chile, or the Alianza. It is composed of two parties: the National Renewal (RN) and the Independent Democrat Union (UDI). The UDI split from RN in 1988, the UDI being very supportive of Pinochet. The UDI is very socially conservative and economically right-wing, and is historically the most pro-Pinochet party in the coalition. However, the UDI has recently taken a more populist term and now supports more leftie economic policies. The two main figures of the right are Sebastián Piñera (RN), a very wealthy businessman who stated in the past that he voted against Pinochet in 1988; and Joaquín Lavín (UDI), who is a member of the Opus Dei and historically close to Pinochet but has since become a populist and alienated a large part of the right. Lavín was the Alliance’s sole candidate in the 1999 election, and won 47.5% in the runoff against Socialist/Concertación candidate Ricardo Lagos. However, Piñera and Lavín faced off in the 2005 election, with Piñera coming out narrowly on top. Since then, Piñera has taken control of the right and has reformed the coalition significantly. More on this later.

The Communist Party of Chile has been sidelined since its pre-Pinochet heydays, and has since been independent of the Concertación, taking a markedly left-wing route. The Communists are the largest party in theJuntos Podemos Más (Together, we can do more) coalition, which used to include the Humanist Party, a small party who provided the JPM with its candidate in the 2005 election, Tomás Hirsch. He won 5.40%, and the JPM coalition polls around 5 and 9% of the votes nationally.

Last Election

In 2005, Michelle Bachelet, the PS Minister of Defense of President Ricardo Lagos, was nominated as the Concertación. She defeated Piñera 53.4-46.5 in a January 2006 runoff. As has been said numerous times, she is a woman (shock), agnostic and the daughter of an Air Force general tortured by the Pinochet regime. Despite facing poor approval ratings in 2007 and 2008, her ratings have taken a dramatic upswing and she is now hitting 80% approval ratings. Her economic and social policies have been praised, and even by the right.

Michelle Bachelet (PS-CPD) 45.96% > 53.49%
Sebastián Piñera (RN) 25.40% > 46.51%
Joaquín Lavín (UDI) 23.22%
Tomás Hirsch (PH-JPM) 5.40%

Parties, Candidates and Issues

As has been said above, she is ineligible for re-election (which, theoretically, she would easily win by the first round), and an interesting and unique presidential field has emerged.

The Concertación nominated Eduardo Frei Ruiz-Tagle, a Christian Democrat who served as President between 1994 and 2000. He defeated the Radical José Antonio Gómez with around 65% of the vote as a result of two early primaries in the regions of O’Higgins and Maule. He is the son of former Christian Democrat President Eduardo Frei Montalva, who served between 1964 and 1970. The 67-year old Frei has been described as uninspiring. The Socialists pledged their support to Frei and prevented the 36-year old deputy Marco Enríquez-Ominami (Marco, or MEO), a Franco-Chilean filmmaker and politician, also the son of a Chilean revolutionary executed by Pinochet. In a YouTube video, Enríquez-Ominami announced his candidacy as an Independent and left the PS. His candidacy has attracted significant international media coverage, some of whom have obviously dubbed him the Chilean Obama. Not entirely foolishly, as Marco stands for change, renewal and an alternative. He has stated that the Concertación has run out of steam and is led by party machines and elephants. His youthful image, his charisma and his populist campaign methods have won him significant popular support: Marco’s number jumped from 2% in January to around 20% and in contention for second today.

