What’s hot in 2011
As we close the door on a fruitful and fun-filled election year in 2010, we look forward to 2011 which has a similar stock of elections to look forward to. As a sort of preview (and Christmas present) of the upcoming year, I’ve chosen to preview and highlight a few of the major elections and referendums being held in 2011. This list, of course, is not complete and there will obviously be some snap elections which we aren’t expecting (and some snap elections which won’t surprise us); as there are elections which will excite some but bore to death some others. From my perspective, here are the main elections of 2011 and a short preview of what to look forward to.
Canada: A federal election might come in 2011, and it will be a test of Stephen Harper’s ability to win a majority after winning two straight minorities. Yet, a minority government is more than likely to come out of an early federal election. At any rate, 2011 is Canada’s super-election year with a whole slew of provincial elections in Manitoba (Oct 4), Ontario (Oct 6), Newfoundland and Labrador (Oct 11), Saskatchewan (Nov 7) as well as still unscheduled votes in Prince Edward Island and the Yukon (the only territory with partisan politics). In Manitoba and Ontario, the NDP and Liberal provincial governments respectively are lagging behind in polls and seem to be likely to lose power after 12 and 8 years in power respectively. Yet, given that neither Manitoba nor Ontario’s PCs are exceptionally strong or well-organized, it would be wrong to count them as certain winners. In Newfoundland and Labrador, the PCs will try to maintain their huge majority but they’ll have to do so without their exceptionally popular Premier Danny Williams who recently stepped down. In Saskatchewan, Brad Wall’s conservative SaskParty will win a landslide as will Robert Ghiz’s Liberals in PEI. In the Yukon, the only territory with partisan politics, anything could happen as far as we know. Furthermore, there are federal by-elections in the waiting among which the most interesting is Haute-Gaspésie—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, where the Bloc faces a strong challenge from the Liberals.
Nicaragua: Nicaragua votes on November 6, and incumbent President Daniel Ortega is determined to run for reelection (and has stacked the courts to allow him to do so). The opposition, which suffered from its division in 2006 (which allowed Ortega to win with only 38%), is trying to find a common consensus candidate, a task which is proving difficult. Former President Arnoldo Alemán (1997-2002) is interested in running again, but 2006 runner-up Eduardo Montealegre has backed Fabio Gadea Mantilla, a 79-year old regional parliamentarian, for the job.
Peru: Peru goes to the polls on April 10, in which the presidential ballot will be the main attraction. On the right, Alberto Fujimori’s daughter Keiko is running for President at the helm of the latest incarnation of Fujimori’s outfit(s). She seems to be running slightly behind the current frontrunner (who will probably not be the winner) Luis Castañeda, the former right-wing mayor of Lima. In the centre, former President Alejandro Toledo is running in fourth place. Further left, Ollanta Humala, a far-left indigenous nationalist who came second behind Alan Garcia in 2006, is running third but is slowly creeping up and might bump Keiko or Castañeda out of a potential runoff. As for Alan Garcia’s APRA, its candidate, Mercedes Aráoz, is trailing far behind.
Argentina: The death of former President Néstor Kirchner in October changed the cards drastically in this election due on October 23. The governing Peronist coalition is divided, as always, between the Kirchnerists and the Federal PJ (which is anti-Kirchner). Incumbent President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, whose popularity has increased considerably since her husband’s death, is likely to run for reelection. The Federal PJ’s strongest contender to date is former President Eduardo Duhalde, though former President and governor Adolfo Rodríguez Saá and former President Carlos Menem are also considered potential contenders. The leader of the neoliberal centre-right PRO and incumbent mayor of Buenos Aires Mauricio Macri, who has some affinity with the Federal PJ, is a likely contender. The Acuerdo Cívico y Social, the UCR-led opposition coalition, has two main contenders: congressman Ricardo Luis Alfonsín, son of former President Raúl Alfonsín and Vice President Julio Cobos. Elisa Carrió, now at the helm of her own isolated coalition, will run for a third time.
