Monthly Archives: July 2010

Yvelines’ 10th constituency (France) by-election runoff

The runoff of a legislative by-election for the French National Assembly in the Yvelines’ 10th constituency was held on Sunday, July 11. The by-election had come after an earlier by-election in September 2009, won by the UMP candidate by one vote, was invalidated by the Constitutional Council. The first round, held last week, was covered here. The two candidates qualified for the runoff were Anny Poursinoff, a Green who ran as the common candidate of the Greens and PS; and UMP incumbent Jean-Frédéric Poisson. Poursinoff had won 42.6% of the vote in the first round, leading Poisson who won 40.7% by a small but comfortable margin in a traditionally wealthy and safely right-wing seat. Here are the results:

Anny Poursinoff (Green-PS) 51.72% (+1.72%)
Jean-Frédéric Poisson (UMP) 48.28% (-1.72%)
Green GAIN from UMP

Turnout 29.42% (+2.67% on first round)

The defeat is a very bad defeat for the government in the midst of corruption scandals which are touching Sarkozy more and more, and whose approvals are hitting rock-bottom fast. Rambouillet has long been held by the right, the right never lost it under current boundaries and the left last won the area in 1981, an historic PS landslide right after Mitterrand’s election to the presidency. This was also the constituency of former cabinet minister Christine Boutin, and the right usually averages 56-58% in 50-50 years. Sarkozy won 59% in 2007, Chirac had won 59.8% in 1995 and in 1988, Chirac, losing in a landslide nationally, won 52% against Mitterrand’s 48%. In 1997, Boutin had held her seat with nearly 55% against Poursinoff, already candidate back then. The bottom line is that this is a seat which the right cannot lose. However, in March, Huchon (PS) had won a narrow majority in the constituency, 50.9%, ahead of the right who won 49.1%. Most certainly, the right losing votes since March is not exactly sign of improvement for the UMP. Of course, fortunes for the right will likely increase come 2012, but if such a swing was repeated in 2012, the right would be reduced to the equivalent in terms of seat numbers to where the PS was in 1993, if not lower. These swings show that no demographic is safe for the right anymore, even old wealthy white people.

The left had no trouble rallying all its additional potential voters from the Left Front, but also likely had fairly good transfers from the NC (3%) and even FN (7.5%) though most FN voters likely voted UMP in the runoff. The FN’s electorate in these parts are much less working-class and are likely angry bourgeois, thus more likely to still support the UMP in the runoff.

The defeat of the right has sent shock waves through the UMP, with the party’s spokesperson/attack dog Frédéric Lefebvre blaming the defeat on the NC’s candidate, who, despite his weak result, only 3%, allegedly caused the right’s defeat. Lefebvre believes in the right’s favourite myth that being on top in the first round creates a sort of “dynamic” which allows you to win in the runoff. According to his reasoning, if the NC had not run, the UMP would have placed first and then won in the runoff because of these mysterious “forces” and “dynamics”. Of course, such a theory is a bad lie and an awful myth, though coming from a person as intellectually dishonest as Lefebvre makes it less of a surprise or insult to our intelligence. Lefebvre, and his master Sarkozy, would like to use this defeat as proof that different right-wing candidates in the first round are bad for the right, thinking in the context of 2012 and the NC’s insistence that it will run a candidate of its own. Sarkozy is a foe of this strategy of first round division, thinking that first round unity breeds a dynamic of unity for the runoff. If the UMP keeps thinking in such a sectarian and intellectually dishonest faction, it is shooting itself in the foot ahead of 2012.

Japan House of Councillors 2010

121 of the 242 seats in Japan’s upper house, the House of Councillors, were up for re-election on July 11. The House of Councillors, colloquially known as the upper house or the Senate, was created to be a respectable and conservative counterbalance to the House of Representative, which used to be more populist and radical in its political outlook. That role, however, disappeared long ago as the House became the base of the elected aristocracy of the old Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). The House of Councillors, which became largely packed with representatives of the LDP’s various interest groups (doctors, lawyers, farmers and so forth), thus lost its raison d’etre and off-year elections to the upper house became the electorate’s way of punishing the ruling party (aka, the LDP) though they ended up sticking with it in elections to the lower house.