On the right, Sebastián Piñera, has been establishing his control over the right since his defeat in 2006. He has obviously been helped by Lavín’s poor political maneuvering since then. In the end, he was unanimously nominated by the Alliance with the support of both his party, the RN, and the UDI. His campaign has taken a turn much different than those of the old Chilean right. He is helped by his past statement that he didn’t vote in favour of Pinochet in 1988, a significant advantage in a country where many voters would still never vote for a pro-Pinochet candidate. In addition, and most importantly, he has dropped the nationalist undertones of the Alliance, symbolically by dropping the Alliance’s red-and-blue star in favour of a ‘modern’ looking rainbow-coloured star and renaming the Alliance the ‘Coalition for Change’. He has publicly praised some of the left’s economic and social policies, and announced that he would continue some of them. However, Piñera is a very wealthy businessman and some have said that he intends to run Chile “like a corporation”, whatever that means. In addition, he has also led a strong law-and-order campaign. Overall, he campaigns for change, but only moderate change in that he isn’t a radical rightist out to eliminate all leftist policies.

The Juntos Podemos Más coalition nominated former Socialist cabinet minister Jorge Arrate (now a member of the Communist Party), a grandfatherly-looking 68-year old. He defeated the coalition’s 2005 candidate and main figure of the Humanist Party, Tomás Hirsch. Since then, Hirsch and the Humanists have switched their support to Marco’s New Majority for Chile coalition.

Here are the results of the latest poll, by El Mercurio:

Piñera (RN-CC) 38%
Frei (PDC-CPD) 23%
Enriquez-Ominami (Ind) 20%
Arrate (PC-JPM) 7%

In a Piñera vs. Frei second round, the former is up 42.5-34.4. Against Ominami, Piñera wins by 40.7-34.8. In all polls, Marco performs better than Frei against Piñera in runoff scenarios, and some say he is the only candidate who can defeat Piñera and the right.

Parliamentary elections are also being held on December 13. In 2005, the Concertación won a majority in both Chambers, but has since lost this majority due to defections. The JPM won 7.4% in the lower house and 6% in the upper house elections in 2005, but the binomial electoral system (which dates from Pinochet) effectively prevents the election of third parties, though some Independents and regionally-implanted parties can win (a regional party won one seat in the Chamber in 2005, Marta Isasi in District 2). The JPM (effectively the Communists) has therefore decided to run with Concertación – the PC will have 9 candidates for the Chamber and will likely win some seats – the first PC deputies since 1973. The candidates of the Piñera coalition are split rather evenly between the RN and the UDI. Finally, Marco’s New Majority coalition is only running 79 candidates in the Chamber and 7 in the Senate, and 38 of its 79 lower house candidates are from the Humanist Party. The coalition has some high profile candidates, mostly Independents, who could win (it has 1 incumbent in each chamber), including incumbent Senator Carlos Ominami in the 5th Constituency (Marco’s adoptive father) who is favoured to win. Another high-profile race to the Senate is in the 6th constituency (Valparaiso) where Joaquín Lavín is running for Senate – even though he’s originally from Santiago’s affluent suburbia. He is facing a tough race facing the son of former President Ricardo Lagos but also the second right-wing candidate, deputy Francisco Chahuán of the RN. In this constituency, both coalitions are likely to split 1-1, with Lagos likely winning but Lavín must come ahead of Chahuán to win.

Bolivia 2009

Bolivia, South America’s poorest country, held a general election on December 6 to elect the country’s President, as well as 130 members of the Chamber of Deputies and 36 Senators. This is the first election since the adoption of a new constitution in mid-January 2009.

Bolivia, a poor landlocked country in South America, is unique in that it has a large indigenous population, mostly Aymara and Quechua. Despite this, power and influence in Bolivian politics and economic activities (historically mining, but nowadays exploration of the country’s large natural gas reserves in the main economic activity) has laid in the hands of a small, educated European or Mestizo elite. Since independence in 1825 and until 2005, none of the country’s Presidents have been fully indigenous. In recent years, the elite pushed through aggressive economic reforms aimed at liberalizing the country’s economy. Under the direction of President Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada, foreign investors gained control of Bolivia’s major corporations including its natural gas corporations. In addition, Lozada and his successor, former military strongman Hugo Banzer, both led an aggressive policy against coca-growing farmers, mostly indigenous Bolivians. The neoliberal policies espoused by Lozada and his government were strongly contested by the indigenous majority and the left, notably union leader Evo Morales. Gas conflicts broke out in 2003 and 2005, leading to violence and the resignation in 2005 of President Carlos Mesa (who had succeeded Lozada after his resignation in the midst of the 2003 gas wars) and early general elections in 2005.