Ireland: Ireland will vote early in early 2011 at the latest. Ireland’s government has become less popular than the black plague following the economic crisis, and the IMF-EU bailout has further sunk it. As a result, the governing Fianna Fáil, Ireland’s natural governing party and the top vote-getter since 1932, is hovering between third and fourth. The main opposition, Fine Gael, hasn’t benefited as it should, given the incompetence of its leader Enda Kenny. Instead, Ireland’s traditionally weak Labour Party is hovering between second and first in almost all polls. Furthermore, Sinn Féin, whose leader Gerry Adams is running in the south now, is on route to an historic success in the south thanks to the unpopularity of the IMF-EU bailout. As for Fianna Fáil’s unlucky coalition partners, the Greens, they will get wiped out.
United Kingdom: Throughout the UK, voters will vote on May 5 on adopting the AV electoral system. The AV referendum is one of the few things the LibDems got out of the Con-LibDem deal last May. It is unknown whether or not AV will actually pass, but the success rate for FPTP-alternatives in such referendums is pretty low. At the same time, in England, local elections will be held for 36 metropolitan boroughs, 194 second-tier district authorities and 45 unitary authorities. The coalition will take a hit, the Conservatives much less so than the LibDems whose polling numbers are reaching new lows every day.
Scotland: Scotland votes on May 5 as well, with the SNP defending its governing position it had won in 2007. The SNP is down to Labour in polls since the general election, though they’re not doing that badly overall. The Tories and LibDems, however, are doing badly. Labour seems to have an edge to reconquer the government of one of its traditional bases, but the SNP shouldn’t be counted out especially if they’re able to build a coalition with the LibDems if Labour doesn’t win a majority.
Wales: Wales, on May 5, votes for its National Assembly and in a referendum to expand the National Assembly’s power on March 3. The referendum is likely to pass, and Labour is likely to win big and perhaps win an outright majority alone. Though Plaid and the Tories are likely to hold their ground relatively well, polls have been extremely bloody for the LibDems.
Northern Ireland: Again, on May 5 (or before), Northern Ireland’s Assembly is up. Though major groundbreaking changes are unlikely due to the polarized nature of politics, the main interest of this election will be to see whether or not Sinn Féin (which might outplace the DUP as the largest party) can claim the office of First Minister with Martin McGuinness. The performance of Jim Allister’s anti-power sharing TUV, the dwindling Ulster Unionists and the liberal Alliance (whose Naomi Long defeated FM Peter Robinson in the Westminster election this year) are also worth looking at.
Germany: No federal election, but no excuse to not be excited about German elections in 2011. State elections will be held in Hamburg (Feb. 20), Saxony-Anhalt (Mar. 20), Baden-Württemberg (Mar. 27), Rhineland-Palatine (Mar. 27), Bremen (May 22), Berlin (Sept. 18) and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern (late 2011/Sept. 4). The SPD is the biggest party in four of those states, but with Angela Merkel’s federal CDU/FDP coalition being unpopular (the FDP in particular), the German left is going to have a good year, and red-green coalitions are the favourites in most states. Baden-Württemberg, which has a CDU/FDP government, will be a major test for the Greens where they’re riding in second place far ahead of the SPD. They could be on track to forming the first ever green-red coalition, an option which could also come out of the polls in Berlin where the Greens are neck-and-neck with Klaus Wowereit’s SPD. In Hamburg, which votes early after a black-green coalition collapsed earlier this year, the SPD is the big favourite while the Greens are left fighting the CDU for distant second. In Bremen back in 2007, the Greens won their strongest state result ever with 16.4% and they’re favoured to break that record at least twice next year. FDP supporters will have a very bad year, most likely, as their party struggles badly federally and is fighting to retain representation in all states even in Baden-Württemberg, one of their strongest states.