In 2009, when Japan was last covered on this blog, change and hope had come to Japan in the person of Yukio Hatoyama and his Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) which ousted the archaic and corrupt LDP machine from power in a headline-making election. There was much hope and high expectations for the DPJ as the LDP was ousted from power, some even thought it spelled the end of the LDP as a political party. It was not to be. Hatoyama himself got caught up in party financing scandals, reminiscent of the old LDP, and his handling of the Okinawa American air base was particularly incompetent and harshly criticized. In the context of it all, it was not at all surprising and people should have seen it coming the day the DPJ won the 2009 election. We were all too blinded by the enthusiasm and hope sparked by the LDP’s defeat to see that the DPJ’s landslide was the product of hard work by one man, Ichirō Ozawa, who was the DPJ’s secretary-general when the party won the 2009 election. Ozawa, a former Liberal Democrat who joined the DPJ after losing a factional fight in the LDP, is a shadowy and mysterious man who spent around four years rebuilding the DPJ after it had lost the 2005 election in a landslide to the wildly popular Junichiro Koizumi. Ozawa’s strategy was to make the DPJ a LDP-like party in terms of its base, by pandering to the interest groups and bureaucrats who dominate Japanese politics. His effort paid off, and the DPJ won the 2007 upper house ballot and then the 2009 election in a landslide. Ousted from the DPJ’s actual leadership in May 2009, he rigged the leadership ballot in favour of Hatoyama who was more than pleased to give Ozawa the office of secretary-general and carte blanche to continue his efforts to transform the DPJ into a corrupt archaic personal and patronage vehicle like the DPJ. Hatoyama’s downfall in June also killed Ozawa, who stepped down as well. Naoto Kan replaced Hatoyama as Prime Minister, and there was much hope about Kan in that he was a centrist and intelligent figure who immediately sidelined Ozawa and was set to reestablish the DPJ as the honest party of yesterday. But he gaffed right before these elections in announcing a hike in the consumption tax, a very bad gaffe which gave voters a reason a vote on July 11: voting against the DPJ’s tax hike.

The House of Councillors has power to block legislation (except budgets, treaties or designation of the Prime Minister), though the lower house can override with a two-thirds majority. Since a two-thirds majority in the lower house is increasingly rare (the DPJ lost its lower house super majority when the Social Democrats left cabinet earlier this year), the upper house actually does wield some power. Its members, elected to fix six-year terms, are renewed by halves every three years. In 2007, the DPJ, then in opposition, had won a major victory over the governing LDP and did manage to block some legislation between 2007 and its 2009 victory in the lower house. This year, 73 FPTP-type seats called ‘prefectural seats’ were up in addition to 48 block seats elected by proportional representation. In all, 121 seats were up. Here are the results, and popular vote data is from the proportional list vote (compared to the 2007 list vote). Data is all from NHK.

DPJ 31.56% (-7.92%) winning 44 seats [28 prefectural and 16 block] for a total of 106 seats (-10)
LDP 24.07% (-4.01%) winning 51 seats [39 prefectural and 12 block] for a total of 84 seats (+13)
Your Party 13.6% (+13.6%) winning 1o seats [3 prefectural and 7 block] for a total of 11 seats (+10)
New Komeito 13.07% (-0.11%) winning 9 seats [3 prefectural and 6 block] for a total of 19 seats (-2)
Japanese Communist Party 6.10% (-1.38%) winning 3 seats [3 block] for a total of 6 seats (-1)
Social Democratic Party 3.83% (-0.65%) winning 2 seats [2 block] for a total of 4 seats (nc)
Sunrise Party 2.11% (+2.11%) winning 1 seat [1 block] for a total of 3 seats (nc)
New Renaissance Party 2.01% (+2.01%) winning 1 seats [1 block] for a total of 2 seats (-4)
People’s New Party 1.71% (-0.44%) winning 0 seats for a total of 3 seats (-3)
Parties winning no seats and not recorded in the popular vote results:
Happiness Realization Party winning 0 seats for a total of 1 seat (nc)
Independents and others winning 0 seats for a total of 3 seats (-2)
Government (DPJ+PNP+1 Ind) 33.27% (-7.48%) winning 44 seats for a total of 110 seats (-13)

Turnout was roughly 58%, down around 11% since 2009. Not a great turnout, but not bad either.