Evo Morales, an indigenous socialist trade union leader won the 2005 election with 54% of the vote by the first round, trouncing his closest rival, former right-wing President Jorge Quiroga of the right-wing PODEMOS party by roughly 25%. Morales overturned the privatizations of the previous right-wing governments, and nationalized Bolivia’s gas companies in March 2006 and spearheaded the passage of a new constitution giving more rights to indigenous Bolivians in 2008-2009. His presidency saw the rise of stark political differences between the country’s mountainous and indigenous west and the mineral-rich mestizo east – notably the wealthy department of Santa Cruz. The opposition failed to remove him from power in a 2008 recall vote (he won 67%)  and they then attempted to pass autonomy referendums which Morales deemed illegal.

Under his new constitution, Morales was allowed immediate re-election and will also be able to run again in 2014, since the constitution does not recognize previous terms served under the old constitution as term limits. Evo Morales and his party, the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) holds a majority in the Chamber of Deputies but lacks a majority in the Senate. In this election, he notably faced Manfred Reyes Villa, a known opponent of Morales on the right a former prefect of Cochabamba, before being recalled in 2008 (Cochabamba is a largely indigenous state, thus opposed to Villa’s right-wing politics). His coalition gathers most of Bolivia’s old political parties, who lost power with Morales’ election in 2005. Morales led in all polls, and his victory was so certain that Villa allegedly bought plane tickets for the United States for December 7. Judging by the results, he made a good choice.

Results with 96.2% reporting, according to the CNE’s applet.

Evo Morales (MAS) 63.46%
Manfred Reyes Villa (PPB) 27.15%
Samuel Medina (UN) 5.74%
René Joaquino (AS) 2.30%
Ana María Flores (MUSPA) 0.51%
Román Loayza (Gente) 0.34%
Alejo Véliz (PULSO) 0.28%
Rime Choquehuanca (BSD) 0.22%

The map highlights the stark division between east and west in Bolivian politics. Despite getting trounced, Morales’ right-wing opposition managed strong victories in three departments, their strongholds of Santa Cruz, Beni and Pando. On the other hand, Morales won over 70% in Potosí and Oruro and broke 80% in La Paz. Cochabamba, the home department of Reyes Villa gave over 60% of the vote to Morales (and only 27% to Reyes Villa). It is obvious that the wealthier and whiter east will continue to be a strong base of the opposition during Morales’ second term.

According to Bolivian news sources, the MAS has won a two-thirds majority in Senate and a strong majority (though probably not two-thirds) in the Chamber of Deputies – now elected solely by FPTP. A two-thirds majority gives Morales and his party increased power, including power to change the constitution.

Morales may find his second term more difficult than his first, as he now has the responsibility of delivering results and royalties to his constituents as a result of the 2006 nationalization of Bolivia’s gas resources. However, with the support of a majority of Bolivians and a large majority of legislators, he maintains a largely free hand in the new system of Bolivian politics.

Romania (President) 2009

The runoff election in Romania’s presidential election was held yesterday. Incumbent centre-right President Traian Băsescu of the Democratic-Liberal Party (PD-L) faced off with former Foreign Minister Mircea Geoană, the leader of the Social Democratic Party (PSD). This was a crucial election in a country whose parliament has been in deadlock for over a month since the PDL-PSD coalition government formed in 2008 fell apart. An IMF 20-billion euro bailout package also hinges on the result of this election, and the country’s economic future as a whole is closely related to the outcome.

