Monthly Archives: April 2011

Election Preview: Canada 2011

Canada votes in a snap parliamentary election on May 2. I suppose the main question on everybody’s mind right now is what the hell’s going on and why the hell is it happening?

For those who don’t know what I’m referring to, the NDP has pulled in second place ahead of the Liberals in all recent serious polls and are inching ever so close to Harper’s Tories – a gap either as big as 6-7 or as small as 3 points. In Quebec, the NDP is pegged far ahead of the Bloc Québécois by all recent serious polls and most recent polling numbers in Quebec show the NDP averaging as high as 40% in la belle province. Here’s the average for the recent polls from the top pollsters released today or yesterday (today’s EKOS, today’s Nanos 3-day rolling sample, yesterday’s Harris-Decima and Wednesday’s online Angus-Reid)

Conservatives 35.2%
NDP 30.2%
Liberals 21.5%
Bloc 6%
Greens 5.7%

In Quebec, the NDP is between 38% and 42%. The Bloc trails with something between 22% and 29%. Liberals and Tories trail far behind in the mid to low teens, the Greens barely registering. In battleground Ontario, the Liberals seem to be holding on to second with something in the range of 26%-34% with the Tories between 33% and 39% and the NDP between 25% and 29%.

Quebec’s sample has a margin of error of roughly 4% (6% or so in Nanos and HD’s case) while Ontario has a margin of error of 3% (5.5% or so in Nanos and HD’s case). BC’s margin of error is higher, between 5% and 8% and we need to begin mining for salt here, but the Tories are both confirmed as being down either somewhat or significant from their 44% 2008 result to something in between 36 and 44% but down to 36% according to EKOS which has a small 5% MOE in BC. In the province, the NDP is between 30 and 35% with the Liberals below their disastrous 19% showing in 2008 in the 15-18% range. Alberta and the Prairies have higher MOEs, and Tories leading while the useless Atlantic samples with the largest MOEs swing wildly. I intend to post polling averages for the final two days in the comments section of this post, or you can find them on the ThreeHundredEight website.

Here comes the questions. These are my questions, not questions from specific readers. As a note, I don’t do official predictions.

Why on earth did this happen?

The NDP surge started in Quebec and was shortly thereafter “picked up” in the West and finally Ontario. The NDP and Liberals became tied on April 20 and by the 23 or 24, the NDP established itself as the second party in polls.

The NDP surge in Quebec can be partly attributed to a strong performance by Jack Layton in the French debates and a terrible Bloc campaign. Duceppe started off his campaign riding high in polls and most assumed he’d ride unencumbered through April. But the crucial thing was that the Bloc lacked a message. Its message was a terrible “vote for us because, uh, we’re the Bloc and, uh, we defend your interests”. In the Bloc’s good years – 1993, 2004, 2006 and arguably 2008 it had a message which resonated. 1993 was Meech and sovereignty. 2004 and 2006 was Adscam (commandites in French) and 2008 was against Harper’s ill-advised move to cut cultural funding. When the Bloc has a clear message which resonates – as it did in 1993, 2004, 2006 and the second half of 2008 it wins big. When the Bloc lacks a clear message, as it did in 1997 and 2000, it fails. The Bloc also stupidly interpreted the big lead for the PQ in provincial voting intentions and the euphoria at the recent PQ convention as a blank cheque to talk sovereignty. The PQ’s lead in polls isn’t the same kind of lead as it had been in 1993 or 1994. This lead isn’t widespread euphoria for sovereignty (which is, arguably, dead for the moment) but is rather the usual vote for an uninspiring opposition because the government (Charest) is as popular as the plague. The Bloc started talking about sovereignty, and attempted to say that you should vote Bloc because it would make sovereignty possible again. When parties do this in Quebec, it usually explodes in their face. The people dug themselves out of the hole they had been shoved into by the Bloc and looked around. Harper has made it clear that his majority-strategy of 2011 doesn’t pass through Quebec much (unlike in 2007-2008) and Harper is widely unpopular in Quebec where his approval ratings are probably the worst. Ignatieff isn’t seen as credible, and the Liberals have clearly been dealt a fatal blow by Adscam in the province. Layton has all the advantages. He’s genuinely likable, speaks good French, has left-wing policies in line with a left-wing province and has managed to become both the federalist option and the soft nationalist-I don’t care about sovereignty anymore option. He has made a case of targeting Quebec since the Outremont by-election in 2007 and has doubled up his efforts in this election.

In the rest of Canada, a whole slew of factors has been going on. The Tory attack ads on Michael Ignatieff’s character and biography have become a staple on television since 2008 and the Tories have clearly succeeded in socializing the average voter to the image of Ignatieff as an opportunist, elitist, arrogant hypocrite “who didn’t come back for you”. The Liberals decided to keep all their ads fund for the campaign and thus allowed this image to take root. I don’t know who runs the Liberal campaigns since 2008 or so, but clearly a toddler could run a better campaign than that failtrain. But at any rate, Harper himself isn’t very popular: he has underwater approval ratings with roughly 50% disapproving and 40% or so approving. Fortunately for him, he has a committed rock-solid base which guarantees him a high floor which is certainly no lower than 33-35%. But the ceiling is low, in the 40-42% range (which is majority territory, fortunately for him).

To Ignatieff’s credit, he himself hasn’t turned out to be a bad campaigner and his personal style on the stump isn’t bad. By all measures, the Liberals had a good kick-off and prior to the debates managed to instill, somewhat, a rhetoric that they were the alternative to Harper and did steal a few NDP votes, largely in Ontario. But Ignatieff did poorly in the debates. In English (which I didn’t watch), he apparently appeared arrogant and unable to talk about his platform. He might have focused too much on the “contempt of Parliament” and attacks on Harper for his own good. In French, he did well, but he came off as a Trudeau-like centralist Liberal which is clearly poison to many Quebeckers. Layton did well in both debates and got himself out there as a good alternative. People like him, and is the only leader who has non-negative favourable ratings. Harper comes across as a stale robot, Ignatieff comes across as an arrogant professor who doesn’t care about you. As aforementioned, Harper’s appeal outside the Tory base is weak. Ignatieff appeals to nobody. Finally, the NDP surge in Quebec made him look even more credible an alternative to English Canada. He has managed to catch the fledgling voter who doesn’t like Harper but dislikes Ignatieff just as much (or more). Personality seems to be key in the NDP surge, and not policies (the Liberal and NDP policy is very similar).

Is Harper’s majority gone?

My gut feeling is that the elusive majority is getting further and further away from the Tories. A vast majority of predictions either indicate that Harper will have a strengthened minority or, more recently, a reduced minority but a majority is not seriously predicted. While a Tory majority now seems increasingly unlikely, there are a few things which make it still within the realm of possibilities. As far as I have polling data (2004), the governing party underpolled from the final poll to its election day numbers. In 2008, the Tories were pegged by most pollsters 35-36% and took 38%. The Liberals underpolled, as the governing party, in 2004 and 2006. The Tories could very well still win 38-39% of the vote even if the average for them seems to be in the 35-36% range. Secondly, the Tories will find the seats they need for a majority (around 11 seats, 10 if you count the independent Arthur as a Tory) in Ontario.

Polling places the Tories at their 2008 level (38%) in the key battleground province of Ontario, with the Liberals down either slightly or by as big as 6% from their 33.8% result in the province and the NDP up 7-8%. The NDP surge has touched Ontario, undeniably, but later than all other provinces and perhaps with weaker intensity. In some key Liberal-Tory marginals in Brampton, Mississauga and the GTA region, where the NDP is rarely in a winning position, a split in the non-Tory vote could allow for some Tory pickups in those key 905 seats. Add to that some potential gains in the Maritimes and you could get your Tory majority even if the Tories don’t enter 40%-majority territory. But beware that the Tories can lose seats in Quebec – where they’re down 6-8% from 2008 – and in the Prairies/BC, where most fights are Tory-NDP. The bottom line for the elusive majority: likely? Less and less so. Possible? Definitely.

Will Laytonmania go the way of Cleggmania?

This is a definite possibility. The reasons for it are plenty, but you can think of equally as many reasons that it won’t. Voters might be toying around with the idea of voting NDP, but it is certainly possible that on polling day they’ll go back to the old instincts of voting for the established parties (Tories, Grits and Bloc) be it for traditional reasons or for strategic reasons. The NDP overpolled a bit in 2008, were in the low end of their margin of error in 2006. Some voters might be scared away from voting NDP because they dislike the prospect of Layton as a potential Prime Minister, but given his high ratings and the fact that he isn’t that scary (he might be to those who’d never vote NDP to begin with) makes it more unlikely. In provinces such as Ontario and BC which have bad experiences with NDP provincial governments, some voters might be scared away because of that. The not so popular NDP government in Nova Scotia might prove a stumbling block for the NDP in that province with the best NDP pickup opportunities outside Quebec. The NDP may also be hurt more than you think by the lack of strong ground organization – their ground organization in Quebec is apparently quite poor and they have lots of paper candidates (including a former Communist Party candidate, amusingly).

But there are certain things which make the NDP surge hard to block. If the Liberals continue to drive off cliffs, the NDP could become the only serious alternative and they might benefit from strategic voting from some Liberals and bloquistes. It might be the Liberals, taking the spot of third party the NDP was in the past, who underperform the polls after all. In Quebec in particular, parties aren’t necessarily hurt by lack of good ground organization. The ADQ had no serious grassroots in 2007 and elected a bunch of paper candidates (who turned out to be dunces). The PCs elected a bunch of paper candidates as well in the 1984 blue wave. The NDP surge, unlike Cleggmania, also comes late and built up progressively and not overnight as the alleged LibDem surge did (it is questionable whether the LibDem surge really happened or was only crappy polling). A ‘Red Scare’ type campaign is possible, but it would be late and desperate and the NDP isn’t a scary socialist party as, say, the CCF in the 1940s. Its only effect might be to shore up Tory support from right-wingers who never considered voting NDP.