The results saw a surprising rebuke of the DPJ, likely fueled by the unpopularity of the consumption tax hike proposed by Naoto Kan. The DPJ had a target of 54 seats, and it falls a whole ten seats short of that target. The government coalition has also lost its majority in the upper house, meaning that it will need around 12 more votes to have a narrow majority. That being said, the results are somewhat jumbled up by the LDP doing well in the direct seats, winning 11 more seats than the DPJ, the likely result of New Komeito voters voting LDP on the district vote because the New Komeito, which lost all direct seats in the 2009 election, ran only three candidates – though it still managed to elect all its candidates. On the list vote, however, the LDP, with only 24%, won its worst result on a list vote – even lower than in 2009 (26.7%). New Komeito held its ground well, and its rough electorate of 8 million remains more or less the same. The winner of the election is the ‘Your Party’, a personalist right-wing splitoff of the LDP. Two other recent LDP splitoffs, the New Renaissance and the right-wing Sunrise Party did rather poorly though both managed enough votes to win a block seat each. The PNP, originally a right-wing splitoff of the LDP, got decimated, likely as a result of its voters, likely right-leaning, abandoning the party in droves as a consequence of its alliance with the DPJ. The Social Democrats held their ground well, and the Communists bled some votes once again but lost only one seat.

The consequence of the results are depressing for both the LDP and DPJ. For the LDP, it extends the term of Sadakazu Tanigaki, the party’s new leader, supposedly a moderate but a member of the party’s old bigwigs above all. The party’s old bigwigs will use this electoral victory of sorts as an excuse to both block legislation from the lower house and also block any internal attempts, or at the very least, delay, generational change and reform within the LDP leadership. It seems that the LDP will be able to survive being in opposition despite being a party of power. For the DPJ, the result is an early setback for Naoto Kan and his anti-Ozawa secretary-general Yukio Edano. Ozawa’s faction could use this defeat as a reason to place obstacles in Kan’s course ahead of an internal presidential ballot scheduled for September. The DPJ’s bigwigs could again decide in September to dump Kan and start a new with a new leader who would be able to win a lower house election due in a bit more than three years. Such a change would likely mean that Ozawa’s clan would find its way back into power, and that the real reformist and centrist faction around Kan which is anti-Ozawa would lose power. The DPJ and Kan was hoping for a victory in this election would allow the government to have an easier time to pass the various reforms it aims to pass, but without an upper house majority, that task is much more difficult especially given how Your Party is not keen on working with the government (they learned from the PNP’s bad experience) and the JCP and SDPJ are at best unlikely allies. The New Renaissance and Sunrise guys would also be stupid to work with the DPJ unless they want to finish like the PNP. Hopefully Kan and the ruling anti-Ozawa faction will learn from its extremely stupid mistake of introducing an egregious tax right before a major election and will shelve any tax talk until 2013. That said, knowing Ozawa, he is unlikely to let it slide easily for Kan and his clan could brew trouble for the Prime Minister ahead of the DPJ’s presidential ballot scheduled for September.

Vachon (Quebec) by-election 2010

Vachon (source: QuebecPolitique)

A provincial by-election in the Quebec provincial constituency of Vachon was held on Monday, July 5. This by-election came as a result of the sudden resignation in December 2009 of incumbent MNA Camil Bouchard of the PQ. The Prime Minister, Jean Charest, scheduled the by-election for July 5, a controversial time for a by-election right at the start of summer and a few days after Quebec’s major moving day on July 1 or the Quebec national day on June 24.

Vachon is located in Montreal’s South Shore and includes part of Longueuil and the former municipality of Saint-Hubert. Vachon is largely a middle-class Francophone area, including some more deprived areas in Saint-Hubert, though the city of Saint-Hubert as become more French suburban in recent years, losing historically English working-class areas. The YES won the constituency in 1995 with 56.8% of the votes. The constituency of Vachon, created in 1980, has been held by the PQ since 1994 after the Liberals held it between 1985 and 1994. David Payne, the PQ’s sole Anglophone MNA, held the seat between 1981 and 1985 and again between 1994 and 2003, when he retired in favour of Camil Bouchard. In 2003, Bouchard won 40.45% against 39.77% for the Liberals, the Liberals having performed very strongly in Montreal’s South Shore as a result of 2002 municipal amalgamations which proved unpopular in cities such as Longueuil. In 2007, Bouchard again narrowly held on with only 34.88% against 34.20% for the ADQ (with the Liberals falling to third with 24.69%), though surviving a swing to the ADQ in traditionally Péquiste suburban ridings in Montérégie. In 2008, he won his first comfortable victory with 48.64% against 32.28% for the Liberals, the ADQ collapsing to only 13.67% of the vote.