Denmark: Denmark votes in a key parliamentary election sometime before November 12, and a referendum on abolishing Denmark’s EU opt-outs might also be held that day. In power since 2001, the right-wing Venstre-led government is down in polls. Venstre itself trails the Social Democrats by increasingly wide margins, although the Social Democrats themselves are polling rather weakly. Instead, the left-wing Socialist People’s Party is keeping up its high polling numbers, registering as the third party. It had already won one of its best results since the late 80s in 2007, and now seems likely to win its best result ever. The far-right Danish People’s Party suffered quite a bit after it voted in favour of the government’s austerity-style budget and thus alienated a good part of its electorate, and thus might lose ground after increasing its vote share in every single election thus far.
Switzerland: Federal elections will be held in Switzerland on October 23. Of course the government won’t change, but the strength of the major parties will be worth tracking. The populist right-wing SVP remains ahead in polls, though about at 2007 level. All other parties seem to be at their 2007 levels as well.
Spain: Regional and local elections on May 22. Held a year before the 2012 general elections, Spanish local elections between 1995 and 2003 all picked correctly the winner of the general election the next year (the PP narrowly won the 2007 locals, but lost in 2008). Regional elections in 13 of the 17 regions (all those regions with no special autonomy status) will be held alongside local elections in all regions. The economic crisis, which has hurt Spain a lot (with the housing bubble burst and 20% unemployment) has hurt Zapatero’s two-term Socialist government which now trails the conservative PP in polls. However, the PP’s Mariano Rajoy remains unpopular and the PP has suffered from its share of corruption scandals. Yet, the economic crisis will likely prevail in voters’ mind and put PSOE administrations (or, in Cantabria, a regionalist-PSOE administration) in Aragon, Asturias, the Balearic Islands, Cantabria and Castilla-La Mancha at risk.
Finland: Mari Kiviniemi, the new 42-year old Prime Minister of Finland, must defend her spot on April 17. Her Centre Party is in a narrow third, though all three major parties remain at or slightly below their 2007 level, when they were in reality all tied up. The right-wing National Coalition Party, in government as the Centre’s junior partner, is ahead but falls below its 2007 level. The SDP is second, but also falls behind its 2007 level as does the Centre. The main winner of these elections could likely be the far-right True Finns, who are polling nearly 15% (they won 4.1% in 2007).
Croatia: Croatia’s centre-right HDZ government only narrowly and surprisingly survived in 2007, but is facing a landslide humiliation at the end of 2011. In office since 2009, Jadranka Kosor temporarily managed to perk the HDZ’s head up a bit but the party has been wrecked by corruption and especially by former Prime Minister Ivo Sanader who resigned suddenly in July 2009, attempted a comeback in 2010 before fleeing the country to escape prosecution for high-profile corruption cases. He has since been arrested in Austria, after his head was placed on Interpol’s most wanted list. The Social Democrat-led opposition has united as the Alliance for Change, a broad coalition which now has a 20 point lead over the HDZ in polls. Also in Croatia, though maybe not in 2011, a referendum will be held on the EU Accession Treaty which Croatia will be signing soon. Polls have indicated a narrow lead for the yes.
Turkey: Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s AKP government is up for reelection on June 12. After its crushing wins in 2002 and 2007, weaker results in the 2009 locals and 2010 referendum might mean that the AKP might face a slightly tougher challenge although it remains heavily favoured over the eternally incompetent and hapless CHP. If victorious, the AKP plans to draft a new constitution altogether, emboldened by the successful approval of its constitutional reforms in a vote earlier this year.
Italy (potential): An election might be held in Italy in 2011 if Silvio Berlusconi’s coalition finally collapses some day. Yet, if there’s an election, it will likely be one of the most interesting of 2011. Berlusconi will be fighting for yet another term, but without his former ally Gianfranco Fini who might create some sort of coalition with Casini’s UDC. The left will try to make gains out of Berlusconi’s unpopularity, but faced with a poor leadership it remains unable to win anything. Polls indicate a narrow lead for the right, with the Lega Nord making important gains at the expense of Berlusconi’s PdL. Fini’s new Future and Freedom is not doing all that well, with barely 4-5% of voting intentions against 5-6% for the UDC. The PD continues doing poorly, the IdV is down a bit from its heights in 2009 but Nichi Vendola’s Left and Freedom (a new-left type coalition) is doing decently with 6-7%.