Băsescu, elected on an anti-corruption platform in 2004, has managed to antagonize his former allies – the National Liberals (PNL) whose candidate in the first round, Crin Antonescu, won 20.02% and enthusiastically backed Geoană. He has also grown unpopular for his confrontational style, and his party is now left isolated in Parliament against an opposition determined to block his nominees for Prime Minister. He led a largely populist campaign, attacking media tycoons and corrupt officeholders.

Mircea Geoană campaigned mostly on a platform for change and against Băsescu, but his image as a young reformer breaking from the PSD’s corrupt past was tarnished in the debate by Băsescu, running on a populist platform, who accused him of having links with a controversial media tycoon.

Geoană, who had won the support of most defeated first round candidates, and most notably liberal candidate Crin Antonescu, led all pre-election polls with around 53-54% and led in all but one exit polls last night with around 50.8%. On the basis on the exit polls, he claimed victory before results even came in and gave a victory speech, thanking his wife and mother and calling his victory a victory for those Romanian wanting a “better life”. However, at the same time, Băsescu assured supporters that exit polls were wrong (and that he led one exit poll with 50.4%) and that he had defeated his opponent. Of course, he also claimed victory and gave a victory speech.

The final results are:

Traian Băsescu (PD-L) 50.33%
Mircea Geoană (PSD) 49.66%
Turnout: 58.02%

An analysis of the results on a statistical and geographical basis indicates that Băsescu’s victory can be claimed on the basis of one major factor: he won around 75% of the vote from Romanians living overseas. These voters were probably not surveyed in any polls or exit polls, and in a narrow election these voters do matter quite a bit.

Atleast Al Gore didn't do this...

Geoană has claimed fraud, accusing the PD-L and Băsescu of ‘vote buying’ overseas and in Romania, and various other fraudulent maneuvers. However, the OSCE reported that the runoff was within the norms of European electoral legislation, but still asked for rapid investigation of 194 cases of potential fraud. Geoană’s evidence seems rather shaky, a lot of it being a stupid argument of having led in exit polls and early results, but will still appeal the result to the Constitutional Court as early as tomorrow, December 8.

Geoană’s victory might have been better for stability and Romania’s economy as he would have appointed a Prime Minister acceptable to a majority: the ethnic German mayor of Sibiu, Klaus Johannis, who has the support of every party except the PD-L and whom Băsescu stubbornly refused to appoint. The IMF’s aid is dependent on the nomination of a new government, and with the re-election of Băsescu and the continued opposition of the PSD-PNL to his Prime Ministerial nominees, instability is likely to continue unless the PSD and PD-L can stop being stubborn and agree to work together for the economic revival of the country. If not, there could be some important popular discontent (not that there already isn’t, most people are fed up of the parties and politicians).

Mozambique 2009

Mozambique held general elections for President and Parliament on October 28, 2009. Due to their time in reporting results and also the number of major elections since then, this election fell under the radar for me and I’m left to post about it quite late.

Mozambique, a former Portuguese colony, became an independent nation in 1975 under the leadership of left-wing Marxist rebel Samora Machel. Soon thereafter, Machel’s communist-influenced regime in the tip of Africa erupted in civil war, with Machel’s Liberation Front of Mozambique (FRELIMO) facing the conservative Mozambican National Resistance (RENAMO). RENAMO was funded by Ian Smith’s Rhodesian government and the apartheid regime in South Africa. The Civil War came to an end in 1992, with the Rome Accords and a democratic regime, in practice a democratic (or semi-democratic) one-party dominant state, was installed. FRELIMO has won all elections since 1994, most of which were generally decent though obviously marked by serious issues. FRELIMO candidate Armando Guebuza won 63.7% in the 2004 presidential election, defeating RENAMO candidate Afonso Dhlakama.

In 2009, both President Guebuza and Afonso Dhlakama ran again, but they were joined by the Mayor of Beira (northern Mozambique), Daviz Simango of the new Democratic Movement of Mozambique (MDM) – a split off of RENAMO.

