Daily Archives: December 5, 2009

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.