France: This is probably me being a French electoral nerd, but cantonal elections in March will probably be fun. It will be a test of Sarkozy’s popularity a year before the big year, but a test which takes place in a context where the left is on the defensive – the cantons up in 2004 are up in 2011, and 2004 was already a ‘red wave’. The left will target departments such as Jura, Hautes-Alpes, Pyrénées-Atlantiques, Cote-d’Or, Aveyron and Vienne where the right has a very weak majority. The right has less targets, but Allier, Val-d’Oise, Seine-et-Marne and Ain are its big targets. Within the left, the Greens buoyed by their 2009-2010 successes and their recent consolidation into a new party will seek to build a cantonal base where it very weak. Though cantonals are not good for the FN, their result and their effect in runoffs will be worth watching. These will also be the last cantonal elections before the planned 2014 territorial reform. Later, in September, part of the Senate is up and the left is extremely optimistic of its chances to gain a majority in the Senate for the first time since 1958.
Africa and Asia
South Sudan: South Sudan holds a crucial independence referendum, or so it claims, on January 9. The victory of the yes seems inevitable, so what will be worth watching is how the vote takes place – if there’s any violence – and how Sudan and other African countries will react the quasi-certain victory of the independence option. Not much is known thus far, except that it is very important and might set an important precedent for Sudan and the rest of Africa.
Zambia: A presidential and parliamentary election, two years after the special presidential election in 2008, will be held sometime in 2011 in Zambia. Rupiah Banda of the Movement for Multi-Party Democracy (MMD), first elected in a 2008 by-election to fill the rest of deceased President Lewy Mwanawasa’s term. The MMD, a pro-western party which has been one of the most vocal opponents of Mugabe next door in Zimbabwe, had narrowly retained the presidency in 2008 against the populist pro-Mugabe Michael Sata of the Patriotic Front (PF). Banda is running again, and Sata probably will run again setting up a very close and interesting contest.
Liberia: Liberia’s presidential contest, on October 11, is shaping up to be an interesting race. President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, first elected in 2005 and the only elected female head of state in Africa, is running for reelection. Opposing her, the other two main contenders in the 2005 contest: footballer George Weah and Liberty Party leader Charles Brumskine have announced their intentions to form a coalition and run a single ticket to oppose Sirleaf. It is unknown which of Weah or Charles Brumskine will head the ticket.
Thailand: Thais will likely get to vote in 2011, maybe in November. Abhisit Vejjajiva’s centre-right Democrat government seems popular enough, but the result of the latest incarnation of the Thaksin Shinawatra clan (they’re now the Pheu Thai Party) is hard to predict and will probably one of the key things to watch in this election, as well as the impact of an election on the political chaos in the country since 2006/2008.
New Zealand: Sometime by the end of 2011, a general election and a referendum will be held in New Zealand. John Key’s centre-right National Party seems to be the favourites to win a second term (and likely will win an even bigger majority), and in doing so will likely be able to get rid of ACT as a coalition partner, especially given that the small libertarian ACT is facing political death. The referendum on electoral reform is likely to be much more interesting. First, voters will decide whether they want to stick with the MMP system or get rid of it. If they want to get rid of it, they have a choice between FPTP, preferential voting, STV and supplementary member (the latter is supported by most MMP opponents). Polls, as they always are in these types of scenarios, are all over the place.
These are not the only elections in 2011, of course, and neither are they the only elections which will be covered on this blog. As well, there will probably be a bunch of elections which are not scheduled right now or elections which don’t seem very interesting now but which will end up being quite interesting when they’re held. Which 2011 elections are you looking forward to the most?