Armando Guebuza (FRELIMO) 75%
Afonso Dhlakama (RENAMO) 16.41%
Daviz Simango (MDM) 8.59%

FRELIMO 74.66% winning 191 seats (+31)
RENAMO 17.68% winning 51 seats (-39)
MDM 3.93% winning 8 seats (+8)
Others 3.73% winning 0 seats (±0)

RENAMO has continued its great tradition of rejecting election results, calling these elections a sham (there was some fraud, but not enough fraud to alter results majorly) and demanding, like they always do, their cancellation and the creation of a government of national unity and so forth. RENAMO relied on rather shaky evidence, and publicized their evidence of fraud only after the ink stains on voters’ fingers had faded. In addition, they’ve also taken up the old shtick of threatening “further actions” in their so-called aim to preserve democracy in Mozambique. They usually do that every year or so. The MDM has also denounced fraud, but they didn’t ask for the elections to be annulled.

Bradfield and Higgins (Australia) by-elections 2009

Voters in two Australian federal House of Representatives divisions went to the polls today to elect their new MPs. These by-elections were held in Bradfield (New South Wales) and Higgins (Victoria). Bradfield was held by former Liberal leader Brendan Nelson, who resigned his seat after losing leadership of the party in 2008. Higgins was held by former Howard government treasurer and government number two, Peter Costello. Originally a potential contender for the Liberal leadership in 2007, he did not run and subsequently resigned his seat.

These by-elections in two safe Liberal seats became of some interest a few days before the election after the Liberal Party dumped its leader, Malcolm Turnbull in favour of right-winger Tony Abbott over the party’s division over a cap-and-trade pollution reduction scheme proposed by the Rudd Labor government. These elections were spinned by the Greenies and Labor as a referendum of sort on the environment.


Division of Bradfield (NSW)

Bradfield is located in the upper-class heartland of North Sydney and includes the affluent suburbs of Chatswood, Killara, St Ives and Wahroonga. The seat, named after Dr. John Bradfield, designer of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, was created in 1949 and has been held by the Liberal Party since its creation, notably by former Australian PM Billy Hughes between 1949 and 1952. Nelson was first elected in 1996 and easily held the seat in 2007, despite the Liberal defeat nationally. It is the second most affluent electorate in the country, and is a typical ‘blue-ribbon’ Liberal seat, the Liberals having always won the seat on first preference votes. Despite this, Labor has been slowly creeping up, in part due to the inclusion of less affluent areas in the electorate (parts of Hornsby in 2006) but also the slow gentrification of the Labor vote in upper-class Australia. They fell to 59.1% on the first preference vote in 2007, the lowest ever for the party.

As is usual with by-elections in safe seats, the Labor Party decided early on to not contest the by-election. The Liberals nominated former businessman Paul Fletcher. The Greens, who poll strongly in Bradfield (11.26%) and the region, nominated 2007 candidate and parliamentary adviser Susie Gemmell. In addition, 20 other candidates were nominated, for a total of 22 candidates – tied with Willis in 1992 for the most by-election candidates. 9 of the 20 other candidates are from the Christian Democratic Party, a nutty far-right Bible-bashing anti-Muslim outfit, which decided to go crazy and nominated 9 candidates in total (though they originally wished to nominate 11, the number of loyal disciples). Apart from them, others included a flurry of Independents, a Liberal Democrat (classical liberals), two other small environmentalist outfits, the far-right One Nation, the Sex Party and the Democratic Labor Party (a socially conservative economically left-wing outfit).

Here are the results, with all election day votes tallied. I haven’t broken down the CDP’s timewasters. Green 2PP are compared to Labor’s 2PP result in 2007.