The last ‘NDP surges’ federally, which, as far as I remember were in 1988 and 1943, also came way out from election day. In 1943, it was two years out from the 1945 federal election and gave plenty of time to coopt their platform (as Mackenzie King and George Drew did) or call them communists. In the 1980s and 1988, the NDP started the campaign off polling strongly (and Liberals weakly) but the Liberals found their way back (through the debate) and NDP support finally fell off in the final weeks. The debates are now over, the election is imminent and a major surge-blocker would be desperate and unlikely (the royal wedding also steals media coverage on Friday).

Will the NDP become the Official Opposition?

I think the chances of this are, if the NDP surge is sustained, well over 90%. A Liberal comeback appears very unlikely at this point, and a Bloc comeback is equally unlikely (but Quebec is prone to weird and huge swings, so who knows). The key to the NDP forming the official opposition is probably the amount of gains in Quebec. It’s hard to say whether NDP gains in Quebec will come in droves or in trickles. Quebec works in weird ways, and I shy away from predicting what might happen especially in uncharted waters like this. But at any rate, it seems likely that Jack Layton will lead the opposition after May 2.

Where will Quebec NDP gains come from?

We’re working in uncharted waters, and your guess are probably as good as mine (and the ‘pundits’). Swing-o-metres never work in Quebec, and with the support patterns changing so much since 2008 it’s very hard to predict. Gains are certain, their location and overall totals are unknown. Riding polls are done a lot in Quebec, and that’s good, but sadly they’re quite worthless and ought to be taken with loads of salt. They indicate what’s going on, but sometimes they’re way off the mark.

The general feeling is that the NDP’s gains will be concentrated in urban areas such as Montreal, Quebec and their suburbs but also smaller towns such as Sherbrooke, Gatineau, Drummondville, Trois Rivières and so forth. Rural Quebec seems more impenetrable, but if a wave really happens on May 2 everything is possible. The most optimistic projections have the NDP going up to over 40 seats in Quebec, and the Bloc could very well be reduced to less than 20 MPs and become, largely, a rump caucus from rural Quebec like Social Credit was in the 70s. A result under 40 seats is almost a quasi-certainty, and a result below 30 seats might be the most likely.

The most likely gain is Gatineau – the NDP came within 3 of the Bloc in 2008 and it seems certain that the NDP will win easily this time. The NDP gain in Gatineau will probably facilitate a gain in next-door Hull-Aylmer from longtime Liberal MP Marcel Proulx and also in Pontiac where Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon is in a close contest and could face a “spillover effect” from Gatineau.

Other gains will likely come from the 514 (Montreal) area, with the top two targets being Jeanne-Le Ber (southwest Montreal and Verdun), Westmount-Ville-Marie. Jeanne-Le Ber, which includes working-class and low-income areas of southwestern Montreal and Verdun is demographically favourable to the Dippers. Westmount-Ville-Marie hinges on the NDP being strong in the part of Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, a trendy neighborhood, included in the riding as well as the multicultural trendy areas in downtown Montreal. The very wealthy Westmount Anglo enclave seems unlikely, unless the NDP can also overtake the Liberals as the party of Anglos. The NDP also has its eyes set on a whole slew of other things in the 514/450 area. On the island, other top targets include Ahuntsic (where the Liberals also stand a real chance), Hochelaga, Laurier-Sainte-Marie (Duceppe’s riding), Rosemont-La-Petite-Patrie, Papineau (from Justin Trudeau) and perhaps even West Island Liberal strongholds such as Notre-Dame-de-Grâce-Lachine or Lac-Saint-Louis.

On the South Shore, the top target is Saint-Lambert (where a pickup seems dependent on both Bloc bleeding and Liberal bleeding) but the Liberal seat of Brossard-La Prairie is high on the list, which at the pace things seem to be going should be extended to include Châteauguay-Saint-Constant, Verchères-Les Patriotes and Longueuil-Pierre-Boucher. The Laval ridings, which are currently split 3-1 Bloc/Liberal are all NDP targets but how winnable they are is totally unknown.

Outside the Montreal area, the top 3 targets are Drummond, Brome-Missisquoi and Abitibi-Baie-James-Nunavik-Eeyou. Brome-Missisquoi is a Bloc-Liberal marginal which a recent riding poll showed as winnable by both NDP and the Liberals. The NDP hopes to gain Abitibi-Baie-James-Nunavik-Eeyou because of its star candidate, Cree leader Romeo Saganash. Drummond, centered around Drummondville, is demographically favourable to the NDP. A recent poll in Trois Rivières has shown the NDP far ahead of the Bloc incumbent in the working-class city whose demographics make it naturally NDP.

But the surge places the Tories on the defensive as well. A poll has shown Tory cabinet minister Jean-Pierre Blackburn’s Jonquière-Alma riding is vulnerable to the NDP – but 2007 by-election winner and incumbent Tory Denis Lebel has really built up a stronghold in next-door Roberval-Lac-Saint-Jean. Outside Saguenay, the Conservatives are facing tough races in all three of their seats in Quebec City, with Beauport-Limoilou being most likely to go but also affecting high-profile Quebec Conservative Josée Verner in Louis-Saint-Laurent, traditionally presumed to be the Conservative bastion in the city. Independent wet Tory André Arthur has no Tory opponent (for obvious reasons: he’s a Tory in all but name) but his Portneuf-Jacques-Cartier riding is vulnerable to the NDP (and not the Bloc, as it would have been pre-surge). While I wouldn’t bet on it, a NDP sweep of all Quebec City is possible. The South Shore Tory block of MPs in the Chaudières-Appalaches is hard to predict: riding polls in two of the five ridings in the region have the Tories slightly ahead of the NDP. Only Beauce’s Maxime Bernier is safe. Your guess is as good as mine in Quebec, overall.

What about NDP gains outside Quebec?

In Ontario, the NDP might have maxed-out in 2008 with strong gains throughout northern Ontario which makes major gains in 2011 unlikely. The closest targets are seats like Kenora, but an NDP surge in the province would make Liberal seats with distant NDP challengers in Toronto quite vulnerable. These include, of course, Parkdale-High Park, but also previously safe Liberal Beaches-East York and Davenport. Outside of those seats, the NDP could edge out the Liberals for second in plenty of old blue-collar areas in southwest Ontario (Brant, Cambridge, Essex and so forth) and shore up marginals such as Welland and Sudbury, but significant gains appear unlikely.

In the Maritimes, the NDP’s surge adds Liberal Nova Scotia riding such as Sydney-Victoria, Dartmouth-Cole Harbour, Halifax West to the list which invariably includes the old Tory-NDP marginal of South Shore-St. Margaret’s. In Newfoundland, St. John’s South-Mount Pearl is the only NDP target. Neither New Brunswick (which has one NDP MP, Yvon Godin) and PEI (the NDP’s weakest province) have any winnable targets for the Dippers.

In the Prairies, the Liberal by-election win in Winnipeg North is more likely than not gone by now (though interestingly the Liberals won present-day Winnipeg North in 1988, the previous NDP record high). The NDP has serious hopes in Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar which appears more winnable that anytime before with Palliser and maybe Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River as longshots in the land of cradle of the NDP. In Alberta, Edmonton-Strathcona will more likely than not return the NDP’s Linda Duncan to the shagrin of the Tories who might also have a race in their hands in Edmonton East.

In British Columbia, the NDP has three targets. Two of them: Surrey North and Vancouver Island North are Tory seats. The final one, Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca is held by retiring Liberal MP Keith Martin who had a strong personal vote which means that the contest is actually Tory-NDP. The Liberals polled awfully in BC in 2008, a mere 19%, and the Tories polled a strong 44% which means that the Liberals, if they improve only minimally, can still hope for pickups (in North Vancouver or West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country) and allow Ujjal Dosanjh to breathe a bit in Vancouver South where the Tories shocked us by coming so close to taking him out.

Will ‘ABC’ go away in Newfoundland and allow for Tory gains?

The Conservatives, you’ll remember, had been destroyed by the ‘anything but Conservative’ campaign on the island led by popular PC Premier Danny Williams. But since then he’s retired and the NL PCs have started mending bridges with Harper. Harper has been targeting Newfoundland somewhat, and has good candidates in the two seats where the Tories stand a chance: Avalon and St. John’s South-Mount Pearl. Former MP Fabian Manning, now a Senator, is running again in Avalon where the Tories lost by 10 points to Liberal Scott Andrews. In St. John’s South-Mount Pearl, the Tories have Loyola Sullivan, a popular provincial politician. But polls in both of those ridings have shown the Tories trailing either narrowly (by 4 or so in Avalon) or badly (placing third in St. John’s South-Mount Pearl). Perhaps Newfoundlanders won’t come back to Harper’s fold after all.

What about the Greens?

This campaign hasn’t been kind to the Greens. Their exclusion from the debates certainly didn’t help, and neither did the fact that the environment didn’t feature prominently in the campaign. Pollsters such as Nanos do not prompt the Greens when polling, which reduces their numbers but those might be closer to reality given that the Greens overpoll. The Green campaign has been entirely a “Elect Elizabeth May” campaign, focused on the leader’s campaign against Tory cabinet minister Gary Lunn in Saanich-Gulf Islands (BC) at the price of running paper candidates everywhere else. That will likely mean that the Green vote will suffer outside Saanich-Gulf Islands. But in Saanich-Gulf Islands, May has emerged as the uncontested ‘progressive’ candidate and an internal poll has her 7 points ahead of Lunn. Which means that while the Greens will suffer overall, they could finally elect their first MP.

Greens in FPTP countries often need to decide whether they take out the bazookas in one key riding they’re putting their leader and all their resources on or if they run decent candidates everywhere with decent campaigns to maximize their national vote. Just ask Caroline Lucas.

Will high(er) turnout have an effect?

Probably, but I don’t know in which way. Advance polling turnout was up 35% from 2008. The Tories have the most motivated, most solid base. They voted heavily in 2008, and will do so again in 2011. I didn’t crunch 2008 turnout numbers, but my gut feeling is that higher turnout could, I repeat could be favourable to the opposition forces – NDP mostly nowadays. But I don’t think higher turnout means that the Tories will do worse than expected or alter results that drastically because polling is, as far as I know, rather competent in taking into consideration such things.