The PQ nominated Martine Ouellet, the Liberals nominated former ADQ MNA (for Marguerite-d’Youville, between 2007 and 2008) Simon-Pierre Diamond while his former party nominated Saint-Lambert municipal councillor Alain Dépatie. QS nominated Sébastien Robert, defeated in 2008 running in Marie-Victorin while the Greens nominated Yvon Rudolphe who had already run in Vachon, but back in 1989 (when the Green Party in Quebec was hard-core nationalist). His nomination prompted the Greens’ 2007 and 2008 candidate Denis Durand to run, while perennial candidate Régent Millette (who had already lost 14 elections and by-elections since 1966) also pleased us with a run. Here are the results:

Martine Ouellet (PQ) 59.15% (+10.51%)
Simon-Pierre Diamond (Liberal) 24.34% (-7.94%)
Alain Dépatie (ADQ) 6.61% (-7.06%)
Sébastien Robert (QS) 5.47% (+3.23%)
Yvon Rudolphe (Green) 3.15% (-0.01%)
Denis Durand (Ind Green) 0.74%
Régent Millette (Ind) 0.53%

Turnout was a paltry 29%. The PQ still performed extremely strongly, polling it’s highest share of the vote since the seat’s creation, the previous record being in 1981 – a PQ victory province-wide – when Payne won 57.85%. This result is very strong, even larger than what most had predicted. It highlights the unpopularity of the Charest government, still in the midst of major corruption allegations involving his party and the Quebec construction industry mafia. His approval rating is roughly 20% and trails the PQ badly in polls, though voters are not for that matter wildly in love with the PQ. The general mood remains anti-incumbent, and generally lukewarm (at best) towards Liberals and PQ, though the ADQ, which is dwindling in size and lacks any appeal, fails to benefit, though QS’ strong result, in line with strong polling (6-8%) does likely reflect a bit of this mood.

Yvelines’ 10th constituency (France) by-election

Anybody remember the last by-election in Yvelines’ 10th constituency in September 2009? For those who don’t, it is covered here and here. To quote a brief profile of the constituency posted in September…

The constituency is a very affluent exurban constituency of Paris, taking up a vast area of the southwest of the department, including the affluent city of Rambouillet and it’s well-known forest, as well as Montfort-l’Amaury and the more middle-income (and more left-wing) city of Maurepas. Predictably, the constituency is a right-wing stronghold, holding the current constituency since 1988, though the constituency elected a Radical, Jacqueline Thome-Patenôtre for twenty years between 1958 and 1978. The seat was notably held by Christine Boutin, a staunch social conservative who was a member of the centre-right UDF before she was excluded for running in the 2002 presidential election (1.19%) independently of Bayrou, the candidate of the UDF. Her personal outfit, the Forum of Social Republicans (FRS) – now known as the Christian Democratic Party (PDC) is a affiliate member of the governing centre-right UMP. In 2007, she was elected with a bit more than 58% in the runoff, after narrowly failing to win by the first round.

The Greens have had a strong vote here, in a constituency which includes more and more young professionals moving in to escape high property taxes in Paris. In the European elections, the Greens outpolled the PS decisively with 21.1% against 11.8% for the PS, while the UMP won 32.7%. In the regional elections last March, however, the PS came out on top of the Greens with 22.1% against around 20% for the Greens, while the UMP won 32.1%. The FN polled 8.7%, a respectable result for the far-right in an old wealthy constituency which isn’t a traditional FN area while the Left Front won 3.5%, placing behind DLR (4.3%) and the MoDem (4.1%). In the runoff, Huchon (PS) narrowly won the constituency with 50.9% against 49.1% for Pécresse (UMP).

The 2009 by-election had given Boutin’s suppléant Jean-Frédéric Poisson a tiny one vote victory over Green candidate Anny Poursinoff who had come ahead of the PS and DVG candidates who won 12.4% and 9.6% of the vote respectively. Of course, the State did not allow such a margin to stand and the election was invalidated and voters went back to the polls starting yesterday, July 4.