Paul Fletcher (Liberal) 55.38% (-4.74%)
Susie Gemmell (Green) 26.18% (+14.72%)
9 Christian Democrats 3.45% (+1.71%)
Marianne Leishman (Sex) 3.40%
Simon Kelly (Ind) 2.09%
Simon McCaffrey (DLP) 2.05%
Bill Koutalianos (Ind) 1.83%
Deborah Burt (Climate Change) 1.09%
Goronwy Price (Environmentalists for Nuclear Energy) 0.99%
Brian Buckley (Ind) 0.82%
Philip Dowling (Ind) 0.78%
Lucy Gabb (LDP) 0.74%
Victor Waterson (ONP) 0.63%
Peter Hanraham (Ind) 0.54%

Paul Fletcher (Liberal) 63.56% (+0.11%)
Susie Gemmell (Green) 36.44% (-0.11%)


Division of Higgins (Victoria)

Higgins is located in the wealthy inner south-eastern suburbs of Melbourne, including the suburbs of Armadale, Ashburton, Malvern, and Toorak as well as parts of Glen Iris, Camberwell, Prahran, and South Yarra. The seat, named after justice and politician H. B. Higgins, was created in 1949 and has been held by the Liberal Party ever since (excluding one Liberal MP who briefly sat as an Independent), and was the division of two PMs: Harold Holt and John Gorton. Peter Costello was first elected in 1990 and became treasurer of the Howard Liberal government in 1996, and was the government’s number two figure until Howard’s defeat in 2007. He was easily re-elected in 2007, taking 53.6% of first preferences. Like in Bradfield, the Liberals have always won on the first count in Higgins. It is slightly less Liberal than Bradfield, because it includes some more left-wing areas including hippie Prahran, less affluent Windsor, and the predominantly Greek area of Oakleigh. Labor won around a dozen polls in 2007.

Like in Bradfield, however, Labor announced that they wouldn’t contest the seat. The Liberals nominated Kelly O’Dwyer, parliamentary staffer; the Greens (10.75% in 2007) nominated Dr Clive Hamilton, a uni prof. Other candidates included 3 Independents, and candidates of the Sex Party, the AU Democrats, Democratic Labor, a Liberal Democrat and a One Nation candidate.

Here are the results, with all election day votes tallied. Green 2PP are compared to Labor’s 2PP result in 2007.

Kelly O’Dwyer (Liberal) 51.74% (-1.87%)
Clive Hamilton (Green) 34.96% (+24.21%)
John Mulholland (DLP) 3.91%
Fiona Patten (Sex) 3.53%
David Collyer (AU Democrats) 2.36% (+1.15%)
Stephen Murphy (Ind) 1.68%
Joseph Toscano (Ind) 0.82%
Isaac Roberts (LDP) 0.41%
Peter Brohier (Ind) 0.31%
Steve Raskovy (ONP) 0.28%

Kelly O’Dwyer (Liberal) 57.57% (+0.53%)
Clive Hamilton (Green) 42.43% (-0.53%)

The Liberals, thought to be in trouble over their opposition to cap-and-trade and their new more right-wing leader performed rather well, though their performances are nothing spectacular. They fell in first preferences in both seats and gained only little compared to 2007 in 2PP votes. It is a victory for them, but its’ far from a strong mandate for either their new leader or their policies in general.

The Greens are the real winners, winning 35% in Higgins and 26% in Bradfield, both excellent results for them. Their 35% result in Higgins is the party’s best first preference share in a federal division. I’m sure they can spin it as a strong result for the environment and a defeat for the Liberal’s opposition to cap-and-trade.

Honduras 2009

Honduras held a general election on Sunday November 29. These elections are regularly scheduled elections, held at the conclusion of the four-year term started in 2005. However, in June 2009, the Honduran military overthrew Liberal President Manuel Zelaya, elected in 2005, for attempting to change the Constitution allowing him to run for another term (and holding a referendum on that). Under the military’s interpretation of the Constitution, the President of Honduras is forbidden to go to the people on an amendment to the constitution (Article 374). He was overthrown and replaced by the President of Congress, Robert Micheletti, also a member of the Liberal Party, but opposed to Zelaya. Despite talks that they might be delayed or cancelled, the military and Micheletti let the elections go ahead.