Will this lead to realignment along real left-right lines?

The old dream of the CCF/NDP is realigning the Canadian political system along traditional left (NDP)-right (Conservatives) lines at the expense of the Liberals. But the Liberals emerged as the ‘natural party of government’ in Canada taking up, in the past, Quebec, Catholics, Francophones, new Canadians and urban voters. But with the NDP as the official opposition, could this be the end of the road for Canada’s oldest party?

It could well be. Parties of government usually cannot adapt to long-term stints in opposition, and the Liberals certainly have not been able to deal with the fact that they’ve been out of power since 2006. If it cannot claim the mantle of sole governing alternative to the right, it will be left in dire straits. It would make the oft talked about NDP/Liberal merger far more likely, or it would consolidate the NDP as the governing alternative to the Conservatives.

But as I said earlier a lot of this surge is because Layton is more likable than Ignatieff. Layton certainly won’t be there forever – he recently fought off a minor cancer himself – and once he retires it remains to be seen if the NDP can come up with a leader of his caliber. His Quebec lieutenant Thomas Mulcair is probably the obvious successor, but could he connect with voters as well as Layton?

If in opposition – or even government – the NDP must then prove itself. It certainly has talented individuals, but could a whole slew of new faces be as competent? Canadian history has plenty of parties which surged into opposition and collapsed into obscurity for various reasons – the ADQ being the latest example. Furthermore, with the NDP, traditionally irrelevant in Quebec, facing a very large Quebec caucus, it opens up a can of worms. Certain NDP candidates in Quebec are very soft nationalist – one advocates the province’s right to opt out from every federal program with financial compensation. How would the old guard of the NDP respond to this? Plus, a whole bunch of new NDP MPs vying for some sort of position of power within caucus could mean some backroom infighting between older MPs and new MPs.

The death of the Liberals?

Realignment along a strict two-party system seems very unlikely. Ignoring the Bloc for a second, Canada just hasn’t had a real two-party system since 1921. As mentioned above, plenty of parties have surged into second place and proceeded to collapse into obscurity quickly thereafter. While the Liberals have never finished third federally, the Tories have but they still never died. The PCs didn’t die after the 1993 rout of epic proportions. The Liberals have finished third in Ontario provincially before but never died. When Bob Rae lost in 1995, he did so to the third party in the legislature – Mike Harris’ Tories, not the second party. I could go on with comparisons, but I think they’re not very relevant. Especially links to provincial politics in the past.

If the Liberals – the party of government, the unifying party, the top broker – finishes third, they will be facing tougher days than the Tories faced in 1921 and 1993. Nothing in the Liberal Party’s history has prepared them to finish third and risk being overtaken on the centre/centre-left by the NDP. Unlike a party with strong ideological traditions such as the NDP or even the Tories, the Liberals finishing third isn’t something that they can dig themselves out of easily. Especially if the Liberals post-May 2 are basically a rump of MPs from Toronto and Vancouver.

The Liberals won’t die in 2011 or 2012, I think nobody is saying that unless they’re hacks. But they will be facing tough times and will need to hunt for a leader which can reinvent the party, shoot it up with steroids and take on a winning strategy to appeal to progressives who abandoned them to the NDP and to old Blue Grits who abandoned them to the Tories. Is it easy? Obviously not. Is it possible? Everything is possible, but this isn’t the most possible of things.

The end of the road for the Bloc?

The Bloc’s troubles reflect the troubles of the sovereignty option in Quebec. It just isn’t on the table for the average voter in Quebec any longer, and those people are more and more likely to turn away from any party which seeks to make it an option. The PQ might/will form the next government provincially, but that’s only because Jean Charest has the approval ratings of the rat in your kitchen.

A rout for the Bloc means Gilles Duceppe can finally retire, probably in favour of Pierre Paquette, his competent lieutenant, but calls into questions the party’s raison-d’etre not by the Anglophone population who questions the party’s  raison-d’etre since 1993 but by Quebec itself. I’ve talked above about how crucial a ‘message’ is for the Bloc if it wants to win an election. The message ‘interests of Quebec’ doesn’t seem to work these days, but it isn’t necessarily a message which will never work. Say Layton retires – can his successor appeal to Quebec as much? Layton’s the main cause for the NDP surge at any rate, but can another NDP leader be as good in Quebec?

I’m not writing off the Bloc personally, because I believe it can still find a winning message (sovereignty isn’t one and won’t be one for quite some time unless things change drastically) and it can work its way back up if the NDP – with a new leader (Layton won’t last forever) – can’t appeal as much (or if they screw things up, a la ADQ) and the Liberals/Tories continue to have weak support in the 15-25% range. But one day, I don’t know when – I might not live to see it, something will happen in Quebec which leads either to a rejuvenation of sovereignty or the death of sovereignty altogether and with it the Bloc and PQ. In the short term, as with the Liberals, the route ahead for le Bloc isn’t very nice and it has lots of looming potholes in it.

OK, the Tories get another minority. What’s next?

Harper will probably get the most seats – something between 130 and 150 seats seems a good estimate. He would be asked to form government and go to the House quickly to table his budget which was presented the week the writs were dropped. It had no concessions to the NDP or Liberals, who opposed it. Harper could very well table the same budget with no concessions, it’s in character to do such things. Or he could table a budget with some concessions and goodies for either Dippers or Grits. If the budget has no concessions, the opposition parties will be pressed to deny his government supply (which entails loss of confidence). Ignatieff already talked of such a situation, and Layton probably has it on his mind as well. The opposition could advise the Governor-General that they can form an alternative government without having another election. As in 1926, the GG would call on Layton (or Ignatieff, if the Liberals salvage second place) to form government. Considering that Layton would already have discussed this possibility with other parties, he would certainly accept. It could either be a formal coalition – which Canada has never had (Borden’s war government included Liberals who crossed the floor to support him) – or a deal where the Liberals (and a weak Bloc) prop up a NDP minority. Ignatieff will probably be packing his bags if this occurs, which means the Liberals would be choosing a new leader (such as Bob Rae) to lead them either a junior governing party or a ‘supporter from outside’.

Harper could prorogue again and hide from a Parliament which denies him supply. But unlike in 2008, when he prorogued after having passed a Throne Speech (and thus confidence), he wouldn’t have passed the test of confidence if he prorogues before the budget is even voted on. If the Liberals and NDP have over 155 seats to themselves, he couldn’t use the ‘evil separatist’ case. Even if they don’t and depend on a weak Bloc, it would be a Bloc with a much reduced caucus and as a distant fourth (not a strong third) party, and thus not as scary.

The Liberals would be in tough waters. If they prop up Harper, it would go against all they said about Harper being a grubby authoritarian in contempt of Parliament and make them look bad to their centre-left voters. If they prop up Layton, they risk losing the few remaining ‘Blue Liberals’ to the Tories. In a formal coalition, they would be the junior partner and entering totally uncharted waters. Junior coalition partners don’t have a great record across the world. But could the Liberals reemerge, with a new (and better) leader, out of a NDP-led government which would inevitably face issues related to new MPs, inexperience in governance and so forth?

The Conservative Party is an exercise in democratic centralism, but Harper will inevitably be facing some questions if he leads the party into a fourth election with no majority mandate out of any of them. Harper seems to have very strict control over his ranks, thus I don’t believe ideas of Tory infighting very much. But he can’t hold the party indefinitely if he can’t win a majority. His case would be made worse if the Tories lost seats.

A word on seat predictions

The Pundits’ Guide has a great post on the flaws of the predictions which spring up everywhere. The site in general is all-around excellent, especially for statistics and every number in the world of Canadian politics.

Why don’t you talk about riding X, a swing riding?

I’ve obviously not talked about every swing riding. That would take far too long, knowing how much I ramble on. There are many sites which look at ridings, the most famous of which is the old Election Prediction Project (EPP) which people love to bash but which still has a nearly 90% accuracy rate after all.

As always, I welcome additional questions. Sadly, I won’t be liveblogging on election day or election night because I’ll be working at the polls all day long and counting the votes (to ensure a Marxist-Leninist victory, obviously).

Nigeria 2011

A presidential election was held in Nigeria on April 16, 2011. These followed legislative elections earlier this month on April 9 and precedes gubernatorial elections on April 26. I unfortunately don’t know enough about Nigerian politics to offer a thorough overview, but I’ve picked up enough to throw together something which makes sense.

The stereotypical simplified battle in Nigerian politics, society and lots of other things is north/south. The north is Muslim, the south is Christian or traditionalist. This, not surprisingly, is an oversimplification. Although the north is indeed largely Muslim and largely Haussa it is not ethnically homogeneous. The south is even less of a monolithic bloc, as it is divided between two large ethnic blocks: the Ibo in the east and the Yoruba in the west. Summarizing it as Christian or traditionalist isn’t accurate either, given that Islam extends well into the Yorubaland of southwest Nigeria. Ethnic battles used to be the major fault line in Nigerian politics with religion being somewhat of a secondary factor (but still a potent factor), but since the 1990s or so religion has become a much more important factor and seemingly the dominant fault line in Nigerian politics and society. This has gone along with growing Muslim radicalization in the north, the introduction of sharia law in northern states and so forth.

Nigeria became a democracy of sorts in 1999 when a new constitution was adopted, elections held and civilian rule restored following the 1998 death of murderous dictator Sani Abacha in 1998. Olusegun Obasanjo, a Christian southerner who had previously been a military ruler in the late 70s overseeing a finally ill-fated return to democracy, ruled between 1999 and 2007. A Muslim northerner, Umaru Yar’Adua was elected in 2007 but finally died in 2010, being replaced by his southern Christian Vice President Goodluck Jonathan. The dominant party since 1999 is the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), a corrupt right-wing political machine used to rigging the polls (as it probably did in 2007). But one of the reasons for the PDP’s success is also that it is the only major cross-regional party. Although stronger in the south, the PDP is by no means a regional southern party and controls a good number of northern states (though not the biggest one, Kano). Its main rivals, until now the Action Congress (AC) and the All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP), were confined to specific regions. As always with the Nigerian opposition, it is wracked by regional, personal and ethnic divisions which prevent any meaningful cooperation.