The Greens and PS settled on the common candidacy of Anny Poursinoff  with a PS suppléant. Poisson was again the UMP’s candidate, but faced opposition from the New Centre’s Michel Finck and, once again, from the FN candidate Philippe Chevrier, who had won 4.03% in 2009 coming out narrowly ahead of a two-way battle on the far-right with FN dissident Myriam Baeckeroot winning 3.1% of the vote. Vincent Liechti, who had won 4.7% running for the Left Front in 2009, ran again as did Pirate Party candidate Maxime Rouquet, looking to improve on his 2.06% showing in 2009. An independent candidate, Guillaume Sébileau, classified as ‘SE’ by the State (meaning no affiliation known), also ran, largely on a local issues campaign. Here are the results, compared to 2009 results (for Poursinoff, the sum of the 3 centre-left candidacies):

Anny Poursinoff (Green-PS) 42.62% (+0.49%)
Jean-Frédéric Poisson (UMP) 40.7% (-3.24%)
Philippe Chevrier (FN) 7.48% (+3.45%)
Vincent Liechti (FG) 4.05% (-0.67%)
Michel Finck (NC) 3.19% (+3.19%)
Guillaume Sébileau (SE) 1.3% (+1.3%)
Maxime Rouquet (Pirate) 0.66% (-1.4%)

Turnout 26.75% (+3.99%)

The results are obviously extremely bad for the UMP and extremely good for the left in general. In a very poor climate, again, for the government with scandals involving cabinet ministers and a pathetic attempt at a coverup of these scandals by creating a parliamentary commission to investigate the causes of an earth-shattering issue, the first round defeat of les bleus in South Africa. The UMP should have at least come out on top in the first round, especially in such a safe seat, but Poursinoff had no trouble at all in rallying the 2009 voters of the PS and DVG candidate Georges Mougeot. Back in March, it had also been said that low turnout had hurt the right and a slight boost in turnout in the runoff had saved the right in regions such as Alsace. Here, despite a nearly 4% increase in turnout since 2009, the right’s result remains poor.

The right, UMP and NC, weighs 43.89%, against 43.94% for the UMP alone in 2009. The far-right is worth 7.48%, up slightly from 7.11% in 2009. The left and Pirates are worth 47.33% against 48.95% in 2009. The final outcome is anyone’s guess, with the FN playing an important role in determining who wins. However, I would personally place my bets on a narrow victory for Anny Poursinoff.

Poland 2010 – Runoff

The runoff of the Polish presidential election was held on Sunday, July 4. As a result of a first round held on June 20, Acting President Bronisław Komorowski of Civic Platform (PO) and former Prime Minister Jarosław Kaczyński of Law and Justice (PiS) were qualified for the runoff. Komorowski had obtained 41.5% of the vote while Jarosław Kaczyński, the brother of late President Lech Kaczyński, obtained 36.5% of the vote. In third place, Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) Grzegorz Napieralski obtained 13.7% but his votes were seen as key votes for any candidate in order to win the runoff. However, turnout was really the major decider in both the first round and runoff. In the first round, turnout was 54.9%, a surprisingly strong turnout, particularly in the cities where Komorowski found most of his support. Some feared that the summer weather would lead to lower turnout on July 4, and thus allow Kaczyński an opportunity to win an upset given that his traditionally older, more rural voters are more likely to turn out in a low turnout election. In fact, it was not to be: turnout increased between both rounds to reach 55.31% yesterday. Again, turnout was particularly strong in cities such as Warsaw or Gdansk, although traditionally high-turnout rural areas in Galicia also recorded strong participation.

Polling had narrowed between both rounds to give Komorowski a narrow lead over Kaczyński, one much narrower than first round runoff scenarios had predicted (in the vicinity of 60-40 or larger for Komorowski). Indeed, one poll had even placed Kaczyński ahead 49-47 and others indicated a very narrow margin of roughly 2-3% in favour of Komorowski. A good campaign by Kaczyński likely explains this boost in support for him, while Komorowski’s lackluster campaign definitely lowered his share of the vote. Yet, in my opinion, a narrowing of the margin was to be expected. Unlike a European election, presidential ballots are serious stuff and people don’t vote with their middle fingers or have fun with their vote that much. Furthermore, Poland remains a rather polarized country with a stark division in voting patterns between east and west. Really, a narrow result was to be expected. Here are the results:

Bronisław Komorowski (PO) 53.01%
Jarosław Kaczyński (PiS) 46.99%

Komorowski has won by a clear, rather decisive margin, as was rather widely expected by most people and predicted by exit polls on the night of the election. Polls indicate that Napieralski’s voters, those who turned out, split around 70-30 in favour of Komorowski. As always, the hard part comes now. PO, like PiS between 2005 and 2007 or the SLD between 2001 and 2005, now has absolute control over the executive (Presidency) and the legislature (and thus the office of Prime Minister). While the office of President is really not the ultimate power position in Poland, the office does hold sway and considerable power. Komorowski could likely be overshadowed by Donald Tusk, who declined to run in order to focus on his job as Prime Minister, likely understanding that he holds more power there than in the presidency. Furthermore, given the track-record of Polish legislative majorities facing a second consecutive term, PO could well be in trouble as early of 2011. Their troubles would play in Kaczyński’s hands, whose real goal is to reconquer the office of Prime Minister for himself in 2011. Indeed, a Kaczyński victory yesterday would have rendered a PiS victory in 2011 more unlikely and would have left the party, which often appears to be based quite a lot on the personality of Kaczyński (and prior to that, his late brother), without a real leader to face the voters in 2011, an election which is in truth quite a bit more important than the presidential election.

Polish election maps are always the funnest maps to create for the sheer polarization and amusing patterns on said maps. The general pattern of PO strongholds in more urbanized, wealthier western Poland – formerly German Poland and PiS strongholds in more rural, poorer and more conservative eastern Poland – formerly Russian and Austrian Poland has obviously been sustained. However, the real pattern is more one of a urban-rural split, as evidenced by the strong margins in Komorowski’s favour in eastern cities, most notably Warsaw. Warsaw’s electoral strength, however, remains drowned in the deeply conservative voting patterns of rural areas in the Masovian Voivodeship – which Kaczyński narrowly won with 50.6% of the vote. Kaczyński also performed well in Upper Silesia’s coal mining basin, which is centered around Rybnik and in the blue enclave located west of Wroclaw, which has a struggling copper mine. It seems that controversial attacks by Kaczyński on Komorowski’s alleged plans to privatize certain mines struck a chord and Komorowski usually did worse in Upper Silesia’s indutrial heart than the PO had done in 2007 or 2009. However, PiS also has roots in the union movement and most blue-collar workers tend to vote for PiS. The deeply orange exclave in Podlaskie Voivodeship, Hajnówka County, has a strong Belarussian minority. The other orange enclave in southern Poland has a strong Ukrainian minority. In German areas, Komorowski performed very strongly as well.

The National Electoral Commission’s website, which has an excellent interface, breaks down the vote into two large categories: city and country, and the results highlight very well the fundamental nature of Polish electoral polarization: it is urban vs. rural and not east vs. west. In cities, Komorowski won 59.5% of the vote, while in the country he won a paltry 41.1%. Furthermore, with one tiny exception, Komorowski’s share of the vote consistently increases with population. In settlements with less than 5,000 people, he won 41.4%, a number which increases to reach 64.2% in cities with over 500,000 inhabitants. Rarely is such a beautifully perfect correlation between population and voting patterns ever seen.

Komorowski won the votes of Poles living abroad with around 60.3%. He only lost in Afghanistan (where the vote is largely military), Bosnia but most importantly Canada and the United States (which he both lost by considerable margins). There seems to be a rift between Poles who have been settled abroad for a long time – such as Polish working-class immigrants in the US – and Poles who have only recently moved abroad – such as Polish immigrants in the UK. This follows a pattern also seen in results in Poland, where Komorowski did well in areas – such as western Poland – which have seen major popular resettlements (the German population in the old Polish Corridor and western Poland has indeed been massively resettled since 1945, with only a small German minority subsisting in Opole).

Germany President 2010

The German Federal Assembly, or Bundesversammlung, met yesterday June 30 to elect the new German President in a snap election caused by the sudden resignation of President Horst Köhler on May 31. Köhler unexpectedly resigned following controversial comments he had made, noting that Germany was involved in Afghanistan partly out of the need to secure trade and safe trade routes. Köhler had been re-elected by the first ballot in 2009. The Federal Assembly is made up of all members of the Bundestag and certain members of state legislatures chosen based on the composition of said legislatures. Each state has a varying amount of delegates based on population, and state delegates make up exactly half the Federal Assembly.