There are two major parties in Honduras, the conservative National Party, which nominated former President of Congress and defeated 2005 candidate Porfirio Lobo Sosa; and the officially liberal Liberal Party, in practice centre-left with members ranging from people like Micheletti to people like Zelaya who hang out with Chavez. The Liberal Party nominated Elvin Santos, Vice President under Zelaya until December 2008. Carlos Reyes, a vocal opponent of the military coup, was initially supposed to run but dropped out calling the elections a sham and fraud. In addition, Zelaya, from the Brazilian Embassy, called on voters to abstain. Other candidates included Bernard Martínez of the centre-left Innovation and Unity Party (PINU), the Christian Democrat Felicito Ávila and César Ham of the left-wing Democratic Unification Party (PUD).

Porfirio Lobo’s was mostly focused on bread-and-butter issues, the internationally popular theme of ‘change’ and also restoring Honduras’ position in the world after the coup. He has also stressed national unity. With his rhetoric of change and ending Honduras’ recent international pariah status as well as the abstention of die-hard Zelaya supporters, Pepe Lobo was heavily favoured going into last Sunday’s vote.

I’ve gotten tired of waiting on them counting, so here are the results with around 62-66% of the vote tallied.

Porfirio Lobo (PN) 55.91%
Elvin Santos (PL) 38.16%
Bernard Martínez (PINU) 2.21%
Felicito Ávila (PCD) 1.92%
César Ham (PUD) 1.81%

A map of results thus far is provided by El Heraldo here, which also has slightly different numbers for the candidates.

Turnout is reported to be around 60-63% by the authorities, which would make this a strong victory for Pepe Lobo and an important defeat for Zelaya, who himself was elected in a 2005 ballot marked by only 46% turnout. However, Zelaya and his supporters have claimed that the 60-63% is in fact the abstention rate, and not the turnout.

With around 23 of the 128 seats in Congress left to assign, the PN has 58 seats against 37 for the PL. The PINU has 5, the PCD 2 and the PUD 2. In 2005, the Liberals had secured 62 seats, three short of an overall majority (65 seats).

Lobo will become President, and Zelaya’s already dim chances at a comeback have almost entirely faded, his supporters have even given up any hope of restoring him. In addition, Lobo will probably drop all charges against Zelaya in an effort at national unity and restoring international support for the country.

Uruguay 2009

Unfortunately for Uruguay, the Swiss vote on minarets yesterday stole their potential headline-making runoff election (“Guerrilla leader elected President”) which resulted in the predictable election of former communist guerrilla member José Mujica over former right-wing President Luis Alberto Lacalle. In a first round held on October 28, José Mujica of the ruling Broad Front was far ahead of National Party (“white”) candidate Luis Alberto Lacalle, with around 48% against Lacalle’s 29%. However, Lacalle benefited from the support of most of the Colorado Party’s voters, whose candidate, Pedro Bordaberry had received around 17%. The PN and the Colorados, both right-wing parties, had ruled the country since independence, with the exception of military regimes here and there, until the election of the left in 2004.

Tainted by corruption and a brand of neoliberalism unpopular in the region, the experienced right-wing candidate faced a tough runoff against his well-liked down-to-earth left-wing rival.

José Mujica (FA) 52.60%
Luis Alberto Lacalle (PN) 43.33%
white and null votes 4.07%

José Mujica of the Broad Front becomes the second left-wing President in Uruguayan history. It remains to be seen if he will be similar in actions to his predecessor, Tabaré Vázquez, who was a member of the ‘moderate’ left-wing rulers in South America. His rhetoric was mostly humanist and opposed at the consumerist society of this era, but there was not much Chavez-like fiery rhetoric to his speeches. In addition, his running mate, Danilo Astori, is a rather centrist former finance minister. The Broad Front maintains a majority in both houses of Uruguayan Parliament.