Goodluck Jonathan, who has a wonderful first name and hat, was the PDP’s candidate for reelection. This caused friction with the north, who thinks that it was their turn at the job again. Indeed, the PDP has an unofficial rule of alternating the presidency between north and south. The losing opposition candidate since 2003 has been Muhammadu Buhari, a former military ruler between 1983 and 1985. Buhari, the ANPP candidate in 2003 and 2007, is a Muslim northerner. Buhari came to power in 1983 following the collapse of the chaotic Second Republic (1979-1983) and is credited for restoring order but were sidelined from power by other officers in 1985. He was running this time for the previously small Congress for Progressive Change (CPC). The AC, which is largely restricted to the Yoruba southwest, nominated Nuhu Ribadu (also a Muslim).

Goodluck Jonathan, to his credit, allowed for the freest and fairest elections in a long time. And because they were free, the PDP suffered substantial loses in legislative elections. Out of results declared so far, the PDP has kept its majority in the legislature but with 147 MPs and 57 Senators (thus far) it falls far below its 263 and 87 outgoing MPs and Senators. The AC has become the largest opposition force with 53 MPs and 14 Senators thus far (30 and 6 in 2007 respectively). The ANPP, which held 63 House seats and 14 Senate seats in 2007 has fallen to 20 House seats and 7 Senators with the CPC holding 35 MPs and 6 Senators.

Here are the presidential results:

Goodluck Jonathan (PDP) 58.89%
Muhammadu Buhari (CPC) 31.98%
Nuhu Ribadu (ACN) 5.41%
Ibrahim Shekarau (ANPP) 2.4%
16 others under 0.2% each

Goodluck dominated the south and broke 90% in his native Ibo-Ijaw Delta region (the old Biafra/Eastern Region). Buhari swept the north with varying margins, while Ribadu was seemingly confined to what is probably his home state (the Yoruba state of Osun). Goodluck’s results get better the closer you get to ‘Iboland’ in the Delta region, with the exception of Plateau state (a 70%+ Goodluck state bordering the north), which is apparently an historic stronghold of anti-northern and anti-Muslim populations who were often expelled from the Muslim far north. The map makes for a beautiful north-south split, which will allow the simplistic stereotype of north/south to live on. But it isn’t all wrong.

There were riots in the north, which isn’t all that surprising and the opposition has, in African style, rejected results but Buhari hasn’t shown that he has the determination to make a case out of it.

Finland 2011

A parliamentary election was held in Finland on April 17, 2011. I talked briefly about all this in a preview post and Who rules where had a great guest post about it as well. This was a very interesting election which ended in Finnish style of having the three main parties in a statistical tie. Here are the results:

National Coalition 20.4% (-1.9%) winning 44 seats (-6)
Social Democratic Party 19.1% (-2.3%) winning 42 seats (-3)
True Finns 19% (+14.9%) winning 39 seats (+34)
Centre 15.8% (-7.3%) winning 35 seats (-16)
Left Alliance 8.1% (-0.7%) winning 14 seats (-3)
Green League 7.2% (-1.3%) winning 10 seats (-5)
Swedish People’s Party 4.3% (-0.3%) winning 9 seats (nc)
Christian Democrats 4% (-0.9%) winning 6 seats (-1)
Others 0.4% (-0.1%) winning 1 seat (nc) – the Åland seat

Turnout was 70.4%, up 2.5% from 2007 to reach the highest turnout level since 1995.

It was, overall, a pretty bad night if you were a party other than the True Finns. Remarkably, all but one of the parliamentary parties lost votes. The National Coalition emerged as the largest party for the first time in its history and will most likely lead the next government for the first time since the 1987-1991 Holkeri KOK-led coalition. But KOK’s victory is somewhat Pyhrric, in that it lost votes and seats from its high-water mark in 2007. But considering KOK is the junior partner in the governing coalition, they didn’t lose all that badly. This may speak about the competence and skills of KOK leader and Finance Minister Jyrki Katainen. KOK didn’t lose as much support as, say, the governing Centre Party (KESK).

Prime Minister Mari Kiviniemi’s governing Centre Party (KESK) won its worst showing since the 1917 election and fell to fourth place (not for the first time, however). While she herself was popular and her support outstripped that of KESK, her party clearly paid the heavy price for the unpopular EU bailout of failing economies in Ireland and Greece, a major issue in this election. Kiviniemi has already announced that KESK will head back to the opposition benches after being in power since 2003.

The Social Democrats (SDP) performed relatively well, although they lost seats and votes, when you consider their leadership woes and the talk that the SDP’s leader, Jutta Urpilainen, is a poor leader. With a better leader, it could very well have done better but after the 2009 disaster (the EU elections) for the SDP this is a decent showing. The SDP likely benefited from a more populist and Euro-critical campaign, led in response to the rise of the True Finns. Still, this is SDP’s worst showing in a general election (somewhat surprisingly).

The Left (VAS) won its worst showing ever, although again after the 2009 disaster for VAS their vote held up remarkably well. The Greens were overestimated by pollsters and probably ended up paying a price for their participation in an unpopular government. The Greens will be headed to the opposition benches as well.

If there’s only one winner in this election, it has got to be the True Finns. Underestimated by pollsters, Timo Soini’s right-wing populist party has boosted its support by nearly 15% since 2007 and 9% since its previous high-water showing in the 2009 European elections. Timo Soini won the most votes of an individual candidate in this election, and has placed his party into a very strong third place. The True Finns benefited from a plethora of factors. In terms of issues, they were the main beneficiaries of the popular opposition to the EU bailouts of Greece and Ireland which was spearheaded by the KESK-KOK government and supported by the four-party government though opposed by the SDP. The potential bailout for Portugal – strongly opposed by PS – may have been a late boost to the True Finns who have made opposition to the bailouts and the European Stability Mechanism the universal cornerstone of their campaign. Immigration may not have been a major issue – PS candidates in rural areas didn’t talk about it (though they did in urban areas) but there is a growing and underlying fear in Finland that immigration is breaking the nation’s homogeneity and the PS was able to make issues out of Somali and Iraqi asylum seekers.

The True Finns’ eclectic platform mixing economic nationalism with social conservatism was a winning recipe in this election. PS’ defense of the welfare state and support for higher spending on social programs helped it significantly in a country with nearly 12% unemployment.

PS’ breakthrough is also a major defeat for the traditional system of Finnish politics. The three main parties, all moderate and traditional parties of government, have usually alternated in power. All three, plus the Swedes and others including the Greens have been in government at least once in the last ten years. There is little discernible difference between either of the three major parties, and such setup always benefits the populist right who can present themselves as a credible alternative and as a “people’s” alternative to the parties of the “elite”.

The above map, showing results by municipality, gives the impression of a KESK landslide. Despite coming fourth, KESK seems to have won most if not a majority of the 300-some municipalities in Finland and certainly won the most land area. Of course, KESK is an agrarian party and its roots remains in the sparsely populated municipalities of rural Finland. As such, it invariably dominates a map. KOK, on the other hand, is a ver urban party with strength in major cities and their suburbs. Most notably Helsinki, where KOK took 27% to the SDP’s 17.5% and the Greens’ 16.7%. KESK, meanwhile, took a paltry 4.5% in the Finnish capital. Interestingly, VAS did well in Helsinki (+3.6%) and may have taken some left-wing Green voters unhappy about their party’s participation in a centre-right coalition. The SDP is also a urban party, with most of its strength lying in small industrial towns or villages mostly in the south of Finland. The SFP, finally, have a strong and stable base in the Swedish municipalities along the coast. Åland is not included on this map because the mainland parties don’t run there.

I haven’t run through the towns where PS topped the poll, but overall they seem to be small suburban or exurban towns/villages outside a regional urban centre. Some of these towns seem to be unilingual Finnish towns close to Swedish-majority towns, areas where PS’ opposition to bilingual education might play well. PS’ electorate is largely male, poorly educated and more often than not working-class or lower middle-class. As mentioned in the preview post, PS drew votes from voters who previously did not vote as well as KESK voters in the rural north, old working-class SDP voters, some VAS voters and fewer KOK voters. PS likely drew very few old Green or SFP voters.

Now comes the tough part, forming a government. KESK and the Greens have already excluded themselves by saying that it’s back to the opposition for them (which is the best strategy for both if they want to regain lost support). KESK’s decision makes forming a coalition harder. Then there are the other issues. KOK is a strongly pro-European campaign and its leader Jyrki Katainen supports the bailouts, saying that is a common European cause. However, his two most likely partners – the SDP and PS – both oppose the bailouts and, in PS’ case, does so very strongly. Timo Soini has already made it clear that he’ll impose his veto on any bailout to Portugal. Jyrki Katainen, however, said that he didn’t want a party which opposes a potential Portuguese bailout in his cabinet. That was before the election, so nobody can really count this as set in stone. At any rate, media speculation is that the most likely outcome is a KOK/SDP/PS/SFP coalition. Outside the aforementioned issues with bailouts, SFP’s surprising inclusion in such a coalition shows that they’re a) whores but also says b) that this isn’t going to work too well. The SFP are whores, yes, in that they’ll work with anybody including Nazis if they’re bilingual. But PS isn’t too keen on the bilingual education issue (to say the least) and this might finally ruffle SFP’s feathers a bit. But at the end of the day, SFP might just be there for show in that it is not needed for anything (KOK/SDP/PS has a 125/200 majority). A cordon sanitaire is not a real option in Finland, and KESK’s decision makes one even more unlikely. A KOK/SDP coalition has 86 seats and, stretching it, an anti-PS coalition of KOK, SDP, VAS and SFP have a majority. But that isn’t speculated by anybody. Coalition talks begin on Thursday, and it’s too early to speculate. But Jyrki Katainen will most likely end up as Prime Minister.