The composition of the Federal Assembly of 2010 was as follows, compared to the composition of the 2009 Assembly:

CDU-CSU 496 (-1)
SPD 333 (-85)
FDP 148 (+41)
Greens 129 (+34)
Left 124 (+34)
FW 10 (nc)
NPD 3 (nc)
SSW 1 (nc)
DVU 0 (-1)
Independents 0 (-2)

The CDU/CSU-FDP coalition, which holds a majority in both the Bundestag and Federal Assembly, nominated Lower Saxony Minister-President Christian Wulff for President. Federal cabinet minister Ursula von der Leyen, considered close to Chancellor Angela Merkel, was considered the front-runner but it seems that the CDU, for sake of party unity, turned to Wulff, a former rival of Merkel for the CDU’s leadership and major figure of the party’s conservative wing. Wulff holds conservative views on family and moral issues. The SPD and Greens nominated a well-known and well-liked independent, Joachim Gauck, a former political dissident in East Germany and head, between 1990 and 2000, of the Stasi archives. Gauck, a staunch anti-communist, is respected across party lines for his moral stature and past political actions against the East German communist regime. He also received the support of the 10 Bavarian delegates of the Free Voters (FW), a group which had boosted the CDU/CSU-FDP coalition to a majority in 2009 and provided for Köhler’s easy re-election on the first ballot. He also received the endorsement of certain state sections of the FDP, although FDP leader Guido Westerwelle said that the entire party supported Wulff. Guido often finds himself living in his own little world. The Left nominated Luc Jochimsen, a member of Parliament, who commented that the GDR was not a “state of injustice”. Despite them being common opposition partners, the Left protested the nomination of Gauck given how much the Left hates him. The NPD, neo-Nazis, nominated Frank Rennicke, who had also stood in 2009. He had garnered 4 votes in 2009, including one from the DVU, but the DVU lost its seat following its defeat in the 2009 Brandenburg state elections.

Polls showed that German voters would have elected Gauck by a considerable margin over Wulff, partly out of respect for Gauck and also a growing opposition to the Merkel government. The CDU/CSU-FDP coalition which the CDU had dreamed about in 2009 has turned out to be a nightmare, with bickering between the CDU and FDP and a general lack of leadership. The FDP has suffered badly for its incompetence in government, dwindling in polls from 14.6% in 2009 to a mere 4% (!) these days. The Greens have also seen their voting intentions rise dramatically to around 16-18%.

Here are the result(s):

First ballot

Christian Wulff (CDU/CSU-FDP) 600 (48.3%)
Joachim Gauck (SPD-Greens-FW) 499 (40.2%)
Luc Jochimsen (Left) 126 (10.1%)
Frank Rennicke (NPD) 3 (0.2%)
Abstentions 13 (1%)
Invalid 1

Jochimsen got 2 more votes than the Left’s 124 members. The coalition backing Gauck had 462 members, officially, while Wulff’s official coalition of the CDU and FDP had 644, 623 being a majority. Of course, Rennicke got only three votes given that any additional vote for him wouldn’t compute and would mean that a member of the major parties voted for the Nazi. That would raise some eyebrows.

Second ballot

Christian Wulff (CDU/CSU-FDP) 615 (+15) (49.7%)
Joachim Gauck (SPD-Greens-FW) 490 (-9) (39.6%)
Luc Jochimsen (Left) 123 (-3) (9.6%)
Frank Rennicke (NPD) 3 (nc) (0.2%)
Abstentions 7 (-6) (0.6%)
Invalid 1

Jochimsen and Rennicke dropped out. Jochimsen urged her voters to abstain. 1239 votes were cast, while 1242 were cast in the first and third rounds. There are 1244 members of the Federal Assembly.

Third ballot

Christian Wulff (CDU/CSU-FDP) 625 (+10) (50.2%)
Joachim Gauck (SPD-Greens-FW) 494 (+4) (39.7%)
Abstentions 121 (+114) (9.7%)
Invalid 2

Wulff’s election, which doesn’t mean anything, allows Merkel (and Guido) to breathe a sigh of relief. A Gauck victory on the back of defections from the CDU and FDP would have been very bad for Merkel’s image. David McAllister, of Scottish and German background, is the new Minister-President of Lower Saxony. He also holds British citizenship.