PS is a party of big personalities; Timo Soini certainly shows that well as does the party’s eccentric mix of weird candidates. Its parliamentarians tend to be very independent personalities who invariably butt head with each others and seem to create a broad coalition rather than a cohesive parties. As thus, a party with big clashing personalities entering government may find it hard to prosper any further. Its anti-establishment rhetoric will certainly have to be toned down if it participates in the “establishment” that is government. It will risk association in the long term with unpopular policies the government will inevitably make. PS risks if not destruction than at least cloudy days from its internal incoherencies, diverse personalities and clashing platforms if it enters government. That may be one of the reasons why the establishment parties seem so eager to welcome PS into government.

Finland’s election might have a negative effect on Portugal and other struggling EU nations. PS’ victory and their likely inclusion in government throws a Portuguese bailout into doubt:  already interest rates on Portuguese bonds are ballooning.

Election Preview: Finland 2011

Parliamentary elections will be held in Finland on April 17, 2011. This election will likely get some attention in the world media, and it is an interesting election in a generally interesting country, so I’ve decided to do a brief preview of it. I don’t know enough about Finnish political history to do a traditional run-through of the recent political history, but instead I’ll spend more time on the parties.

How does it work?

Finland’s unicameral Parliament, the Eduskunta or Riksdag has 200 seats elected by proportional representation in 15 electoral districts. Wikipedia has a nice map of these districts which often correspond to the boundaries of one or two regions. Each district has a varying number of seats, except for the small islands of Åland who are automatically entitled to a single seat. At each election the number of citizens in each constituency is divided by the country’s total population and the result is then multiplied by 199 to get the number of seats in each district. In this election, this number varies between 6 (Southern Savonia, North Karelia) and 35 (Uusimaa). There is no threshold, but in practice districts with fewer seats have a higher informal threshold and bigger districts have a lower one. Voters cast their vote for a candidate within a party list.

The Parties

Finland has had a remarkably stable political system with three parties of roughly equal size – in the last election, the top three parties won 23%, 22% and 21% of the votes respectively. These three main parties are all old parties and have all been in power at least once in the past ten years.

The largest party in 2007, with 51 seats and 23% of the vote was the Centre Party (KESK). KESK is a centrist party of the Nordic agrarian tradition, founded in 1906. KESK is traditionally the dominant party, and is a generally a rather ideology-free party of power though not as much as the textbook examples of such parties. For example, KESK never won over 30% of the vote and its vote has been steady in the lower 20 range for most of its existence which is quite remarkable. KESK’s dominant figure of the Cold War era was Urho Kekkonen, who served as president between 1956 and 1982. Kekkonen and his predecessor as President, Juho Paasikivi, were caught between a rock and a hard place as Finland shared an extensive border with Soviet Union and had just lost a war to the Soviets during the course of World War II. The Soviets came to impose their will on Finland without turning it into a full satellite state, doing so through a 1948 treaty which recognized Finland’s ‘neutrality’ while the Finnish government engaged itself to supporting the Soviets if Moscow was attacked. This type of policy, derogatorily styled ‘finlandization’ consisted of not doing anything which might ruffle Moscow’s feather and taking pro-Soviet stances as part of ‘active neutrality’ such as defending a denuclearized zone in northern Europe (which would have, coincidentally, excluded the Russian Kola Peninsula). Incidentally, this policy allowed Finland to industrialize (the Soviets demanded reparations through metallurgical products or naval construction) and have full access to the Soviet market to sell its goods (and importing Soviet oil) while also trading with its western partners (passing a free trade deal with the EEC in 1973 and joining the EFTA in 1985).

KESK’s current leader and Prime Minister is Mari Kiviniemi, who took office in June 2010. She replaced Matti Vanhanen, the KESK Prime Minister between 2003 and 2010. Vanhanen fell over a financial scandal which involved KESK and the conservative KOK. Prominent businessmen were accused of having financed 53 politicians from KESK and KOK.

KOK’s support base is predominantly rural, which harks back to KESK’s place in the political spectrum as the traditional agrarian party. This old base includes large swathes of rural Finland’s small holders as well pietist religious movements within the Church of Finland. It has since expanded somewhat to include middle class small businessmen and some urban liberals though KESK remains particularly weak in Helsinki (7% in 2007) and in a lot of larger urban areas. Most of its support comes from northern remote areas where few people live, but where KESK has built up a strong machine over the years. Such things may help explain why KESK, which remains a traditional rural party in voter base and practice, has survived when its sister parties in Sweden and Norway struggle.

The National Coalition Party (KOK [yes, I know, cue the bad jokes]) with 22.3% and 50 seats in the 2007 election is the junior governing party, led by Jyrki Katainen. KOK originally emerged in 1918 as a coalition of monarchists, and has transitioned into a moderate conservative-libertarian party. Its hostility to Moscow and Kekkonen kept KOK out of all governments between 1966 and 1987, though since then it has been in all but two cabinets and led one of them between 1987 and 1991. The modern KOK is a modern European liberal party, supporting low taxes and low regulation. Strongly pro-European, the party has also become socially liberal – endorsing gay marriage at its 2010 convention.

KOK draws its support mostly from the middle-class and wealthy in densely populated southern Finland, and is the dominant centre-right force in Helsinki. KOK’s support is remarkably stable, moving in a 10% range between 13% and 23% since the war.

The Social Democratic Party (SDP) won 21.4% and 45 seats in 2007, making it the third largest party and the dominant opposition party. Very strong during the Russian era, it has oscillated between 19.5% and 27% of the vote since the war. Under the leadership of Väinö Tanner, the SDP attempted to regain the credibility it had lost in the eyes of moderates during the 1918 Finnish Civil War. This included taking a strong nationalist line and slightly less left-wing line compared to its Nordic neighbors. In the post-war era, the SDP adopted a staunchly pro-democracy line which put it on Moscow’s black list but which allowed it to generously supported by the CIA. Moscow’s influence kept the SDP out of cabinet for some stretch of time in the early Cold War days. It was in constant and active competition with the Communists for control of trade unions, whose electoral clientele remains important to the SDP to this day.

The SDP is strong in working-class areas, especially the lumber areas of southeastern Finland. The SDP won its worst electoral result ever in the 2009 European elections (17.5%) and its leader Jutta Urpilainen seems to be facing internal wrangling.

The Left Alliance (VAS) was the fourth party in 2007, with 8.8% and 17 seats in 2007. VAS emerged in 1990 from a merger of the Finnish People’s Democratic League (SKDL), the old Communists (SKP) and a ragtag bunch of smaller parties ranging from feminists to Stalinists. The SKDL emerged in 1944 as a ‘front’ of sorts for the SKP though the SKP didn’t control the entire SKDL machinery. The SKDL as a communist party of sorts was one of Europe’s strong communist parties during the Cold War, winning between 17% and 23.5% between 1945 and 1979 before declining to 9.4% in 1987 – the SKDL’s last election before it folded into the VAS. Though SKDL was expelled from cabinet in 1949, it participated in governments in the late 60s and 70s. The SKP, under Moscow’s influence, never moderated because it was unable to expel the orthodox pro-Soviet taistoists less it wanted to lose Moscow’s support. VAS managed 10-11% of the vote in the 90s, but has since declined constantly since its 1995 high of 11.2%.

The Left is particularly strong in remote northern Finland, where the SKP was usually strong with local lumberjacks or workers. VAS won a paltry record low of 5.9% in the 2009 European elections, losing its sole MEP. VAS participated in the SDP Lipponen cabinets between 1995 and 2003, working, notably, alongside KOK.

The Green League (Vihr) was founded in 1987 and entered cabinet in 1995. Its vote share has constantly increased since 1995, peaking at 8.5% and 15 seats in the 2007 elections. The Greens currently participate in government, with its leader Anni Sinnemäki serving as Labour Minister in the Kiviniemi cabinet. The Finnish Green are to the right of the Swedish Greens and most European Greens.

The Greenies are remarkably strong in Helsinki, where they have established themselves as the second largest party (behind KOK) in the 2008 local elections. The EU elections of 2009, where they won 12.4% and 2 seats was very successful for them.

Finland is a bilingual country, with Swedish, despite being spoken by only 5% or so of the population, being co-official alongside Finnish which is an isolated Finno-Ugric language. Swedish Finns form roughly 5.5% of the population and are represented by the Swedish People’s Party (SFP-RKP) which has been around since 1906. The SFP is a liberal party, which reflects the classical liberal nature of the elitist pro-Swedish Svecoman movement during Finland’s language strife during the latter part of the Russian era in Finland. SFP’s power has declined as the Swedish minority in Finland got smaller. It won 4.6% in the 2007 election, which seems to be the SFP’s stable base since the 1990s. Swedish is mandatory for Finnish-speakers (and vice-versa) in schools, although the requirement for Swedish was dropped from the high school matriculation exam recently. The SFP is often and easily derided as a single-issue party which is after power. It has, after all, been a coalition member of a vast number of governing coalitions since the war and didn’t even leave the government when the Vanhanen’s government made Swedish option on the high school matriculation exam.

SFP’s support is drawn overwhelmingly from Swedish-speaking areas in coastal Finland (Wikipedia has a map here) although interestingly SFP, as a liberal party (the only, arguably, liberal party in Finland), gets some support from Finnish-speaking urban liberals. Voters on the island of Åland, which is a unilingual Swedish autonomous region, vote for their own political parties but the representative for Åland will invariably sit with the SFP’s caucus.

Next we have the Christian Democrats (KD), founded from a split in KOK in 1958 which won 4.9% and 7 seats in the 2007 election. The KDs are a run-of-the-mill social conservative Christian democratic party very similar to those found in Norway and Sweden. The KDs have been in government only once (between 1991 and 1994). The party’s leader, Päivi Räsänen, got media attention last year when she said that gays had a psychological disorder and were against the Bible. Her comments led to a ‘Church exodus’ of thousands of Finns from the Church of Finland, the Church for 78% of Finns.

The True Finns (PS) won only 4.1% and 5 seats in 2007, but they are likely to be the sensation of this election. The True Finns are a continuation of the Rural Party (SMP) which won 10.5% and 18 seats in 1970 (and later 9.7% and 17 seats in 1983). The SMP, originally led by Veikko Vennamo, emerged as an anti-Kekkonen split from KESK and was successful in the 70s and early 80s as a protest movement for small farmers and the unemployed. When Vennamo retired and when SMP entered government in 1983, the party’s fortunes declined and the party died out in 1995, when PS was born. PS’s main asset is its leader, Timo Soini, a charismatic Catholic populist and an MEP since 2009. PS has been an a roll since 2007, when it saw its vote share increase from 1.6% in 2003 to 4.1%. In 2008 local elections, PS won 5.4% and in the 2009 European elections PS won a record 9.8% of the vote (in alliance with the KDs) and elected Timo Soini to Strasbourg with the highest individual vote for a candidate. Since then, its polling numbers have been quasi-consistently on the upswing, peaking at 18% in March.

PS’s policies are an eclectic mix of social conservatism and economic nationalism. Their left-wing economic policies include increased state investment in industry and infrastructure, state support for rural regions and a passionate defense of the welfare state. As such, PS has been described in the past as ‘non-socialist populist left’ party. Their more right-wing policies include opposition to the EU and NATO, abolition of mandatory Swedish on all levels of education, reduction in foreign aid, limits on asylum seekers, law-and-order crime policies and support for those promoting “Finnish identity”.

The inevitable question is whether PS is really a party of the far-right. It is a subjective question, but I believe that the term ‘populist right’ is more applicable to the party. While it does campaign on strict limits for asylum seekers, Finland has one of the lowest foreign-born populations in the EU27 and as such can’t form the dominant theme of the party. In addition, unlike parties such as the PVV, FN or FPÖ the PS does not campaign heavily on rejection of Islam.

PS takes its voters from all political parties. A good share of its new voters are people who used to abstain from voting. Another share of its electorate used to the support the SDP, but in mill towns with high unemployment the PS is the main party of left-wing workers’ discontent. It takes a good bulk of its vote from KESK’s old base in northern rural Finland, where PS and the SMP had always been strong with smallholders. It takes some votes away from KOK (but less from them than from the two other big parties) and from VAS.

Issues and Campaign

The PS has also thrived on two other potent issues: the financial scandals and the government’s European/economic policy. On the first issue, the campaign finance scandal has practically affected all major political parties and all parties – even those in opposition such as the SDP or VAS – have lost a good share of their credibility as governing alternatives. After all, they’ve all been in government in the recent past. Finally, all three major parties are in practice very similar to each other.

Finland played a major role in the EU-led bailout of Greece and Ireland, a policy actively supported by the four-party governing coalition although opposed by all opposition parties, including the traditionally pro-European SDP. The True Finns want Helsinki to lower its financial contribution to the EU and a right to veto any increase in the current total of the European Financial Stabilisation Fund. Soini has done very well as an opponent of the EU-led bailouts, saying that the Finnish taxpayers were unjustly burdened by reckless spenders and squanderers within the Eurozone such as Greece, Ireland and now Portugal.

Finland’s economy has weathered the recession particularly well, with the GDP growth recovering to 3% in 2010 after shrinking in 2009 and growth of roughly 3% is again expected this year. The state deficit is also decreasing, due to decrease 8 billion € this year after decreasing by 10 billion € in 2010. However, unemployment – at nearly 12% in January – remains high and inflation is projected to increase this year.

Here are Taloustutkimus’ latest party rankings:
KOK 21.2%
Centre 18.6%
SDP 18%
PS 15.4%
Greens 9%
VAS 8.2%
SFP-RKP 4.2%
KD 4.2%

It is interesting to note that most pollsters have had PS’ support dropping off in the final stretch, after having risen constantly since last year. The National Coalition remains the largest party, but the support for the three major parties is down since 2007 with KOK suffering the least of the three. KESK took particular hits for the campaign finance scandal, while the SDP has suffered significant bleeding of its working-class base to the PS. It is hard to estimate a seat count from this, given that smaller parties tend to be hurt somewhat by the electoral system.

The idea of isolating the populist right from cabinet does not really exist in Finland. Soini has said that he is open to working with any party, except for the Greens. Both Mari Kiviniemi and Jyrki Katainen have publicly said that a coalition with PS was a possibility to be explored among others. However, certain of PS’ policies may prove to be significant roadblocks to a formation of a coalition including PS. Firstly, Soini imposes as a precondition to participation his party’s opposition to a new constitutional clause which stipulates that Finland is a member of the EU. The new clause was approved by the outgoing Parliament but requires approval by the new Parliament to be approved. Constitutional reform and the EU is a consensus between the main parties. PS has said that it would oppose any bailout to Portugal or an increase in guarantees, something which may hurt its chances of entering government given that KOK’s leader Jyrki Katainen has said that he would not allow governmental participation by any party which opposes the European Stability Mechanism. Finally, PS’ opposition to bilingualism would probably exclude SFP from any government in which PS is in, but PS’ stance on Swedish breaks a pro-bilingualism consensus between the larger parties, though some people within those parties have made some moves away from that – Kiviniemi recently talked about replacing Swedish with Russian in eastern Finland schools.

The main parties might, however, like to accommodate PS into cabinet for this one time remembering how SMP’s participation in cabinet in the 1980s hurt it and eventually led to its collapse later on.

Finland’s election will certainly be quite interesting. It could lead to the destruction, in parts, of the very stable party system which has prevailed since the 1990s. In addition, PS’ entry into a new government coalition could make it the first populist right party to enter government in northern Europe.

Peru 2011

Active involvement in a federal electoral campaign, Spanish exam means that Peruvian elections took a bit of a backseat. But at any rate, the first round of general elections were held in Peru on April 10, 2011. I had covered the basics of Peruvian politics and the who’s who of this election in a preview post. Counting is quite slow, but I’m tired of waiting on the ONPE, so here are quasi-final results for the presidential ballot, with 95-98% or so counted. Six other jokers are not included here, none polling over 0.31%.

Ollanta Humala (Gana Perú) 31.74%
Keiko Fujimori (Fuerza 2011) 23.50%
Pedro Pablo Kuczynski (Alianza por el Gran Cambio) 18.52%
Alejandro Toledo (Perú Posible) 15.62%
Luis Castañeda (Solidaridad Nacional) 9.84%

Humala and Keiko will fight off in a runoff on June 5. Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa, who lost to Keiko’s father in 1990, has described this kind of runoff as a choice between “AIDS and terminal cancer”. His opinion is probably quite reflective of the centre-right, urban middle-classes of Peru who dislike Fujimori’s right-authoritarian-populism and loathe Humala’s left-wing ethnic nationalism.

This fascinating election has had roughly four frontrunners since it kicked off in 2010. First, the race was a straight fight between Keiko and Castañeda with Toledo and Humala placing in distant third or fourth and PPK barely registering. In late 2010, Toledo moved ahead of the field and peaked at 30% support in Februrary while Keiko and Castañeda fought for second. In March, Toledo’s support slid back down to 20% while Humala and PPK began their surge. Castañeda lost speed, while Keiko maintained herself. In the final weeks, Humala surged ahead with Toledo, Keiko and PPK in a virtual tie for second place before Toledo slid further down and Keiko solidified her second place. Castañeda, meanwhile, collapsed. In all of this back-and-forth contest, Keiko was the only candidate to maintain her support. Polling 19-22% in January 2010, she finished at 23.5%. No other candidate maintained his support and either moved up or down by a significant amount. Keiko’s remarkably solid and tight voting base means that she has a very solid base behind her, which isn’t surprising given that she’s a very love-hate figure (like Humala). As noted in my preview post, Keiko had 18% rock-solid support from voters a week ago (the second highest of all candidates) and Humala had a 24% rock-solid base (the highest). But at the same time, Keiko and Humala also have a 40-41% rock-solid base of non-support. This means that the upcoming runoff will be very interesting.

In the final days, it seemed as if PPK moved back up again, likely gobbling up Toledo and Castañeda voters who might have voted strategically to ensure that a ‘moderate’ (PPK, Toledo and Castañeda) made the runoff against the ‘populists’ (Keiko and Humala). It was far from enough, and PPK’s late surge only allowed Toledo and Castañeda to do worse than expected.

Ollanta Humala’s base of support was in the Quechua (and Aymara in parts) heartlands of the inland sierra region of Peru. Humala broke 60% in Cusco and Puno and 50% in surrounding regions of the Quechua heartland. His support is basically an ethnic map, with a vast majority of his voters being Quechua and getting lesser support from other native groups. His support is significantly lower along the whiter and wealthier coastal areas.

Keiko Fujimori’s base is predominantly in northwestern Peru, including the Aprista bastion of La Libertad. She did, however, do well throughout the interior (outside Humala’s Quechua homeland) and did decently in Lima and Callao. Keiko’s fujimorista support seems to be drawn largely from poorer voters, often living inland, but not necessarily from natives. These voters likely have good memories of papa Fujimori who brought them security in regions where the Shining Path rebels wreaked havoc. Her support does not exactly reflect the zones of Shining Path activity, but it is overall a pretty good guide. In the traditionally Aprista-areas of La Libertad and northwestern coastal Peru, her support is probably largely mestizo and drawn, again, from poorer voters who voted for her as the most populist of all candidates against an ethnic left-nationalist (Humala) or centrist/centre-right moderates (the 3 moderates) with whom they likely have little in common.

PPK’s support is overwhelmingly urban, wealthy and by consequence white/mestizo. He did best in Lima and Callao (which he both won) and did well in Arequipa (Peru’s second largest city) and other regions which include a major city. In Lima’s upscale neighborhoods of San Isidro or Miraflores, PPK won roughly 57 to 61% of the vote. He also did well with overseas voters, who always tend to be wealthier than the broader electorate. He also did very well (45%) in Barranco, Lima’s bohemian neighborhood.

Toledo won Loreto, the largest but extremely sparsely populated region in the middle of the jungle. It was won by Humala in 2006, and is largely indigenous but the natives are not Quechua stock (a linguistic map shows that they’re mostly Huitoto-Bora). Toledo was active as an opponent of the 2009 attempt to sell land in the Amazon for oil exploration (which, if you remember, led to the deaths of natives and a few soldiers). Toledo, who is himself of Quechua Ancash ancestry, also did well in his native coastal region of Ancash and other places here and there in northern Peru.

Castañeda broke 20% in his native Lambayeque and 10% in four other regions including Lima and Callao.

Rafael Belaúnde Aubry, the son of former President Belaúnde won 0.08%.

The 2006 runoff was pretty bad as it was for Peru’s unlucky middle-class right-wingers. They got to choose between Humala and a failed ex-president who went on to win. But García was pretty moderate and most stomached voting for him pretty well. But in June, people of the Vargas Llosa type (Vargas Llosa himself said he could vote Humala, but never for Keiko), will have to choose between two candidates they probably strongly dislike. It is likely that Keiko will have a slight edge with the business community. Humala will, as in 2006, gobble up much of the inland votes and poll extremely strongly in the Quechua homeland.

Ipsos-Apoyo showed, last week, that a Keiko-Humala runoff was tied 42-42. Unlike in the 2006 runoff, where García always had an edge overall, it is really tough to say who of these two will prevail in June. It won’t depend on turnout because voting is mandatory in Peru, but if a lot of voters cast blank ballots in protest, it could have the same effect as weird turnout has in other elections. Toledo himself seems to have endorsed Humala, while PPK has said that nobody has contacted him though Keiko says that she would like an alliance with him. Given that both candidates have over 50% of voters saying that they would never or probably wouldn’t vote for them, both have ceilings but in such a weird runoffs it remains to be seen if that means anything. Humala’s ceiling was quite low in 2006 when he was seen as the Chavist ultra-nationalist nut. But Humala acting as the Peruvian version of Lula “peace and love” (some claim Humala’s campaign is financed by the PT) might mean that he has a higher ceiling. It will be an amusing and interesting runoff contest, and certainly something which I can’t personally predict.

Congressional results are not fully counted yet, but El Comercio has these results thus far:

Gana Perú 24.7% winning 46 seats
Fuerza 2011 23% winning 38 seats
Perú Posible 14.9% winning 21 seats
Alianza por el Gran Cambio 14.8% winning 12 seats
Solidaridad Nacional 10.3% winning 9 seats
APRA 6.3% winning 4 seats

Humala’s gang is roughly at their 2006 levels (46 seats) and APRA loses 32 of their 36 2006 seats. The Fujimoris had 13 or so seats in 2006, while Toledo’s gang had 2 back then. Congressional results are pretty worthless overall and can’t be compared to anything. Their outcome often mirrors, more or less, the presidential election and the ephemeral coalitions of the day. But it does mean, again, that no president will have a majority with only his coalition, though if individual members are like Brazilian congressmen, they can be bought at discount. The Congress would matter most if Humala won, given that he wishes to change the constitution (which is currently the 1993 Fujimori document).

The Andean Parliament probably will split 2 for Humala’s gang, and one seat each for Fuerza 2011, Peru Posible and PPK’s grouping.

Election Preview: Peru 2011

Presidential and parliamentary elections will be held in Peru on April 10, 2011 with a runoff on June 5. While nobody was watching, a very interested contest has developed in the presidential election which makes this election one of the most interesting of 2011 to date. Peruvian politics move very quickly and are hard to understand thanks, in part, to the less-than-useless party labels. In this preview post, I try to offer a brief synopsis of the main events in Peruvian politics since 1980 and then a concise overview of the main parties and actors in this contest.

How it works

The President of Peru is elected for a five-year term and cannot serve two consecutive terms in office. He is elected under the traditional two-round system.

The Congress of Peru is unicameral with 120 members. There are 25 electoral districts corresponding to the regions of Peru. Each district elects between one (Madre de Dios) and 35 congresscritters (Lima). In reality, Lima has by far the most members given that no other region elects more than 7 and most elect between 2 and 3. From what I’ve figured out, there is a minimum of three candidates per party in each district and voters vote for individuals who are ordered on party lists. I gather that the individual with most overall votes win the first seat, the second individual most voted of all lists wins the second and so forth. Wikipedia’s article on the 2006 elections has an easy table of which coalitions won how many seats in each district. Details of 2006 results can be found on the government’s ONPE page.

Peru’s five seats (and ten substitutes) in the Andean Parliament. Each party list has fifteen candidates, and it seems as if the five top vote-getters overall are elected and the next ten are elected as substitutes.

Peru since 1980: A Brief Political History

I said that I wanted to begin in 1980, but a good overview of Peruvian political history must begin in 1924 and jump around to the 1960s. In 1924, while Peru was under the rule of right-wing populist strongman Augusto B. Leguía, a socialist thinker and exiled intellectual by the name of Víctor Raúl Haya de la Torre founded the American Popular Revolutionary Alliance (APRA). APRA’s five-point plan of 1926 inclued opposition to Yankee imperialism, Latin American unity, nationalization of lands and corporations, internationalization of the Panama Canal and solidarity with oppressed peoples throughout the world. The APRA, which has become Peru’s most enduring party and perhaps one of the only true political parties in Peru, is an interesting beast. As can be seen from the five-point plan, APRA had aspirations to create a pan-continental political party and did inspire parties such as the MNR in Bolivia or the PLN in Costa Rica. APRA is either known as such or under its more official name, the Partido Aprista Peruano. APRA’s strongman, Haya de la Torre, ran for President in 1931, 1962 and 1963 and won in 1962 – before the military informed him that they didn’t feel like having him as President. APRA only won the 1985 and 2006 presidential elections.

Fast track to 1968. In 1968, the military under General Juan Velasco staged a coup and seized power from elected President Fernando Belaúnde Terry. Belaúnde, elected in 1963, represented the aspirations of the Peruvian middle-class and was the moderate reformist – similar to Frei in Chile – standing in the middle against conservatism and socialism (APRA). As every Peruvian President has done, he screwed up. Land reform ended up being for show thanks to conservative and Aprista opposition. In 1968, he signed a deal with the International Petroleum Corporation (IPC) which sparked nationalist fires and led to the military stepping in. In this regard, the Peruvian military’s actions in 1968 stand out from the rest of South America. In Brazil, Argentina and later Chile they seized power from leftist actors whom they perceived as threats to stability and their interests. In Peru, they acted autonomously from Washington or conservative interests. They adopted not neoliberalism but the dependency theory. Finally, they had genuine sympathy with the plight of the peasantry. Velasco proceeded to major agrarian reform which created peasant cooperatives and had killed off the old agrarian landowning elite by the mid 1970s. Velasco’s government supported top-down corporatist mobilization of workers and peasants in a way reminiscient not of Allende or Castro but rather the PRI in Mexico or Perón 1.0 (1946-1950). Velasco also encouraged worker ownership of industry and nationalization of foreign firms. But economic woes, plus domestic resistance, forced Velasco out in 1975. His successor dismantled his programs, imposed IMF prescribed austerity and set the ground for a civilian president in 1980 with the 1978 election of a Constituent Assembly.

In 1980, with 44.9%, the winner was Fernando Belaúnde of the Popular Action. The APRA’s Armando Villanueva took 27%. Fernando Belaúnde supported progress through public works but also promised economic liberalization, private investment and supported private enterprise. But Peru was hurt by the 1981-1983 recession, the near-default of Mexico in 1982 and El Nino. The economy neared collapse in 1983 and came through only thanks to austerity programs which heightened social tensions. On top of economic dislocation, guerrilla activity with the neo-Maoist Shining Path and the Marxist-Leninist MRTA increased in the 1980s and forced Belaúnde to authorize military repression. The drug trade also became a serious issue.

Fernando Belaúnde managed to serve his term. In 1985, APRA’s populist, charismatic and forceful orator Alan García was elected by a large margin by the first round. With APRA majorities in both houses, García undertook a risky economic policy. He increased wages, cut payroll and sales taxes, cut interest rates, froze prices and devalued the currency. A boom in consumer spending proved short lived and was followed by a default on Peru’s foreign debt. Collapse followed as the trade deficit mushroomed, leading to social tensions and investors fleeing. An economic shock program in 1988 was a disaster and inflation was 7500% in 1990. By all accounts, García’s tenure was an absolute disaster.

Recent Nobel Prize laureate and world-famous writer Mario Vargas Llosa was the original frontrunner in the 1990 campaign. Vargas Llosa, supported by most political parties, supported a neoliberal solution to the economic crisis. However, Vargas Llosa was probably too elitist and intellectual to win, and he fell victim to dark horse candidate Alberto Fujimori, an obscure agrarian engineer and university rector of Japanese descent. Fujimori ran as the candidate of a self-made political vehicle named Cambio 90 and was your traditional populist anti-establishment candidate against the liberal elitist Vargas Llosa. Vargas Llosa led 33-29 in the first round, but lost 62-38 in the runoff.

Fujimori proceeded to implement and go further than most of Vargas Llosa’s program. Though relaxation of price controls, spending cuts, privatizations, liberalization of investment and import laws and simplification of tariffs, the Fujishock was able to restore fiscal stability to Peru albeit at the price of social tension. With IMF and foreign support, Peru’s economy boasted impressive growth in 1994-1995. In September 1992, the military captured Sendero leader Abimael Guzmán and generally eliminate terrorism.

Annoyed with an opposition-dominated Congress, Fujimori staged a self-coup on April 5, 1992 and shut down Congress. In 1993, with a Fujimorista-dominated Constituent Assembly, he drafted a new constitution which allowed him to run again in 1995. Taking 64%, Fujimori easily defeated former UN Secretary-General Javier Pérez de Cuéllar. By 2000, Peru had become an illiberal democracy with relatively free (but not fair) elections in a country marked by systematic human rights violations.

In April 2000, Fujimori was able to run again on the excuse that it would be his second term since the adoption of the new constitution in 1993. Although he controlled the media, institutions and public resources; Fujimori was reelected narrowly (and probably would have lost a fully free/fair election) against upstart candidate Alejandro Toledo, an American-educated business professor. Fujimori got 49.9% against 40.2% for Toledo in the first round, but Toledo  boycotted the runoff which saw Fujimori reelected – although with only 51% of votes cast with 30% invalid votes.

Fujimori collapsed quickly. In September 2000, a viral video showing his intelligence boss bribing a congressman exploded. Fujimori announced he would call elections – in which he would not run – in April 2001. In November 2001, while abroad in Japan, Fujimori faxed his resignation which was rejected by Congress which proceeded to impeach him. Fujimori would later be found guilty of a whole host of crimes upon his 2007 return to Peru.

The 2001 elections were won by Alejandro Toledo, though he defeated disgraced former President Alan García only 53-47 in the runoff. Toledo was generally successful, managing to restore democracy to Peru and maintaining economic stability. Most Peruvians in 2006, however, would disagree with me in that he had the approval rating of smallpox upon leaving office.

The 2006 elections saw a divided first round. Ollanta Humala, on which I’ll come back to later, won 30.6% in the first round. Originally thought to be certain to face Humala, the right-wing Lourdes Flores of National Unity (UN) took third with 23.8% while APRA’s Alan García took 24.3%. Alan García won the runoff against Humala 52.6-47.4.

To Alan García’s credit, his second term wasn’t a trainwreck. Peru’s GDP growth is roughly 5%, one of the highest in Latin America. Poverty has fallen to roughly 35% from 50% or so in 2004. Social indicators are improving. Peru has been helped by a boom in the price of Peru’s mineral exports (silver, copper, zinc and gold) and a continuation of Fujimori’s fiscal policies. But García and APRA seem to be more interested in pork-barrel spending rather than social programs. Corruption is rampant – García’s Prime Minister was forced out in 2008 because of it, and crime is increasing. A 2009 dispute between natives and Petroperu over exploitation of oil reserves killed 22 soldiers and 30 natives. Again, García has paltry approvals of 25% or so.

The Candidates

The original frontrunners were both from the right. One of them is still a frontrunner, the other not so much.

On one hand, you have Keiko Fujimori – the 35 year old or so congresswoman-daughter of Alberto Fujimori running as the candidate of the latest in Fujimori parties – an outfit called “Fuerza 2011”. Fujimori remains popular with poorer Peruvians as the man who restored peace and stability. Keiko, who seems to be a hate-love figure, clearly positions herself as the Fujimorista candidate of order and stability. Her style is some sort of right-wing populism uncommon to the Latin American right, which tends to be far more urban and elitist. She talks about poverty, crime and equality – and not so much about pardoning Daddy.

On the other hand is former Lima mayor Luis Castañeda Lossio of the social conservative National Solidarity Alliance. Castañeda seems to fit the mold of the Latin American right-winger quite well, talking about the economy and reform. His polling numbers have dropped as another upstart candidate surged: Pedro Pablo Kuczynski.

Pedro Pablo Kuczynski (PPK) is a former Prime Minister, a former finance minister (both under Toledo) and even a mining minister under Belaúnde. Campaigning on sound economic management, Kuczynski has surged from 2% support to 18% (and back down to 16-17%). He is pretty much the candidate of the young urban middle-classes.

Rounding out the centre is Alejandro Toledo, who surged miles ahead in February-March but has since come down to the 17-20% range. Toledo of course supports the current liberal economic makeup of things, but got press when he declared his support for gay rights and civil unions in socially conservative Peru. His numbers fell victim to PPK’s surge and rumours of alcoholism and drug use which he denies.

Ethnic issues have played a major role in Peruvian politics and history. 45% of Peruvians are Amerindians, largely Quechua with some Aymara. 37% or so are mestizos of mixed European-native stock. Shockingly, mestizos have been the traditionally elite of Peruvian politics although Toledo is an Amerindian himself. Which brings me to Ollanta Humala, who ran and lost narrowly in 2006. Humala, an Amerindian, is a former army colonel who led an attempted coup against Fujimori but was later pardoned for it. Humala has the support of the Peruvian Nationalist Party (PNP) which mixes pride in Peru’s native/Amerindian/Quechua identity with good ol’ nationalism (which inevitably includes piling abuse on Chile). Humala lost in 2006 partly because he was seen as an insane authoritarian nationalist nutcase and as the Chávez candidate. But unlike Chávez, Humala’s socialism is doubtful although his nationalism certainly isn’t. Since then, he has taken the Lula-2002 route, which consists of making people forget you were a mean old bitter man four years ago but instead you’re now a moderate, nice, sane man. He talks about a “national market economy” and some toned down economic nationalist anti-neoliberal rhetoric. But investors obviously aren’t convinced.

As the maps of 2006 show, Humala dominated the sierra and montaña regions (the Andes and the jungle, basically) while Garcia support was generally concentrated along the coast, notably in Lima/Callao and Trujillo. The inland regions have a high proportion of Amerindians, while the coastal regions tend to be more mestizo and European in culture. Lima itself tends to support the right, although it elected its first left-wing mayor in a long time in 2010, while Callao is on the left. La Libertad Region, around Trujillo, is an APRA stronghold held together these days by little less than tribal loyalty for Víctor Raúl Haya de la Torre in his home region. The whole north coast, however, has also seen good APRA support in sugar plantations. It will be interesting to see where APRA’s tribal base goes, but also what emerges as the bases of support for people like Keiko or Toledo. Keiko seems to be competing with Humala for the rural, poor (and thus native) vote. Toledo seems to have support spread out quite equally. The race in Lima, where PPK is likely far ahead, will be interesting.

Parliamentary elections will undoubtedly resemble the presidential race as in 2006. The largest coalition – not by a lot – will probably be Humala’s Gana Perú with Keiko’s Fuerza 2011 in second. Recent polling places Toledo’s Perú Posible coalition in third. PPK’s Alianza por el Gran Cambio and Castañeda’s Solidaridad Nacional run slightly below their candidate’s numbers. APRA, which has no presidential candidate, is polling under 10%. Peruvian parties except for APRA are all one or two-election political machines for a candidate and they often die out or are bought by another guy. They also have funny names.

Presidential polling has this to say, on average:

Humala: 25.1%-28.7%
Fujimori: 17.8%-20.5%
Toledo: 16.7%-22.0%
Kuczynski: 15.6%-18.5%
Castañeda: 10.1%-14.0%

The latest two polls out have a Humala-Keiko fight in the runoff, others have a Humala-Toledo duel. A Humala-Keiko fight would be amusing, a nightmare for some. In the latest runoff polling for Ipsos-Apoyo, Castañeda would win all runoffs, but he won’t make any. Toledo would beat Keiko 43-41 and Humala 44-40. A Humala-Keiko fight is tied 42-42. PPK would lose all runoffs, including 41-43 against Humala and 38-41.

Humala, however, has a definite ceiling and is an extremely polarizing figure. His locked-in support at 24% is the highest of all candidates. 46% overall would either vote or consider voting for him. However, a full 41% would never vote for him and 9% probably wouldn’t. Keiko, similarly, has 40% alienated from her and overall only 43% overall would vote or probably vote for her.

Poll crosstabs are also fun. The highest-class (Class A) gives PPK 52% and Toledo 24% (his highest support). Humala has 6% and Keiko 3% with these wealthies. The poorest (Class E) give 31% to Humala (class D is 33% for him) and 26% for Keiko (her highest) Only 16% for Toledo and 8% for PPK here. In Lima, PPK has 20% with Humala/Keiko tied at 19% and 15% for Toledo/Castañeda. Humala has 29% support in the interior, with Toledo and Keiko tied at 18% in the same region.

Ipsos-Apoyo had a good record in 2006, overall. It slightly overestimated right-winger Flores at García’s expense but Humala’s support was predicted correctly.

Andorra 2011

A parliamentary election was held in Andorra on April 3, 2011. The left-wing Social Democratic Party (PS) led by Jaume Bartumeu had defeated the incumbent centre-right Liberals in 2009, taking 14 out of 28 seats. Faced with two centre-right opposition forces of the same weight, Bartumeu was confirmed by the General Council only when the smallest of the two parties abstained. The opposition blocked the 2010 budget, but the government was able to govern by the 2009 budget but when the opposition blocked the 2011 budget, Andorran law forbade continuing with the same budget for second consecutive year and forced snap elections.

Andorra is in the midst of an important economic crisis, partly brought upon by economic difficulties in Spain and France – the landlocked principality’s two top partners. There is much consensus between right and left on economic issues, the main breaking point being that Bartumeu supports an income tax while the right doesn’t.

The main opposition force this year is the Democrats for Andorra, composed of the Liberals and various smaller centre-right outfits. They are led by former Escaldes mayor Antoni Martí. The centrist Andorra for Change coalition took 18.9% in 2009 and three seats, and running again. The Greens won 3.2% in 2009 and no seats.

Andorra’s General Council of the Valleys has 28 councillors. Of these, half (14) are elected in a nationwide constituency using largest remainders method of PR. Each of Andorra’s seven parishes send two councillors to the General Council. The list winning the most votes in a parish wins both seats.

Democrats for Andorra 55.15% (+22.81%) winning 8 national seats and 12 parochial seats for a total of 20 seats (+9)
Social Democratic Party 34.8% (-10.23%) winning 6 national seats for a total of 6 seats (-8)
Andorra for Change 6.71% (-12.15%) winning 0 seats (-3)
Andorran Greens 3.35% (+0.18%) winning 0 seats (nc)
Lauredian Union winning 2 parochial seats (+2)

The right won a pretty stunning landslide victory, giving Antoni Martí a massive majority and political stability to Andorra. The economic crisis and economic downturn in Andorra probably played a major role in the right’s victory. The DA took over 50% of the list vote in all parishes except Andorra la Vella and broke 60% in three parishes. The DA won the parish seats of all parishes except Sant Julià de Lòria, where the local conservative Lauredian Union – allied to the DA – took both parochial seats.